Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Friday, July 14, 2017

73 percent of Democrats would give up drinking for Trump impeachment



Over 73 percent of Democrats would give up alcohol for the rest of their life if it meant President Trump would be impeached tomorrow, according to a survey released on Thursday by a drug and alcohol rehabilitation group.

Only 17 percent of Republicans would give up alcohol for Trump’s impeachment. The poll also found that nearly 31 percent of Republicans would give up drinking if it meant the media stopped writing negative things about President Trump.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday, accusing the president of obstructing justice during the investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference. It was the first time a lawmaker had offered an impeachment article against Trump.

Detox.net surveyed 1,013 active alcohol drinkers on March 14 and asked questions related to what they would be willing to sacrifice in exchange for alcohol. Forty-one percent of those surveyed identified as women, 58 percent as men and 1 percent identified as a gender not listed on the survey.

As for political affiliation, 21 percent identified as Republican, 43 percent as Democrat and 36 percent as other.

The minimum amount of money the Americans surveyed would accept to quit drinking for a year is at least $4,700 and to give up alcohol for life they would expect at least $365,458.

There was a 5 percentage point margin of error when asking about the average minimum amount of money respondents would be willing to give accept to give up alcohol.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor

Under pressure to balance the budget and align with Trump, the House GOP has its eye on food stamps, welfare and perhaps even veterans’ benefits.
House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they’re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families.

Donald Trump’s refusal to overhaul Social Security and Medicare — and his pricey wish-list for infrastructure, a border wall and tax cuts — is sending House budget writers scouring for pennies in politically sensitive places: safety-net programs for the most vulnerable.

Under enormous internal pressure to quickly balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate, multiple sources told POLITICO.

The proposal, which would be part of the House Budget Committee's fiscal 2018 budget, won't specify which programs would get the ax; instead it will instruct committees to figure out what to cut to reach the savings. But among the programs most likely on the chopping block, the sources say, are food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits.

If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.

Atop that, GOP budget writers will also likely include Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal to essentially privatize Medicare in their fiscal 2018 budget, despite Trump’s unwavering rejection of the idea. While that proposal is more symbolic and won’t become law under this budget, it’s just another thorny issue that will have Democrats again accusing Republicans of “pushing Granny off the cliff.”
“The Budget Committee is trying to force the entire conference and committees of jurisdiction to focus on ways to bring down this deficit,” said senior budget panel member Rep. Tom Cole.

Republicans have long sought to tackle the nearly $20 trillion debt, but Trump has tied their hands by ruling out cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The Oklahoma Republican, however, acknowledged that mandatory spending reductions could become “very tough issues” — though he declined to name which programs would see major cuts:

“These are hard for anybody, no matter where you’re at on the political spectrum.”

While budget writers are well aware of the sensitive nature of their proposal, they feel they have no choice if they want to balance the budget in a decade, which they’ve proposed for years, and give Trump what he wants.

Enraged by Democrats claiming victory after last month’s government funding agreement, White House officials in recent weeks have pressed Hill Republicans to include more Trump priorities in the fiscal 2018 blueprint.

House Budget Republicans hope to incorporate those wishes and are expected, for example, to budget for Trump’s infrastructure plan. Tax reform instructions will also be included in the budget, paving the way for both chambers to use the powerful budget reconciliation process to push a partisan tax bill through Congress on simple majority votes, as well as the $400 billion in mandatory cuts.
“The critique last time was that we didn’t embed enough Trump agenda items into our budget,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a budget panel member. Trump has "made it clear it will be embedded in this budget. … And so people will see a process much more aligned with President Trump’s agenda in this forthcoming budget.”

New spending, however, makes already tough math even trickier for a party whose mantra is “balance the budget in 10 years.” Lawmakers need to cut roughly $8 trillion to meet that goal, budget experts say. And while a quarter of their savings in previous budgets came from repealing Obamacare and slicing $1 trillion from Medicaid, Republicans cannot count on those savings anymore because their health care bill sucked up all but $150 billion of that stash — relatively speaking, mere pocket change to play with.

Republicans’ first reflex would be to turn to entitlement reform to find savings. Medicare and Social Security, after all, account for the lion’s share of government spending and more than 70 percent of all mandatory spending.
But while former Freedom Caucus conservative-turned-White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has tried to convince the president of the merits of such reforms, Trump has refused to back down on his campaign pledge to leave Medicare and Social Security alone. (He’s reversed himself on a vow not to touch Medicaid, which would see $880 billion in cuts under the Obamacare repeal bill passed by the House.)

Mulvaney, sources say, has been huddling on a weekly basis with House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to plot a path forward. There appears to be some common ground to consider cuts to other smaller entitlement programs: While the Office of Management and Budget would not respond to a request for comment, CQ reported Tuesday that the White House was also considering hundreds of billions in cuts to the same programs being eyed by House budget writers.

“I’ve already started to socialize the discussion around here in the West Wing about how important the mandatory spending is to the drivers of our debt,” Mulvaney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in March. “There are ways that we cannot only allow the president to keep his promise, but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these mandatory programs.”

Final details of the GOP’s budget plan aren’t expected until June, and specific language mandating the mandatory cuts still hasn’t been written, according to one aide familiar with the process.

Committees would then have several months to put together the department-by-department details on what exactly to cut, proposals that probably won’t land until the fall at the earliest, given the legislative calendar.

The idea could run into problems: It is unclear whether such cuts would be acceptable in the more moderate Senate. In order for the proposal to actually move, Senate Republicans would need to include the same instructions in their own budget.

In the House, Republican leaders hope the moves toward deficit reduction will buy them some good will with conservatives going into September, when the party’s right flank will have to swallow difficult votes to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.

Cole argued the deficit-trimming push will appeal to the House Freedom Caucus, which blocked the House GOP’s budget on the floor last year in protest of spending levels its members considered too high.

But pleasing conservatives this time around will fuel anxiety on the other end of the conference. Endorsing cuts to programs for the poor will certainly make centrist House Republicans — many of whom were uncomfortable voting to slice Medicaid just weeks ago in the Obamacare repeal bill — very uncomfortable.

Rep. Charlie Dent, a centrist and senior Appropriations Committee member, said budget reconciliation instructions should center solely on tax reform, which “is complex enough on its own,” he said.

“All I can say is: Tax reform by itself is very complex and controversial,” Dent (R-Pa.) said. “Adding some of these other changes will only make the tax reform more difficult.”

Asked about mandatory programs that might be cut, he added: “This will create challenges, no question about it. When so many of the entitlement programs are taken off the table for discussion … that limits our ability to fund the non-defense discretionary programs and other mandatory programs that affect a lot of people.”

GOP backers of the idea will argue in the coming weeks and months that moderates have voted for GOP budgets that included similar cuts in the past — so they should be able to support them again.

