Obama sells soul to Monsanto

SUBHEAD: In a time he could do the right thing, he persists in GMO evil doing.

By Nathanial Johnson on 29 July 2016 for Grist Magazine -

Image above: A sample of digital VR code that would pass for food ingredient labeling under law signed by Monsanto tool Obama. From (http://www.activistpost.com/2016/07/house-passes-gmo-labeling-bill-obama-set-to-sign.html).

We’re officially a country that labels GMOs now. President Obama signed a bill on Friday that requires food companies to label products with genetically engineered ingredients. They can do this by writing it on the box, slapping on a symbol, or applying a Quick Response (QR) code — something like a barcode. For more on the law, check out our previous coverage.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who was instrumental in pushing the bill through Congress, praised its passage in a statement. She said the law “gives our nation’s farmers and food companies a fresh opportunity to start a conversation with consumers about the importance and safety of biotechnology.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now has two years to figure out how to define a GMO. Are they crops that have had their genes tweaked or silenced, or mutated with radiation? Should the definition be narrowly focused on the original transgenic crops? There will undoubtedly be fights during the rule-making process.

This new law overrides Vermont’s GMO-labeling law and prevents any other state-level GMO-labeling attempts, but it allows voluntary labeling to continue.

Obama leaves most in the DARK

By Staaff on 29 July 2016 for Food Safety Center -

Image above: Demonstrators supporting California's Proposition 37 to label GMO food ingredients that narrowly failed. From original article.

Today President Obama signed into law a GMO labeling bill that discriminates against more than 100 million Americans. The bill recently passed through Congress and allows companies and producers to use QR codes, 1-800 numbers and other difficult to access technology to label food products that contain GMOs, instead of clear, on-package text.

The law also sets a dangerous precedent to override the sovereignty of states, as many state labeling laws, including Vermont’s recently enacted GMO labeling law, are now void.

Consumer, food safety, farm, environmental, and religious groups along with several food corporations representing hundreds of thousands of Americans condemned the bill when it was before Congress.

The FDA said the bill’s narrow and ambiguous definition of “bioengineering,” would “likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill” and that it “may be difficult” for any GMO food to qualify for labeling under the bill.

 Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson said the bill raised “serious questions of discrimination” and left “unresolved matters of equal protection of the law”.

The following is statement from Andy Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety:
“I don’t know what kind of legacy the president hopes to leave, but denying one-third of Americans the right to know what is in the food they feed their families isn’t one to be proud of.

This law is a sham and a shame, a rushed backroom deal that discriminates against low-income, rural, minority and elderly populations.

The law also represents a major assault on the democratic decision making of several states and erases their laws with a vague multi-year bureaucratic process specifically designed to provide less transparency to consumers.”
 See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Why Obama should veto DARK Act 7/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Tell Obama to Veto GMO DARK Act 7/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO guys the dumbest in the room 7/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sham GMO labeling vote passes 7/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Senate endangers GMO labeling 7/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO Labeling Flimflam 7/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Vermont GMO labeling impact 5/30/16
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO labeling issue over? 4/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: General Mills to label GMOs 3/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Congress may block GMO labeling 9/12/15
Ea O Ka Aina: US Congress & GMO labeling 4/25/13

Changing the culture and ourselves

SUBHEAD: We human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it.

By Narrendra Varna on 28 July 2016 for Slow Money -

Image above: Our Table's on site full-service grocery store. From original article.

In the late 1990s, after eight years working at Microsoft, my wife and I found ourselves on the receiving end of a financial windfall that freed us of the burden of nine-to-five jobs. Over time, our interests coalesced around the twin themes of food and community.

We came to the realization that our contemporary food system has failed us at almost every level and that we need to work together with our community to imagine a new culture
 of food that is both abundant and resilient.

 Inspired by the burgeoning Slow Money movement, we decided to dedicate our time, knowledge, and financial resources to this effort.

We started with values: the health and well-being of people and the land, interdependent relationships, strong communities, and a worldview that sees humans as an integral and important part of the natural world.

We wanted all the people involved in growing, raising, processing, distributing, cooking, and eating food to have an equal voice and ownership of their food: a model community-owned food system in which the farm feeds the community and the community feeds the farm.

Since economic and ecological sustainability were both critical, a for-profit structure was important. Our answer is Our Table—a cooperative business with three distinct but interdependent membership groups or classes—workers, regional producers, and consumers.

Workers, from farmers to the delivery drivers, operate the cooperative’s farm and manage the organization. Producers are independent farmers and food artisans who grow and produce all the things that we want to eat but do not grow on our own farm.

Consumers are the people who eat the food, which includes all of us in the community.

The cooperative brings this diverse group of stakeholders together to the proverbial table to solve a common problem, and collectively, its members own and control the business and share the profits.

Image above: Our Table's Cooperative vegetable drew. From original article.

Since 2013, we have been raising a diverse array of vegetables, fruit, and animal products on our 58-acre farm located just 15 miles from downtown Portland.

Combined with products from our regional producer members, this allows us to offer a full diet of Oregon-sourced and organic foods. Our on-farm commercial kitchen produces everything from jams and jellies to soups and lasagnas.

All of this is available via a CSA program as well as in our on-farm full-service grocery store. The store is our primary retail outlet and the only farm-direct healthy food source for our middle-class suburban community.

With 16 employees and over 200 members, our gross revenues have grown to over $550,000 in 2015. However, this ambitious undertaking is not profitable yet and to date, financing from Slow Money–inspired investors has provided crucial operating capital in the form of preferred stock.

We hope to achieve profitability in two years with $1.2 million in revenues and 800 members. We are currently trying to raise an additional $350,000 as we work towards this goal of financial self-sufficiency by 2017.

Image above: Our Table Cooperative free-range chicken coop. From original article.

Over a few short years, we have overcome numerous challenges but continue to grapple with many more. Organic farming is a particularly risky business and the proverbial vagaries of nature are always rearing their ugly heads.

However, the actual growing of food in a sustainable way is a complex but ultimately manageable problem. The more intractable issue is, at some level, far simpler—us: people; culture.

On a day-to-day basis, what inspires me most is people, the individuals who work here and the members of our community who engage with us in myriad ways. On the flip side, the biggest single barrier to achieving our vision of a resilient and interdependent local food culture is the prevailing culture!

Our society does not place a great deal of value on the people involved in producing our food. The supreme irony of our business is that most of our workers cannot afford to purchase the food we produce! This is not because our food is overpriced. On the contrary, over 70 percent of our costs go towards payroll—at wage levels that are too low for comfort.

The real reason most of us cannot afford our own food is because in our society, food is grossly underpriced. The true cost of production is not reflected in the majority of what we eat today because a large percentage of this cost is offset in space and/or time.

We import much of our food from faraway places where labor is cheap and at home, we rely on migrant labor often working in near slavery conditions. At the same time, our farming practices destroy the soil, pollute our water, sicken our farmers, and decimate rural communities.

As much as each of us may, at an individual level, abhor these practices and their effects, we all bear a collective responsibility for them; it is our cultural values that create the system that results in these behaviors.

In contrast, at Our Table, we make every attempt to price our food at what it truly costs to produce right here in our community, in a sustainable and closed-loop way.

The result is that too many people in our community, including our own workers, find it difficult to purchase this appropriately priced food. The solution to this is not to make food cheaper by hiding costs but to change the value systems at the foundation of modern society.

Obviously, none of us can undertake this herculean task alone. Certainly, none of us have all the answers.

However, our society is a human invention—a figment of our collective imagination and if we act collectively, there is nothing to stop us from imagining and creating something different.

Image above: Aerial photo of the Our Table Cooperative farm. From original article.

Our real task is to change the culture and the only way to do that is to change ourselves. As someone once said to me rather ominously, “It is time to unwind the hypocrisy of our lives!” Farmers intuitively understand that when stewarded with love and care, nature produces a bounty and abundance that epitomizes the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. We are a part of a larger whole, and coming together to collectively address common problems is a defining feature of what it means to be human. Pope Francis recently wrote:
We human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it.”
It is in this spirit of communion, love, and collective effort that we come together at 
Our Table.

