Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Sat, 01 Aug 2015 12:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Can Fat Prevent Diabetes?http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/can-fat-prevent-diabetes/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/can-fat-prevent-diabetes/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 20:40:36 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17222 National Marine Mammal Foundation Source: Victor NMMF Dolphin Study Discovers How Saturated Fat May Prevent Diabetes. Key Points Dolphins can develop metabolic syndrome, also called prediabetes in humans. A modified diet higher in heptadecanoic acid, a saturated fat present in some fish and butter, reversed metabolic syndrome in dolphins. In addition to some fish, C17:0 is present in whole fat dairy products and rye. NMMF leads ongoing research to understand and improve dolphin health. As

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National Marine Mammal Foundation

Source: Victor

NMMF Dolphin Study Discovers How Saturated Fat May Prevent Diabetes.

Key Points

  • Dolphins can develop metabolic syndrome, also called prediabetes in humans.
  • A modified diet higher in heptadecanoic acid, a saturated fat present in some fish and butter, reversed metabolic syndrome in dolphins.
  • In addition to some fish, C17:0 is present in whole fat dairy products and rye.

NMMF leads ongoing research to understand and improve dolphin health. As part of this work, NMMF scientists previously discovered that bottlenose dolphins – including those in the wild – can develop metabolic syndrome, a subclinical condition called prediabetes in humans. A new study led by the NMMF and published in PLOS ONE today discovered a saturated fat, called heptadecanoic acid (or C17:0), that may help reverse metabolic syndrome in dolphins and humans.

The study, led by Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, Director of NMMF’s Translational Medicine and Research Program, explored the dolphin diet for fish nutrients that may be protective against metabolic syndrome. Specifically, they focused on fatty acid blood levels in 49 dolphins, as well as fatty acids in their dietary fish.

Surprisingly, the big winner among the 55 fatty acids was a saturated fat, C17:0. Dolphins with higher levels of C17:0 in their blood had lower insulin and triglycerides. The study also showed that while some fish have high levels of heptadecanoic acid, other fish types had none. Further, when six dolphins with low C17:0 were then fed fish high in C17:0, elevated insulin, glucose, and triglycerides normalized within six months. Key to this surprising outcome was reversal of high ferritin, an underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. Blood ferritin levels decreased in all six dolphins within three weeks on the new diet.

C17:0 is a saturated fat found in dairy fat, rye, and some fish. The published PLOS ONE study showed no detectable heptadecanoic acid in nonfat dairy products, some amount in lowfat dairy products, and the highest levels were found in whole fat milk, yogurt, and especially butter. The fish with the highest heptadecanoic acid content was mullet.

Given these findings, Dr. Venn-Watson proposes that widespread movement away from whole fat dairy products in human populations may have created widespread C17:0 deficiencies. In turn, this dietary deficiency may be playing a role in the global diabetes pandemic. NMMF’s discovery aligns well with growing scientific evidence demonstrating that cholesterol and some fats may not be as bad as we once thought. Earlier this year, the American Dietary Guidelines changed its recommendations related to fat, including removing the need for most people to limit their dietary cholesterol intake (high cholesterol comes primarily from what our body produces, not what we eat). Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 86 million people in the U.S. have metabolic syndrome, equal to one in every three adults.

NMMF is partnering with children’s hospitals to see if children with metabolic syndrome and diabetes also have low heptadecanoic acid levels. They also hope to study how changes in ocean prey may be negatively impacting the metabolism of wild dolphins.

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Major Grocery Chain Ahold USA Joins Fair Food Programhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/major-grocery-chain-ahold-usa-joins-fair-food-program/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/major-grocery-chain-ahold-usa-joins-fair-food-program/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:10:21 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17218 NewsPress.com by Amy Bennett Williams Stop & Shop’s parent company, supermarket chain Ahold USA, is now part of the Southwest Florida-born Fair Food Program, the first of the nation’s major grocers to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ partnership to improve farmworkers’ lives and labor conditions. Ahold USA owns Stop & Shop, Giant Foods of Landover, Giant Foods of Carlisle, Martin’s and online grocer Peapod. With more than 750 supermarkets across 14 states and the

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NewsPress.com
by Amy Bennett Williams

BLOG-fairfood_icon-copy-960x960Stop & Shop’s parent company, supermarket chain Ahold USA, is now part of the Southwest Florida-born Fair Food Program, the first of the nation’s major grocers to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ partnership to improve farmworkers’ lives and labor conditions.

Ahold USA owns Stop & Shop, Giant Foods of Landover, Giant Foods of Carlisle, Martin’s and online grocer Peapod. With more than 750 supermarkets across 14 states and the District of Columbia and 50 million customers each month, it’s one of the largest food retailing groups in the country.

The CIW was awarded a Presidential Medal earlier this year for its work in social responsibility. Its Fair Food Program protects the rights of tens of thousands of workers on farms across the east coast from Florida to New Jersey.

The program improves workplace standards while increasing workers’ pay 1 cent more for every pound of tomatoes harvested. The bonus comes from corporate buyers who agree to the program’s premium — not the growers, who simply pass it on. In addition to the raise, the program creates a cooperative complaint resolution system, health and safety programs, and worker-to-worker education.

Wal-Mart, the world’s major fast-food companies, food service corporations and two national grocery chains are paying the bonus; Ahold USA adds one of the country’s major grocers to the list.

“Not only will its partnership help propel to new heights our efforts to protect farmworkers’ rights, but we believe its market leadership will send an invaluable message to the rest of the grocery industry that social responsibility is greatly strengthened when workers, suppliers and retailers work together toward a more modern, more humane agricultural industry,” said the coalition’s Gerardo Reyes in a statement.

In the same release, James McCann, chief operating officer of Ahold USA, said, “Ahold USA’s companies are deeply committed to responsible practices throughout their operations and to providing customers with great products at great prices from suppliers who share our dedication to strong ethical standards and fair treatment for workers … Our companies and our customers care about the welfare of workers in our supply chain, and we believe now is the right time to begin an important new chapter in our partnership with the CIW.”

Farmworkers earn poverty level wages, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, and remain “among the most economically disadvantaged working groups in the U.S.” and “poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees.” The average annual individual income for a farmworker is $10,000-$12,499.

Farmworkers are also often paid at a piece rate; the prevailing rate for tomatoes has been 50 cents a bucket for over 30 years, at which rate farmworkers have to pick around 2 tons of produce (125 buckets) to earn minimum wage in a day. The Fair Food Program offers the first significant pay increase for farmworkers in over three decades, totaling nearly $19 million so far, in addition to human rights protections.

“My hat’s off to them,” says Kevin M. Folta, professor and chair of the University of Florida’s plant innovation program. “When I’m in the fields, I feel like such a slacker because it is such brutal, hard work.”

He’s concerned, though, that consumers are distanced from that labor. “I think millennials, especially, don’t see a whole lot of interest in that part of the production. They want to know about chemicals, where did the seed come from, but they don’t seem that interested in the labor that goes into it.”

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Neonicotinoids Harm Beneficial Predatory Insects through Secondary Poisoninghttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/neonicotinoids-harm-beneficial-predatory-insects-through-secondary-poisoning/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/neonicotinoids-harm-beneficial-predatory-insects-through-secondary-poisoning/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:01:56 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17214 Beyond Pesticides Deroceras reticulatum Source: Bruce Marlin A recent study looks at the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids (neonics) on molluscan herbivores and their non-target insect predators, finding that slug exposure to neonics results in the secondary poisoning of beneficial predatory beetles. The study, authored by Maggie Douglas, PhD candidate at Penn State University, was presented earlier this month at a congressional briefing, An Expert Briefing to Discuss Pollinators and Efforts to Protect Them. The briefing

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Beyond Pesticides

Deroceras reticulatum
Source: Bruce Marlin

A recent study looks at the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids (neonics) on molluscan herbivores and their non-target insect predators, finding that slug exposure to neonics results in the secondary poisoning of beneficial predatory beetles. The study, authored by Maggie Douglas, PhD candidate at Penn State University, was presented earlier this month at a congressional briefing, An Expert Briefing to Discuss Pollinators and Efforts to Protect Them. The briefing was organized by Center for Food Safety and attended by the sponsors of Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R. 2692), Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

The study specifically looks at the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum and its predator beetle, Chlaenius tricolor. Ms. Douglas and her co-researchers find that neonicotinoid seed-treated soy beans can unintentionally impact predatory, beneficial insects through a previously unexplored pathway. Here are some highlights of the study’s methods and findings:

  • Soy beans were treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam.
  • The seed treatments had zero effect on pest slugs, and instead were bioaccumulated and then transferred through the slugs into their insect predators, impairing or killing >60%.
  • This resulted in a loss of crop due to a decline in beneficial insect predators and an increase in pest slug population.

