Whether pro-life or pro-choice, you should be pro-GMO

Untitled drawing (53)I tend to stay out of abortion discussions, I value not having my neck slit too much. It is one of those issues where both sides really do argue from too much emotion. But there is one Facebook page on the topic I occasionally check in on, Pro-Life Discussions. I may disagree with them in practice (my own thoughts are in that grey area in-between), but they do get one thing right that many on the pro-life side don’t; prevention of unwanted pregnancies to begin with can only be a good thing. They (or at least one of their administrators) are pro-GMO and pro-vaccine.

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Contrary to the misconception that opposition to GMOs and vaccines is the liberal version of the conservative opposition to climate science, there is a movement of conservatives opposed to both. As an example Barbara Loe Fisher, who runs the terribly named National Vaccine Information Center, called the HPV shot the “slut shot” saying it would encourage young women to be promiscuous.

A myth has also been going around the anti-science branch of the conservative community about vaccines using cells from recently aborted fetuses. In reality they are produced using the same line of cells from one abortion decades ago, that would have occurred regardless of what was done with those cells. Even for people that see a fetus as being a child, it shouldn’t be any different than organ donations.

In 2011 US teen pregnancies, birth rates, and abortion rates reached an historic low. This is a trend that appears to be occurring in countries that have educated women, access to contraceptives, and access to health care. This is essentially the Bill Gates plan to solve over population. Instead of trying to control birth rates by force, he is trying to raise the standard of living (something vaccines and GMOs contribute to).

Contrary to the belief held by many that the world was so much better in “their day”, the world of the 1960s and 1970s was pretty grim. Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade or not, the timing of the landmark case taking place in this era was no coincidence.

Pessimists of those decades saw the world’s population as a ticking time bomb. China instituted a one child policy and India created policies to encourage sterilization (encouraged by loans from the West). Bestselling books like Famine 1975! and The Population Bomb written in the 1960s would even go so far as to call for an end to food aid, thinking it wasn’t worth the cost to save a doomed developing world.

So at a time when the population pessimists had control of public dialog, it almost makes sense that abortion rights would be granted to women.

The pessimists were proven wrong, but the damage they did to the developing world should not be forgotten. China’s one child policy would lead to the deaths of many baby girls in an attempt to ensure the one child is a son, and there were reports in India of men in villages being dragged away for forced sterilization.

The fact is that countries with educated women, economic development, urbanization, and high life expectancy have falling birth rates. And isn’t that what we all want? Falling birth rates means falling abortion rates.

That means getting women off of subsistence farms and into schools. Findings from the World Resources Institute indicate that improving agricultural technology is key to reach that goal. Increasing yields with better seed along with using natural solutions to avoid soil degradation with native plants can help us “farm smarter”.

This is contrary to what the organic movement is all about. They want women working in the fields all day picking weeds and bugs instead of going to school. (Pesticide free farming!) Yet such reversal of human development would only bring back the era of forced sterilizations and one child policies.

If the pro-life movement is stressed out today, do they really want to return to a time when governments imposed mandatory abortions?

 

Organic Tampons: 7 Reasons They Are No Better Than Conventional.

This article appears originally on www.fitnessreloaded.com
Chemophobia sweeps over the feminine hygiene aisle as new fears are being marketed up close and *ahem* personal to women by the multi-billion dollar organic industry. 

Women have a MILLION things to worry about when it comes to their vaginas.

  • Will it go back after I have this baby?
  • Does it smell weird?
  • Does it look funny?
  • Can you see camel toe through these yoga pants?
  • Are blood clots the size of chicken nuggets normal?
  • Is my daughter worrying about the “panty challenge” on Instagram… and by god, I will kill her.

Were you worried about putting CHEMICALS where BABIES COME FROM? No?

Well, now you can be! “Chemophobia” or an irrational fear of chemicals is being stoked by the organic industry in a slick, celebrity-studded marketing campaign aiming to get up-close and personal with us, and I do mean personal.

Maya Rudolph (she’s an “every” girl, just like you and me of course!) croons in her low, somewhat off-key comedic-voice about how the feminine care should be free of perfumes, unnecessary chemicals and chlorine processing for nearly two minutes and by the time she is done, you are filled with self-doubt and new fears about our most intimate lady parts.