Workers, producers, consumers, and investors—the entire community—to take ownership of our food and change our culture.


Our Kauai primary voting picks

SUBHEAD: Island Breath's endorsements for Kauai Primary Election 8/1 - 8/13.

By Linda Pascatore on 28 July 2016 for Island Breath

Image above: Still from video of Gary Hooser speaking in front of the Kauai County Council Building in support of bill 2492 to regulate restricted pesticides on Kauai. From (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=223Sbj8UFkA).

Island Breath picks are based on general progressive, liberal positions, with an emphasis on the environment, peace, equality, and Hawaiian Sovereignty; with special emphasis on Anti-GMO/Pesticide/Big Ag positions by the candidiates.

Primary voting Schedule
  • Early Walk In Voting for Primary: 1 August to 11 August 2016
  • Last day to request Mail in Ballot: 6 August 2016
  • Primary Elections: 13 August 2016 - Polls open 7am to 6pm
To register to vote, update existing voter registration, confirm voter address, and request to vote by mail, find your polling place, or view your ballot, go to: https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Default.aspx

**Special Island Breath Endorsement:  Gary Hooser for Kauai County Council
Our favorite politician of all time: if you vote for only one person on this ballot, vote for Gary!

Our recommended candidates are in italics with larger print. We did not include those running unopposed.

We found information on candidates records and positions on Votesmart (http://votesmart.org/), the League of Women Voters (http://www.lwv-hawaii.com/candidates-2016.htm), and also in articles profiling individual candidates in Honolulu Star Advertiser, Civil Beat and The Garden Island.

On the front page of the primary ballot, you must first choose one political party or non-partisan, and then vote only for those candidates. 

Democratic Party
US Senator:

Christensen, Makani
Honeychurch, Tutz
Reeyes, Arturo 
* Schatz, Brian
Shiratori, Miles

US Representative, Second District (Kauai)
Chan Hodges, Shay
* Gabbard, Tulsi

(Note: Shay Chan Hodges has excellent positions on issues, and is generally more progressive than Gabbard.  However, we recommend Gabbard because of her already powerful position in the House, and because of her endorsement of Bernie Sanders and bravery in standing up to the DNC)

Hawaii State Senator: (Kauai) check your location here https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Default.aspx
* Ahuna, Kanoe
Kouchi, Dan

Hawaii State Representative: (Kauai) check your location here https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Default.aspx
District 14:
Nakamura, Nadine
* Rosenstiel, Fern Anuenue

(Note: Nadine lost our support when she left the council at the time of the crucial GMO vote to take an appointment from Carvalho)

District 15: (Kauai) check your location here https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Default.aspx
* Oi, Tommy
Tokioka, James Kunane

(Note: Tommy is not that progressive, but we judge him to be better than Tokioka)

Republican Party
(Note: we don't usually vote on the Republican ballot, but our picks here are for the most progressive of the Republicans running) 

US Senator:
* Carroll, John
Gottschalk, Karla (Bart)
Pirkowski, Eddie
Roco, John P

US Representative, 2nd District:
* Hafner, Eric
Kaaihue, Angela Aulani

(Note: Eric is an excellent candidate and we agree with almost all of his positions)


On the back page of your ballot, you will find the non-partisan votes for Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Prosecuting Attorney, and County Council:

Kauai County Council:  (vote for not more than 7 candidates)

Special Note on voting for County Council:
Island Breath is recommending voting for no more than the three candidates noted below.  If you vote for all seven, but really support just three candidates, your #4, 5, 6 and 7 votes could enable those other candidates to win over your top candidates.  Consider voting for fewer--a practice called "plunking", explained further in this link: https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/do-not-vote-in-the-council-race-until-you-read-this-please/ 

Apalla, Juno-Ann A
Bernabe, Matt
Brun, Arthur
* Chock, Mason
Doctor Sparks, Norma
Fukushima, Richard S
* Hooser, Gary L
Kagawa, Ross K
Kaneshiro, Arryl
Kawakami, Derek S K
Kualli, Kipukai
Rapozo, Mel
* Yukimura, JoAnn A

Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney (both candidates advance to general election)
Lisa Arin 
* Justin Kollar

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA): Hawaii Resident Trustee: (vote for one candidate)
(Note: recommendations based on their positions on true Hawaiian Sovereignty, not the Akaka bill)

Kahui, Bo V (Craig)
Lindsey, Robert K (Bob)
* Trask, Mililani B

Molokai Resident Trustee: (vote for one candidate)
Flowers, Jerry (Manuwa) 
* Hanapi, Alapai
Machado, Colette (Pipi'i)

At large trustee: (vote for one candidate)
* Akina, Keli'i
Anthony, Daniel K
Apoliona, Haunani
Crum, Couglas E
Kalima, Leona Mapuana
Makekau, Keali'i
Mossman, Paul Ledwith


DeGrasse Tyson cozy with Pentagon

SUBHEAD:Tyson in partnership “between the public and private sectors“ to promote “innovation” in US military.

By Adam Johnson on 27 July 2016 for AlterNet - 

Image above: Photo of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and yeah…he does this a lot. From (https://zeinshver.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/i-met-neil-degrasse-tyson/).

It was announced Wednesday that Neil deGrasse Tyson, beloved ambassador of science and head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, will be joining the Pentagon’s “Innovation Board” along with Amazon CEO and multibillionaire Jeff Bezos. The two join a 15-person board that includes Aspen Institute chief executive Walter Isaacson, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other “private sector leaders.”

The board’s purpose is somewhat vague, described by Defense Secretary Carter as a partnership “between the public and private sectors“ to promote “innovation” at the Defense Department.

The addition of deGrass Tyson is notable due to his status as a public science educator and his vocal criticisms of war. In a 2014 interview with Parade magazine titled "Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why You Will Never Find Scientists Leading Armies Into Battle," deGrasse Tyson mused on the inherent antiwar nature of scientists:

"...when you have a cosmic perspective, when you know how large the universe is and how small we are within it—what Earth looks like from space, how tiny it is in a cosmic void—it’s impossible for you to say, ‘I so don’t like how you think that I’m going to kill you for it.’ You will never find scientists leading armies into battle. You just won’t. Especially not astrophysicists—we see the biggest picture there is."
While deGrasse Tyson certainly is not leading anyone to war, he’s consulting with those who are.

The United States military has active engagements in 80 to 90 countries a day and, in 2015, dropped a total of 23,144 bombs on seven countries. All with the assistance of thousands of scientists.

There’s an added layer of irony that the heir to the legacy of Carl Sagan, whose popular educational television series "Cosmos" deGrasse Tyson rebooted in 2014, is further warming up to the same military system Sagan was arrested for protesting against in 1986 and had frequent public battles with it throughout his career.

AlterNet’s attempts to get comment from deGrasse Tyson were not immediately returned. It is unclear if the position is paid.

The host of "Cosmos" has been criticized before for his blind spot on the militarization of science. In dueling open letters in 2014, science writer John Horgan and UC Santa Barbara professor Patrick McCray asked deGrasse Tyson to clarify his apparent indifference.

He did so in a brief followup exchange with Horgan that climaxed with this bit of circular handwaving:
No scientist working for the government has a job outside of tax-based sources of support—paid by citizens in the service of national policy implemented by a Congress and a President. I can scream at lawmakers without limit, but their duty is to serve their constituents. And so it’s the electorate that I, as a scientist and educator, will always target for my messages.
Seems deGrasse Tyson is now bypassing the electorate and targeting a private consortium of billionaires, ex-spooks and military brass.

The militarization of science is a serious issue and deGrasse Tyson’s position on it deserves far more clarity, doubly so now that he's gone from indifferent to the problem to actively partaking in it.


Global warming and wildfires

SUBHEAD: Forecast is for hotter-than-normal temps for the next three months for “every square inch” of the country.