But if House GOP leadership has learned anything from the Obamacare repeal debacle, it should be that voting for something that has no chance of becoming law and makes for great campaign fodder is much easier than backing a bill that could be enacted.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Paul Ryan dreamed about screwing over poor people back in college

"So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg."



http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/03/17/paul_ryan_s_college_dream_was_to_kick_poor_people_off_medicaid.html

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump budget cuts meals on wheels to fund defense contractors

"The preliminary outline for President Donald Trump's 2018 budget could slash some funding for a program that provides meals for older, impoverished Americans.

The budget blueprint suggests cutting funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by about $6.2 billion, a 13.2% decrease from its 2017 funding level.

Here's what Trump wants cut

Almost half of those savings will come by eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which provides money for a variety of community development and anti-poverty programs, including Meals on Wheels."



Mick Mulvaney defends meals on wheels cuts

"At a news conference Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, defended proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food aid to needy senior citizens, by saying the program is one of many that is “just not showing any results.”



https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/16/trump-budget-chief-says-meals-on-wheels-is-not-showing-any-results-hes-wrong/?utm_term=.076df1fe6814

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Jaws Drop As Trump WH Claims Starving Seniors By Killing Meals On Wheels Is Compassionate

Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters today that eliminating food for senior citizens via the Meals On Wheels program was the compassionate thing to do because if a program can't demonstrate results, it should get cut. 

By Jason Easley



When Mulvaney was asked about the elimination of funding for Meals On Wheels, he answered, “I think you know that Meals On Wheels is not a federal program. It’s part of that Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that we give to the states, and then many states make the decision to use that money on Meals On Wheels. What I can tell you about CDBG's is that’s what we fund. Right? So we spend $150 billion on those programs since the 1970's. The CDBGs have been identified as programs since I think the second Bush administration as ones that we just not showing any results. We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. Meals On Wheels sounds great. Again, that’s a state decision to fund that particular portion, but to take the federal money and to give that to the states, and say look we want to give you federal money for programs that don’t work. I can’t defend that anymore.”

Later Mulvaney was asked if this is a hard-hearted budget. He answered, “I don’t think so. In fact, I think it is one of the most compassionate things we can do to. You’re only focusing on half of the equation. Right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients and the folks who give us the money in the first place, and I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard earned money anymore.”

In other words, screw the starving elderly and the kids who are going to go without afterschool programs, people like Donald Trump aren’t giving you their “hard earned” money anymore.

Meals on Wheels helps 2.4 million seniors have access to food while being able to stay in their own homes. The results for the program can be seen in both nutritional terms and increased independence for millions of Americans. Meals on Wheels saves taxpayers $34 billion a year in healthcare costs.

This is a vital program for America’s communities, and anyone who claims otherwise is not telling the truth. The selfish argument about taxpayers isn’t going to fly in this case.

The Trump administration has gone from being out of touch with America to trying to starve Americans.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Is The USDA Dumping Millions Of Pounds Of Fatty Cheese On Poor People?

By Lorraine Chow

Here’s a problem that may have slipped under your radar: The United States is in the midst of an epic 1.25 billion pound cheese glut. Low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand have pushed the country’s cheese surplus to its highest level in 30 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Blocks, crumbles and curds are sitting in cold storage stockpiles around the nation; a mountain of cheese so large that every American man, woman and child can eat an extra 3 pounds of cheese this year.

You might have noticed that the cost of dairy products has fallen across the board at the supermarket, and while that’s good news for cheese lovers, dairy farmers and producers have seen their revenues drop 35 percent over the past two years. With more cheese than it knows what to do with, the USDA decided to make two $20 million purchases of surplus cheese in August and October and donated them to food banks. Critics say that the government is simply waving money—ahem, taxpayer funds—at the problem.

This handout abets large-scale dairy producers, who despite the glut, are on their way toward churning out a record 212 billion pounds of milk this year. Michigan dairy farmer Carla Wardin told the Wall Street Journal that she and her colleagues plan to deal with the situation by “doing the same thing … you milk more cows.”

The problems don’t end there. Cheap dairy is not only bad for the health of the environment (from methane-burping cows to water pollution), it’s bad for public health. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine criticized the USDA and its decision-maker Tom Vilsack for effectively dumping artery-clogging food products on poor people. “Please take a moment to ask Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to reconsider the USDA's plan to distribute the fatty cheese to programs that are already struggling to provide participants healthful foods that fight disease,” the group writes in an online petition.

Although cheese has some healthy properties such as bone-building calcium, cheese is loaded with fat and sodium, and even low-fat varieties can contribute to “bad” cholesterol levels. And let’s face it, the way we usually eat cheese is slapping it generously on top of pizza or nachos, making it a delicious but unhealthy treat.

“Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat and are among the foods highest in cholesterol and sodium, exacerbating obesity, heart disease, and diabetes," says PCRM. "Cheese is the number one source of saturated fat in the American diet."

PCRM's petition concludes that the USDA should help food banks and food assistance programs by providing healthier fare such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. The diabetes epidemic has risen in poor populations, and sending highly processed, high-fat cheese to food banks isn’t going to make things any better.

Manel Kappagoda, senior staff attorney and program director at ChangeLab Solutions, wrote in a 2014 article that food banks are “a lifeline” for the 50 million Americans who live in food-insecure households and lack access to affordable, nutritious food."

Food pantries, she noted, are critical in maintaining and improving the health of food-insecure Americans. For this reason, many food banks across the country have implemented nutrition standards that eliminate unhealthy products such as candy, sugary drinks and other junk foods. Citing a survey from the Alameda County Community Food Bank in San Francisco, Kappagoda said that families and individuals who go to food banks don’t just want any food—they want fresh produce, low-fat items and other healthy staples.

As Kappagoda wrote, “to help improve the health of the people they serve, food banks can’t just offer food—they must offer good food.”

Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything we love to eat is a scam

Among the many things New Yorkers pride ourselves on is food: making it, selling it and consuming only the best, from single-slice pizza to four-star sushi. We have fish markets, Shake Shacks and, as of this year, 74 Michelin-starred restaurants.

Yet most everything we eat is fraudulent.

In his new book, “Real Food Fake Food,” author Larry Olmsted exposes the breadth of counterfeit foods we’re unknowingly eating. After reading it, you’ll want to be fed intravenously for the rest of your life.



Think you’re getting Kobe steak when you order the $350 “Kobe steak” off the menu at Old Homestead? Nope — Japan sells its rare Kobe beef to just three restaurants in the United States, and 212 Steakhouse is the only one in New York. That Kobe is probably Wagyu, a cheaper, passable cut, Olmsted says. (Old Homestead declined The Post’s request for comment.)

Fraudulence spans from haute cuisine to fast food: A February 2016 report by Inside Edition found that Red Lobster’s lobster bisque contained a non-lobster meat called langostino. In a statement to The Post, Red Lobster maintains that langostino is lobster meat and said that in the wake of the IE report, “We amended the menu description of the lobster bisque to note the multiple kinds of lobster that are contained within.”

Moving on: That extra-virgin olive oil you use on salads has probably been cut with soybean or sunflower oil, plus a bunch of chemicals. The 100 percent grass-fed beef you just bought is no such thing — it’s very possible that cow was still pumped full of drugs and raised in a cramped feedlot.