Generally, these findings indicate that the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments, which are intended to decrease the use of pesticides, can actually increase the necessity of these toxic chemicals by killing off natural, beneficial insect predators. Thus, these seed treatments are ineffective and cause more harm than good. It would better serve famers and the environment to actively encourage natural predation, rather than rely on toxic chemicals that only perpetuate the dangerous cycle of pesticide use.

Ms. Douglas’ findings add merit to the influx of research regarding neonicotinoids and their impacts on pollinators and other non-target beneficial species. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. While the issue of pollinator declines is diverse and complex, with many factors potentially contributing to the cause, pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key factor, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sublethal exposure causing changes in bee reproduction, navigation and foraging. Further research has demonstrated that neonicotinoids create increased vulnerability to diseases through exposure, impact a wide range of habitats, and have persistent, long term implications.

Earlier this year, researchers found that chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony. In June 2015, researchers demonstrated that honey bees exposed to imidacloprid, a toxic neonic, are more susceptible to heat shock. Researchers have also found that bees can become addicted to neonicotinoids in the same way that humans can become addicted to cigarettes. Non-target effects of rampant neonicotinoid use include bird population declines and monarch butterfly loss. More research can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows page, where studies are listed to highlight the impact of pesticides on these organisms.

The implications of the findings described above only strengthen the need for meaningful policy change on the federal level. Saving America’s Pollinators Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the registration of all neonicotinoid insecticides that are registered for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants, trees and cereals until EPA has fully determined that these toxic chemicals do not cause unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators.  You can help to protect America’s pollinators by submitting a letter to your representative, urging them to support Saving America’s Pollinators Act. Let’s BEE Protective and support a shift away from the use of these toxic chemicals by encouraging organic methods and sustainable land management practices in your home, campus, or community.

Neonicotinoids are undoubtedly highly toxic to honey bees, and EPA acknowledges this fact. However, little is being done at the federal level to protect bees and other pollinators from these pesticides. With unlimited resources behind them, the chemical industry –the pesticide manufacturers, landscaping, horticultural and agricultural trade groups, have all come out to deflect attention away from pesticides as a major culprit in pollinator decline. To learn more about how industry agents try to manipulate the message to say that neonics are not the main cause, see our report addressing industry myths on pollinator decline.

In light of the shortcomings of federal action to protect these beneficial creatures, it is left up to us to ensure that we provide safe havens for pollinators by creating pesticide-free habitat and educating others to do the same. Beyond Pesticides has created a small pesticide-free garden at our offices in DC to provide habitat and forage for our local pollinators. You too can pledge your green space as pesticide-free and pollinator-friendly. It does not matter how large or small your pledge is, as long as you contribute to the creation of safe pollinator habitat. Sign the pledge today. Need ideas on creating the perfect pollinator habitat? The Bee Protective Habitat Guide can tell you which native plants are right for your region.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology

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The Decline in Bees Will Cause a Decline in Healthy Foodhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/the-decline-in-bees-will-cause-a-decline-in-healthy-food/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/the-decline-in-bees-will-cause-a-decline-in-healthy-food/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:05:06 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17201 TakePart by Willy Blackmore Source: Jean and Fred Fewer pollinators means fewer fruits and vegetables—and the important micronutrients contained in them. It’s the near future, and the world’s bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and other species of animals that help pollinate more than a third of food crops have disappeared altogether. The global population is struggling to cope with the loss of 22.9 percent of the world’s fruit, 16.3 percent of vegetables, and 22.1 percent of

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TakePart
by Willy Blackmore

Source: Jean and Fred

Fewer pollinators means fewer fruits and vegetables—and the important micronutrients contained in them.

It’s the near future, and the world’s bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and other species of animals that help pollinate more than a third of food crops have disappeared altogether. The global population is struggling to cope with the loss of 22.9 percent of the world’s fruit, 16.3 percent of vegetables, and 22.1 percent of seeds and nuts. While Americans and most Europeans are getting by thanks to increased consumption of staple crops, the rest of the world has been hit harder by the public health effects of the mass extinction. Malnutrition-related deaths climb to 1.42 million annually, and many are in developing nations.

It’s a doomsday scenario, to be sure, but it’s not out of a new sci-fi flick—vitamin A and folate deficiencies are not the stuff of summer blockbusters—but rather the dire projections of a study on how nutrition would be altered by a catastrophic loss of pollinators. In the study, which was published this week in The Lancet, researchers from Harvard and Tufts universities estimate that 71 million people in low-income countries would develop vitamin A deficiencies—the nutrient is important for growth, development, and vision—with a further 2.2 billion people who already have insufficient levels of the nutrient in their diet seeing further reductions in intake. Similarly, 173 million people would develop folate deficiencies, which can lead to birth defects, and 1.23 billion people already lacking in folate would get less of it in their diet.

A loss of all pollinators is beyond the pale—despite the persistent overwinter die-off of managed bees in the United States, the overall population remains consistent. Even with certain wild pollinator species facing serious threats that could conceivably result in extinction, all of the pollinators all around the world are not going to disappear. But that’s part of the point of the study—to show just how important bees and their ilk are, not just to the global food supply but to global health as well.

So, Why Should You Care? “Our goal was to estimate the size of health effects directly attributable to reduced pollination and to provide guidance about how those effects would change under different scenarios of pollinator loss,” the authors write as a means of explaining the dramatic nature of their premise. While the loss projections may be extreme, the level of importance beyond fruit and vegetable production that the researchers show, especially in the developing world, is significant: Pollinators help supply up to 40 percent of some micronutrients, including vitamin A, according to the study. Furthermore, regions “where pollinators contribute most heavily to nutrient production are often also those where populations have the largest burdens of micronutrient deficiency diseases.”

The analysis also found that unlike staple crops, which are caught up in the globalized import-export trade, nutrient-rich, pollinator-dependent fruit and vegetable crops are usually produced domestically. “This means that most countries can benefit greatly by managing their own pollinator populations,” Matthew Smith, the lead author, said in a press release, “protecting both their public health as well as crop yields.”

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Make a Short Film About Soils, Raise Awareness and Win US$1500http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/make-a-short-film-about-soils-raise-awareness-and-win-us1500/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/make-a-short-film-about-soils-raise-awareness-and-win-us1500/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:21:26 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17192 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Do you have an idea for a short film to report or inspire others on soils? Click here to enlarge image above. Soils deliver ecosystem services that enable life on Earth. Source: FAO FAO is collaborating with TVE (Television for the Environment) on the tvebiomovies film competition. This year, the International Year of Soils will be a category in the Short Films Proposal competition.  Are you passionate

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Do you have an idea for a short film to report or inspire others on soils?

FAO-Infographic-IYS2015-soilfunctions-en
Click here to enlarge image above.
Soils deliver ecosystem services that enable life on Earth.
Source: FAO

FAO is collaborating with TVE (Television for the Environment) on the tvebiomovies film competition. This year, the International Year of Soils will be a category in the Short Films Proposal competition.  Are you passionate about soils? Are you or your friends doing something to preserve soil? Do you have a story to tell?  Your film can be funny or serious, an animation, a drama or a documentary.

Submit your proposal and you could receive US$300 to help you make your film a reality!

The films will be uploaded to TVE’s YouTube channel tveinspiringchange and the two films that receive the most views between 16 October and 18 December 2015 will each receive a US$1500 prize!

The International Year of Soils 2015 prize

Soil is irreplaceable! It can take up to 1 000 years to produce just 2-3 cm of soil, and yet up to 50 000 square kilometres of soil, an area around the size of Costa Rica, is lost every year due to deforestation, unsustainable land use and management practices, overgrazing and climate change. 11 hectares of soil are sealed under expanding cities every hour in Europe.

We all depend on soils in one way or another: it is estimated that 95% of our food comes from soils, our soils are the foundation for vegetation which we use for feed, fibre, fuel and medicinal products. They support our planet’s biodiversity and they host a quarter of the total; in fact, there are more organisms in one tablespoon of healthy soil than there are people on earth! Soils also do a lot of things that are not visible to the human eye. For example, they play a role in climate change mitigation by capturing carbon and reducing green house gas emissions. They also store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts.