By  Nika Knight on 28 July 2016 for for Counter Currents -

Image above: Southern California’s years-long drought has resulted in one of the “most extreme” wildfires the region has ever seen. Photo by Nick Ut. From original article.

Record global heat in the first half of 2016 has caught climate scientists off-guard, reportsThompson Reuters Foundation.

“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) climate research program, told Thompson Reuters Foundation late Monday. “We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.”

“Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal,” Carlson added. “The ice melt rates recorded in the first half of 2016, for example—we don’t usually see those until later in the year.”

Indeed, extreme weather events are currently wreaking havoc around the world.

In Southern California, firefighters are battling one of the “most extreme” fires the region has ever seen. The so-called sand fire had consumed 38,346 acres as of Wednesday morning and forced the evacuations of 10,000 homes, and one person has died.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus reported on the unusual fire last Friday in Pacific Standard:
The fire, which started as a small brush fire along the side of Highway 14 near Santa Clarita, California, on Friday, quickly spread out of control under weather conditions that were nearly ideal for explosive growth. The fire doubled in size overnight on Friday, and then doubled again during the day on Saturday.

“The fire behavior was some of the most extreme I’ve seen in the Los Angeles area in my career,” says Stuart Palley, a wildfire photographer based in Southern California. “The fire was running all over the place. … It was incredible to see.” There were multiple reports of flames 50 to 100 feet high on Saturday, which is unusual for fires in the region.
Time-lapse footage filmed on July 23 showed the fire’s tall flames and rapid growth:

Video above:  Time-lapse of the SandFire from backyard of Mo Sab on 7/23/16. From (https://youtu.be/-h1gEDHX5N0).

“Since late 2011,” Holthaus explained, “Los Angeles County has missed out on about three years’ worth of rain. Simply put: Extreme weather and climate conditions have helped produce this fire’s extreme behavior.”

The fire is an omen of things to come, according to Holthaus: “Even if rainfall amounts don’t change in the future, drought and wildfire severity likely will because warmer temperatures are more efficient at evaporating what little moisture does fall. That, according to scientists, means California’s risk of a mega-drought — spanning decades or more — is, or will be soon, the highest it’s been in millennia.”

As University of California professor Anthony LeRoy Westerling wrote Tuesday in theGuardian: “A changing climate is transforming our landscape, and fire is one of the tools it uses. Expect to see more of it, in more places, as temperatures rise.”

Meanwhile, in India’s northeast, Reuters reported Tuesday that over 1.2 million people “have been hit by floods which have submerged hundreds of villages, inundated large swathes of farmland and damaged roads, bridges and telecommunications services, local authorities said on Tuesday.”

Reuters added that nearly 90,000 people are currently being housed in 220 relief camps.

“Incessant monsoon rains in the tea and oil-rich state of Assam have forced the burgeoning Brahmaputra river and its tributaries to burst their banks—affecting more than half of the region’s 32 districts,” the wire service reported.

Local officials also told the media that “more than 60 percent of region’s famed Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world’s endangered one-horned rhinoceroses, is also under water, leaving the animals more vulnerable to poaching.”

An unusually heavy monsoon season has also devastated communities in northern China,AFP reported Monday, with nearly 300 dead or missing and hundreds of thousands displaced after catastrophic flooding hit the region.

And in Iraq, temperatures last week reached such unprecedented heights that a chef literally fried an egg on the sidewalk.

Stateside, the heat dome continues to inflict scorching summer temperatures across the country. In one Arizona locale, for example, meteorologists are predicting a scorching high temperature on Wednesday of 114° Fahrenheit.

One Arizona resident posted a videoTuesday desperately asking people to pray for the state as it faces more hot weather. “It is still six billion degrees,” the resident lamented. “Lord, we need you.”

Yet there appears to be little relief in sight: for the first time ever, USA Today reported Tuesday, the U.S. federal government’s climate prediction center is forecasting hotter-than-normal temperatures for the next three months for “every square inch” of the country.


Why Obama should veto DARK Act

SUBHEAD: 7 reasons Obama shouldn't sign this bailout bill for the GMO industry labeling requirements.

By David Murphy on 29 July 2016 for Medium.com -

Image above: Image of information card in original article.

IB Publisher's note: Tell Obama to veto GMO DARK bill here (And sign a White House Petition here: (http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/1999)]

It’s unconstitutional; it discriminates against the elderly and poor and creates a permanent digital divide between the Haves and Have Nots.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. John F. Kennedy

If you want to know whom your elected officials actually work for in Congress, the recent passage of a controversial bill that alleges to label “bioengineered” foods is a good start.

For more than a year, members of Congress have been tripping over themselves to craft a “national solution” to the common sense notion that foods that have been genetically engineered should contain simple labels that say, “produced with genetic engineering” on the product’s packages.

Ironically, after more than 20 years of Congress doing everything it could to ignore the issue, the tiny state of Vermont forced Congress, Monsanto and Big Food’s hand when it successfully passed the nation’s first stand-alone GMO labeling bill.

Vermont’s historic bill went into effect on July 1st of this year. On July 7th, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that negated Vermont’s law and actually made it illegal for other states to pass bills that label GMOs.

If the public needs a reminder of how the sausage factory in our nation’s capital actually works, this corrupt bargain is a case study of everything that is wrong with politics today.

The bill now sits on President Obama’s desk, where it awaits his signature. But if Obama hears the call of the American people — 90% of whom support mandatory GMO labeling — he will rightfully veto this bill.

Here are some details on the 7 Reasons President Obama Should Veto S. 764 — The Great Monsanto Bailout.

1. Tramples States’ Rights

It’s often claimed in important political battles that Republicans stand for states’ rights over an “intrusive” federal government. Ironically, both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, who not only have large margins in both chambers, but were also adamant in making sure that Monsanto’s corrupt bargain was forced through in record time.

Why would Republicans trample on their own principled stance on states’ rights? Well, Senator Roberts, the chief author of the bill, let us all know his motivations when he proudly admitted in an interview with Bloomberg News that the bill would “save” the agricultural biotech industry.

Apparently Monsanto’s profits and campaign contributions are more important than some Republicans’ principles.

2. The Bill is Voluntary NOT Mandatory

The bill contains no provision for enforcement, with zero financial penalties for non-compliance and even non-compliant food cannot be recalled.

The bill creates a system that is effectively voluntary, not mandatory — essentially a non-labeling bill kicks states’ actual labeling bills to the curb.

Congress has given food manufacturers 3 options: QR codes and 1–800 numbers, some unknown symbol or the food industry’s least favorite option — 4 simple words — “produced with genetic engineering”.

3. Poor Definitions Create Poor, Unworkable Policy

This legislation is so poorly written that according to the FDA — the agency traditionally tasked with labeling food — it contains a deeply flawed definition of “bioengineered” that would render the bill unenforceable.

According to the FDA’s own legal experts:
“The definition of “bioengineering” (new sec. 291) would result in a somewhat narrow scope of coverage. First, in subparagraph (A), the phrase “that contains genetic material” will likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill. For instance, oil made from GE soy would not have any genetic material in it. Likewise, starches and purified proteins would not be covered.”
The industry likes to claim that GMO food products are equivalent or not genetically engineered if the processing of that food removes the GMO traits. Unfortunately, this does not live up to scrutiny when you consider that the main chemical these crops have been genetically engineered to be sprayed with, glyphosate or Roundup, actually does end up in your food — a fact that the USDA, FDA and EPA should be well aware of.

4. Subverts Democracy, Science and the First Amendment
According to the FDA’s legal analysis of the bill, if enacted, the policy could actually result in critics of bioengineered foods — including individuals, non-profits and even scientists being penalized or “subject to sanctions.” According to the FDA’s legal memo, Monsanto’s S. 764:
“would require the USDA regulations to “prohibit a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because [of a certain fact]”. This is unclear — the language of “prohibit[ion]” and of ‘be[ing] considered”, if taken literally, would mean that an advocacy group that thought of these foods as being bioengineered would thereby have violated the USDA regulation and could be subject to sanctions.”
The implications of this are chilling for free speech, democracy and dissent.