Unless your go-to sushi joint is Masa or Nobu, you’re not getting the sushi you ordered, ever, anywhere, and that includes your regular sushi restaurant where you can’t imagine them doing such a thing, Olmsted says. Your salmon is probably fake and so is your red snapper. Your white tuna is something else altogether, probably escolar — known to experts as “the Ex-Lax fish” for the gastrointestinal havoc it wreaks.

Escolar is so toxic that it’s been banned in Japan for 40 years, but not in the US, where the profit motive dominates public safety. In fact, escolar is secretly one of the top-selling fish in America.
The food industry isn’t just guilty of perpetrating a massive health and economic fraud: It’s cheating us out of pleasure.
“Sushi in particular is really bad,” Olmsted says, and as a native New Yorker, he knows how much this one hurts. He writes that multiple recent studies “put the chances of your getting the white tuna you ordered in the typical New York sushi restaurant at zero — as in never.”

Fake food, Olmsted says, is a massive national problem, and the more educated the consumer, the more vulnerable to bait-and-switch: In 2014, the specialty-foods sector — gourmet meats, cheeses, booze, oils — generated over $1 billion in revenue in the US alone.

“This category is rife with scams,” Olmsted writes, and even when it comes to basics, none of us is leaving the grocery store without some product — coffee, rice or honey — being faked.

The food industry isn’t just guilty of perpetrating a massive health and economic fraud: It’s cheating us out of pleasure. These fake foods produce shallow, flat, one-dimensional tastes, while the real things are akin to discovering other galaxies, other universes — taste levels most of us have never experienced.

“The good news,” Olmsted writes, “is that there is plenty of healthful and delicious Real Food. You just have to know where to look.”

‘Safety isn’t a niche’

One of the most popular, fastest-growing foods in America is olive oil, touted for its ability to prevent everything from wrinkles to heart disease to cancer. Italian olive oil is a multibillion-dollar global industry, with the US its third-largest market.

The bulk of these imports are, you guessed it, fake. Labels such as “extra-virgin” and “virgin” often mean nothing more than a $2 mark-up. Most of us, Olmsted writes, have never actually tasted real olive oil.

Old Homestead in NYC lists “Kobe Beef” on its menu, but that’s not precisely true. The luxurious Japanese meat can be found at only three restaurants in the country, including 212 Steakhouse in Midtown.Photo: Shutterstock
“Once someone tries a real extra-virgin — an adult or child, anybody with taste buds — they’ll never go back to the fake kind,” artisanal farmer Grazia DeCarlo has said.

“It’s distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you’ve ever eaten. It makes you realize how rotten the other stuff is — literally rotten.”

Fake olive oil, Olmsted claims, has killed people. He cites the most famous example: In 1981, more than 20,000 people suffered mass food poisoning in Spain. About 800 people died, and olive oil mixed with aniline, a toxic chemical used in making plastic, was blamed.

In 1983, the World Health organization named the outbreak “toxic oil syndrome,” but subsequent investigations pointed to a different contaminant and a different food — pesticides used on tomatoes from Almeria. (Olmsted stands by his reporting.)

Some of the most common additives to olive oil are soybean and peanut oils, which can prove fatal to anyone allergic — and you’ll never see those ingredients on a label. Beware, too, of olive oil labeled “pure” — that can mean the oil is the lowest grade possible.

Some of the most common additives in olive oil are soybean and peanut oils, which can prove fatal to anyone allergic — and are often missing from labels.Photo: Shutterstock
“No one is checking,” Olmsted writes.

How do we find the real thing? Olmsted recommends a few reliable retailers, including Oliviers & Co. in New York and New Jersey. Otherwise, look for labels reading “COOC Certified Extra Virgin” — the newly formed California Olive Oil Council’s stamp — or the international EVA and UNAPROL labels.

In terms of scope and scale, there’s an even greater level of fraud throughout the seafood industry.

“Imagine if half the time you pulled into a gas station, you were filling your tank with dirty water instead of gasoline,” Olmsted writes. “That’s the story with seafood.”

He cites a 2012 study of New York City seafood done by scientists at Oceana, a nonprofit advocacy group. They discovered fakes at 58 percent of 81 stores sampled and at all of the 16 sushi restaurants studied, and this goes on throughout the United States. If you see the words “sushi grade” or “sashimi grade” on a menu, run. There are no official standards for use of the terms.

Red snapper, by the way, is almost always fake — it’s probably tilefish or tilapia. (Tilapia also doubles for catfish.)

“Consumers ask me all the time, ‘What can I do?’ and all I can say is, ‘Just don’t ever buy red snapper,’ ” Dr. Mark Stoeckle, a specialist in infectious diseases at Weill Medical College, told Olmsted. “Red snapper is the big one — when you buy it, you almost never get it.”

Red snapper is almost always fake — it’s probably tilefish or tilapia, which can also double for catfish.Photo: Shutterstock
Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

Shrimp is so bad that Olmsted rarely eats it. “I won’t buy it, ever, if it is farmed or imported,” he writes. In 2007, the FDA banned five kinds of imported shrimp from China; China turned around and routed the banned shrimp through Indonesia, stamped it as originating from there, and suddenly it was back in the US food ­supply.

Seafood fraud puts pregnant women at risk; high levels of mercury in fish are known to cause birth defects. Allergic reactions to shellfish have been known to cause paralysis.

“All the gross details you have heard about industrial cattle farming — from the widespread use of antibiotics and chemicals to animals living in their own feces and being fed parts of other animals they don’t normally consume — occurs in the seafood arena as well,” Olmsted writes. “Only it is much better hidden.”

Red Lobster’s lobster bisque contains a non-lobster meat called langostino.Photo: Shutterstock
Corruption in the seafood industry is so rife that in 2014, President Obama formed the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Seafood Fraud. In the meantime, Olmsted has some suggestions.

Look for the reliable logos MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) for wild-caught fish and BAP (Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices) for farmed, he says.

The most trusted logo is “Alaska Seafood: Wild, Natural, Sustainable.” Alaska’s system mandates complete supervision of chain of custody, from catching to your grocery store.

Perhaps most surprising of all: Discount big-box stores such as Costco, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Walmart are as stringent with their standards as Whole Foods.

“When customers walk into a store, they don’t expect to have to pay a premium for safe food,” Walmart exec Brittni Furrow said in 2014. “Safety isn’t a niche.”

 

Your grass-fed cow was drugged


One of the simplest things we can do, Olmsted writes, is to look for products named after their geographical location. Grated Parmesan cheese is almost always fake, and earlier this year, the FDA said its testing discovered that some dairy products labeled “100% Parmesan” contained polymers and wood pulp.

That’s all the FDA did: You can still buy your woody cheese at the supermarket.

The term “grass-fed” does not ensure free-range meat.Photo: Shutterstock
Parmigiano-Reggiano, however, derives its name from Parma, the region in Italy that’s produced this cheese for over 400 years. If you buy it with that label, it’s real.