Despite the vital role soil plays, we take it for granted. With a global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, soils are under increasing pressure. Already one third of global soil is moderately to highly degraded and time is running out. If we go on neglecting the importance of soil, and of looking after it, we will not be able to meet the needs of future generations.

Submit your proposal, turn your ideas into a snappy one-minute video and start speaking out for soils! Some key questions and themes to think about are:

  • Soil is a precious and irreplaceable resource
  • How do soils sustain life?
  • What can people/society/your friends do to preserve soil?
  • Are you and your friends already doing something to preserve soil? Do you know someone who is? What are they doing?
  • Soils are under increasing pressure to satisfy the demands of a growing population: how can we reverse the trend of soil degradation while ensuring current and future global food security?
  • Soils in the city

How do I enter?

Think about how you might make a one-minute film about soils.  Send a proposal about the film you would like to make using the TVE online form before 23.00 GMT 17 August 2015. Pitches will only be accepted in English, Arabic, French, Russian or Spanish.

A judging panel, including representatives from FAO, will select the best three proposals in each category and provide funding of US$300 to help you make your film. Funding will only be awarded on delivery of the film.

The deadline for the delivery of the final films is 14 October 2015.

The films will be uploaded to TVE’s YouTube channel tveinspiringchange and the two films that receive the most views between 16 October and 18 December 2015 will each receive a US$1500 prize!

Remember, you have until 23.00 GMT on 17 August 2015 to submit your proposal online.

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The Dark Side of Urban Farminghttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/the-dark-side-of-urban-farming/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/the-dark-side-of-urban-farming/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:14:21 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17183 TakePart by Katharine Gammon Source: Eadaoin Flynn Your organic veggies could be growing in contaminated soil. Here’s how to keep homegrown food safe. Growing food at home is good for your health and the planet, but your vegetables could be sucking up toxins as well as sunshine. So, Why Should You Care? All around the world, more people are getting their hands dirty and planting crops to harvest at home. More than a third of

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TakePart
by Katharine Gammon

Source: Eadaoin Flynn

Your organic veggies could be growing in contaminated soil. Here’s how to keep homegrown food safe.

Growing food at home is good for your health and the planet, but your vegetables could be sucking up toxins as well as sunshine.

So, Why Should You Care? All around the world, more people are getting their hands dirty and planting crops to harvest at home. More than a third of all households in America are growing food at home or in community gardens—a 17 percent jump in five years, according to the National Gardening Association. About 15 percent of the world’s food is produced in urban areas, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

All of this urban farming raises questions about the safety of crops grown in cities, where soil may be contaminated with lead, arsenic, hydrocarbons, and other toxins.

A recent study considered how different gardening practices could reduce a plant’s uptake of potential soil toxins. The scientists grew tomatoes, collard greens, and carrots in city soils and measured their take-up of lead, arsenic, and compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are potential carcinogens.

They found that in the majority of examples, eating vegetables grown in the contaminated soils studied was safe. Levels of contaminants in root vegetables, such as carrots, were higher than in tomatoes and collard greens. But the researchers said there was no reason to avoid gardening in city soils, as long as precautions are taken.

“Washing hands thoroughly after gardening, covering pathways with woodchips or gravel, and keeping soil moist during dry and windy conditions to prevent dust generation are all effective preventative measures to ensure safe gardening,” said Ganga Hettiarachchi, a soil chemist at Kansas State University and lead author of the study.

She pointed out other ways to reduce plants’ uptake of heavy metals from the soil. Adding nutrients to the soil will make plants less likely to absorb toxins. For instance, she said, phosphorus—which is good for healthy root growth—will transform lead into a more stable, less toxic form.

Home gardeners can find out whether their soil contains lead by sending samples to a cooperative extension or a university lab, said Scott Kellogg, educational director at the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, an urban environmental educational center in Albany, New York.

“Based upon those results, you can make an informed decision about what to do,” said Kellogg. “If the levels are slightly elevated or higher, you may consider building a raised-bed garden, which keeps roots of most annual vegetables out of contaminated soil. You can also consider putting down ground cover and adding compost as well.”

Kellogg sees more people wanting to take part in a low-carbon diet, and home gardening is a big part of that trend. He encouraged everyone to participate, even those without backyards.

“Make use of what space you have access to—that could be rooftops, front stoops, window boxes, or small containers—anywhere that gets light you can plant something. Even if you don’t have any sunlight you can sprout plants on your kitchen counter or grow mushrooms.”

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How Monsanto Wrote and Broke Laws to Enter Indiahttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/how-monsanto-wrote-and-broke-laws-to-enter-india/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/how-monsanto-wrote-and-broke-laws-to-enter-india/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:02:11 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17170 Seed Freedom by Dr. Vandana Shiva Source: World Bank Citizens of the United States are being denied the right to know what they are feeding their families. Despite the fact that 90% of American citizens want GMO labelling on their food, big business is doing everything it can to prevent people from accessing their rights. Representative Pompeo’s bill, popularly known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has been written almost entirely

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Seed Freedom
by Dr. Vandana Shiva

Source: World Bank

Citizens of the United States are being denied the right to know what they are feeding their families. Despite the fact that 90% of American citizens want GMO labelling on their food, big business is doing everything it can to prevent people from accessing their rights. Representative Pompeo’s bill, popularly known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has been written almost entirely by the biotech industry lobby. While American citizens are advocating for their rights to knowledge and healthy, affordable food, Monsanto’s legal team is busy on every legislative level trying to prevent this from happening.

Monsanto’s subversion of democratic legal processes is not new. In fact, it is their modus operandi, be it the subversion of LA’s decision to be GMO free by amending the California Seed Law—equating corporations with persons, and making seed libraries and exchange of seed beyond 3 miles illegal— or suing Maui County for passing a law banning GMOs.

Decades before there was a “debate” over GMOs and Monsanto’s PR and law firms became the busiest of bees, India was introduced to this corrupting, corporate giant that had no respect for the laws of the land. When this massive company did speak of laws, these laws had been framed, essentially, by their own lawyers.

Today, Indian cotton farmers are facing a genocide that has resulted in the death of at least 300,000 of their brothers and sisters between 1995 and 2013, averaging 14,462 per year (1995-2000) and 16,743 per year (2001-2011). This epidemic began in the cotton belt, in Maharashtra, where 53,818 farmers have taken their lives. Monsanto, on it’s own website, admits that pink bollworm “resistance [to Bt] is natural and expected” and that the resistance to Bt “posed a significant threat to the nearly 5 million farmers who were planting the product in India”. 84% of the farmer suicides have been attributed to Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, placing the corporation’s greed and lawlessness at the heart of India’s agrarian crisis.

There are three outright illegalities to Monsanto’s existence in India.

First, Monsanto undemocratically imposed the false idea of “manufacturing” and “inventing” a seed, undermining robust Indian laws—that do not allow patents on life—and by taking patents on life through international trade law. Since 1999, Monsanto has had the US government do its dirty work, blocking the mandatory review of the Monsanto Law in TRIPS (the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement implemented through the WTO).

Second, since they do not have a patent for Bt-Cotton, Monsanto’s collection of royalties as “trait value” or as a “fee for technology traits” (IPR category that does not exist in any legal framework and was concocted by Monsanto lawyers to work outside of the laws of the land) is illegal. These illegal royalty collections have been collected from the most marginal farmers, pushing them to take their own lives.

Third, the smuggling of a controlled substance without approvals (and thus Monsanto’s very entry into India) is a violation and subversion of India’s Biosafety Regulations. This includes the illegal introduction of GMOs into the food system in India, which poses grave risks to the health of ordinary Indian citizens.

Illegal entry of Bt Cotton into India

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, is solely entrusted with the responsibility of approving field trials of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). India’s biosafety framework — one of the strongest in the world — is  governed by The Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986).

Article (7) of The Rules stipulates:

Approval and Prohibitions etc.

(1) No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms of genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

On 10 March 1995, MAHYCO (which became Monsanto-Mahyco in 1998) imported 100 grams of cottonseed that contained the MON531-Bt Gene into India without approval from the GEAC. MAHYCO, under undisclosed circumstances, had obtained permission from the RCGM (Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)), which does not have the authority to approve such an import. Without the approval of the governing body responsible for the approval of the import (GEAC) Monsanto had smuggled a controlled substance into India.