5. Enshrines the Digital Divide for Corporate Profit over Public Good

Because QR codes are the preferred mechanism for disclosure in S. 764, and since most companies are working to avoid printing the four simple words “produced with genetic engineering”, numerous technical and legal hurdles have now been created for more than 30% of the American public, which do not own, cannot afford or do not have access to smartphones or the Internet.

Congress has intentionally created a permanent divide between those who have access to digital technology and those who do not, on an issue so important and fundamental to life as access to food, simply because Monsanto and Big Food are afraid that Americans won’t buy food products that state “produced with genetic engineering”.

Sorry Monsanto, but our rights don’t end where your fear of the American public begins.

6. Violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and Creates Permanent Underclass by Limiting Access to Vital Information

The current bill violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for equal protection and due process to all Americans under the 14th Amendment, which provides that no state shall deny any person “equal protection of the laws.”

The discriminatory nature of the bill will deny the elderly, poor — many minorities, rural Americans and even some religious groups’ (e.g. the Amish) access to basic information about their food, leaving behind nearly a third of all Americans that do not own or can’t afford or choose not to use (on religious grounds) this modern technology.

According to Pew Research Center, only 64% of Americans own a smartphone, while only 52% of rural Americans, 50% of low- income people and 27% of seniors own smartphones.

This means that of the 46.2 million elderly people in the United States more than 33 million elderly Americans won’t be able to find out what’s in their food.

7. Threatens Organic Standards, Opens Up Possibility to “Harmonize” GMOs into Organics
Beyond these legal obstacles is the real possible threat to the future of organic standards with the language regarding consistency between the definitions of bioengineered and the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. Under a future USDA Secretary these rules could be interpreted in a way that eliminates the organic prohibition of GMOs and biotechnology.

By signing this bill, President Obama could unintentionally endanger the organic industry to the real threat of being forced to re-define its entire ethical production standards, which clearly prohibit GMO technology.

I don’t think this is the legacy President Obama or the First Lady want to be remembered by.

This bill would deny that basic right to tens of millions of Americans and create a permanent digital divide between the haves and have-nots. Americans deserve better than this.

The only legal, ethical and moral thing to do is for President Obama to veto this disastrous, poorly written bill to remind his fellow Americans that yes, there still is one responsible adult left in Washington DC, even if we don’t find much evidence of that fact in the news lately.

Mr. President, keep your 2007 promise to Iowa’s farmers and all Americans to label GMOs and veto this terrible bill. Congress may not like it, but future generations will thank you.
See also:
 Ea O Ka Aina: Tell Obama to veto GMO DARK Bill 67/22/16
 "Show Me the Movement!", Center for a Livable Future, March 24, 2009
 See how your Senator Voted on this procedural motion to Kill States’ Rights and Vermont’s Historic GMO Labeling Law!
 “FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise'”, The Hill, June 30, 2016
 "What Senate Backers Aren't Saying About the GMO "compromise" bill", The Hill, July 1, 2016
 Agribusiness: Money to Congress, OpenSecrets


Kauai sues Hawaii over pesticides

SORCE: Phoebe Eng (phoebeeng@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD:  Lawsuit against ADC and DoH for violations of US Clean Water Act & State Constitution.

By Staff on 25 July 2016 for Earth Justice -

Image above: A polluted ditch on ADC managed land on the westside From original article.

Community groups sue Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) and Hawaii State Department of Health DOH for polluting West Kauai waters and allowing it to be done. They colluded in violations of US Clean Water Act & State Constitution.

Earthjustice, on behalf of community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network, sued Hawaii’s Agribusiness Development Corporation today for violating the Clean Water Act by polluting waters along Kauai’s West Side, and both ADC and the state Department of Health for abdicating their constitutional duties to conserve and protect these water resources.

ADC operates a 40-mile drainage ditch system that each day funnels millions of gallons of polluted drainage waters from the Mānā Plain into the ocean near Kekaha and Waimea.

The open ditches weave past thousands of acres of pesticide-intensive genetically engineered seed operations, a landfill, a wastewater treatment plant, and populated areas before emptying into popular recreational sites like Majors Bay, Kinikini Ditch, MacArthur Beach Park, and Kikiaola Harbor.

For decades, the drainage ditch system was subject to regulatory oversight, pollution monitoring, and public reporting under a federal Clean Water Act permit issued by the Department of Health.  But last August, ADC decided that it couldn’t be bothered to comply with the law and withdrew its permit renewal application.

In May, the community groups provided ADC notice of their intent to sue and an opportunity to comply with the law.  Rather than obtaining a permit or ceasing pollution, ADC continued fouling West Kaua‘i waters.

Instead of requiring a permit for the drainage ditch system like it had for decades, the Department of Health condoned ADC’s permit-free pollution.

“It’s bad enough that ADC thinks it’s above the law.  It’s even worse that the Hawaii Department of Health, the agency charged with enforcing the law, is giving ADC a pass, leaving communities and visitors at risk,” said Earthjustice attorney Kylie Wager.

“Native Hawaiians have been fishing in these waters for generations to feed our families,” said Na Kia‘i Kai member Gilroy Yorkman.  “Without regulation and monitoring, we have no way to know whether the water is safe for our food and our children.”

Many people fish, swim, surf, and boat near the pollution outfalls, where the water quality fails to meet state standards.

The Department of Health, the state Department of Agriculture, ADC, and community groups have found toxic pesticides and chemicals like atrazine, chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, metolachlor, arsenic, and selenium in the drainage ditch system along with other pollutants.

“Agriculture and health officials are ignoring potential pesticide contamination from genetically engineered seed operations, and allowing chemical-laden water to flow downstream.

By shirking their responsibilities under the law, ADC and the Department of Health are permitting public spaces — and fisheries that people rely on for food — to be contaminated with hazardous pesticides." said Paul Towers, Organizing Director for Pesticide Action Network.

“Surfrider Foundation is committed to providing clean and safe coastal waters for beachgoers to enjoy in Kauai and around the nation.  Protecting water quality is of the utmost importance for public health, and we will work tirelessly to defend it,” said Angela T. Howe, Esq., Legal Director for the Surfrider Foundation.

In its complaint the community groups alleged federal Clean Water Act violations against ADC, and violation of the public trust under the Hawaii Constitution against both ADC and the Department of Health.  ADC must respond to the community groups’ complaint within 21 days.


Resilient Suburbia

SUBHEAD: Suburbia could be more self-sufficient, healthy, productive, and life-affirming than we know today.

By Morgan Maiolei on 21 July 2016 for Strong Towns -

Image above: Huntington Woods, Michigan, ranked in top 20 suburbs in America by Business Insider. From (http://www.businessinsider.com/best-suburbs-in-america-2014-9?op=1).

This week, Strong Towns' members and readers respond to the questions: Is it possible and/or worthwhile to retrofit suburbia/big box stores, or would we be better off abandoning underused suburban spaces? How might we go about retrofitting big box stores for future use?

Here is Morgan Maiolie's answer.
“It’s worth questioning whether it makes sense to expend our limited time, attention, and funds to retrofit what is certainly an expansive misallocation of resources.”
Talented designers and planners have shown us that it’s possible to retrofit suburbia. Although the scale at which we’ll be able to do this has yet to be seen, that it can be accomplished is clear. A more interesting question, and the one I want to tackle, is “How should we retrofit suburbia?” but, first, I’ll briefly address why we should bother in the first place.

It’s worth questioning whether it makes sense to expend our limited time, attention, and funds to retrofit what is certainly an expansive misallocation of resources. The suburbia we’ve built is costly to maintain in both infrastructure and energy.

It is an uncomfortable environment, poor in walkability and civic life, that sentences its denizens to ever-increasing hours of car commutes.

It generates a sedentary lifestyle and cuts rapaciously into valuable habitat, creating health impacts that transcend human communities to adversely affect other species (and which then, because we are part of an interconnected ecosystem, reverberate back to damage our own).