Why would anyone want to make you worry about putting chemicals in your vagina? The organic industry would.

It is BIG business. U.S. organic sales set a new record in 2015 of $43.3 billion in sales.

For example, in 2012, The Honest Company, a company that started out with natural baby products but has since expanded, made $150 million in revenues last year.

Industry insiders are predicting revenues in excess of $250 million for this year, with an overall valuation of $1 billion dollars

The feminine hygiene industry in the U.S. alone is $3 billion/year. This is a good chunk to add to this growing industry.

Let’s take a look at some of the organic tampons marketing claims and the science behind them.

#1. Organic tampons are healthier and safer than non-organic: Not really.

Most of the marketing claims I found say that organic pads and tampons are “healthier and safer for your body.”

Do you know who worries about things you stick in your vagina more than you ever could? The FDA. That’s right. Tampons are actually a class II medical device– heavily regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Just like something you stick inside your body right next to sensitive mucus membranes and where you grow your babies should be. Regular tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products do not use toxic chemicals.

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The government actually IS in our vaginas. FDA regulations cover every aspect from selection of tampon size and absorbency, to tampon insertion methods to how tampons should be worn and the wear-time, to tampon removal and disposal.

Clinical testing for all tampons must provide proof that meets rigorous criteria for:

  • irritation,
  • allergy,
  • effects on vaginal microflora,
  • abrasions,
  • ulceration,
  • laceration and
  • residual fiber retention.

#2. Organic tampons are made without chlorine bleach: same for conventional ones.

I found some variation of this marketing claim on every website I visited:

“Made without bleach, pesticide-treated cotton, fragrances, deodorants, rayon, or synthetic superabsorbents — everything you need, nothing you don’t!”

Is this claim based in science or is it more fiction?

First lets tackle chlorine bleach and rayon, because they are really one and the same issue. We worry about bleach in our home cleaning products, coffee filters, and face tissues.

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So why not in our feminine hygiene products? In the 1980s, after the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency we discovered many environmental contaminants. Dioxin was one of them.

In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report stating that dioxins are known to cause cancer in animals, and probably cause cancer in people.

Dioxin is the byproduct of the process from converting wood pulp into a synthetic fiber called Rayon, which is also used for fabric.

Tampons are usually made of cotton and rayon. Up until the late 1990’s, bleaching the wood pulp resulted in traces of dioxin in tampons, but that method has since been replaced with a chlorine-free bleaching process for all tampons.

In general, the dioxin hazard has been reduced because of the new, non-chlorine bleaching methods, but it can still be detected in low levels tampons — even those made of 100% cotton.

This is due to the previous decades of pollution; dioxin can be found in the air, water, and ground.

Therefore, small amounts of dioxin may be present in the cotton or wood pulp raw materials used to make tampons, regardless of whether they are organic or not.

The FDA requires all tampon manufacturers to monitor dioxin levels in their finished products.

#3. Organic tampons are made without synthetic supeabsoerbents: Same for conventional tampons!

What about synthetic superabsorbents? That sounds legit, right?! In the 1980s some superabsorbent tampons were associated with “toxic shock syndrome,” a systemic blood infection.

However, the CDC and FDA moved quickly to protect our health after this complication was discovered and the superabsorbent materials have been banned in ALL tampons since then.

#4. Organic tampons are fragnance-free: You can find conventional fragrance-free tampons as well!

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The fragrances used in tampons do meet the strict safety standards set by the International Fragrance Association, and are tested extensively for irritation.

However, some people may have extremely sensitive skin and want to avoid fragrances and deodorants altogether. There are plenty unscented conventional choices available by all major brands.

#5. Organic tampons are pesticide-free: False! Organic uses pesticides, sometimes even more toxic than the ones used in conventional crops.

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And what about pesticide levels in cotton? Cotton is neither a fruit nor a vegetable, it is a seed crop; like sunflowers, soybeans, or safflower.

However, cotton is regulated as a food crop by the FDA: The Food & Drug Administration states in its Code of Federal Regulations: Title 21: Food and Drugs, Part 172 that “cottonseed products may be used for human consumption.”

As such, it is a subject to the same rigorous government oversight as food crops, even if it is to be used for textile purposes.