Article (4) of The Rules stipulates:

(4) Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)

This committee shall function as a body under the Department of Environment Forests and Wildlife for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The Committee shall also be responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment.

Open field trials are a deliberate release of GMOs into the environment and, under the above Indian law, require approval by the GEAC. Eager to get to market and establish a monopoly in the cotton sector of India in 1998, Monsanto-Mahyco, without the approval of the sole agency allowed to grant permission for open field trials – the GEAC – started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt Cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states of India.

The eventual clearance, long after the commencement of these field trials, came once again from the Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), which is not authorised to grant clearance for field trials. RCGM’s mandate is restricted to guidelines for lab research. Without approval from the GEAC, Monsanto’s open field trials of Bt Cotton in 1998 were blatantly illegal and an act of biological warfare against India through genetic pollution.

Furthermore, no post harvest management and safety was ensured in these trials by Monsanto-Mahyco. Monsanto was not concerned with the findings of the trials at all; they just wanted GM seeds to be introduced into Indian soil and they did so without due process. GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled. In fact, genetically engineered cotton was sold in open markets. In some states, the trial fields were replanted the very next season with crops including wheat, turmeric, and groundnut, violating Para-9 on “Post harvest handling of the transgenic plants” of the Biosafety Guidelines (1994), according to which,the fields on which GMO trials were conducted should be left fallow for at least one year.

It was in the face of these violations of Indian laws and the risks of genetic pollution India faced, that the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India in 1999 against Monsanto and MAHYCO. Clearly, Monsanto and MAHYCO had violated the 1989 rules for the use of GMOs under the Environmental Protection Act (1986). The government had allowed Monsanto to carry out field trials without the mandatory scientific biosafety tests.

Without waiting for the outcome of the petition pending in the Supreme Court – around President Bill Clinton’s visit to India – in March 2000 the Department of Biotechnology gave biosafety clearance to Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, and in July 2000 the GEAC cleared large-scale field trials of Bt Cotton despite the pending Supreme Court case. This was two years after Monsanto first started illegal trials. CD Mayee, Co-Chairman of the GEAC, also became the first Indian board member of ISAAA, a biotech evangelist group, in 2006. He is the chairman of the sub-committee on Bt Cotton of the GEAC, and interestingly, also sits of on the Agriculture Ministry’s Committee on Endosulfan, an insecticide with acute neurotoxin properties developed by Bayer CropScience, which is a major funder — along with Monsanto — of ISAAA.

Monsanto Bt Cotton seeds had not yet been cleared for commercial release. While the RFSTE case against Monsanto was still in the Supreme Court of India, Monsanto reported to the GEAC, in 2001, that Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd., a company in Gujarat, was selling Navbharat 151 seeds, which had the MON531 Bt gene. This was not a cowboy company selling on the black market. This was a company with enough Bt Cotton seeds for the 10,000 Hectares of Navbharat 151 planted at the time. On Monsanto’s complaint, the GEAC started an investigation, carried out by the two-member team of CD Mayee and T.V. Ramanaiah (from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)), who found Bt traits in the cotton. A case was filed in Gujarat against Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd.

Post investigation, the GEAC ordered all standing crops of Navbharat 151 to be uprooted and destroyed along with seed production plots due to the major risks posed by Bt. In a submission to the court, the GEAC stated:

“12 (i) The crop which is standing may pass to the soil that modified genes which it contains. The effect on soil microorganisms can not be estimated and may cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the soil. It is a standard practice to uproot crops which pose such a threat. The destruction by burning is to ensure safety to environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross-pollination.

(ii) The destruction of the cotton produce as well as seeds harvested from this plant is also equally necessary. The cotton which has been produced is genetically modified cotton, the effect of which i.e. allergenicity and other factors on mammals are not tested. The precautionary principles would require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the market stream. This cotton which in appearance is no different from any other cotton will intermingle with ordinary cotton and it will become impossible to contain its adverse affect. The only remedy is to destroy the cotton as well as the seeds produced and harvested in this manner.

(iii) Since the farmers are being put to a loss, the further process to determine the compensation payable to farmers, who have unwittingly used this product has to be determined and undertaken.

13. I would respectfully submit that every day of delay in this matter poses a threat to the environment.”–

Having just concluded that Bt was dangerous and all of it had to be uprooted and burned, a few weeks later the GEAC approved the commercial release of Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech (MMB) Bt Cotton.

The national farmers unions made a joint petition to the GEAC and asked for an inquiry committee to be set up and liability and compensation fixed on the basis of the “polluter pays” principle. Since Monsanto-Mahyco is admittedly the source of the GM pollution, they, along with Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd, which has further spread the pollution, are jointly liable for the pollution caused.

Monsanto’s Bt Cotton has also found its way into edible vegetable oils in India.

In a government document, the Department of Biotechnology states:

cotton seeds can be toxic if ingested in excessive quantities because of the presence of anti-nutritional and toxic factors including gossypol and cyclopropenoid fatty acids.

but then goes on to say in the next sentence:

the oil and linters are used as premium vegetable oils and as cellulose dietary additives for human consumption, respectively. Traditionally, whole cotton seed is used as cattle feed in India. However, the increase in demand of edible oils has necessitated processing of cotton seed for its oil. Therefore, cotton seed oilcake/meal after extraction is now used as cattle feed.

Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, without the support of necessary precautions and scientific studies, has illegally found its way into the Indian food chain, endangering the health of 1.26 billion Indians. The health effects of Bt Cotton seed oil in “premium vegetable oil”(as the DBT calls it) must be investigated, and the damage to people’s health must be compensated by Monsanto.

Monsanto’s illegal collection of super-profits as royalties

India’s laws do not permit patents on seeds and in agriculture. But that hasn’t stopped Monsanto from collecting close to USD 900 million from small farmers in India, pushing them into crushing debt. This is roughly the same amount of money Monsanto spent buying The Climate Corporation — a weather big data company — in a bid to control climate data access in the future.

Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech Ltd collected royalties for Bt Cotton by going outside the law and charging “technology fees” and “trait value”. These are just clever names for royalty collection. In 2006, out of the INR 1600 (per 450 grams) price tag, INR 1250 — almost 80% — was charged by MMB as the trait value. Compared to Bt Cotton, local seeds used to cost INR 5-9 per kg before Monsanto destroyed alternatives, including local hybrid seed supply, through licensing arrangements and acquisitions.

In January 2006, the Andhra Pradesh Government filed a complaint with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) against Monsato-Mahyco Biotech (MMB), accusing MMB of overpricing genetically modified Bt Cotton seeds. The Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology had to intervene in the MRTPC case. In its submission, the Andhra Pradesh Government pointed out that Monsanto charged only about INR 400 for the same packet of seeds in China and only about INR 200 in the US – 9 times less than the amount they were forcing Andhra Pradesh farmers to pay. MMB said the royalty it charged reflected its research and development costs for Bt Cotton, admitting that they were charging Indian farmers royalty and that for some reason, Indian farmers owed them more for their research and development than farmers in the US.

On 10 May 2006, the MRTPC ruled in favour of the Andhra Pradesh government and directed MMB to reduce the trait value it was unfairly charging the farmers of Andhra Pradesh. Following this, on 29 May 2006, the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Commissioner fixed the price of Bt Cotton seeds at INR 750 for a 450-gram packet, and directed MMB and its sub-licensees to comply with its order. Monsanto challenged the Andhra Pradesh Government and the MRTPC’s decision in the Supreme Court, saying that the government’s move was illegal and arbitrary. The Supreme Court did not stay the MRTPC’s order, but while the appeal was pending before it, five states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh (now Maharashtra as well)— followed Andhra Pradesh’s lead and ordered that Bt Cotton should be sold at a reduced price, dealing a blow to the inflated profits Monsanto was taking from Indian peasants and repatriating to their headquarters in St Louis.