Same with Roquefort cheese and Champagne from France, and San Marzano tomato sauce, Bologna meat and Chianti from Italy, and Scotch whisky from Scotland. Still, Olmsted strongly advises looking for the label PDO — Protected Designation of Origin, the highest guarantee of authenticity there is.

As for our own lax labeling standards, Olmsted is outraged. Ninety-one percent of American seafood is imported, but the FDA is responsible for inspecting just 2 percent of those imports. And in 2013, the agency inspected less than half of that 2 percent.

“The bar is so low,” he says. “Congress could not have given them less to do, and they still fail.

They’re not clueless. They know. They’re actually deciding not to do it. They say they don’t have the budget.”

When it comes to beef, Olmstead reports that the USDA is no better; the agency repealed its standards for the “grass-fed” designation in January after pressure from the agriculture industry.

All that stamp now means, he says, is that in addition to grass, the animals “can still be raised in an industrial feed lot and given drugs. It just means the actual diet was grass rather than corn.”

If you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, Olmsted says that Eli’s and Citarella in New York are reliable providers of true grass-fed beef.

“Go up to the counter and ask them where the grass-fed beef comes from,” he says. “They need to know. In New York in particular, you have access to a lot of specialized gourmet stores, and you can source stuff locally. You can’t do that in most of the country.”

Here’s a look at some of the grossest ingredients that might be lurking in your favorite foods, including human hair:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

General Mills recalls some flours after 38 people become sick with E. coli

Flour recall

Gold Medal, Gold Medal Wondra, and Signature Kitchens flour recalled due to possible E. coli O121 contamination

May 31, 2016


MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – General Mills is collaborating with health officials to investigate an ongoing, multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 that may be potentially linked to Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour (sold in Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls, and Acme). Out of an abundance of caution, a voluntary recall is being made.  To date, E. coli O121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility, and the company has not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products.

  Consumers: Please open this page to ask additional questions of our consumer relations team, or call us at 1-800-230-8103.
State and federal authorities have been researching 38 occurrences of illnesses across 20 states related to a specific type of E. coli (E. coli O121), between December 21, 2015, and May 3, 2016. While attempting to track the cause of the illness, CDC found that approximately half of the individuals reported making something homemade with flour at some point prior to becoming ill. Some reported using a General Mills brand of flour.

Based on the information that has been shared with General Mills, some of the ill consumers may have also consumed raw dough or batter. Consumers are reminded to not consume any raw products made with flour. Flour is an ingredient that comes from milling wheat, something grown outdoors that carries with it risks of bacteria which are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling.

Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour, and to never eat raw dough or batter.

“As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour,” said Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills Baking division.

Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. E. coli O121 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Seniors, the very young, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

Any consumers concerned about an illness should contact a physician. Anyone diagnosed by a physician as having an illness related to E. coli O121 is also urged to contact state and local public health authorities.

The recall affects the following retail flour products that could be currently in stores or in consumers’ pantries. It includes six SKUs (stock keeping units or UPC codes) of Gold Medal flour, 2 SKU’s of Signature Kitchens flour and 1 SKU of Gold Medal Wondra flour. 
  • If you have any of the products listed below, they should not be used.
  • Consumers, please visit this page to ask additional questions of our consumer relations team or you can also call us at 1-800-230-8103
  • For additional information on this recall, please visit the General Mills blog.
  • Media can reach the General Mills communications team at 763-764-6364 or at media.line@genmills.com
The specific products in the recall include:
  • 13.5 ounce Gold Medal Wondra
Package UPC 000-16000-18980
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 25FEB2017 thru 30MAR2017
wondra flour package


  • 2 poundGold Medal All Purpose Flour
Package UPC 000-16000-10710
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC thru 03JUN2017KC

  • 5 poundGold Medal All Purpose Flour
Package UPC 000-16000-10610

Recalled Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC, 27MAY2017KC thru 31MAY2017KC, 01JUN2017KC, 03JUN2017KC thru 05JUN2017KC, 11JUN2017KC thru 14JUN2017KC



  • 10 poundGold Medal All Purpose Flour
Package UPC 000-16000-10410
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 02JUN2017KC,03JUN2017KC

  • 10 pound Gold Medal  All Purpose Flour- Banded Pack
Package UPC 000-16000-10410
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 03JUN2017KC, 04JUN2017KC, 05JUN2017KC



gold medal all purpose 5 pound


  • 5 poundGold MedalUnbleached Flour
Package UPC 000-16000-19610
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC, 27MAY2017KC, 03JUN2017KC, 04JUN2017KC
gold medal unbleached 5 pound



  • 5 pound Signature Kitchens All Purpose Flour Enriched Bleached
  • Package UPC 000-21130-53001
    Recalled Better if Used by Dates BB MAY 28 2017
     

signature bleached 5 pound



  • 5 pound Signature Kitchens Unbleached Flour All Purpose Enriched
Package UPC 000-21130-53022

Recalled Better if Used by Dates BB MAY 27 2017

signature unbleached 5 pound



  • 2 poundGold MedalSelf Rising Flour
Package UPC 000-16000-11710
Recalled Better if Used by Dates 23AUG2016KC
self-rising flour

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rancher grows healthy, nutrient packed soil while running a profitable ranch/farm without chemicals

By JohnyCanuck

What a "Luddite" this guy is. He runs a profitable operation without spraying his fields with chemical poisons and artificial fertilizers and without buying patented GM seeds.

Doesn't he know he is rejecting the "scientific" approach to modern agriculture? How dare he have the gall to succeed by simply mimicking the processes of nature on his farm, and then have the nerve to tell other farmers they too can use the same methods to get themselves off the chemical agriculture treadmill, improve their own soils and still have a profitable farm.

Why, if his methods work, it would mean Monsanto and its big-ag partners are mostly full of bovine excrement. Hard to believe, I know.

 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Republicans Only Care About Children Before They're Born

By Thom Hartmann



Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita wants to limit access to free lunch for poor children.

When it comes to children, Republicans are hypocrites.

They go on and on about how "pro-life" they are, but they really only care about "humans" before they're born. After that, they couldn't care less.

Case in point: the so-called "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016," the brainchild of Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita that would decimate a key part of the federal free lunch program.

This bill is about as mean-spirited as it gets, and to understand why, you first need to understand something about how the federal free lunch program works.

Thanks to something called "community eligibility," students at certain schools automatically qualify to get a free lunch if 40 percent of their classmates live in poverty.

Although it may not sound like much, this is a really big deal.

Under community eligibility, high poverty schools no longer have to fill out the mountains of paperwork they'd normally have to fill out to get individual students enrolled in the free lunch program.

Everyone is enrolled, and as a result, these high poverty school are now free to focus on other problems like, you know, educating their students.

Sounds like pretty good idea, right? Not only are you keeping kids healthy, you're also cutting a lot of red tape.

That's something everyone can get behind.

Everyone that is, except for Representative Rokita.

Rokita's "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016" would raise the poverty threshold necessary to participate in community eligibility to 60 percent.

Again this might not sound like much, but in the context of how the free lunch program actually functions, it's a really, really, big deal.