If you don’t trust our own FDA to test accurately for harmful residues, then perhaps use can trust the German Bremmer Cotton Exchange, which carries out extensive testing of cottons from all over the world according to the Eco-Tex 100 Standards (a global standards organization headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland).

They have found that US cotton is among the cleanest in the world, no matter how it is produced, with pesticide levels nearly undetectable.

Over 60 chemicals, both “naturally derived” AND synthetic, are allowed in “organic” production methods. Some natural pesticides can be even more dangerous that synthetic ones, neem oil, used in organic cotton farming is a great example.

In a study funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada, six different insecticides were analyzed: four were synthetic and two organic; the organic ones turned out to be more toxic than their synthetic counterparts.

#6. Organic tampons are made with GOTS Certified Organic Cotton: This is worse for the environment.

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Many of the brands I found use “100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton.”

Sounds like it is good for the environment, right? Wrong.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is one of the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. Organic cotton must be non-GMO.

Like many non-gmo crops, non-GMO cotton suffers from a “resources” problem, it uses too much of them and yields a much smaller amount of cotton. The yield for non-GMO cotton crops is roughly 50% less than conventional cotton (for area of land.) This means you need double the land to produce the same amount of cotton.

  • The requirement for more land and more resources means that organic cotton has a much larger “ecological footprint” than conventional cotton.
  • On top of that, organic cotton is necessarily sprayed insecticide application for organic cotton (usually externally applied Bt protein,) and these additional applications require more tractor passes, which contributes to the large carbon footprint of organic cotton.
  • Lastly, organic cotton growers can’t use synthetic herbicides (or GMO Round-Up Ready seeds). Cotton is a very sensitive and slow growing crop that will produce NO yield if weeds are allowed to grow near the trees. Organic weed control methods are entirely dependent on tillage, tractor passes and rotary hoes. Tillage and cultivation is necessary two to three times per week. This means more fuel emissions, wear and tear on equipment, with a higher carbon footprint.

GMO cotton varieties produce 25–50% more yield worldwide, compared to the cotton varieties grown 40 years ago. The use of genetically improved (Bt trait) cotton strains has allowed some countries to reduce their cotton insecticide use by up to 90%! They are drought resistant; therefore they need less irrigation and use less water.

The bottom line is these miracle, good for the environment, GMO cotton varieties cannot be used to produce “100% GOTS certified organic cotton.”

#7. Organic tampons include no phtalates or BPA — these don’t cause issues in conventional tampons either.

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The last of the claims I found center around the applicator itself. For example “Made without phthalates, the innovative compact plastic tampon applicator is made from 90%+ bio-based materials” and “BPA-Free plastic applicators”

Both BPA and phthalates are “endocrine disruptors.” Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.

A wide variety of products are used by women in the genital area and, therefore, come into contact with the genital mucosa. The largest category is those used for cleanliness and odor control, such as soaps and body washes, douches, premoistened wipes and towelettes, dusting powder and deodorant sprays.

The next largest are those that absorb fluids, such as products used for menstrual protection (tampons, pads and panty liners) and incontinence protection. Lubricants and moisturizers, and aesthetic products (hair removal products and dyes), and fungal treatments are also fairly common.

Studies have looked at the urine of women who use these products, and found that the only substantial increase in the level of phthalates (not whether this level relates to any disorder or condition what-so-ever) is related to douching, NOT to feminine hygiene product use.

Organic pads and tampons: They are no better for you or the environment.

So, should you buy organic tampons and organic feminine hygiene products? In many states, feminine hygiene products are already taxed as “luxury items” in most states, and going green “down there” can double those costs:

  • A 10-pack of Honest Company regular pads costs $6, whereas a 16-pack of Always goes for just over $3.
  • For $7, you could get 16 Honest Company organic tampons or 34 from Kotex.

Going organic is no better for you or the environment. But the marketing is as brilliant as the vajingle is catchy.

Now join the conversation at Fitness Reloaded and leave a comment and let us know: Are you buying organic cotton tampons? Why/why not?

References

Bahlai et al., Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans. PLoS ONE 5(6): e11250. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011250

Branch F. et al., Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalates exposures among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2004. Environ Health. 2015 Jul 15;14:57. doi: 10.1186/s12940–015–0043–6.

Autism denial exists? – August 2016 Derp of the Month

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I have written before how many of the most outspoken anti-GMO and anti-vaccine people on social media tend to be involved with multi level marketing (MLM) cults. This month’s derp follows this pattern.