To side-step price control measures and avoid any regulation that had been applied to Bt Cotton, which was marketed in India as Bollgard, Monsanto introduced Bollgard II, its apparently ‘upgraded’ version with two Bt proteins. Monsanto’s intentional scientific ignorance (despite the availability of scientific studies at the time) is obvious. GMOs which release the Bt toxin in high doses in every cell of every plant are highly toxic to pollinators and friendly insects and are a recipe for creating super pests through the emergence of resistance. The pink bollworm underwent what every intelligent being does – it evolved – it became resistant to Bt. On it’s website, Monsanto admits, “Measures to delay resistance are critically important” and “application of insecticide sprays during the crop season, and proper management of crop residue and unopened bolls after harvest will help limit insects in cotton fields”. What are farmers being made to pay for if normal bollworm control measures are still required, they are still expected to buy and spray insecticides, and 80% of the cost of the seed goes for failed R&D?

monsantoweb01

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/india-pink-bollworm.aspx

Monsanto admitted that the pink bollworm was resistant to Bollgard and claimed Bollgard II, with it’s two Bt proteins would control the bollworm epidemic. This allowed Monsanto to continue looting marginalised small farmers. By claiming Bollgard II was better technology than the first version, Monsanto was able to mislead farmers and charge even higher prices. (Oblivious to it’s earlier Bt failures, Monsanto is currently working on a 3-protein Bt variety to continue it’s looting)

And Monsanto still claims Bt Cotton is resistant to Bollworm, and have all theirhired mouthpieces claim that there is reduced pesticide usage due to this inherent trait. In reality, requirements of pesticide increase every year with Bt Cotton. Clearly misrepresenting their lacklustre product, the only reason for the existence of Bt Cotton is royalties. Monsanto itself is on record at the 52nd Meeting of the GEAC (held on 4 March 2005) saying that Bt is not resistant to Bollworm.

“To a query on whether the Bt variety is resistant to bollworm complex or only effective against American Bollworm it was clarified that Bt cotton is tolerant to Bollworm and not resistant.”

Source: Minutes of the 52nd meeting of the GEAC

www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/geac-52.doc

This ruthlessness is central to the crisis Indian farmers are facing. Farmers leveraged their land holdings to buy Bt Cotton seeds and the chemicals it demanded, but the golden promise of higher yield and lower input costs failed to deliver. They were left with no option but to take their own lives. (Incidentally, CD Mayee was the chair of the GEAC subcommittee on Bt Cotton, which still monitors the performance of Bt Cotton, and his reports on the performance of Bt Cotton were, and still are, very different from the real experiences of the farmers driven to suicide by failed harvests and inferior quality cotton yield.)

In 2007 Andhra Pradesh was forced to introduce the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds Act to control the price of cottonseed, since Bollgard II prices were still astronomically high due to a majority royalty component.

The following Act of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature received the assent of the Governor in August 2007:

ACT No.29 of 2007

Short title and commencement

Definitions

An Act to Regulate the Supply, Distribution, Sale and Fixation of Sale Price of cotton seeds and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Whereas, cotton seeds of certain varieties are not notified under section 5 and consequently no sale of such seeds are regulated under section 7 of the Seeds Act, 1966;

And whereas, cotton seed is not an essential commodity within the meaning of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 as amended by the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2006;

And whereas, the provisions of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 issued under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 are not applicable in so far as they relate to the cotton seeds w.e.f. 12.2.2007;

And whereas, there is no provision in the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 to regulate the supply, distribution and sale of transgenic and genetically modified cotton seed and to control the sale price of such cotton seed in the State;

And whereas, the traders in cotton seed including transgenic cotton seed are exploiting poor farmers by collecting exorbitant prices;

And whereas, there is no provision to regulate the supply, distribution, sale of cotton seeds and to control the sale prices of such cotton seeds in the State;

And whereas, it has become imperative on the part of the State to regulate the supply, distribution and sale of cotton seeds by fixing the sale price in the interests of the farmers in the State;

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Andhra Pradesh in the Fifty-eighth Year of the Republic of India as follows :- 1. (1) This Act may be called the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds

(Regulation of Supply, Distribution, Sale and Fixation of sale Price) Act, 2007.
(2) It shall be deemed to have come into force on and from the 28th June, 2007.

This restriction on their profits did not sit well with Monsanto, which then challenged the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds Act. The Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology had to intervene in the case once more, which is still before the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

While Monsanto does not have a patent on Bt cotton in India, it goes outside the law to collect royalties as “technology fees”. Most of the 300,000 farmers suicides in India since 1995 (when the WTO came into force) are concentrated in the cotton belt. And 95% of the cotton in India is controlled by Monsanto.

Out of India’s 29 states, those with Bt Cotton  have the highest suicide rates.

Source: http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/14501/filename/14502.pdf

Source: http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/14501/filename/14502.pdfSource:http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/14501/filename/14502.pdf

Correlation is the first step to understanding causation. Monsanto does not see the above correlation because the next logical step would be to plead guilty for the deaths of all the farmers whose lives have been reduced to numbers on a table, or a bank account in St Louis.

Additionally, Monsanto knows that Bt Cotton is dependent on irrigation. Despite this knowledge, Monsanto has pushed its Bt Cotton into regions that depend solely on rainfall, as opposed to irrigation. These include Vidarbha in Maharashtra, where most cotton farms are less than 1 hectare and are dependent solely on rainfall. The costs of Bt cottonseed and insecticideincrease the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton.  The criminal negligence of knowingly setting up marginal farmers – who can’t afford to irrigate, and whose options for obtaining seeds have been acquired by Monsanto – for dire failure, cannot be ignored.
A recent research paper published by Environmental Sciences Europe concluded:

“[The] inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills. Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs). High-density short-season cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton. Policy makers need holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development.”

“Fourteen years after US multinational Monsanto brought the genetically modified (GM) Bt Cotton (Bollgard) to India, there is no clarity on the discovery having ever been patented in the country,” states a recent Times of India article.  India does not recognise patents on life, including seeds. The royalties Monsanto has collected over the last fourteen years are based on a patent that does not exist, and is therefore, quite simply, theft. Monsanto is robbing the people who have the least, of the very last thing they can give – their lives.

Illegal patents on life through Monsanto’s laws in the WTO

In 1980 the US Supreme Court heard a case that is now famous for being the point in world history where life forms were first allowed to be patented – not only in the US, but through the WTO, in many other parts of the world. Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, a General Electric employee, had applied for a patent for a process of producing a bacterium capable of eating crude oil spills, and on the bacteria itself. The claim was rejected by the US Patent office, but on appeal, was granted by a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court.

“The decision of the Supreme Court in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 206 USPQ 193 (1980), held that microorganisms produced by genetic engineering are not excluded from patent protection by 35 U.S.C. 101

4. “This is not to suggest that § 101 has no limits or that it embraces every discovery. The laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas have been held not patentable.”

5. “Thus, a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject matter. Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity.”

Source: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2105.html

Genetic engineering has not been able to deliver on its promises – it is just a tool of ownership. Bt Cotton is not resistant to Bollworm, RoundUp Resistant varieties have only given rise to super weeds, and the new promises being made by biotech corporations of bio-fortification are laughable. There is no benefit to things like Golden Rice. By adding one new gene to the cell of a plant, corporations claimed they had invented and created the seed, the plant, and all future seeds, which were now their property. Monsanto does not care if your cotton field has Bollworm infestations, just so long as the crop can be identified as theirs and royalty payments keep flowing in. This is why the failure of Bt Cotton as a reflection of bad science does not bother them – the cash is still coming into St Louis. At its core, genetic modification is about ownership.

In 1981, shortly after the precedence of life forms being patented had been set in the US, Monsanto, which was a chemical company at the time, decided – as it lays out on it’s own website – that biotechnology would be its strategic research focus in the future. Selling chemicals requires raw materials that eat into profit. Intellectual Property, on the other hand, just pays. In the decade and a half since 1981, with this new “strategic research focus” and all the R&D dollars you can imagine, Monsanto has only been able to produce failures – failures that pay royalties from all across the world.

Monsanto saw that by claiming ownership of life forms, especially seed – the first step in the food chain – and destroying alternatives or making them illegal, would allow them to charge royalties for the source of food, fibre and fuel. It was easy money, and a lot of it. The limited achievements of Monsanto’s research focus have not given us better cotton, corn, canola or soya – they’ve merely made it all theirs.

Monsanto required new forms of property rights, inspired by the US Supreme Court, to be able to claim as an invention that which is not invented by them – seed and life forms. This was achieved through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), working closely with the US Government and with the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.
Patents are granted for inventions, and give the patent holder the right to exclude everyone from the use or marketing of a patented product or process. Over the last two decades, patent laws have taken a different direction under the influence of corporations like Monsanto, from protecting the interests of genuine inventions and ideas to ownership of life and control over survival essentials like seed and medicine.