Suburbia’s cost, discomfort, and adverse health impacts make the case only that we should stop building in this way for the future, however. Whether we should leave the suburban investment we’ve already made is a different question altogether and my answer is a staunch, No.

Although it’s tempting to picture packing up and leaving suburbia to peacefully degrade, we shouldn’t. More, we wouldn’t like what would happen if we did.

Our economic markets are directly tied to suburbia’s success and to abandon it would be to collapse the financial system as we know it.

A great many members of our society have invested in this form of development, and, if it becomes untenable and its homes worthless, it would be impossible to finance the development of more sustainable urban forms; not to mention the hardship we’d bring upon a large segment of our society.

Jeff Vail calls this suburbia’s  Catch-22: it isn’t possible to finance suburban alternatives because the credit markets that would do so are tied to suburbia’s longevity and value.

That we have no financial choice other than to ride out our investment in suburbia isn’t the only reason to keep it, however. Suburbia’s weaknesses are great, but surmountable, and its sprawling form might offer unique advantages.

Image above: Maple Heights is thought to be in the top ten worst suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. From (https://www.roadsnacks.net/these-are-the-10-worst-cleveland-suburbs/).

Suburbia's Weaknesses
To begin, suburbia’s most glaring weakness as a car-dependent system may not be as intractable as we think. In his four-part series for The Oil Drum, Jeff Vail makes the convincing case that a willingness to accept slight inconvenience in the form of ridesharing, mass transit, biking and less frequent deliveries would make a significant enough reduction in the cost and greenhouse gas emissions of suburban transportation to overcome the benefits of leaving our suburban infrastructure behind.

A larger hurdle than transportation is the inherent energy inefficiency of suburbia’s loosely-spread form and large, detached buildings. Compared to denser, insolation-constrained urban development, however, suburbia stands to see much more dramatic gains from solar power innovation.

If advances in sustainable technology continue, suburbia could offset its inefficiency to our centralized systems by producing a greater amount of its own power.

Even if sustainable technology advances slow, the technologies we already have in solar hot water, passive heating and cooling, increasing insulation and demand-controlled ventilation are promising means for suburbia to reduce consumption and provide localized power to a majority of suburban homes and businesses.

Suburbia is also better-positioned than urbia to produce food locally, reducing its dependence on frequent, centralized food shipments. A carefully-tended 1/4th-acre suburban lot can realistically meet 25% of the caloric needs of a family of four.

Brad Lancaster, a master gardener working in the unforgiving climate of Tucson, Arizona, has seen much greater yields, turning a 1/6th-acre lot into a forest of food production using only rainwater and graywater.

Lancaster’s garden provides nearly half the food for his four-person family and, while this is not to say food production at that scale is easy, it implies that the rest of the country’s suburbs in more forgiving climates have significant growing potential.

Image above: Features of a revitalized American suburb featuring water collection, power generation, food growing, small manufacturing and a distributed economy. Illustration by Morgan Maiolei. From original article. Click to enlarge

Suburbia's Advantages

Moving beyond its weaknesses, suburbia’s decentralized form offers a unique advantage in economic innovation. Urban societies are coordinated, centralized systems that are structurally more dependent on top-down control, which tends to create barriers to innovation.

By contrast, suburbia is a decentralized rhizome of almost uniformly distributed dwelling and ownership. Such distributed systems have historically excelled at innovation.

In his book, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff relates that the decentralized mediaeval bazaar was such a powerful force of middle class growth and innovation that feudal lords created hierarchical corporations to quell it.

Distributed, non-hierarchical economic systems are powerful because they are chaotic but smart; what they lose in regularity, they gain in unimpeded, open-source production.

Combine this with modern technology's ability to connect us to new ideas and expand our capacity for fabrication through 3D printing and open-source plans (see: 100,000 Garages), and a future begins to take shape that elevates suburbia above an urban center’s bedroom community to a unique economic engine in its own right.

Suburbia already has many of the characteristics to support a distributed society of makers. Its form is one of ample space; lawns for gardening, garages for building, and enough residential square footage to spare for commercial enterprise and denser living.

I am writing from New Orleans, where many historic homes too expensive for single family occupancy have been converted to businesses and multifamily dwellings. It’s not a stretch to picture the same transition in suburban McMansions if the right market signals are in place.

Suburbia also offers large, flexible big boxes in spades. Where big box stores are currently utilized by a car culture of large-scale, one-stop consumerism, their innate flexibility gives them the ability to transition to hubs of local production and civic space.

In this context, big boxes could constitute the physical framework for community cooperatives to compliment individual, distributed business.

Big box stores can easily, and in many cases have already, been reimagined as libraries, schools, shared workshops, fabrication facilities, and year-round farmer’s markets. The U.S. has seen over a dozen big box Walmarts transition to churches.

When we picture a retrofit of suburban development, we often picture its conversion to a New Urbanist paradise; former suburban sprawl densified into an 1800s-esk town center surrounded by close-knit neighborhoods that follow the same economic model as the urban behemoth they were built to serve.

But to take suburbia back in time is a failure of imagination. We would do better to address suburbia’s weaknesses in transportation, energy efficiency, and health without throwing away the economic opportunities its form provides.

If we capitalize on suburbia’s strengths and think creatively about its evolution, we could position it as a form of development much more self-sufficient, healthy, productive, and life-affirming than the suburbia we know today.

Note: This article is informed to a large extent by Jeff Vail’s prescient and insightful presentation, Rescuing Suburbia, delivered at the 2010 ASPO-USA conference in Washington, D.C. You can watch Vail’s presentation at PeakOil.org and read his summary and slides at Resilience.org.

Wikileaks has Clinton Foundation dirt

SOURCE: Russ Pascatore (russ.pascatore@titanx.com)
SUBHEAD: Assange says his next leak will guarantee an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

By Shockwave on 22 July 2016 for Silence Is Consent -

Image above: Julien Assange holds leaks concerning Hillary Clinton, and Clinton Foundation. From original article.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his next leak will virtually guarantee an indictment of Hillary Clinton.

In a recent interview with ITV, Assange said the whistleblowing website will soon be leaking documents that will provide “enough evidence” for the Department of Justice to indict the presumptive Democratic nominee. WikiLeaks has already published 30,322 emails from Clinton’s private email server, spanning from June 30, 2010 to August 12, 2014.

While Assange didn’t specify what exactly was in the emails, he did tell ITV that WikiLeaks had “accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton, which could proceed to an indictment.”

Assange hinted that the emails slated for publication contain additional information about the Clinton Foundation. He also reminded ITV’s Robert Peston that previously released emails contained one damning piece of communication from Clinton, instructing a staffer to remove the classification settings from an official State Department communication and send it through a “nonsecure”

Assange then pointed out that the Obama administration has previously prosecuted numerous whistleblowers for violating the government’s procedures for handling classified documents.

In regard to the ongoing FBI investigation, however, Assange expressed a lack of confidence in the Obama administration’s Justice Department to indict the former Secretary of State.

“[Attorney General Loretta Lynch] is not going to indict Hillary Clinton. It’s not possible that could happen. But the FBI could push for new concessions from the Clinton government in exchange for its lack of indictment.”

WikiLeaks has long been a thorn in the side of the former Secretary of State, who called on President Obama to prosecute the whistleblowing site after its 2010 leak of State Department cables. Julian Assange remains confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in downtown London, as Ecuador has promised to not hand over the WikiLeaks founder to US authorities.-

See more at (http://silenceisconsent.net/breaking-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-says-his-next-leak-will-virtually-guarantee-an-indictment-of-hillary-clinton/#sthash.YBogKBok.dpuf)

Video above: From original article and (https://youtu.be/Mqu73w2lp4I).


DNC Chair resigns after WikiLeaks

SUBHEAD: Debbie Wasserman Schultz steps down after DNC emails indicate bias towards Hillary Clinton.

By Tyler Durden on 25 July 2016 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns after DNC emails leaked.  From (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/the-democrats-wasserman-schultz-problem-223589).