Ms. Amber King came to my attention when I stumbled across a GoFundMe page about the “Monsanto Tribunal”. The Organic Consumers Association, Moms Across America, and other pro-disease/pro-starvation extremists decided they would create a fake trial for Monsanto. A green screen not being good enough, they are actually raising money to hold it at The Hague in The Netherlands.

Writing for Forbes, Kavin Senapathy goes into more detail:

While the verbiage sounds official, this tribunal is not governed by the United Nations nor the International Criminal Court, an international treaty-based court not affiliated with the UN. Instead, the group is using the guidelines of both for their trial, in a seeming attempt to lend authenticity to a glorified meeting of the who’s who of anti-biotech science deniers, during which they will undoubtedly find their absent defendant guilty.

She continues:

The bottom line is that this tribunal isn’t a trial, it’s theatrics; a group of anti-genetic engineering leaders convening at a pretend court brandishing UN and ICC rules. Would we do much more than laugh if Gucci put The Gap on trial with a toy gavel? I suppose some of us would grab a bowl of popcorn and tune in.

Ms. King appears to want to attend the imaginary trial herself and have other people pay for the trip.

She is also an “independent consultant” for NYR Organics, a company started by Neal Yard. Among the skeptic community Yard is best known for withdrawing a homeopathic (sugar pill) remedy for malaria. The Quackometer blog goes into more detail here:

Neal’s Yard acknowledges that there is no good evidence that homoeopathy can prevent malaria. So, why does it sell it then? Malaria kills. By offering a prevention where there is no scientific evidence or reason to suppose that it will prevent malaria, you are simply putting lives at risk. Susan then claims that there is a “good track record in preventing and treating other epidemic diseases.” This is bullshit of the highest order. There is no good evidence that homeopathy can prevent or cure any disease – it’s just sugar pills. Homeopaths like to tell each other stories and myths about cholera epidemics in the 19th Century. Not good enough. Can you imagine a drug company offering evidence for a new drug based on 200 year old fairy stories? By saying that “no absolute guarantee that you will not get malaria with any treatment ” it ignores the fact that there is good evidence that conventional antimalarials, properly prescribed, can do a great deal to protect you, whilst homeopathic sugar pills do absolutely nothing.

Even people who love essential oils are tired of the nonsense coming out of these MLMs. One such blogger explains how the MLM cults work:

Like any multi-level marketing plan, consultants or distributors join the company, usually “under” another consultant, who then becomes their “upline”…they becoming the “downline”. To join these consultants must usually buy some introductory “kit” which comes complete with product and a plethora of marketing materials all designed to brainwash…er, convince…or teach the new consultant about the particular products…essential oils which they will be selling.

These consultants are able to buy their own oils at “wholesale” prices and then are to turn around and sell them to their friends, neighbors, family and anyone else that comes across their trap…er path…at a ridiculously high marked-up retail price.

TRUTH: The markup of MLM essential oils, even at the wholesale price, is between 400% and 600%, the same price mark up of most jewelry! So if the wholesale price is 500% above the price the company actually pays for the oil, then the retail price is going to be marked up 600% to 1000% higher than the price paid for the oil!

So Ms. King clearly has a lot at stake here. She needs to sell her product, or she is out A LOT of money.

Describing herself on her Moms Across America bio as a “food activist, chef, foodie, health and wellness guru, aspiring herbalist, permaculturist and supermom” her beliefs are as far out there as any other quack.

She is all about cupping to “detox””

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She is, no surprise, anti-vaccine:

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She manages to bring together Morgellons and Chemtrails in the same post:

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And probably the most insulting thing she could possibly share involves insinuating that autism isn’t real, and autistic kids are just children who are “vaccine injured”. Autism denier is a whole new level of conspiracy theory for me.

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The anti-science movement always screams “follow the money”, insinuating that information contrary to their beliefs are paid for by industry. Yet the very same people have direct financial stakes in their movement. Creating an army of followers with multi-level marketing sure seems effective.

Despite harassment, Pro GMO professor defends people he disagrees with

Kevin_FoltaWhen a reporting war broke out between followers of two popular Facebook pages one science communicator didn’t just take the high road, he built a bridge, including with people responsible for a campaign of harassment against him.