If Representative Rokita's bill becomes law, more than 7,000 schools serving almost 3.5 million students would be affected.

Those schools would no longer get to use community eligibility to automatically enroll all students in the free lunch program and would instead have to go back to the old application system, student by student, with its mountains and mountains of paperwork.

This isn't quite a death sentence, but for high poverty schools that are already struggling to deal with things like violence, drugs and broken homes, it's just another thing to deal with, and an unnecessary one at that.

Obviously, there's a certain amount of irony in the fact that Representative Rokita, a Republican, is pushing a bill that would create even more red tape.

But then again, Republicans have always been fine with "big government" if it means demonizing poor people.

So that's not that shocking.

No, the really shocking thing here is the fact that this is the same Representative Rokita who is 100 percent on board with House Republicans' kangaroo court investigation of Planned Parenthood.

That investigation, of course, is based on a total lie, and it's cost taxpayers' so much money that House Republicans have had to dip into Congress' reserve fund to help pay for it.

You really couldn't ask for a better example of the screwed-up priorities of so-called "pro-life" Republicans like Representative Rokita.

They'll go out of their way to protect a mass of cells that is only philosophically a child, but once it comes to real, live, breathing children, suddenly there's no money, suddenly cost is an issue, suddenly we need to talk about cutting spending.

And here's the thing: Republicans don't even really care about "unborn children" - the whole "pro-life" thing just a front.

Sure, some of them probably believe that abortion is the next Holocaust, but in the grand scheme of things, most of them know that all the outrage about Roe v. Wadeis just a way to keep the suckers in line.

How do you know? Well, if Republicans really cared about kids they'd stop their blockade of Medicaid expansion.

They'd also stop supporting the war on drugs that creates the school-to-prison pipeline. They'd stop turning our schools into profit-making engines for the billionaire class; and they'd stop trying to cut
Head Start, food stamps and welfare for single moms.

They'd also pass federal funding for Flint, Michigan.

The list goes on.

When it comes down to it, most Republicans don't give a rat's ass about US children.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Students Participate In One Of The First Human Feeding Trials Of Genetically Engineered Bananas

 
Students are helping to investigate GE health claims — one banana at a time.

A recent controversy about an upcoming genetically engineered (GE) banana study at Iowa State University (ISU) highlights public universities’ reluctance to engage with students in critical dialogue. Several graduate students, over the course of the last year, have raised critical questions about the claims made by ISU administrators and others that the GE banana study will save lives. The research will test the bioavailability of beta carotene in bananas genetically engineered to contain more of the Vitamin A precursor. The study recruited 12 female ISU students (ages 18-40) to eat GE bananas in return for $900. This study is one of the first human feeding trials of GE products and the first feeding trial of the GE banana.

The students also recently delivered 57,309 petition signatures to ISU in conjunction with a parallel delivery to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle by AGRA Watch and the Community Alliance for Global Justice. Critics of the initial questions and subsequent petition delivery use an increasingly common argument that critical questions about GE technology are somehow “anti-science.” Several GE proponents also accused students and activists involved in the delivery of using their white privilege to keep Africans hungry and malnourished.

Yes, students are privileged to ask these questions. The opportunity to engage in a scientific dialogue is a powerful privilege. This privilege compels us to ask difficult questions about the ethical dimensions of this GE banana research process, as well as its impacts and other viable alternatives.

Last year, the concerned ISU graduate students drafted scientific questions investigating how the study would be conducted and potential effects the GE bananas could have on Ugandan food systems.

Their questions are not about whether the use of biotechnology is morally right or wrong, or if the researchers are good or bad people. At their heart, these questions are about social, economic and environmental impacts that this kind of research will have upon real people in real places. Hunger and malnutrition are not only biological challenges, they are social problems rooted in inequality.

The questions boil down to four main queries: (1) How will GE bananas impact nutrition and hunger in Uganda, or how will ISU and/or the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation address this question? (2) How was the technology determined to be a culturally appropriate intervention? (3) Who will own or control this technology upon its development? and (4) How should public universities be involved in GE biofortification and testing?

These questions highlight the need for a public dialogue on our campuses about the role of power in the scientific process. Claims made by ISU officials that this research will save lives are premature and a smokescreen to deflect students’ questions. These claims are made without any grounding in research or recognition of the power differential between their privileged positions as tenured faculty, deans, or department chairs and the would-be recipients of their GE hunger “solutions.” The claims ignore the ways in which the incessant battle to convince communities across the world to accept GE technology as a one-size-fits-all solution to complex social problems is itself a privileged perspective.

Such far-reaching claims are not only unscientific but may lead to dangerous assumptions. These claims have also falsely implied that students, in asking their questions, attempted to directly malign the study’s primary researcher. Aligning the ISU students’ critical questions with attacks on the researcher is a sabotage of the scientific process itself.

GE proponents’ over-simplified approach poses risks to us all. Genetic engineering, in some cases, may be an appropriate technology that helps to solve agricultural and human health problems. Yet, for this approach to be scientific, it must incorporate – and take part in dialogue about – the social, economic, and environmental consequences associated with this technology.

No scientific study is free from the social, political, and cultural context in which it is conducted. We must be able to have meaningful critiques, pulling from multiple scientific disciplines, that challenge GE technology, including its potential uses, as well as interrogating who controls, owns, and benefits from it.

Science is a negotiation – an iterative process rooted in asking questions, in testing hypotheses and counter-hypotheses. Thus it is crucial that scientists and students of science – regardless of status, expertise, or background – be able to ask critical questions regarding each other’s work without fear of vitriolic retribution or retaliation.

We need a long view that takes into account social inequality and includes space for critical dialogue. No single crop, GE or otherwise, will solve the fundamental problems of hunger and malnutrition.

There is a great deal of evidence that a more diversified agriculture – a system that places women’s empowerment and food sovereignty at its center – is likely to be more successful in the long term in achieving these ends. Many in agriculture and food systems scientists acknowledge that we need more research and development in alternative agricultural solutions.

To raise questions about the safety, utility, as well as the social and ecological consequences of GE is scientifically valid, and not akin to wanting people to go hungry or become malnourished. While administrators at public universities, philanthropic organizations, and private corporations talk about “saving lives,” many others want to talk about rebuilding their lives on their own terms, through agroecological methods and food sovereignty. As such, we should be investing in these endeavors just as we invest in GE technology.

