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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

food in US still tainted with chemicals banned decades ago

food in US still tainted with chemicals banned decades agofrom alternet: In a photograph from a 1947 newspaper advertisement, a smiling mother leans over her baby's crib. The wall behind her is decorated with rows of flowers and Disney characters. Above the photo, a headline reads "Protect Your Children From Disease Carrying Insects." The ad, for wallpaper impregnated with DDT, captures a moment of historical ignorance, before the infamous insecticide nearly wiped out many birds and turned up inside the bodies of virtually everyone on Earth.

The story of DDT teaches a lesson about the past. But experts say it also provides a glimpse into the future. Thirty-eight years after it was banned, Americans still consume traces of DDT and its metabolites every day, along with more than 20 other banned chemicals. Residues of these legacy contaminants are ubiquitous in U.S. food, particularly dairy products, meat and fish.

Their decades-long presence in the food supply underscores the dangers of a new and widely used generation of chemicals with similar properties and health risks. "They're manmade, and they're toxic, and they bio-accumulate," said Arnold Schecter, a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health who has been studying human exposure to chemicals for more than 25 years. "So the fact that they're still around a long time after they've been banned isn't surprising."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tapped: the movie - a look at the big business of bottled water

related: 'plastic soup' found in atlantic ocean
tapped: the movie - a look at the big business of bottled waterfrom food freedom: Tapped is a film that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on health, climate change, pollution, and reliance on oil. Anytime you drink bottled water, not only are you putting your health at risk, you’re also contributing to one of the most massive environmental waste nightmares of all time. There is a simple, safe, green solution. The next time someone offers you a bottle of water, take a stand and say something clever like, “No thank you, I don’t believe in it.” This simple move will open up a conversation about the massive swindle that is bottled water … and possibly persuade one more person to give it up entirely. Please also make a point to see this fantastic new movie, Tapped, which is playing in select theaters in the United States and is available on DVD.

flashbacks: fiji water: spin the bottle, the politics of water, millions in US drink dirty water, records show & bottled water sales leaking, but tap water increasingly unsafe

Monday, April 19, 2010

dow chemical pretends to care about water scarcity

update: gore takes cash for water campaign from dow chemical
dow chemical pretends to care about water scarcityfrom news junkie post: In what amounts to an incredible hypocrisy, the Dow Chemical Company is sponsoring “Run For Water” events across the globe. The events, organized by environmental organization Live Earth, are taking place tomorrow, April 18, and are supposed to raise global awareness about water scarcity.

The Dow Chemical Company cannot run from its responsibility for the ongoing impacts of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak by sponsoring Live Earth 'Run For Water' events,” said Amnesty International on Friday.

In Bhopal, central India, thousands of people died and more than 100,000 continue to suffer from serious health problems as a consequence of 1984’s deadly leak of toxic chemicals from a Union Carbide pesticide plant. In 2001, Dow assumed 100 percent ownership of Union Carbide. Since 2001, survivors and many human rights organizations, with Amnesty International in the forefront, have campaigned for Dow to assume its responsibility and address the ongoing impact of the disaster, including the contamination of water by chemical waste. However, Dow is still denying responsibility in Bhopal.

Shortly before midnight on 2 December 1984, thousands of pounds of deadly chemicals leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal (see first photograph). Around half a million people were exposed. Between 7,000 and 10,000 died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000 died over the next 20 years. More than 25 years later, the site has not been cleaned up, the leak and its impact have not been properly investigated, and more than 100,000 people continue to suffer from serious health problems without receiving proper medical care or compensation. For more than 25 years, both the government of India and Dow have failed to address the human rights abuses that have been the lasting legacy of Bhopal.

Sponsoring an event that highlights water scarcity while ignoring ongoing problems with access to clean water and medical care, amongst other issues, in Bhopal is at best hypocrisy, at worst, a flagrant attempt by Dow to try to white-wash its image. Dow may be trying to run away from the legacy of Bhopal, but it can’t be allowed to hide behind its sponsorship of 'Run For Water' events. Bhopal raises fundamental questions about the accountability of corporations and the capacity and willingness of governments to address corporate-related human rights abuses,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

Further, Dow’s sponsorship of the 'Run For Water' events poses a serious risk to the credibility of Live Earth. On March 26, Amnesty International wrote to Live Earth to express their concerns about Dow’s involvement in 'Run For Water', but Live Earth did not respond.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

monsanto under investigation by 7 US states

monsanto under investigation by 7 US statesfrom organicconsumers.org: At least seven US state attorneys general are investigating whether Monsanto Company has abused its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices on seed. Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and two other unidentified states are in a working group to investigate the biotech giant.

The states are probing whether Monsanto violated laws by offering rebates to seed distributors for excluding rival seeds, imposing limits on combining the product with other genetic modifications, or offering cash incentives to switch farmers to more expensive generation of seed varieties.