After failing to get a bill passed in California for labeling food containing ingredients involving genetic engineering, some of the bill’s biggest backers needed to try something new.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 at 5.18.13 PM

Leaders of the campaign, Gary Ruskin and Stacy Malkan, received funding from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and later Dr. Bronner, created US Right To Know (US RTK). OCA, in turn, receives an abundance of funding from Dr. Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com. US RTK began to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for emails of public university professors who show public support for biotechnology. If this sounds familiar, it is because this tactic has been used by the tobacco industry, climate change deniers, and young earth creationists to intimidate educators.

When emails revealed that Monsanto had donated $25,000 to University of Florida for Professor Kevin Folta to use in an outreach program, a smear campaign was launched against him. Joseph Mercola was quick to jump on the harassment, insinuating that Folta may be guilty of money laundering and going so far as to question his suitability to be a teacher.

Articles posted to conspiracy pages, such as Mercola’s, would serve to fan the flames of hatred. Individuals began sending Professor Folta threats, posting his private information, and even took it as far as breaking into his university office.

So it came as a shock to many in the online science communication community when Professor Folta became upset with some of them for attempting to take down the Facebook page of Erin Elizabeth, Joseph Mercola’s girlfriend.

Erin was upset by an image posted on  We Love GMOs and Vaccines cheering the death of a holistic doctor, Jeff Bradstreet. Bradstreet was found dead from self-inflicted wounds after federal authorities opened an investigation on him. He was offering quackery services (such as chelation therapy)to parents of children with autism , potentially harming many of the children.

When Erin’s followers were informed of the image posted on We Love GMOs and Vaccines page, several of them began a targeted reporting campaign to get the page taken down. They were successful in doing so four times over a two-week period. Several people on the pro-GMO side retaliated leading to Professor Folta spurring into action. He began an email dialog with Erin, commented on her page about how he looked down on the tactic, and even wrote about being disappointed in my own FOIA requests on anti-GMO professors.

These were not actions he was obligated to take. Most people probably would have just stayed out of it. But the unintended consequence of this outreach was the humanization of both sides. I began my own dialog with Ms. Elizabeth, leading her to compliment both myself and Professor Folta on her page.

Both her page and We Love GMOs and Vaccines are now back up for the time being.

I grew GMOs this summer and didn’t get cancer or autism.

Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 9.29.41 PMThere is a lot of emotion these days surrounding the use of seed created with genetic engineering. Some groups have grown concerned about associated pesticides and what they see as corporate control. Scientists tell us that the technology is beneficial and poses no additional risk compared to other breeding methods.

I wanted to find this out for myself. In March I contacted Rupp Seeds, one of many suppliers of seed for farmers. The immediate problem I faced was that of scale. I live in a very small Annapolis duplex with a lawn that takes me about five minutes to cut. Transgenic seed is more expensive and so far tends to only be economical for large scale farming where the increased costs are offset by savings in other areas. The smallest quantity I was able to purchase was a package of 2500 sweet corn seeds and 1000 squash seeds.

At about $45 for each bag of seed, this was going to be an expensive experiment. Rupp had me complete two technology user agreements, one for each crop. These are the controversial agreements farmers must sign to use the patented seed. I agreed not to sell the seed to others, and not to save any for future years. Part of the increased cost for the seed is due to the production and regulatory red tape biotechnology companies face, and they want to recoup their expenses with patents. These patents last about twenty years, and some of the first GE crops are already coming off patent.

Cmxy1okW8AAjR2yI was not prepared for the squash. I planted nine seeds resistant to different diseases. Essentially they were vaccinated as proteins from the viruses were inserted to create immunity. This should allow farmers that plant these varieties to use less fungicide. Each squash plant just kept growing, invading a large chunk of my back yard. When the squash is harvested, more grow in its place. Next year one seed is all my family needs for a summer of squash it seems.

