Archive for the ‘News’ Category

FDA Set To Promote GMOs Using Your Tax Dollars

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Using the looming government shutdown as a smokescreen, our representatives in Washington snuck a deal into the most recent budget agreement that gives $3 million dollars of taxpayer money to the FDA to “promote understanding and acceptance of biotechnology.” This following on the heels of a letter submitted on April 18 to the FDA by 66 Bio-Ag and Food Industry groups supporting the outreach.

The FDA is currently mired in a hiring freeze and facing $40 million in proposed cuts under the “once-in-a-generation” budget proposal submitted by the current administration (which, at 62 pages it is inexplicably half the length of Monsanto’s Annual Report). I personally find it outrageous that tax dollars are being taken away from an agency put in place to protect consumers, while simultaneously slipping them taxpayer money to push propaganda benefiting a select few biotech companies like Bayer – Monsanto. A company with sales in one quarter that exceed the entire yearly budget of the FDA.

Bayer-Monsanto and the other bio-ag companies benefiting from this outreach have more than enough money to push their agenda on their own. What they don’t have is the credibility of the FDA, which ironically, isn’t saying much. But that goes to show how much credibility the bio-ag industry currently has with consumers.

Unfortunately, this budget deal has already passed and there is little or nothing that can be done to stop how the money is going to be allocated. However, the FDA has not announced what kind of educational programs they intend to implement. Which means there is still time to do something.

So what can you do?

Educate yourself. Learn both sides of the argument so that you can engage in educated discourse.

Contact the FDA! Tell them what you think. Don’t forget, they work for you!

Contact your representatives! Tell them, this aggression will not stand. Here’s a handy-dandy list for contacting your reps – http://www.house.gov/representatives/ Don’t forget, they work for you!

And here is a list of your representatives that are taking money from the bio-ag industry and pushing their agenda – http://www.meltorganic.com/politicians-paid-monsanto/

 

 

Food Companies Certifying Themselves as Non-GMO Could Pose Risk to Consumers

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Recently in the news, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was reported as having its own non-GMO seal, which is not the case and is causing some confusion. Instead, a Minnesota-based company known as SunOpta chose to internally develop standards for their own non-GMO seal, which they reviewed with the FDA. The FDA approved; SunOpta then approached the USDA for approval through their program known as “Process Verified,” where the USDA verified that SunOpta is adhering to the rules SunOpta developed internally. In other words, SunOpta is using their seal for non-GMO status, and not a seal developed by the USDA.

It is important to note that the USDA and FDA are not determining whether SunOpta’s standards meet or exceed currently accepted definitions of non-GMO. For example, a third party organization called the Non-GMO Project (NGP) has a certification program verifying the non-GMO status of foods and NGP’s “Non-GMO Verified” seal is shown on many organic products. SunOpta opted not to pursue certification with NGP in favor of developing their own Non-GMO certification. While SunOpta’s non-GMO seal is for commercial purposes and not for consumers, this precedent poses two potential problems.

First, companies with food products sold to consumers could propose that the FDA and USDA approve their own non-GMO seal, leading to potentially multiple non-GMO seals in the marketplace, each with their own internally-defined standards. Without a third party review of those standards, different levels of GMO contamination could be allowed in food products and dilute consumer protection from consuming GMOs. Currently, up to 0.9% of GMOs are allowed by NGP certification standards.

Second, meat and dairy companies – who are currently unable to secure NGP certification – could petition their internally developed non-GMO standards and seals to the FDA and USDA by stating their animals have not been genetically modified. This is a misleading statement because these same companies could still feed their animals GMO feed. Potentially, a milk product found in grocery stores could be labeled non-GMO, yet that company could have fed GMOs to their animals for producing milk.

Always Go Organic

While non-GMO is ALWAYS better than conventional, the bottom line is ALWAYS buy organic where feasible. Organic food products are superior to non-GMO certified food products because organic standards 1) already prohibit the use of GMOs, and 2) prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, which are allowed in non-GMO products.

The use of chemicals on crops is meaningful and of real concern. Why?

According to the President’s Cancer Panel, 41% of the U.S. population is expected to contract cancer and 21% of the U.S. population is expected to die of cancer. The Panel stated that it was “particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.” One recommendation made by the President’s Cancer Panel is to choose “food grown without pesticides.”

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that pesticides pose a grave danger to children: “… acute poisoning risks (from pesticides) are clear, and the understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Related animal toxicology studies provide supportive biological plausibility for these findings.”