It is essential that there is a space at public universities, with large philanthropic organizations, and in broader society where students, academics, and activists can ask difficult questions in the name of a more sustainable and equitable food system without being labeled as unscientific or accused of misusing their privilege.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Get hammered with jazz great Charles Mingus's Egg Nog recipe

By David Pescovitz

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Jazz pioneer Charles Mingus (1922-1979) had a secret recipe for eggnog that by all accounts was delicious, and incredibly potent. He shared the recipe with biographer Janet Coleman who published it in her book Mingus/Mingus: Two Memoirs. Here's the brew below, followed by Mingus's "Moanin'."
Charles Mingus's Egg Nog
* Separate one egg for one person. Each person gets an egg.
* Two sugars for each egg, each person.
* One shot of rum, one shot of brandy per person.
* Put all the yolks into one big pan, with some milk.
* That’s where the 151 proof rum goes. Put it in gradually or it’ll burn the eggs,
* OK. The whites are separate and the cream is separate.
* In another pot- depending on how many people- put in one shot of each, rum and brandy. (This is after you whip your whites and your cream.)
* Pour it over the top of the milk and yolks.
* One teaspoon of sugar. Brandy and rum.
* Actually you mix it all together.
* Yes, a lot of nutmeg. Fresh nutmeg. And stir it up.
* You don’t need ice cream unless you’ve got people coming and you need to keep it cold. Vanilla ice cream. You can use eggnog. I use vanilla ice cream.
* Right, taste for flavor. Bourbon? I use Jamaica Rum in there. Jamaican Rums. Or I’ll put rye in it. Scotch. It depends.
See, it depends on how drunk I get while I’m tasting it.
"CHARLES MINGUS' SECRET EGGNOG RECIPE WILL KNOCK YOU ON YOUR ASS" (Village Voice, thanks Jordan Kurland!)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Whole Foods Recalls Salads In Northeast Over Listeria Contamination



No illnesses have yet been associated with a recall of bulk and packaged Curry Chicken Salad and Classic Deli Pasta Salad for possible Listeria contamination. The recall was issued by Whole Market of Cambridge Massachusetts. The recall involves Whole Foods in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

chickencurrysalad_406x250

A sampling of the products tested positive for Listeria Monocytogenes during a routine inspection of Whole Foods Market’s North Atlantic Kitchen facility.

The recall notice said the recalled products have “the potential to be contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes” Listeria is a pathogen that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Others may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Anyone with symptoms should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

The salads were sold prepackaged, in salad bars, in store’s chef’s cases and in sandwiches and wraps prepared in the stores. The effected products were sold in stores between October 18 and October 22, 2015 and have a “sell by” date of October 23, 2015. The recalled items include:

The recall list with UPC Codes and product descriptions includes these products:

285551–Curry Chicken Salad, Our Chef’s Own, sold by weight
263144–Curry Chicken Salad Wrap, Made Right Here, sold by weight
263126–Single Curry Chicken Salad Wrap,
261068–Curry Chicken Salad CC, sold by weight
263142–PPK Salad Chicken Curry, sold by weight
265325–Curry Chicken Salad Rollup, 7oz
260976–Classic Deli Pasta Salad, Sold by weight
270742– Pasta Salad Classic Deli, sold by weight
0 36406 30001 7–Classic Deli Pasta Salad, 6oz
0 36406 30264 6–Classic Deli Pasta Salad, 14 oz

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Monsanto's Migraine: Big Fiascoes Facing the World's Biggest Seed Company

The problems are piling up at the company's front door.
 
By Reynard Loki

Monsanto has been reeling from a number of setbacks around the globe. Here's a look at some of the main reasons that 2015 has been a giant headache for the biotech giant. But that headache could find some reilef if the U.S. Senate hands them a legislative victory that would keep American consumers in the dark about what's in their food.

Roundup Probably Causes Cancer

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer arm, said that the controversial herbicide glyphosate — the main ingredient in Monsanto's popular weedkiller Roundup — is "probably carcinogenic to humans." IARC noted, "Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides." Used by home gardeners, public park gardeners and farmers, and applied to more than 150 food and non-food crops, Roundup is the Monsantot's leading product and the world's most-produced weedkiller.

In June, France banned Roundup. French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal said, "France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides." She added, "I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto's Roundup on sale" in self-service aisles. And earlier this month, California issued a notice of intent to list glyphosate as a carcinogen. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first regulatory agency in the U.S. to determine that glyphosate is a carcinogen,” said Dr. Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “So this is a very big deal.”
In April, U.S. citizens filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto, claiming that the company is guilty of false advertising by claiming that glyphosate targets an enzyme only found in plants and not in humans or animals. The plaintiffs argue that the targeted enzyme, EPSP synthase, is found in the microbiota that reside in human and non-human animal intestines. In addition to its potential cancer-causing properties, Roundup has been linked to a host of other health issues, environmental problems and the record decline of monarch butterflies.

And in September, another of the company's herbicides got slammed when a French appeals court confirmed that Monsanto was guilty of chemical poisoning, upholding a 2012 ruling in favor of Paul Francois, whose lawyers claimed the company's Lasso weedkiller gave the cereal farmer neurological problems, including memory loss and headaches.

Tweet Backfires

Monsanto would probably love to forget one of their recent tweets that tried to put out the glyphosate-fueled public image fire. A day before the cancer-listing announcement by California's EPA, Monsanto posted a tweet, asking if people has questions about glyphosate with a link to a FAQ page:
The tweet wasn't the PR success that the company had hoped for. Instead of helping to alleviate consumer fears about the chemical, the tweet became a target for the Monsanto-hating Twitterati:
EU Nations Ban GMOs

In addition to the glyphosate backlash, Monsanto has had to deal with several EU countries who have said no to the company's GM crops. A new European Union law signed in March allows individual member countries to be excluded from any GM cultivation approval request. European opposition to GMOs has been strong: Unlike in the Americas and Asia, where GMO crops are widely grown, only Monsanto's pest-resistant MON810, a GMO maize, is grown in Europe. Several nations have taken advantage of the new exclusion law: Scotland, Germany, Latvia, Greece, France and recently, Northern Ireland, have all invoked it.

In August, Scotland became the first EU nation to ban the growing of genetically modified crops by requesting to be excluded by Monsanto's application to grow GMO crops across the EU. “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment — and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” said Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Germany cited strong resistance from farmers and the public when it made its opt-out request. “Germany has committed a true act of food democracy by listening to the majority of its citizens that oppose GMO cultivation and support more sustainable, resilient organic food production that doesn’t perpetuate the overuse of toxic herbicides,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology director at environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth. “We are hopeful that more members of the EU will follow suit and that the U.S. Congress will protect our basic right to know what we are feeding our families by requiring mandatory GMO labeling.”
Soon after Germany's decision, Latvia and Greece announced that they too are taking advantage of the EU law. France, too, is using the opt-out law to ensure the country's GMO ban remains in place.
While anti-GMO activists warn of the dangers that genetically modified foods pose to health and the environment, the Big Food industry and many scientists argue that GMOs are safe and can help feed a skyrocketing human population. Monsanto told Reuters: "We regret that some countries are deviating from a science-based approach to innovation in agriculture and have elected to prohibit the cultivation of a successful GM product on arbitrary political grounds.” There is a significant political dimension as well: Newswire reported that the GMO opt-out law "directly confronts U.S. free trade deal supported by EU, under which the Union should open its doors widely for the U.S. GM industry." It remains to be seen how the opt-out law will play out in the long run.

But for now, could the GMO resistance in Europe be working? Following the announcements by Latvia and Greece, EurActiv, an online news service covering EU affairs, reported that Monsanto "said it had no immediate plans to request approvals for any new GM seeds in Europe."