The corn is a bit more controversial. The Seminis variety Obsession II is glyphosate tolerant and contains a gene from the naturally occurring bacteria bacillus thuringus (an organic insecticide). I accidently killed my first batch. When a few weeds started growing I wanted to test out the herbicide tolerant trait. It turns out the Roundup sold in stores to homeowners contains an additional herbicide called pelargonic acid. The corn was not tolerant to pelargonic acid and died quickly.Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 9.27.09 PM

My second planting went quite well, but I was mildly disappointed to discover that I never even got the chance to spray glyphosate on them. These fast growing stalks quickly out competed the weeds for sunlight. The idea that farmers are out there “drenching” their corn in glyphosate is one of the greatest internet myths out there. The amount sprayed will certainly vary by climate conditions and month planted. But long before anything known as food emerges from the stalks the sun will be prevented from reaching the weeds.Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 9.28.43 PM

It is a shame that seed companies do not yet offer any biotech traits for the home market. A big part of the reason the anti-biotechnology movement became so strong was simple lack of exposure to the technology. Many in the organic movement like to “grow food not lawns”. That is a sentiment I can get behind. There is something special about my children learning how our food is grown. I challenge people to take this a step further and grow their own GMOs and show their neighbors and friends that there is nothing to fear.

10 Great Reasons to Avoid Organic

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1) Organic is a production term— it does not address the quality, safety or nutritional value of a product. It is a myth that organic farming does not use pesticides or chemicals. You can find the “approved” list of organic pesticides here.

2) The USDA and EPA Pesticide Data Program does a great job of monitoring the environment and protecting our health: The 2013 PDP Annual Summary shows that over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the set tolerances were only detected in 0.23 percent of the samples!!!

3) Organic foods have NOT been proven to be safer: Fruits and vegetables labeled as organic are grown with fertilizers and pesticides, the same as conventional farming, however the pesticides that are allowed to be used are different (although, many synthetic chemical agents are actually “exempt” and allowed in organic farming) between the two production methods. “Organic” pesticides can be more toxic than their synthetic counterparts.

4) Organic pesticides can pose the same health risks as nonorganic ones. For example, neem oil, a bug killer, is considered “natural” because the substance is found in the seeds of a tree, but “natural” doesn’t mean safe. Neem oil is known to cause seizures and comas in humans if consumed in large doses, and it kills bumblebees at very low concentrations. Copper sulfate, elemental sulfur, borax and borates are all known to cause some harm to humans and are approved members of the organic list. Among “synthetic” pesticides, pyrethrums are still allowed, and Vitamin C that is chemically derived (and therefore synthetic) is allowed, as are various forms of alcohol.

5) Organic pesticides often need to be applied more frequently than their synthetic counterparts: Many people think that organic farming is inherently gentler to the environment, and that organic farming practices are designed to be more sustainable, emphasizing conservation and reducing pollutants. But that is a myth. The equation is simple really: the same outcome, pest management must be achieved, so more pounds or applications of less toxic compounds are used to achieve the same effect.

6) Pesticide residues are often present at unacceptable tolerance levels on organic fruits and vegetables and these results have been independently analyzedIn a larger 2014 USDA survey, over 10,000 samples of 15 crops were taken from ordinary retail food channels.  The scientists then used extremely sensitive laboratory methods to check for traces of hundreds of different chemicals.  409 of the samples were labeled as organic, and residues were detected in 87 of them.  Thus 21% of the organic samples had detectable residues representing 142 detections in 78 crop/chemical combinations.  That detection percent is lower than for conventional, but the  PDP testing does not have the capacity to detect several of the most commonly used, organic-approved pesticides like sulfur, copper compounds, mineral oils or Bt.  However, the other 40 of the 41 different pesticides detected on the organic foods were synthetic chemicals that are not approved for use on organic.

Below are some very important words taken from the pilot study. The take home message here is, whatever type of produce you buy, please wash it thoroughly!

“In the pilot study, 327 samples (57.3 percent) had no detectable levels of pesticide residue and 244 samples (42.7 percent) had detectable pesticide levels. Of the 244 samples with detectable pesticide levels, 21 samples had values that were greater than 5 percent of EPA tolerance levels and in violation of the USDA organic regulations. The values of the other 223 samples with detectable residues were less than 5 percent of the EPA tolerance level. This outcome was consistent with the results from previous studies and reviews. The pilot study was an observational study that was not designed to collect and analyze data representative of the organic industry as a whole. It focused on method feasibility. However, the pilot study did identify specific areas of concern that warrant increased scrutiny to prevent contamination. The residue detections varied widely by commodity:

Apples. Two pesticides, diphenylamine and thiabendazole, were present within the allowed range (but over 0.01 ppm) for several samples. Diphenylamine and thiabendazole are applied post harvest within the apple packing sheds to control scald (diphenylamine) or disease (thiabendazole). The levels of these compounds indicate inadequate separation and cleaning within organic packing houses. Additionally, three apple samples contained residues of chlorpyrifos—an insecticide used in conventional apple production—at 0.001 ppm. These residues most likely indicate pesticide drift from neighboring orchards.