New Study Shows Probiotic Supplementation May Prevent Symptoms of Child Autism

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that impairs social interaction and communication. A child with autism has difficulty interacting with others, shows little interest in others, and lacks social awareness. Autism is more prevalent among boys than girls, with the ratio estimated at 4:1. Autism is a multifactorial disorder; several factors must be considered when determining the case. These factors include complex genetic interactions, nutritional deficiencies or overloads, pre- and postnatal exposure to chemicals or viruses, errors during the embryonic neural tube closure process, dysfunctional immune systems, and allergies. Recent studies have correlated gut dysfunction with ASD and suggest a possible role of the gastrointestinal (GI) microflora in symptomatology and or severity of symptoms in autistic children. Many autistic children experience severe dietary or GI problems including abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. These symptoms may be due to the disruption of the indigenous gut flora promoting the overgrowth of potentially pathogenic microorganisms.

A growing body of medical research indicates that alterations in the type of bacteria that live in the GI tract can influence brain function, mood and overall mental health. Recently, Hsaio and colleagues (2013) linked gut microbes to ASD in a mouse model. They showed that ASD symptoms are triggered by compositional and structural shifts of microbes and associated metabolites. More importantly, they provided some of the first conclusive evidence of reversing symptoms of ASD via administration of Bacteroides fragilis probiotic. The broader potential of this research is identifying an analogous probiotic that can treat subsets of individuals with ASD; probiotics may provide therapeutic strategies for neurodevelopmental disorders. Therapies that target the gut microbiome may hold the key for making progress against a wide range of notoriously difficult psychiatric illnesses.

In a new study from Finland, Pärtty and colleagues (2015) are the first to show that probiotic supplementation early in life may be effective for reducing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ASD in children.

Researchers in Finland tested the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation may protect against the development of ADHD and AS by reviewing data from a study that was originally designed to test the effect of early supplementation with a probiotic in infancy on the later development of eczema. The mothers of 159 children were recruited in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study and received 10 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus or placebo daily for 4 weeks before expected delivery. After delivery, the capsule contents were given either to the children or continuously to the mothers (if breast-feeding) for 6 months.

To evaluate the possible link between probiotic supplementation and ADHD or AS, 75 of these children were evaluated by an experienced third party child psychiatrist or neurologist and the children were randomized and blinded so as not to produce any study bias. Results showed that ADHD or AS was diagnosed in 6/35 (17.1%) children in the placebo and none in the probiotic group (0/40). The probability value of this occurring was 0.008, indicating that it was not due to chance, but rather to a clear effect.

Previously stored fecal samples allowed the researchers to analyze the children for gut bacteria during their first six months of life. The researchers found that the numbers of Bifidobacterium species bacteria in feces during the first 6 months of life was lower in children with ADHD and AS compared to the healthy children.

The researchers concluded “Probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorder development later in childhood possible by mechanisms not limited to gut microbiota composition.”

References

Gilbert JA, Krajmalnik-Brown R, Porazinska DL, Weiss SJ, Knight R. 2013. Toward Effective Probiotics for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Cell 155(7):1446-1448.

Hsaio EY, McBride SW, Hsien S, Sharon G, Hyde ER, McCue T, Codelli JA, Chow J, Reisman SE, Petrosino JF, et al. 2013. Cell 155(7):1451–1463.

Kaluzna-Czaplinska J, Blaszczyk S. 2012. The level of arabinitol in autistic children after probiotic therapy. Nutrition 28:124-126.

Pärtty A, Kalliomäki M, Wacklin P, Salminen S, Isolauri E. 2015. A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial. Pediatr Res. doi: 10.1038/pr.2015.51.

Sustainable Packaging Initiatives at MELT® Organic

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Among many sustainable initiatives we have spearheaded since our launch into test markets in 2010, we are proud to have been the first brand in the Butter/ Margarine/ Butter Substitutes category to package our spreads in sustainable square packaging. As with many new brands who bring innovation to a ‘status quo’ category, our launch resulted in nearly all other brands converting from round to square packaging over the past few years.

With a smaller footprint delivered via its structural package design, MELT® Organic revolutionized the way products are displayed in the dairy case and stored in the warehouse.

Compared to traditional round and oval packaging, square packaging increases refrigerator shelf and warehouse space efficiency.  Square packaging also achieves significant carbon savings by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with the products’ packaging, distribution, and retail energy-use over the course of the product’s life cycle. Our packaging supplier also has innovated through the development of “thinnest-wall technology”, requiring less material to produce the packaging while maintaining functionality. Lighter packaging translates into lower shipping costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions associated with transport.