The Democratic party was in turmoil on Sunday afternoon, when just hours ahead of the Democratic National Convention which begins on Monday on Philadelphia, the chair of the Party - DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz - resigned amid a furor over the humiliating Wikileaks email release, hoping to head off a growing rebellion by Bernie Sanders.

In a statement, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the best way for the party to accomplish its goal of putting Clinton in the White House was for her to step down. Sanders had demanded earlier in the day that Wasserman Schultz resign.

"Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention," Wasserman Schultz said in a lengthy statement Sunday announcing her resignation. "I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans."

"We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had," she added.

Wasserman Schultz had became toxic to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who accused her rigging the Democratic presidential nominating process in favor of Clinton. But many Democrats had privately lost confidence in her leadership as well. 

 Emails posted online by Wikileaks and apparently stolen by hackers allegedly working for the Russian government (who as we noted earlier thoroughly denied such allegations) showed a plot by Democratic officials to damage Sanders.

The furor was a blow to a party keen on projecting stability in contrast to the volatility of the Republican National Convention. According to some, the DNC is now on pace to be far more scandalous than anything the republicans could have come up with, while the number of Bernie Sanders protesters overshadows the protesters that had attended the RNC in Celveland .
And in a shocking 'beyond caring what the average joe thinks' move, Hillary Clinton announced that Debbie Wasserman Schultz will serve as an honorary chair on Clinton's campaign, almost as if she is doing her best to provoke Bernie Sanders fans.
Hillary Clinton thanked her "longtime friend" Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the Florida congresswoman's decision to step down as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
"I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year's historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week's events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership," she said.

"There's simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie--which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign's 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states."


Can hemp save small farms?

SUBHEAD: As tobacco declines, some hope that hemp can be a “gateway crop” to financial sustainability.

By Catherine V. Moore on 20 July 2016 for Yes Magazine -

Image above: Lora Smith of Big Switch Farm holds a bundle of hemp. From original article.

At the birth of any industry, uncertainty abounds. So does opportunity, say Kentuckians like Joe Schroeder of Freedom Seed and Feed, who is among those growing industrial hemp and advocating for others in Appalachia to do the same.

“It’s really speculative,” says Schroeder. “But people are making a lot of money, and that money is real.”

But don’t take that talk of money to mean Schroeder is greedy. At a time when the region’s collapsing coal and tobacco industries have left gaping holes in central Appalachia’s economy, at least some of Kentucky’s hemp experimenters want to maximize the benefit to as many local people as possible.

Hemp was so important to early America that colonists in Virginia were required to grow it. A short boom during World War II notwithstanding, the shift to cotton and the anti-marijuana movement put an end to the industry by the mid-20th century.

But in 2014, a new farm bill cleared the way for states to begin research-driven pilot programs to test the crop’s viability in producing fiber, medication, and food. Twenty-seven states, including Kentucky, have passed their own pro-hemp legislation so far. And yet the plant remains a Schedule I controlled substance, in the same category as heroin, LSD, and bath salts.

That’s why Jane Herrod feels like she’s starting from scratch, even though hemp was grown on her family farm near Lexington, Kentucky, as far back as the early 1800s. Hemp may be rife with legal contradiction, but things don’t appear so complicated this afternoon at her farm. The cows graze. The Kentucky River flows. And Herrod, a middle-aged woman with close-cropped grey hair and a deep tan, looks out across her pastureland with obvious joy. She loves this land, and she’s not giving up on it.

Kentucky is home to a vast patchwork of small former tobacco farms like Herrod’s. Beginning in the 1930s, a system of quotas and other price supports from the federal government made tobacco a pretty secure crop to grow, even on a small number of acres. But all that came to a halt in 2004, when these tobacco-friendly policies were discontinued.

A payment system was set up to assist tobacco farmers until they could figure out a replacement crop, but that ended in 2014. Now, with smoking in decline and imported tobacco on the rise, the industry is down to less than a quarter of its size a few decades ago. But the land, much of the infrastructure, and at least some of the farmers are still there.

Hemp advocates hope that reintroducing the crop will help farmers like Herrod keep her 10 tillable acres in production and make money too. But whether and how hemp can justify itself financially on a small farm are open questions and critical ones for Kentuckians to answer if they are to significantly benefit from the potential new industry.

Last year, Herrod hosted a small test plot of hemp on her land, and now she’s applying to grow two acres of the plant for cannabidiol (CBD) oil, one of the highest-value hemp products being tested.

 The oil is used to treat epilepsy and has shown potential for Crohn’s disease, cancer, and autism. She and other growers and processors must go through a lengthy permitting process run by Kentucky’s agriculture department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This year, 166 applications were approved in the state.

Though she doesn’t expect to get rich, Herrod believes the high-value CBD oil could bring in enough income for her to start building other enterprises and investing in infrastructure on her farm so that she can pass it on to her kids as the income-generating business it used to be. For this reason, some are describing hemp as a “gateway crop” that could help keep family farms viable.

Another strong motivator for Herrod is the opportunity to grow something that heals and feeds people instead of poisoning them. Herrod’s mother, who passed the tobacco farm down to her daughter, died of lung cancer caused by the very crop she raised. Edible hemp seed, on the other hand, packs in omega-3s and -6s, nutritious oils that facilitate healthy nerves. And its flowers contain a host of biochemicals that are being tested for medicinal uses. For all these reasons, Herrod says she’s ready to turn over a new leaf.

“There’s not a negative thing about the plant that I can see, other than you might not be able to make money with it,” Herrod says, laughing. “But I’m going to find out.”

Hemp is defined in the farm bill as cannabis that’s less than 0.3 percent THC content by weight. THC, of course, is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, which contains 10 percent THC on average.

It’s easy to see why boosters describe hemp as a kind of miracle plant. It’s a sector filled with a certain amount of utopian thinking, especially from marijuana legalization advocates. But not all of the boosters are partaking.

A 1998 study by North Dakota State University estimates that hemp has 25,000 uses, which include food, green building materials, textiles, paper, fuel, body care products, and as a replacement for plastic and fiberglass. BMW even used it in the door panels of its new electric car.

That’s why farmers in China and Europe have been growing hemp for decades. But in the United States, the federal government still considers it a narcotic. And that makes it harder to find buyers, get insurance, and obtain seed.

A flier for prospective hemp growers put out by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture warns that “markets are limited; revenues should not be counted on.” Likewise, a report by the Congressional Research Service last year said it’s impossible to make predictions about sales and employment. Still, the same report describes a “mostly positive market outlook” for hemp, citing “rising consumer demand and the potential range of product uses.”

Right now, how much a farmer can make on hemp depends on what they’re growing it for, and whom you’re asking. Hemp is grown mainly for its fiber, seed, or flowers. The fiber is most often used in textiles or building materials, while seeds are made into nutritious oil, snacks, or livestock feed. Flowers are harvested for pharmaceutical products, including CBD oil.

A 2013 economic study on hemp by the University of Kentucky assumes that farmers can get between 50 and 80 cents per pound for seed. Freedom Seed and Feed, on the other hand, reports getting $12 per pound for the protein-rich, organic hemp seed they sell to a local granola maker.

Meanwhile, the Hemp Industries Association estimates that Americans purchased $620 million in hemp products in 2014. China is America’s biggest supplier of fiber, while Canada provides most of the seed and oilcake (a byproduct of pressing hemp seeds for oil).

Since there’s more money in seed and oil than in fiber, Canada will likely be the major competitor for U.S. hemp farmers. Canada legalized hemp in 1998, so farmers there are now 17 years ahead of American ones.

What kind of money are those Canadian farmers making? According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, the average hemp grower earned about $550 per acre, annually, for seed. That’s about half of what Kentucky farmers are expecting to earn.