James Enyart of Monsanto is on record illustrating just how deeply the TRIPs agreement is aligned to corporate interest and against the interests of nations and their citizens:

“Industry has identified a major problem for international trade. It crafted a solution, reduced it to a concrete proposal and sold it to our own and other governments… The industries and traders of world commerce have played simultaneously the role of patients, the diagnosticians and the prescribing physicians.”

Corporations defined a problem – farmers saving seed – so that they could forcefully open the market. In turn, they offered a solution, and the solution was the introduction of patents and intellectual property rights on seed, making it illegal for farmers to save their seed. This is how the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement of the WTO was born. For the US Government, with an economy where the manufacturing industry was slowing, the idea of royalties coming in to fuel the economy was perfect.

Article 27.3 of the TRIPs Agreement states:

3. Members may also exclude from patentability:

(a)    diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals;

(b)    plants and animals other than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, Members shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof. The provisions of this subparagraph shall be reviewed four years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement.

This is the Monsanto Law of the TRIPS Agreement. Drafted by Monsanto lawyers and riding on the US taxpayer’s dollar, it bulldozes the world leaving behind nothing but royalty liabilities.

Section 3(b) of Article 27 is what is cleverly designed to be a trojan horse and to prohibit the free exchange of seeds between farmers, threatening their subsistence and their ability to save and exchange seeds. Shooting a gene into an organism through a gene gun is not a biological process. A seed growing into a plant that gives seed is a biological process. But the non-biological process of the insertion of a gene is patentable according to Article 27.3(b). Genetic engineering has been defined as “non-biological” and/or “microbiological” by the same lawyers that put the Monsanto Law into the TRIPS agreement, allowing the patentability of seeds and other life forms through genetic manipulation.

Objections to the Monsanto Law were raised owing to the basic idea that life cannot be patented.

India, in its submission, stated:

Clearly, there is a case for re-examining the need to grant patents on lifeforms anywhere in the world. Until such systems are in place, it may be advisable to:- (a) exclude patents on all lifeforms

The African group stated:

The African Group maintains its reservations about patenting any life forms as explained on previous occasions by the Group and several other delegations. In this regard, the Group proposes that Article 27.3(b) be revised to prohibit patents on plants, animals, micro-organisms, essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals, and non-biological and microbiological processes for the production of plants or animals. For plant varieties to be protected under the TRIPS Agreement, the protection must clearly, and not just implicitly or by way of exception, strike a good balance with the interests of the community as a whole and protect farmers’ rights and traditional knowledge, and ensure the preservation of biological diversity.

Due to the strong objections raised at the WTO it was decided that the Monsanto Law (TRIPs clause on patents on life) would be due for a mandatory review within the first 4 years of the WTO – by 1999. The review of the clause on patents on life has been blocked and subverted for the last 16 years by Monsanto and the Monsanto-friendly government of the United States, to protect the royalties that are moving money from impoverished farmers world over to the United States of America.

This is not for the benefit of the US as a nation. The illegal royalties collected do not benefit citizens of the US. In fact, the liberties and basic human rights of the citizens of the US are being restricted by this royalty-hungry monster, just like those of the Indian cotton farmer. There is an attempt, in the US, by Monsanto and the aiding US Government, to deem all non-patented seed illegal – even the tomato you have in your garden. And all this is being done in the name of “protecting and maintaining the food sources of America.”

Since 1991, when the draft text of the WTO agreements was leaked, the National Working Group on Indian Patent Law worked with Parliament and the government to ensure that public interest was protected in any amendment made in India’s patent laws in order to make India’s IPR regime TRIPS-compliant. Methods of agriculture and plants were excluded from patentability in the Indian Patent Act to ensure that seed, the first link in the food chain, was held as a common property resource in the public domain and farmers’ inalienable right to save, exchange and improve seed was not violated. And only process patents (patents on processes) were allowed in medicine.

When India amended her Patent Act, safeguards consistent with TRIPS were introduced based on a scientific definition of “invention”.

Article 3 defines what is not patentable subject matter.

Article 3(D) excludes as inventions “the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance”.

This was the article under which Novartis’s patent claim to a known cancer drug was rejected. This is the article that Novartis tried to challenge in the Supreme Court and lost.

Article 3(J) excludes from patentability “plants and animals in whole or in any part thereof other than microorganisms; but including seeds, varieties, and species, and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”.

This was the article used by the Indian Patent Office to reject a Monsanto patent on climate resilient seeds and is also why farmers in India are, at the very least, safe from Monsanto lawyers, unlike the thousands of farmers across the world like Bowman, Steve Marsh and Percy Schmeiser being sued by Monsanto for being farmers.

India’s patent laws, based on good science and drafted by conscientious people, get in the way of Monsanto’s royalty collections, if only on paper. The US Government, under the influence of Monsanto, has been pressurising countries like India to change their patent regimes to fit into Monsanto’s plan, meanwhile subverting the review of the Monsanto Law, though it has legally been obligated to do since 1999.

In 1996 the US Government brought a case in the WTO against India due to the “alleged absence of patent protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products in India.” It was to ensure protection of Monsanto’s royalties on seeds and its carcinogenic Glyphosate molecule. Monsanto was attempting to subvert the democratic laws of India using the US Government to strong arm India, as it is doing even today. US President Obama’s recent trip to meet Indian Prime Minister Modi in India was, aside from a show of wardrobe, intended to pressurise India into changing its IPR regime to better suit American industry. The proposed changes are in no way designed to foster innovation within India, for which Indian laws are quite good.

India’s sovereignty is under attack by Monsanto. American citizens’ rights to garden in their backyards with seeds they freely exchange with one another are under attack by Monsanto. African farmers’ livelihoods are under attack by Monsanto. The world’s food system is under attack by Monsanto. Hundreds of thousands of Indian cotton farmers have died under attack from Monsanto. It is a war being waged to profit from every grain of corn and soya, rice or banana you eat. The citizens of the world are victims of this war, from the US and Argentina to India, across the Pacific through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and across the Atlantic through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

If a country other than the US was blocking and subverting the review of the Monsanto Law, that country would have been bombed by drones a long time ago. It is time to tell the US Government to stop being a Monsanto Government writing laws on behalf of Monsanto at home and imposing them worldwide. It is time for the US government to stop being a rogue nation and stop blocking the mandatory review of TRIPS, the International Monsanto Law – even if it’s 16 years late. It is time to tell the US government to stop criminalising farmers who save seeds or whose seeds are contaminated by Monsanto.

Monsanto should be tried for its smuggling of a controlled substance into India and allowing genetically modified cottonseed oil into the premium vegetable oils of India, a country where GM is not allowed in the food system.

Monsanto must compensate farmers for royalties collected on the basis of an imaginary patent, and the reparations due for the hundreds of thousands of farmers it has killed by collecting illegitimate and illegal royalties. Life is priceless. Monsanto can never return the father or the husband it pushed to suicide. Corporations like Monsanto will never really understand the value of life unless we put a dollar figure to the debt  the widows and the children of the dead are owed. Insurance statisticians have put the life of a “prime aged worker”, in the US, at a median value of USD 7 million. 84% of 300,000 suicides, 252,000, are directly attributed to Monsanto’s Bt-Cotton. By this calculation, Monsanto, in addition to the illegal royalties collected, owes the families of ‘prime aged’ working farmers in India an amount of USD 1.764 Trillion. We must ensure reparations are made and Monsanto does not shrug it’s responsibilities by changing it’s name, buying Syngenta, or any other corporate tax evasion/liability reducing tricks it’s lawyers conjure up.

Internationally Monsanto must be tried for its crimes against nature, people, science and knowledge, freedom and democracy. Our governments need to start working for their citizens instead of Monsanto, and the mandatory review of the Monsanto Law of the TRIPS agreement must be done if the US values ‘freedom’.

We need to have reverence for nature and ecological justice must be served. Reparations, for the genocide in India, in accordance with International Law, are due.

VII. Victims’ right to remedies

11. Remedies for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law include the victim’s right to the following as provided for under international law:

(a) Equal and effective access to justice;

(b) Adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered;

(c) Access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.

We must end Monsanto’s colonisation, it’s enslavement of famers – for whom the only escape from the Monsanto treadmill is suicide. We must not allow Monsanto to profit from the loss of innocent lives. Private enterprise cannot be allowed to profit from global public risk. Real lives are more valuable than fakepatents. This illegal takeover of our food, our seeds and our democracies, and the killing of farmers must be stopped.

Sign the Declaration on Seed Freedom

And you can sign the open letter to President Obama and PM Modi here.