This “first” by the brand was part of a collection of firsts related to our product formulations and reflect our company’s commitment to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Other ‘firsts’ that solidify our leadership as the true innovator in this category include:

  • Perfect Blend of organic fruit- and plant-based oils made with:
    • Virgin Coconut Oil that is certified Fair for Life Fair Trade
    • Palmfruit Oil that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance and RSPO-IP (their highest certification)
    • Hi-oleic sunflower, flax seed and canola oils that are certified organic and Non-GMO Verified
    • Sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin
  • All MELT spreads are soy free, dairy free, gluten free, nut free
  • All MELT spreads have always been free from hydrogenated oils, artificial colors or flavors, and artificial ingredients of any kind
  • All MELT spreads are certified organic, Non-GMO Verified, Kosher Pareve, and Autism Hope Alliance certified

Since launching the brand more than five years ago, we have remained true to our Mission and are pleased to share it with you.

Prosperity Organic Foods, Inc., provides great tasting products of superior quality through innovative uses of healthy fats and oils that allow consumers to eat better, feel better and live better.

  • We will pursue practices that respect humanity and the environment.
  • We will cultivate a culture that fosters mutual respect, integrity, authenticity, fun and passionate talent
  • We will transform consumer and customer desires to marketplace wins.

As a result consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation allowing everyone to prosper.

Health News: New Research Shows Common Food Additive Promotes Colitis, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Looking for another reason to buy certified organic foods?

Emulsifiers are used in food products to improve texture, mouth feel, and extend shelf life. According to a new study, synthetic emulsifiers polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose – commonly use in non-organic processed foods – can induce intestinal inflammation by altering gut microbiota composition and promote the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.

Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz led research efforts with contributions from Emory University, Cornell University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The research was published February 25, 2015 in Nature and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and metabolic syndrome has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century.

The term “gut microbiota” refers to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut microbiota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz’s findings suggest synthetic emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this disturbance and the increased incidence of these diseases.

“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” says Gewirtz.

“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” says Chassaing. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

Addition of synthetic emulsifiers to food seemed to fit the time frame and had been shown to promote bacterial translocation across epithelial cells. Chassaing and Gewirtz hypothesized that synthetic emulsifiers might affect the gut microbiota to promote these inflammatory diseases and designed experiments in mice to test this possibility.

The team fed mice two very commonly used synthetic emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose, at doses seeking to model the broad consumption of the numerous synthetic emulsifiers that are incorporated into almost all processed foods. They observed that emulsifier consumption changed the species composition of the gut microbiota and did so in a manner that made it more pro-inflammatory. The altered microbiota had enhanced capacity to digest and infiltrate the dense mucus layer that lines the intestine, which is normally, largely devoid of bacteria. Alterations in bacterial species resulted in bacteria expressing more flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, which can activate pro-inflammatory gene expression by the immune system.

Such changes in bacteria triggered chronic colitis in mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnormal immune systems. In contrast, in mice with normal immune systems, synthetic emulsifiers induced low-grade or mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome, characterized by increased levels of food consumption, obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.

The effects of emulsifier consumption were eliminated in germ-free mice, which lack a microbiota. Transplant of microbiota from emulsifiers-treated mice to germ-free mice was sufficient to transfer some parameters of low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome, indicating a central role for the microbiota in mediating the adverse effect of synthetic emulsifiers.

The team is now testing additional emulsifiers and designing experiments to investigate how emulsifiers affect humans. If similar results are obtained, it would indicate a role for this class of food additive in driving the epidemic of obesity, its inter-related consequences and a range of diseases associated with chronic gut inflammation.

While detailed mechanisms underlying the effect of synthetic emulsifiers on metabolism remain under study, the team points out that avoiding excess food consumption is of paramount importance.

“We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Gewirtz says. “Rather, our findings reinforce the concept suggested by earlier work that low-grade inflammation resulting from an altered microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating.”

The team notes that the results of their study suggest that current means of testing and approving food additives may not be adequate to prevent use of chemicals that promote diseases driven by low-grade inflammation and/or which will cause disease primarily in susceptible hosts.

Watchdog Research Group Files Legal Complaints Against 14 Factory Farms Claiming Organic Status

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

In what The Cornucopia Institute is alleging is one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic food industry, the Wisconsin-based farm policy research group announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic.

Cornucopia contends that industrial-scale livestock farming illegally claiming organic status 1) undercuts ethical farmers and competitors that comply with federal organic law; and 2) takes advantage of consumers in the marketplace who assume that the animals producing their organic-certified food are being treated respectfully, and consequently result in higher food quality. Peer-reviewed published research indicates clear nutritional advantages in consuming milk and meat from cattle that are grazed on fresh grass, including elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs and chickens from birds that are allowed (as the law requires)to engage in their instinctive behaviors as omnivores in foraging on grass and insects, produce eggs that are coveted as being more nutritious and more flavorful.