But a huge industrial farm growing oilseed in Canada for a commodity market looks a lot different than Big Switch Farm, nestled in a sloping valley in Jackson County, Kentucky, where Joe Schroeder is harvesting his last sliver of a hemp test plot on a shimmering October morning. His Ray-Bans and blue flannel shirt conceal a farmer’s tan as deep as Jane Herrod’s. The crucial question for both hemp-curious farmers: How small is too small?

Image above: Jane Herrod hopes that high-value CDB oil will help her small farm turn a profit. Photo by Catherine V. Moore. From original article.

Running a chainsaw across a swath of rangy hemp plants, Schroeder is right in the middle of trying to figure out just that. He seeded his test plots at different rates of density to study which ones maximized yield and, more broadly, the economics of growing hemp seed for food and fiber on a small scale. His permit is for five acres, which 18 straight days of rain and one pesky groundhog have not helped.

Schroeder is chief operating officer of Freedom Seed and Feed, one of a handful of private, “values-driven” companies to crop up in the Kentucky hemp play. The company works with nontraditional farmers in the Amish community, who grew 60 acres last year, some in high-CBD varieties. Meanwhile, Schroeder’s business partner, Mike Lewis, is working to turn Kentucky’s war veterans into hemp farmers.

“I have an aspirational approach to the market,” says Schroeder. “A lot of this is about the market you make.”

Freedom Feed and Seed's business model is based on differentiating itself from commodity-based agriculture, which produces high volumes of raw product. Instead, Schroeder’s company is catering to specialized buyers and developing products that fetch higher prices. It simply doesn’t make sense, Schroeder’s logic goes, for a former tobacco farmer on five acres in Kentucky to compete with a grower on a thousand acres in Canada.

The fact that the industry’s in its infancy creates additional opportunities. “We’re going to be able to push for a standard that farmers can survive at,” says Schroeder. “If they get rich too, then that’s a consequence we could deal with.”

One way to ensure farmers get their fair share, Schroeder believes, is to organize cooperatives modeled on those that existed in the tobacco era. These structures offered farmers collective control over who to sell to and at what price, in addition to lowering the cost of production through shared infrastructure and group purchasing. That kind of advocacy is exactly what hemp farmers need to navigate an emerging market, says Schroeder.

The industry may also be able to get help from Washington, D.C. Federal funding is now available to support struggling, coal-reliant communities in Appalachia. Why not use some of this money to, for example, build a hemp processing plant in the layoff-riddled coal country of eastern Kentucky, putting people to work and capturing more of the plant’s value within the region?

Some relatively established companies, like GenCanna Global, are already investing in Kentucky’s fledgling industry.

“What we’ve decided to do at GenCanna with our farmers is make them partners,” says Chris Stubbs, GenCanna’s chief science officer. “They are going to participate in the value chain all the way through.”

In that profit-sharing partnership, GenCanna brings its technical knowledge, materials, and investment. The company has in some cases paid farmers’ rent, covered the expense of retrofitting their operation to grow hemp, and even cut their payroll checks. The growers bring their local knowledge, land, and existing infrastructure. Both parties learn from each other and share in the profits.

The net result, says founder and CEO Matty Mangone-Miranda, is an acceleration of the industry and a move away from existing agriculture models in which the farmer is used and underappreciated. GenCanna estimates that the company touches a couple hundred people at all levels, including everyone from production managers and seasonal workers to research scientists. Mangone-Miranda expects to work with more than 30 farms this season, ranging in size from three to 130 acres.

The small scale of the farms in Kentucky, compared to the average commodity-growing farm, means the company will be able to pay more attention to detail, which in the long term will translate into higher quality—like a microbrew, says Mangone-Miranda.

But that would be a microbrew that’s classified as a Schedule I narcotic. When you ask Kentuckians what they need to make hemp a success, their first answer is always to take the plant off the federal list of controlled substances. That’s exactly what the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would do. Its supporters include both Bernie Sanders and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, as co-sponsors.

The bill was introduced in the Senate last year and now sits in the judiciary committee, awaiting further action. The five-year window opened by the 2014 farm bill for hemp experimentation will expire in two years. At that point, congress will renegotiate a new farm bill, and anything could happen.

Last year, Freedom Feed and Seed helped produce an American flag made out of American hemp by American hands, a project they say is a metaphor for what they’re trying to do: extend the American dream of honest pay for honest work to people who have long been left out. The collaboration called on artisans, textile producers, veterans-turned-farmers, and private and nonprofit partners throughout the tobacco belt and beyond.

The flag flew over the stage at the 2015 Farm Aid concert as a reminder of America’s grassroots production power. As a prototype, it was one of a kind and absurdly expensive to make. But as a talking point for the potential rebirth of an industry, it served its purpose.


Is being anti GMO anti science?

SUBHEAD: And more importantly, are the arguments for the safety of GMO "science" really scientific? 

By Curt Kobb on 24 July 2016 for Resource Insights -

Image above: Discerning safety of an apple. Go for the 94750 barcode. From (http://healingulcerativecolitis.com/recommended-diet-for-colitis/dangers-of-gmos/).

It's all the rage to call people who oppose the cultivation of genetically engineered crops anti-science. But if science is an open enterprise, then it should welcome discussion and challenges to any prevailing idea.

We should, however, remember that in this case genetic engineering of crops is not merely a scientific enterprise; it's big business. A lot of people have a lot to lose if the public rejects genetically engineered foods, often referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We are not by any measure in the preliminary phases of this technology. We are not considering it or calmly debating it before its release. We have long since been launched into an uncontrolled mass experiment, the results of which are unknown.

Knowledge is admittedly a double-edged sword. One might argue that any scientific advance brings risks. I would agree. Understanding nuclear fission and then nuclear fusion led to the atomic bomb and then the hydrogen bomb.

More than 30 years ago millions of people across the world flocked to the nuclear freeze movement out of fear that newly elected American president Ronald Reagan would seek a nuclear buildup and a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Were these millions anti-scientific or the voice of reason?

Nuclear discoveries also led to the widespread application of nuclear fission as a source of heat for electricity generating plants, the dangers of which have most recently been on display at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. The results of our grand nuclear experiment are ongoing.

Opposition to practical applications of scientific discoveries cannot willy nilly be labeled anti-science. We now know how to clone humans, but so far, human society has chosen to prohibit this use of cloning.

One does not have to be anti-science to mount a reasoned case for such a prohibition. The American Association for the Advancement of Science opposes reproductive cloning, while supporting stem cell research and research on therapeutic cloning (the production of replacement tissues for humans).

The vast majority of those who want GMO foods labeled or their cultivation banned do not advocate an end to genetic research. They are not anti-scientific. They have legitimate concerns about the safety of crops derived from a specific application of this research, both for humans and for the broader environment.

Let's see if the arguments used to label those who oppose GMOs as anti-science make sense.

1. Lots of scientists endorse the safety and promise of GMOs.
This argument was most recently trotted out as a petition directed at Greenpeace, asking the organization to cease its opposition to GMOs and more specifically to what is called Golden Rice, a rice that produces its own Vitamin A. (Vitamin A deficiency remains a problem in parts of Asia).

It is understandable that those involved in a political debate over the regulation and even prohibition of GMOs will seek visible shows of support from others who are like-minded. This is part of the persuasion process.

But does this prove that those who oppose GMOs are anti-science? More to the point, are scientists who question the safety of GMOs anti-science even as they continue their scientific research?

We must be careful to distinguish research designed merely to understand the workings of the physical world from an endorsement of specific applications of our knowledge to products and practices. There is a big difference between science and applied science.

This is where the problem of what a friend of mine calls the Midgley Effect arises. Thomas Midgley Jr. was a renown American chemist in the first half of the 20th century. He was asked to find compounds that could be added to gasoline to reduce "knocking" in engines (which can cause damage). Midgley's solution was tetraethyllead which became the basis for leaded gasoline.

Midgley assured the public that leaded gasoline was safe. In fact, Midgley was given the prestigious William H. Nichols Medal by the American Chemical Society in 1923 for his breakthrough. Despite concerns about the release of lead into the environment and deaths at a pilot plant, the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service both concluded that there was no evidence that leaded gasoline would cause human health problems. Thus, yet another uncontrolled mass experiment began with humans as the subjects.