Bell peppers. Thirteen samples were in violation of the USDA organic regulations for having levels over 5 percent of the EPA tolerance for at least one pesticide. These violations were scattered across 12 pesticides, with 3 samples having levels in violation for 2 pesticides. The high levels and number of detections indicate that some samples may have been mislabeled, improperly handled, or misrepresented as organic.

Broccoli. No broccoli samples were in violation, nor were any detections over 0.01 ppm. 7 Potatoes. One potato sample was in violation of the USDA organic regulations. Over half of detections in the compliant range (under 5 percent of the EPA tolerance level) came from potatoes containing chlorpropham, a post harvest sprout inhibitor used when storing conventional potatoes. This pesticide’s label cautions that the product may remain active up to 6 months post use. Separate storage areas or documented clean out procedures are already required for organic products, but these results show that additional efforts to separate organic potatoes are necessary.

Strawberries. Two strawberry samples were in violation of the USDA organic regulations. Additionally, one pesticide, piperonyl butoxide, was present at allowed levels (but over 0.01 ppm) in several samples.

Tomatoes. Four tomato samples were in violation of the USDA organic regulations. Additionally, two pesticides, imidacloprid and piperonyl butoxide, were present at allowed levels (but over 0.01 ppm) in several samples.”

7) Organic foods are no “healthier” than conventionally produced foods: Many people seem to think that organic foods might be higher in nutrients than their traditional counterparts, however, the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or safer than conventional foods.

It has been proposed that foods produced under organic systems have to “work harder” to defend themselves from the environment, therefore, they must be making more of the antioxidants, phytochemicals, and micronutrients that will make them healthier choices, however, it has been shown that organic versus conventional management systems contribute the smallest source of nutrient variation when compared to plant genotype, growth region, or spring vs. fall season.  That doesn’t mean there is NO variation, it just means that organic vs. non organic contributes the LEAST amount of variation, and these small amounts likely have no significant impact on the health of people in a well-fed country, such as ours (if there is any effect at all on human health).

8) Organic food is expensive: “Organic” is a $32 billion dollar a year industry. Many people think that they are buying from small family-owned farms, however, most seemingly quaintly named organic labels, are actually owned by big corporations, and they are no longer managed by their organic founders. When you pay a premium for organic food, often you are assuming that you are supporting a family farm. A better way to do that is to buy local, if that is your motivation.

9) 99.9% of all of the pesticides you eat are produced by the plant ITSELF. It has been estimated that we consume 1.5 grams of natural pesticides per person per day (based on the content of toxins in the major plant foods (e.g., 13 g of roasted coffee per person per day contains about 765 mg of chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and caffeine; see refs. 22 and 23 and Table 2). Phenolics from other plants are estimated to contribute another several hundred milligrams of toxins. Flavonoids and glucosinolates account for several hundred milligrams; potato and tomato toxins may contribute another hundred, and saponins from legumes another hundred.) Are natural pesticides safer than synthetics? Of all the chemicals tested for chronic cancer tests in animals, only 5 percent have been natural pesticides and half of these were carcinogenic.

10) Lastly, “Organic” often means non-GMO. One cannot legitimately take a pro-science position on the environment and an anti-science position on GMOs. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (Isaaa.org), the positive impacts of crop biotechnology equate to removing 11.9 million cars of the road for one year.

“The reason why 90 percent of American farmers have embraced biotechnology is because it has substantially reduced their carbon footprint, while improving yields, farmer safety, and the environment at the same time.  Use of GMO crops benefit the environment in 3 ways:”

1) Much safer herbicide products to control weeds.
2) No-till farming, crop rotation, cover crops keep carbon in the soil and conserves organic matter, and further protects the topsoil.
3) Practically eliminates the need for insecticides.

There is so little non-GMO corn and soy available in the US, that most organic corn and soy are imported from Canada, China, and India. So buying organic often means cutting American farmers out of the economy.