Further information:

DARK Act

Food Sovereignty

Seeds of Doubt Monsanto never had Bt cotton patent

Price Control on Bt Cotton Seeds in India: Impact on Seed Providers

Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India – Reviewing the Evidence

MRTP Verdict against Monsanto hailed.

Behind India’s ‘Epidemic’ Of Farmer Suicides

Chronology of Bt Cotton in India

Bombay HC upholds Maharashtra Seed Act, delivers blow to industry

Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides

How India became a Bt Cotton Country

Farmers suicide rates soar above the rest

UCLA – 300,000 Farmers Suicides

The post How Monsanto Wrote and Broke Laws to Enter India appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

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Whole Foods’ “Responsibly Grown” Produce Ratings — Not “Good” Enoughhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/whole-foods-responsibly-grown-produce-ratings-not-good-enough/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/whole-foods-responsibly-grown-produce-ratings-not-good-enough/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 22:32:58 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17138 This spring 17 certified organic farmers signed on to a letter to Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey asking him to withdraw the company’s “Responsibly Grown” produce labeling program, at least temporarily. The farmers, all of whom sell produce to the 400+-store high-end grocery chain, objected to having to pay for the grocer’s marketing program and to the fact that non-organic produce could qualify to be labeled “GOOD,” “BETTER,” or even “BEST” under the program.

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PrintThis spring 17 certified organic farmers signed on to a letter to Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey asking him to withdraw the company’s “Responsibly Grown” produce labeling program, at least temporarily. The farmers, all of whom sell produce to the 400+-store high-end grocery chain, objected to having to pay for the grocer’s marketing program and to the fact that non-organic produce could qualify to be labeled “GOOD,” “BETTER,” or even “BEST” under the program.

The Cornucopia Institute supported these growers, as did many other certified organic farmers and consumers around the country. It was a righteous fight – what we called “Robin Hood in reverse.”  Here was a corporation, with a market capitalization exceeding $14.5 billion, asking mostly family-scale farmers, some of the best farmers in this industry, to pony up between $5,000 and $20,000 to comply with the program’s reporting requirements and, for some, purchase new equipment. That’s not an inconsequential amount for small- and medium-sized family farms.  And the added record-keeping labor could crush some mom-and-pop outfits.

But most of all, the farmers philosophically took exception to one corporation, hiring their own private scientist, coming up with a list of good and bad agrichemicals.  Most organic consumers don’t want to pick or choose. They buy organic and they shop at stores like Whole Foods because they don’t want to treat their children like laboratory rats.

“Especially given the image the company
invests so much money in creating, Whole
Foods shouldnot be depending on journalists
and industry watchdogs, like The Cornucopia
Institute, to point out shortcomings in
management oversight in the sprawling,
international chain,” said Mark A. Kastel.

Not surprisingly, researchers at The Cornucopia Institute, with PhDs in plant pathology and other related disciplines, found that a number of highly disturbing agrichemicals were not on the relatively short list of toxins that Whole Foods prohibits their top-rated conventional produce suppliers from using.

So the certified organic farmers who signed the letter to Mr. Mackey had good reason to object when photos taken in several Whole Foods stores showed conventional produce being rated higher than organic, for a number of reasons.

There is nothing wrong with farmers implementing good employment practices or putting solar panels on the roof of their barn – practices that win them points in Whole Foods’ rating scheme.  But the prerequisite – the “ante,” if you will – to get into the Whole Foods’ Responsibly Grown game should be a supplier’s certified organic status.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey apologized
for recent scandals covered by the New York
Times, New York Daily News and NPR. His
blog admitted the company’s produce rating
program was launched without full
management control: “The signage is not
correct.” (Image source: Gage Skidmore)

Quite frankly, we don’t understand how anyone who knows as much about organics as WFM founder Mr. Mackey, and the other top management at Whole Foods, could ever call conventional food the “BEST.”

If you want to give extra points over and above organic status, that’s fine. But the number one employment practice that farmers should be implementing, before labeling any produce “BEST,” is to protect their workers and families, sometimes living close to farm fields, from exposure to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

And the number one reason people are visiting Whole Foods, seeking out superior ingredients to serve their children at dinner, has nothing to do with solar panels. It has everything to do with safety, nutrition and flavor — and that’s the organic story.

On  July 14 CCOF, the largest organic certifier in the country, and the outfit that Whole Foods pays to secure their status as the “first national certified organic grocery chain,” announced they had brokered a deal between Whole Foods and the organic growers to placate some of the farmers’ concerns.

The acknowledged list of problems, and commitments to address by Whole Foods, read like an indictment of a company that, at least initially, woefully failed in executing their Responsibly Grown program in an honest, trustworthy and forthright manner.  Some of these include:

No inspections: Unlike certified organic farmers that are subject to annual inspections and paperwork audits, the Responsibly Grown program awarded top rankings simply on the word of the farmer filling out the paperwork for the program’s requirements.

No oversight: Unlike independent organic certifiers like CCOF, which are directly supervised by the USDA’s National Organic Program, the Responsibly Grown program is only accountable to the executives at Whole Foods.

Only the “BEST” chemicals: Congress mandated that the National Organic Program prohibit all synthetic chemicals unless carefully reviewed (in a public process) for environmental and human health safety and for being essential (meaning organic food could not be produced without them) — thus virtually none are found acceptable.  Instead, at Whole Foods, a few of the bosses decided which toxic chemicals under the Responsibly Grown program would be safe for your family, the environment and farmworkers.  Their new commitment is to take another look at that list.

Durst organic asparagus
labeled “Unrated”
Durst organic asparagus
labeled “Good”
Durst organic asparagus
labeled “Best”

Truth in labeling? Close enough: Cornucopia members around the country documented numerous instances of labeling inconsistencies (as one example, in different stores in California one family farm had their produce labeled GOOD, BETTER and BEST). Whole Foods CEO Mackey admitted on his personal blog to labeling improprieties, including cheap Dole conventional asparagus from Mexico rated as “BEST” when he confirmed that it was “UNRATED” in their program.  Their commitment now to engage in employee training is an omission of guilt.  The reality is they were more interested in the marketing cachet of this program than its integrity. They had a responsibility to their customers to get the program right before rolling it out on a national basis.

Good isn’t good enough: One of the main concessions the company made was discontinuing the practice of trying to intimidate certified organic farmers into participating in the program (again, at a pretty high cost) by labeling their products “UNRATED” if they would not pony up to participate.  Now, in a big concession by Whole Foods, and I do say that tongue-in-cheek, organic produce will be labeled the minimum score of “GOOD” under their program.  Sorry, Mr. Mackey, but I for one don’t think that giving organic growers the bottom score in your rating scheme is any great deal — and the concessions Whole Foods made, in negotiating with the growers, is only good through January 1.

Talk is cheap.  Whole Foods has done a lot of good by making organic food more accessible in the marketplace.  At the same time, sales of conventional food account for a majority of sales in the chain’s 417 stores.

When I shop for groceries, the first places I head are the two member-owned co-ops I belong to.  If I’m traveling and there’s no co-op around, I generally hit a Whole Foods. Like other customers, I have to shop very carefully.

If you shop at Whole Foods for organics, you owe it to yourself to read the labels very, very carefully.  Not everything at Whole Foods is organic!  That the company describes itself as a “certified organic” grocer only means that their stores are inspected for storage, labeling and merchandising requirements.  It does not mean that they are selling exclusively organic food.  Far from it.

As an example, in the average store, very few, if any, of the precut grab-and-go fruits and vegetables available are organic; they are overwhelmingly conventional (and pretty pricey). And at their highly profitable deli and steam tables, almost everything is conventional.

They have chosen this product mix because it adds to the bottom line of the corporation. Make no mistake about it, at a time when they are under pressure by Wall Street to maintain their profitability, while other grocery chains are selling organic food at lower prices, the Responsibly Grown program is designed to convince shoppers that they are receiving better value.

Gauge that value for yourself. I would suggest that you first view their product offerings through this prism:  are the fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs or meat certified organic?

Even under supervision from their friends at CCOF, as a certified organic retailer Whole Foods’ oversight of organic merchandising is open to question. Mr. Mackey has already admitted they do not have the management control in place to assure their own Responsibly Grown labeling scheme is being properly implemented — why should we assume that, even under CCOF oversight, they are properly displaying and labeling organics?  And a recent exposé in the New York Daily News, on systemic problems with false weights and pricing at WFM stores, further illustrates deficiencies.  [The Cornucopia Institute has formally requested the Federal Trade Commission and CCOF take a close look at the credibility of Whole Foods’ labeling practices.]