The GMO Debate Rages On

The debate over genetically modified foods is complex, and not without its contradictions. While the anti-GMO movement appears to gaining steam, GMO foods have been a big part of the U.S. food system for many years. The vast majority of several key crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, including soy (93 percent), corn (93 percent) and canola (90 percent). As Morgan Clendaniel, editor of Co.Exist, points out, "Many crops are genetically modified so frequently, it’s nearly impossible to find non-GMO versions." He adds that, althought 80 percent of all packaged food sold in America contain GMOs, consumers are kept in the dark, because the U.S. is "one of the few places in the developed world that doesn’t require food producers to disclose whether or not their ingredients have any modifications."

One scientist who has been sharply critical of GM crops is David Williams, a cellular biologist at the University of California at Los Angeles. He says that "inserted genes can be transformed by several different means, and it can happen generations later," which can result in potentially toxic plants. In addition, faulty monitoring of GM field tests presents another danger. For example, from 2008 to 2014, only 39 of the 133 GM crop field trials in India were properly monitored, "leaving the rest for unknown risks and possible health hazards."

But within the scientific community, Dr. Williams is in the minority, In fact, as science writer David H. Freeman notes in Scientific American, "The vast major it of the research on genetically modified crops suggests that they are safe to eat." David Zilberman, an agricultural and environmental economist at the University of California at Berkeley (who Freeman describes as "one of the few researchers considered credible by both agricultural chemical companies and their critics") says that the use of GM crops "has increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticide. It has raised the output of corn, cotton and soy by 20 to 30 percent, allowing some people to survive who would not have without it. If it were more widely adopted around the world, the price [of food] would go lower, and fewer people would die of hunger.”

The European Food Safety Authority said it will issue its scientific opinion on the GM crops by the end of 2017. For now, the GMO debate — filled with a host of pros and cons — rages on. But beyond the health and environmental threats that Monsanto's products may pose, some worry that about the how control of the global food system is increasingly concentrated in a few biotech and agriculture megacorps like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Pioneer and DuPont. "Beating in the heart of every good capitalist is the heart of a monopolist," says Neil Harl, an agricultural economist at Iowa State. "So we have to have rules, we have to have the economic police on the beat. Or we end up with concentration and that means higher prices."

GMO Labeling Law: SAFE or DARK?

While Monsanto has been taking a beating lately, the company is crossing its fingers for a huge victory in the Congress. Any day now, the U.S. Senate could take up H.R. 1599, the misleadingly named "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling (SAFE) Act," which would make federal GMO labeling voluntary, while prohibiting states from labeling GMOs — even though it goes against the vast majority of the public wants.

According to a New York Times poll that, 93 percent of Americans want GMO foods to labeled as such, with three-quarters of survey respondents expressing concern about GMOs in food. The industry-backed bill, which opponents have nicknamed the "Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act" has already passed the House of Representatives and, if passed, could overturn democratically enacted state laws.

"The bill is a sweeping attack on states’ rights to self-govern on the issue of GMO labeling, and on consumers’ right to know if their food has been genetically engineered," warn Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins of the nonprofit Organic Consumers Association. "If the Dark Act becomes law, there will never be GMO labels, safety testing of GMOs, protections for farmers from GMO contamination or regulations of pesticide promoting GMO crops to protect human health, the environment or endangered pollinators."

Going to Market

It remains to be seen how Monsanto will be impacted by the persticide and GMO backlash. Since the onslaught of bad news for Monsanto started in the spring, the company's stock price has plummeted from a February high of $125.46 to $87.61 as of September 21. This decline follows a first quarter decline of 34 percent that analysts have tied to the cut back on Monsanto's GMO corn by South American farmers.

Still, Roundup remains one of the world's most widely used weed killers and the most popular weedkiller in the U.S. The global market for glyphosate is expected to reach $8.79 billion by 2019 (up from $5.46 billion in 2012). In addition, Transparency Market Research reported that "Monsanto Company, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont have been shifting their focus to develop integrated weed management systems, in order to reduce reliance on single dominant herbicide such as glyphosate."

"Stocks in the fertilizer space have struggled all year long," said TheStreet's Bryan Ashenberg and Bob Lang of Trifecta Stocks, noting that Monsanto in particular "has been hit hard" and their "performance has been dreadful." Perhaps a sign of that economic reality is the fact that last month Monsanto dropped its $46.5 billion hostile bid for rival Syngenta, the world's biggest pesticide company. To many Monsanto-watchers, this development may have been the company's biggest setback of the year.

However, the Ratings Team at TheStreet sees things differently and rated Monsanto as a buy, saying "The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income, expanding profit margins and notable return on equity."

But that review holds little value for those who value health, the environment and the fate of world's food supply more that a "notable return on equity."

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why America's Deadly Love Affair With Bottled Water Has To Stop

Last year, Americans drank more than 10 billion gallons of bottled water. Wildlife and the environment paid.

By Tara Lohan

This spring, as California withered in its fourth year of drought and mandatory water restrictions were enacted for the first time in the state’s history, a news story broke revealing that Nestlé Waters North America was tapping springs in the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California using a permit that expired 27 years ago.

And when the company’s CEO Tim Brown was asked on a radio program if Nestlé would stop bottling water in the Golden State, he replied, “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would.”

That’s because bottled water is big business, even in a country where most people have clean, safe tap water readily and cheaply available. (Although it should be noted that Starbucks agreed to stop sourcing and manufacturing their Ethos brand water in California after being drought-shamed.)

Profits made by the industry are much to the chagrin of nonprofits like Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a corporate watchdog, and Food and Water Watch (FWW), a consumer advocacy group, both of which have waged campaigns against the bottled water industry for years. But representatives from both organizations say they’ve won key fights against the industry in the last 10 years and have helped shift people’s consciousness on the issue.

A Battle of Numbers

In 2014 bottled water companies spent more than $84 million on advertising to compete with each other and to convince consumers that bottled water is healthier than soda and safer than tap. And it seems to be paying off: Americans have an increasing love of bottled water, particularly those half-liter-sized single-use bottles that are ubiquitous at every check-out stand and in every vending machine. According to Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), a data and consulting firm, in the last 14 years consumption of bottled water in the U.S. has risen steadily, with the only exception being a quick dip during the 2008-2009 recession.
In 2000, Americans each drank an average of 23 gallons of bottled water. By 2014, that number hit 34 gallons a person. That translates to 10.7 billion gallons for the U.S. market and sales of $13 billion last year. At the same time, consumption of soda is falling, and by 2017, bottled water sales may surpass that of soda for the first time.

But there is also indication that more eco-conscious consumers are carrying reusable bottles to refill with tap. A Harris poll in 2010 found that 23 percent of respondents switched from bottled water to tap (the number was slightly higher during 2009 recession). Reusable bottles are now chic and available in myriad designs and styles. And a Wall Street Journal story tracked recent acquisitions in the reusable bottle industry that indicate big growth as well, although probably not enough to make a dent in the earnings of bottling giants like Nestlé, Coke and Pepsi.