“Conventional eggplant farmers in Bangladesh are forced to spray their crops as many as 140 times during the growing season, and pesticide poisoning is a chronic health problem in rural areas. But because Bt brinjal is a hated G.M.O., or genetically modified organism, it is Public Enemy No.1 to environmental groups everywhere.”

GMOS - Env

Graphic Credit: Genetic Literacy Project. 

Cross-posted to Medium 

References

  1. http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/01/25/organic-101-allowed-and-prohibited-substances/http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/01/25/organic-101-allowed-and-prohibited-substances/http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2014%2F12%2F0276.xml&printable=true
  2. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2014%2F12%2F0276.xml&printable=true
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-entine/glyphosate-chemophobia-gr_b_10223842.html
  4. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/11/03/glyphosate-is-no-bee-killer/
  5. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/06/18/organic-pesticides-used-as-replacement-for-dangerous-neonicotinoids-found-far-more-toxic-to-bees/
  6. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?
  7. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/05/09/popular-organic-pesticide-copper-sulfate-compare-synthetic-ones-like-glyphosate/
  8. http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1025eb0e6b67cadf9d3b40&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.7&idno=7#se7.3.205_1601
  9. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Pesticide%20Residue%20Testing_Org%20Produce_2010-11PilotStudy.pdf
  10. https://www.scribd.com/presentation/142002990/An-Independent-Analysis-of-the-2011-USDA-Pesticide-Residue-Data
  11. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685
  12. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/organic-food-no-more-nutritious-than-conventionally-grown-food-201209055264
  13. http://mentalfloss.com/article/72624/12-natural-and-organic-brands-owned-big-food
  14. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/18/business/18organic.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  15. http://www.pnas.org/content/87/19/7777.full.pdf
  16. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/07/15/myth-busting-are-synthetic-pesticides-used-with-some-gmos-more-dangerous-than-natural-ones/
  17. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/03/30/care-future-planet-heres-support-gmos/
  18. http://www.science20.com/agricultural_realism/example_how_much_pesticides_have_changed-127931
  19. http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensavage/2015/09/23/the-role-of-organic-pesticides-in-california/#7742f6d551c5

  20. http://fitnessreloaded.com/organic-food-kids/

 

Dannon going non-GMO – hardly a surprise !

Screenshot 2016-07-18 at 11.03.32 PMDannon has announced plans to launch a line of non-GMO yogurts. They are even going a step forward by insisting that none of their cows are fed GMOs. This is a huge win for the anti-biotechnology movement. Dannon plans on converting 80,000 acres of farmland over to non-GMO crops to achieve their marketing plan. The organic industry sees cross pollination of GE crops with organic crops as their biggest threat, and a lot of GE crops are used to grow food for animals. This is why they have been targeting dairy so much. If they are able to help Dannon with this successful launch, other companies will probably follow along.

It should come as no surprise though that Dannon would adopt pseudoscience. This is the yogurt industry, they were literally founded by pseudoscience.

Yogurt was introduced to the United States in Élie Metchnikoff’s book The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, back in 1908. Metchnikoff was a crank who thought the colon served no useful purpose, and that the bacteria in yogurt would prevent aging. Another crank, Joseph Kellogg, would give it to patients as an enema in a sanitarium. Yogurt’s popularity eventually took off in the 1950s as part of the Hauser diet. Hauser was an ex-practitioner of naprapathy (kind of an off-shoot of chiropractors).

Dannon has been on the forefront, riding the wave of woo. In 1978 they even made a commercial stating that yogurt consumption in the nation of Georgia led its people to live past 100. Today they have jumped on the “probiotics” bandwagon, even though there is zero evidence that yogurt consumption leads to improved gut and immune health.

The Yogurt industry seems to be locked in a contest of who can make the most outrageous health claims. Chobani recently targeted Dannon for having “artificial” ingredients. Dannon and Yoplait both proceeded to sue Chobani for making health claims about “natural” ingredients being better.

Dannon is a beloved American brand and as a company we have always prioritized the health and safety of our consumers, and to suggest anything to the contrary is false and damaging. We intend to pursue all available avenues to address Chobani’s misleading and deceptive marketing.”

So why is Dannon now able to get away with making false and misleading claims about GMOs?