Only unrelated research on the age of the Earth revealed abnormally high levels of lead in the environment which interfered with such age calculations and led to concerns about leaded gasoline--which, of course, was eventually banned.

But Midgley's work on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as refrigerants was probably even more significant. At the time existing refrigerants--fluids that circulate in refrigerators and draw heat away from their interiors--were corrosive or flammable. The industry wanted something that wasn't either.

Midgley's solution was a set of inert compounds that would easily vaporize and recondense called chlorofluorocarbons and that eventually went by the trade name Freon.

Nonflammable, noncorrosive, nontoxic to humans and able to circulate in refrigerators for years, even decades without breaking down, his discovery found wide application in refrigeration and eventually air conditioning. So safe were CFCs deemed that they were used in aerosol spray cans and even asthma inhalers.

For his work on CFCs Midgley received another award, the Perkin Medal from the Society of Chemical Industry in 1937.

If chemist F. Sherwood Rowland had not asked in the early 1970s where CFCs go once they are released, we might now be living without the better part of the Earth's ozone layer.

 His work alerted the world that CFCs were indeed quite long-lived as advertised, were making their way continuously to the Earth's ozone layer and were systematically destroying it. Without the ozone layer much greater ultraviolet radiation would hit the Earth and endanger all living things. CFCs were ultimately banned by the Montreal Protocol.

Shall we consider the scientist who discovered the deleterious effect of CFCs on the ozone layer anti-science? Shall we consider the geochemist who discovered the widespread dissemination of lead in the environment that was linked to leaded gasoline anti-science?

Of course not. Pointing out potential and actual dangers of a specific application of scientific research in not anti-science at all.

In these cases we must remember that lots of people who called themselves scientists assured us that leaded gasoline and CFCs were safe. But, they were wrong, grievously wrong. And, we must remember that it took decades to uncover the widespread damage being done by both.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) long ago ruled that GMO foods are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GMO counterparts and therefore do NOT require any testing. Those supporting the widespread dissemination of GMOs could be very wrong as well. There isn't enough information to know what the ultimate results will be for human and animal health.

What is more interesting is that the authors of the petition mentioned above have essentially admitted that we are doing an uncontrolled experiment on humans (because governments required no controlled studies). They write:
But the science telling us GM [genetically modified] crops and foods are safe has been confirmed by vast experience. Humans have eaten hundreds of billions of GM based meals in the past 20 years without a single case of any problems resulting from GM.
The petition writers, of course, do not adduce any evidence that there has not been a single case of a problem with genetically engineered foods. They merely assert it. I would hazard a guess that they did not do an exhaustive survey to find any cases.

This leads us to the second claim that is supposed to prove that somebody is anti-science if he or she opposes GMOs.

2. There is no evidence that GMOs are harmful.
Anecdotal evidence and even some scientific studies suggest that GMOs may be harmful in one or more these three categories. Even if that evidence is valid, it begs the question, How harmful? Do the supposed benefits of GMOs outweigh any alleged or actual harm?

The problem with engaging assertion number 2 above is that it is an inversion of responsibility. The GMO industry and its supporters assume that it is the responsibility of the public to discover any harm and to document it sufficiently to prove that harm.

But the real responsibility ought to lie with the industry. Typically, the way this is done is that the government requires studies under controlled conditions to establish the safety of a product. Individual consumers and independent researchers don't have the financial and technical resources to do this.

If the industry wants to warrant that GMOs are safe for human consumption, it should have to follow protocols designed for novel products which it wants to introduce into the human body. These protocols are generally reserved for new drugs. But some scientists in the FDA suggested that just such protocols would be necessary to assure that GMOs are safe before their release to the public. (They were overruled.)

The industry assures us that GMOs are not novel. After all, the FDA ruled that GMOs are "substantially equivalent." On that basis all patents for GMOs crops would be invalid since they are not novel. But it is precisely based on the novelty of specific genetic alterations of plants that the GMO companies have successfully obtained patents on their products.

If GMO plants are indeed novel as the companies insist when they go to the patent office, then they ought to be obliged to prove they are safe under established protocols for novel products designed for human consumption.

Don't let the industry get away with this inversion of responsibility. Can the industry really make the claim that those who oppose GMOs because the foods derived form them are not properly tested are anti-science? Isn't the industry really anti-science for opposing the testing of novel foods in the same way the drug companies are obliged to test novel compounds? Isn't the industry being anti-science by claiming that GMOs are not novel? (Maybe that's just straight out lying.)

There is a third claim that is supposed to demonstrate that those who oppose GMOs are both anti-science and ignorant.

3. GMO crops are no more risky than crops by crossbreeding.
This is a clever argument indeed. For it tries to get the listener to accept the equivalence of the two types of genetic alteration. But they are not equivalent. And, the key reason is not the one cited most often by GMO critics, namely transgene splicing, the splicing of genes from completely different categories (from a fish to a tomato to cite a real example).

While it's theoretically possible for such gene transfers to take place in nature, they are highly unlikely. (How often is a fish in the wild going to come into contact with a tomato?)

What is more important is that humans have ample experience with crossbreeding. The fact that humans are still here in the numbers that they are testifies to the safety of crossbreeding which has been practiced for a very long time.

This does not testify to safety in every instance, but to safety in general. Historically, crossbred plants are tested in small areas to see whether thrive and to see how they interact with other plants. These small experiments keep any mistakes contained.

GMO crops on the other hand are poorly tested[1] and then introduced practically worldwide within a few years. If there is a hidden adverse interaction with the environment, we will be subject to worldwide effects before we are aware. Those effects might take years to become apparent. And, it might take us years to trace those effects to GMO crops. The adverse environmental effects of GMOs will not be contained. There will be no small mistakes.

Since our experience with GMOs is limited, there has been very little time to discover unintended consequences. The fact that GMO crops to date have not produced catastrophic systemic failures in farm fields or in the surrounding environment does not prove that the next new GMO crop won't produce such a failure or that existing GMO crops under some as yet unencountered situation won't produce such failures.

Now, here's the key point: Because we cannot from experience judge the risks of GMOs to the broader environment (as we can with crossbreeding), and we cannot anticipate all the interactions between GMOs and the environment, THERE IS A NONZERO RISK OF SYSTEMIC CATASTROPHE, namely, worldwide crop failure or systemic ruination of adjacent ecosystems.

The proponents will say that the risk of such systemic effects is small. But it does not matter how small that risk is if we intend to keep subjecting the environment to novel crop genes. If the risk is nonzero and we metaphorically pull the gene gun trigger enough times, we will eventually create systemic ruin.

We are playing a game of Russian roulette with the many genetic engineering techniques we are now employing. Techniques which have a nonzero risk of creating systemic ruin should be banned. Ruin is too great a price to pay no matter how big the perceived benefits are (and the supposed benefits of GMOs are hotly disputed).

The foregoing discussion is really a reiteration of something I've covered before based on the work of risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb explains why the precautionary principle should apply to GMOs.

Perhaps risk is not the purview of the pure scientist. But it certainly must be the purview of the applied scientist. To misunderstand risk in the worldwide dissemination of genetically novel crops is to set oneself up to be the next Thomas Midgley and to risk the lives and livelihoods of millions, even billions of people based on a mere feeling that what one is doing is low risk.

[1] The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires field testing of GMO plants to determine whether they have the potential to harm other plants. The genetic contamination of non-GMO plants (through the exchange of pollen) which is prevalent worldwide seems of little concern to the USDA which seems not to regard this as a harm to other plants. This is particularly a problem for organic growers who are forbidden to use GMO crops and those conventional growers seeking non-GMO verification of their crops.

The FDA regulates as a pesticide any GMO plant which produces its own pesticide (as many of them do) and determines whether ingesting that pesticide in the amounts in the plant poses a hazard to human health--not particularly appetizing. A summary of these regulations can be found on p. 4 of this document.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.