Why the Fight Over Bottled Water

“The single most important factor in the growth of bottled water is heightened consumer demand for healthier refreshment,” says BMC’s managing director of research Gary A. Hemphill. “Convenience of the packaging and aggressive pricing have been contributing factors.”

That convenience, though, comes with an environmental cost. The Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research organization, found that it took the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil to make all the plastic water bottles that thirsty Americans drank in 2006 — enough to keep a million cars chugging along the roads for a year. And this is only the energy to make the bottles, not the energy it takes to get them to the store, keep them cold or ship the empties off to recycling plants or landfills.

Of the billions of plastic water bottles sold each year, the majority don’t end up being recycled. Those single-serving bottles, also known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles because of the kind of resin they’re made with, are recycled at a rate of about 31 percent in the U.S. The other 69 percent end up in landfills or as litter.

And while recycling them is definitely a better option than throwing them away, it comes with a cost, too. Stiv Wilson, director of campaigns at the Story of Stuff Project, says that most PET bottles that are recycled end up, not as new plastic bottles, but as textiles, such as clothing. And when you wash synthetic clothing, micro-plastics end up going down the drain and back into waterways. These tiny plastic fragments are dangerous for wildlife, especially in oceans.

“If you start out with a bad material to begin with, recycling it is going to be an equally bad material,” says Wilson. “You’re changing its shape but its environmental implications are the same.” PET bottles are part of a growing epidemic of plastic waste that’s projected to get worse. A recent study found that by 2050, 99 percent of seabirds will be ingesting plastic.

Ingesting plastic trash is deadly for seabirds, like this unfortunate albatross. (image: USFWS)

“We notice in all the data that the amount of plastic in the environment is growing exponentially,” says Wilson. “We are exporting it to places that can’t deal with it, we’re burning it with dioxins going into the air. The whole chain of custody is bad for the environment, for animals and the humans that deal with it. The more you produce, the worse it gets. The problem grows.”

Even on land, plastic water bottles are a problem — and in some of our most beautiful natural areas, as a recent controversy over bottled water in National Parks has shown. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), more than 20 national parks have banned the sale of plastic water bottles, reporting that plastic bottles average almost one third of the solid waste that parks must pay (with taxpayer money) to have removed.

After Zion National Park in Utah banned the sale of plastic water bottles, the park saw sales of reusable bottles jump 78 percent and kept it 60,000 bottles (or 5,000 pounds of plastic) a year out of the waste stream. The park also made a concerted effort to provide bottle refilling stations across the park so there would be ample opportunity to refill reusable bottles.

There might be more parks with bans but 200 water bottlers backed by the International Bottled Water Association have fought back to oppose measures by parks to cut down on the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. The group was not too happy when National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis wrote that parks “must be a visible exemplar of sustainability,” and said in 2011 that the more than 400 hundreds entities in the National Park Service could ban the sale of plastic bottles if they meet strict requirements for making drinking water available to visitors.


Water bottle filling stations at Grand Canyon National Park provide free spring water from the park's approved water supply located at Roaring Springs. (image: Michael Quinn/National Park Service/Flickr CC)

Park officials contend that trashcans are overflowing with bottles in some parks. The bottling industry counters that people are more apt to choose sugary drinks, like soda, if they don’t have access to bottled water. The bottled water industry alliance used its Washington muscle to add a rider to an appropriations bill in July that would have stopped parks from restricting bottled water sales. The bill didn’t pass for other reasons, but it’s likely not the last time the rider will surface in legislation.

Changing Tide

Bottlers may be making big money, but activists have also notched their own share of wins. “When we first started, really no one was out there challenging the misleading marketing that the bottled water industry was giving the public,” said John Stewart, deputy campaign director at CAI, which first began campaigning against bottled water in 2004. “You had no information available to consumers about the sources of bottling and you had communities whose water supplies were being threatened by companies like Nestlé with total impunity.”

If you buy the marketing, then it would appear that most bottled water comes from pristine mountain springs beside snow-capped peaks. But in reality, about half of all bottled water, including Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola’s Dasani, come from municipal sources that are then purified or treated in some way. Activists fought to have companies label the source of its water and they succeeded with two of the top three — Pepsi and Nestlé. “We also garnered national media stories that put a spotlight on the fact that bottling corporations were taking our tap water and selling it back to us at thousands of times the price,” said Stewart. “People finally began to see they were getting duped.”

When companies aren’t bottling from municipal sources, the water is mostly spring water tapped from wilderness areas, like Nestlé bottling in the San Bernardino National Forest, or rural communities. Some communities concerned about industrial withdrawals of groundwater have fought back against spring water bottlers — the biggest being Nestlé, which owns dozens of regional brands like Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Ice Mountain and Poland Spring. Coalitions have helped back communities in victories in Maine, Michigan and California (among other areas) in fights against Nestlé.

One the biggest was in McCloud, California, which sits in the shadow of snowy Mount Shasta, and actually looks like the label on so many bottles. Residents of McCloud fought for six years against Nestlé’s plan for a water bottling facility that first intended to draw 200 million gallons of water a year from a local spring. Nestlé finally scrapped its plans and left town, but ended up heading 200 miles down the road to the city of Sacramento, where it got a sweetheart deal on the city’s municipal water supply.

CAI and FWW have also worked with college students. Close to a hundred have taken some action, says Stewart. “Not all the schools have been able to ban the sale of bottled water on campus but we’ve come up with other strategies like passing resolutions that student government funds can’t be used to purchase bottled water or increasing the availability of tap water on campus or helping to get water fountains retrofitted so you can refill your reusable bottle,” says Emily Wurth, FWW’s water program director.


In just six months, Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitors have kept more than 13,600 water bottles out of landfills by using a new hydration station. (image: National Park Service)

Changes have also come at the municipal level. In 2007, San Francisco led the charge by prohibiting the city from spending money on bottled water for its offices. At the 2010 Conference of Mayors, 72 percent of mayors said they have considered “eliminating or reducing bottled water purchases within city facilities” and nine mayors had already adopted a ban proposal. In 2015, San Francisco passed a law (to be phased in over four years) that will ban the sale of bottled water on city property.

These victories, say activists, are part of a much bigger fight — larger than the bottled water industry itself. “We are shifting to fight the wholesale privatization of water a little more,” says Stewart. He says supporters who have joined coalitions to fight bottled water “deeply understand the problematic nature of water for profit and the co-modification of water” that transcends from bottled water to private control of municipal power and sewer systems.

Currently the vast majority (90 percent) of water systems in the U.S. are publicly run, but cash-strapped cities and towns are also targets of multinational water companies, says Stewart. The situation is made more dire by massive shortfalls in federal funding that used to help support municipal water and now is usually cut during federal budget crunches.

“Cities are so desperate that they don’t think about long-term implications of job cuts, rate hikes, loss of control over the quality of the water and any kind of accountability when it comes to how the system is managed,” says Stewart. “We need to turn all eyes to our public water systems and aging infrastructure and our public services in general that are threatened by privatization.”