We think the farmers’ initial request that Whole Foods take down the signage and labeling for the Responsibly Grown program, while working to improve its credibility, was reasonable. The Cornucopia Institute will closely monitor whatever changes Whole Foods implements and report back to the organic community as to whether or not the company has turned things around enough to be considered trustworthy.

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Addicted to Antibiotics, Chile’s Salmon Flops at Costco, Grocershttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/addicted-to-antibiotics-chiles-salmon-flops-at-costco-grocers/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/addicted-to-antibiotics-chiles-salmon-flops-at-costco-grocers/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:20:07 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17161 Reuters by Anthony Esposito Source: Juan José Richards Echeverría Chile’s salmon farmers are using record levels of antibiotics to treat a virulent and pervasive bacteria, driving away some U.S. retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp, which is turning to antibiotic-free Norwegian salmon. The coastal waters of Chile, the world’s second-largest producer of salmon, are awash with a bacteria known as SRS, or Piscirickettsiosis. The bacteria causes lesions and haemorrhaging in infected fish, and swells their kidneys

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Reuters
by Anthony Esposito

Source: Juan José Richards Echeverría

Chile’s salmon farmers are using record levels of antibiotics to treat a virulent and pervasive bacteria, driving away some U.S. retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp, which is turning to antibiotic-free Norwegian salmon.

The coastal waters of Chile, the world’s second-largest producer of salmon, are awash with a bacteria known as SRS, or Piscirickettsiosis. The bacteria causes lesions and haemorrhaging in infected fish, and swells their kidneys and spleens, eventually killing them.

Unable to develop an effective vaccine, Chilean farmers have been forced to increase antibiotic use. In 2014, the industry produced around 895,000 tonnes of fish and used 563,200 kilograms (1.2 million pounds) of antibiotics, according to government and industry data. Antibiotic use had risen 25 percent from 2013.

In contrast, Norway, the world’s largest salmon producer, produced around 1.3 million tonnes of fish and used 972 kilos of antibiotics in 2013. (Figures for last year were not immediately available)

Chilean officials say their salmon is safe and the antibiotics have been approved by U.S. food and drug regulators.

Still, amid growing concerns in the U.S. food industry that heavy use of antibiotics in animals can spawn drug-resistant superbugs and endanger human health, Costco told Reuters in April that it would reduce imports of Chilean salmon.

“The whole industry is starting to shift,” said Jeff Lyons, who oversees fresh foods at Costco, the No. 3 U.S. retailer.

“If I was to ask you your biggest concern on produce, you might say pesticides. When we ask people in protein, generally it’s going to be hormones or antibiotics.”

Costco used to buy 90 percent of the 600,000 pounds of salmon fillet it needs per week from Chile, accounting for about 8.5 percent of Chilean salmon exports to the United States. Costco said it intends to buy 60 percent of its salmon from Norway, cutting Chilean imports to 40 percent.

A former executive at a Chilean salmon producer said Costco’s move could hurt the local industry’s reputation and spur other retailers to follow suit.

In recent years, U.S. grocery chains Whole Foods Market Inc and Trader Joe’s have gradually phased out Chilean farm salmon in favor of antibiotic-free fish caught in the wild.

“This is the beginning of a change in seafood,” said Tobias Aguirre, the executive director of FishWise, a seafood consultancy that works with retailers such as Safeway [MRWAY.UL] and Target Corp. Target has also eliminated farmed salmon from its shelves.

“Other retailers will look at their lead and try to better understand why Costco made this move, and I think they will follow,” Aguirre said.

CHILE VS NORWAY

To be sure, not every salmon buyer is that worried about antibiotics. Chile exported $4.4 billion (£2.8 billion) worth of salmon in 2014, up 24 percent from the previous year, according to industry group SalmonChile.

For some buyers, costs are paramount. Brazil’s biggest retailer, GPA SA, which buys some 3.6 million kilograms of Chilean salmon per year, said demand for antibiotic-free fish in the South American giant is small, and the high cost of importing from Norway is a deterrent.

“The greatest demand in the Brazilian market is for fresh salmon, purchased, for now, from Chile mainly due to logistics,” GPA said in an email.

Chilean salmon producers said there is no reason for consumers to worry. Farmers do not administer antibiotics for months before harvesting the fish, so any traces of the drugs that remain in the salmon when it reaches consumers are within tolerance levels, they said.

“The final product consumers eat has no antibiotics,” said Ricardo Garcia, chief executive of salmon producer Camanchaca, which reported nearly $500 million in sales last year.

“This is only something given to sick fish so they don’t die. It’s not something preventive,” he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that inspections of Chilean salmon have not found unapproved drug residues this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, and “any article of food that appears to be adulterated or misbranded at importation is refused admission” into the country.

GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZES PROBLEM

In recent months, the U.S. food industry has taken an increasingly tough stance against antibiotics due to concerns that overuse may diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, for instance, is pressing meat, seafood, dairy and egg suppliers to reduce their use of antibiotics.

Speaking in general terms, the FDA said it has “concerns about the improper use of medically important antibiotics in food products derived from animals, as this practise is one factor that can contribute to antimicrobial resistance in humans.”

Antibiotic-resistant strains of the SRS bacteria have emerged in Chile’s salmon farms, according to a November 2014 study on the government’s National Fisheries website.

“The bacteria will respond for a few years to the antibiotics treatment but afterward will become stronger and resistant,” said Alex Munoz, vice president for South America at the Oceana environmental group in Chile.

Salmon producers in Chile say they are aware they should reduce their dependence on antibiotics, but they do not expect a significant change since efforts to find an SRS vaccine have so far been unsuccessful.

In Norway, intensive research has produced vaccines against most bacterial infections found in salmon farms.

“We’re faced with a reality in Chile, unlike Norway, where we haven’t developed vaccines for the Chilean market, leading us to often correct things with the use of antibiotics,” said Gerardo Balbontin, chief executive of Blumar, which exports a tenth of its salmon production to Costco.

The government acknowledges it has a problem on its hands.

“The use of antibiotics is an issue for us,” said Eugenio Zamorano, head of Chile’s aquaculture department. “All companies (in Chile) use antibiotics to a lesser or greater extent.”

As well as working towards finding a vaccine, Zamorano said “genetic improvements” in salmon could be part of the solution.

(Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo, Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo and Brad Haynes in Sao Paulo; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tiffany Wu)

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New Research On Organic Produce’s Health Benefitshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/new-research-on-organic-produces-health-benefits/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/07/new-research-on-organic-produces-health-benefits/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:00:08 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17154 Rodale’s Organic Life by Eesther Crain Share this with friends and family that are still on the fence. Source: Natalie Maynor Ever since the USDA Organic label began showing up on some food labels in the early 2000s, a debate has raged over whether crops grown without chemical additives and fertilizers rack up more nutrition than their conventional counterparts. Now, a new review of 343 previous studies throws its support behind the pro-organic side. Researchers writing

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Rodale’s Organic Life
by Eesther Crain

Share this with friends and family that are still on the fence.

Source: Natalie Maynor

Ever since the USDA Organic label began showing up on some food labels in the early 2000s, a debate has raged over whether crops grown without chemical additives and fertilizers rack up more nutrition than their conventional counterparts. Now, a new review of 343 previous studies throws its support behind the pro-organic side. Researchers writing in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organic crops and products made with them (such as cereal) pack 17 percent more antioxidants on average—with levels of some subtypes of antioxidants as much as 69 percent higher. The research team also reported four times more pesticide residue on non-organic foods, as well as significantly lower amounts of some toxic metals in the organic-grown items.

Sounds like the debate is settled then—consuming foods certified organic is the way to go. Not so fast. The researchers cite previous studies showing that antioxidants are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions, yet they’re stopping short of advising that consumers make a permanent switch to the organic aisle. “This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals,” wrote lead author Carlo Leifert, a professor at Newcastle University in England. “This constitutes an important addition to the information currently available to consumers, which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.” Still, the authors add that more research needs to be done on whether the boost in antioxidants translates into better health.

In the meantime, choosing food higher in nutrients and lower in toxic chemicals certainly can’t hurt. For more information on food that’s contaminated with the most pesticides, check out the foods on the latest dirty dozen list.

This article was originally published on Women’s Health.

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