The state investigations add to pressure on Monsanto. The US Justice Department is investigating the company's marketing practices, and DuPont Company has accused Monsanto of anti-competitive practices in licensing litigation.

Daniel Sokol, a law professor at the University of Florida and expert on antitrust matters, told Bloomberg News that a state-level investigation on top of the federal probe "can lengthen the lawsuit and potential settlements and can increase uncertainty and costs for Monsanto."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

how eggs are made in the US

download: undercover exposés at largest US egg producers highlight need for industry-wide reform [676kb PDF]
how eggs are made in the USfrom allgov: Chickens living on factory farms endure suffering described as “staggering,” according to an undercover investigation carried out by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). An HSUS investigator spent two months working inside four different factory farms, owned by two of the nation’s largest egg producers, Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, and witnessed industry practices “that are simply rotten.”

Among the cruelties found were birds with broken bones from rough handling or prolapsed uteruses (or “blow-outs”). Other conditions included chickens being trampled in cramped cages, unable to reach food or water and slowly dying, or manure pits left unattended for up to two years, causing blindness for birds as a result of excessive ammonia levels.

HSUS also examined conditions at cage-free farms, where life is better for chickens but not necessarily cruelty-free. Birds are able to walk, spread their wings and lay eggs in nests. But cage-free farms buy their hens from the same hatcheries that supply battery-cage farms—hatcheries that kill more than 200 million male chicks each year. Cage-free hens also have part of their beaks burned off, and they are slaughtered at less than two years old.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

global food reserve needed to stabilize prices

global food reserve needed to stabilize pricesfrom business week: A global crop reserve system is needed to reduce price volatility, curb speculation and prevent a food crisis, said researchers from Germany and France. Centralized global stocks could bring “peace and quiet” to world food markets, said Joachim von Braun, director of Germany’s Center for Development Research, at a conference on agriculture research in Montpellier, France, yesterday.

World food prices started rising in 2007 and climbed to a record in June 2008. Surging prices of wheat, rice and corn sparked riots from Haiti to Ivory Coast. Von Braun said IFPRI research has shown fund investment in agricultural commodity futures added to price volatility.

The world is no more food secure today than three years ago, when the world food-price crisis hit,” said von Braun, a University of Bonn professor and former head of the Washington- based International Food Policy Research Institute. We need “an efficient, global, coordinated reserve policy which brings peace and quiet to the world food market,” von Braun said.

Monday, April 5, 2010

organic farming has sold out & lost its way

organic farming has sold out & lost its wayfrom julian rose: The dreams of the early organic pioneers have been subsumed into a rush for global supply chains, strict regulations and fast-selling brands.

Back in 1975, when I first started converting my farm to organic agriculture, there were no standards for production and no rule book. Just a few people committed to weaning their land off agrichemicals, improving soil fertility and supporting good animal health through regular crop rotations and through the sensible applications of farm yard manure. It was about taking a caring attitude to the overall welfare of our farms and trying to engender a wide bio-diversity of species within the farmland habitat.

We were not overly concerned about financial profit, but were interested in making an adequate return on our investments and in the quality, flavour and freshness of the foods we produced. We were perhaps more mindful than most of the words of Soil Association founder, Eve Balfour, that ‘organic’ food should be mostly unrefined and distributed and consumed locally, in its optimum condition...

What ‘organic food’ and its localised market was in those days bears little resemblance to ‘the industry’ that it is today: an industry that is heavily and centrally policed, has a compendium of regulations and is ‘big business’ on a global scale. In fact, much of the ‘organic’ produce shipped in from around the world and across the UK today carries no sense of connection with its geography or its farmers. It is as anonymous as the majority of conventional chemically produced foods, as dull in flavour and as lacking in nutritional vitality. What’s more it belongs in the category of ‘high food miles’ heavy ecological footprint produce, exceeding the 3,000 kilometre average shopping basket once identified as the UK norm. Due to the need to carry a lot of information, it is also responsible for an excessive level of packaging – most of which is non biodegradeable...

The organic food and farming movement can only help reverse this Orwellian scenario, and contribute to a better future, by revisiting its roots and ceasing to chase the chimera of big-time branded salvation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

revealed: the nasty secret in your kitchen cupboard

revealed: the nasty secret in your kitchen cupboardfrom independent: Some of Britain's best-known foods contain the controversial chemical bisphenol A, The Independent can reveal.

Tins of Heinz baked beans, soup and beans, John West and Princes fish, and Napolina tomatoes are lined with a membrane containing bisphenol A, or BPA... Other companies using it in their tins include the biggest retailers in the UK, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, who use it for tins of tuna and sardines.

Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has given the chemical the all-clear, in contrast to the US Food and Drug Administration, which in January expressed concern over its impact on the brains and development of young children and said it was "taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure" to it in the food supply. After the American U-turn, the EU-funded European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched and is still carrying out a review of BPA.