The family-scale farmers who helped commercialize the organic food movement in the 1980s did so, in part, because agribusiness consolidation and control of the food supply were squeezing profit margins and forcing farmers off their land. Consumers enthusiastically made organics a rapidly growing market sector by supporting farmers and processors willing to produce food to a different standard in terms of environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic fairness for farmers. “The inaction by the USDA places thousands of ethical family-scale farmers, who are competing with a couple of dozen giant dairies, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Kevin Engelbert, a New York-based dairyman, milking 140 cows who, along with his family, was the first certified organic dairy producer in the U.S.

There is nothing in the federal organic standards pertaining to the size of any given operation.

“The organic standards are scale-neutral,” said Kastel. “However, if properly enforced the standards are scale-limiting. At some point the magnitude of these operations becomes preposterous because their practical ability to meet minimum organic and humane livestock standards becomes impossible.”

Engelbert, who also previously served on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), stated, “When serving on the NOSB, I was always reminded that the recommendations we made to the National Organic Program (NOP) had to be scale-neutral. I would like to see the Organic Food Production Act enforced on a scale-neutral basis as well.”

Without enforcement of NOP law, many traditional organic dairy farmers are in financial stress, with some selling their cows and exiting the industry. “Allowing these illegal dairies to continue to operate is a travesty and significantly undercuts the supply-demand dynamic that should be rewarding farmers in the marketplace and providing a decent living for our families,” Engelbert added.

In what Cornucopia claims has been years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography in nine states over an eight-month period from West Texas to New York and Maryland. Consistent with earlier site visits, aerial photography confirmed a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities without legitimate grazing or access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations. Cornucopia has filed formal legal complaints on the following industrial livestock operations with hyperlinks to the actual complaints and aerial photography:

Aurora Coldwater

Aurora Dublin

Burns Poultry (Herbruck’s)

Bushman Farms (Organic Valley)

Delta Egg Farm

Green Meadow (Herbruck’s)

Hilltop LLC – Boehning Dairy

Horizon Dairy (WhiteWave)

Idalou Egg Ranch

Kreher’s

Natural Prairie

Raymond Facility

Redland Dairy

Smart Chicken

In the chicken industry, the USDA allows corporate agribusiness to confine as many as 100,000 laying hens in a building, sometimes exceeding 1 million birds on a “farm,” and substituting a tiny screened porch for true access to the outdoors. The loophole, “porched-poultry,” was first allowed in 2002 when the NOP director overruled organic certifiers and allowed The Country Hen, a Massachusetts egg producer, to confine tens of thousands of birds in a barn with an attached porch that might, at best, hold 5% of the birds in the main building. “Quite frankly, even if Miles McEvoy, who currently directs the NOP, believes that a porch, with a floor, ceiling and screened walls, constitutes ‘the outdoors,’ and only 5% of the birds have access or can fit in that space, then 95% of the others are being illegally confined,” Cornucopia’s Kastel stated.

Beginning in 2004, Cornucopia filed their first legal complaints against these industrial operations with varying degrees of success. As a result, the largest dairy supplying the Horizon label (now controlled by WhiteWave Foods) was decertified, and the USDA placed sanctions against Aurora Dairy. Both WhiteWave and Aurora are still being investigated by the USDA for improprieties.

However by 2014, Cornucopia contends the USDA responds very slowly, if at all, to similar complaints undercutting ethical farmers and competitors that comply with federal organic law.

While the potential for large-scale fraud in the organic food industry is disillusioning, here’s what you can do as a consumer of organic products:

Support your local organic dairies, ranches, and egg and poultry farms. Neighborhood health food stores have advantages over large supermarket chains in their ability to carry milk products, poultry, eggs, and even meat from locally vetted sources. When your sources of dairy, meat, poultry, and eggs are local, it is easy to call the farm, or even better, arrange a visit with your kids to confirm the conditions the animals are kept in and the quality of their feed. Being connected to the source of one’s food has a satisfaction and gratitude that is impossible to have any other way.

Trust your senses. Your sense of sight, smell, and taste will confirm the quality of organic meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs, particularly after you have become accustomed to high quality food. If you have ever seen venison – wild deer or elk meat – then you will remember the lean, deep red color of the flesh, like a bold cabernet sauvignon. Truly grass-fed beef has a similar color and leanness. Only grazing on grass and sagebrush produces that leanness and color, which absolutely translates to the flavor of the meat. Anyone who has subsisted on venison or grass-fed beef for a year and then reverted back to conventional, store-bought beef can attest to “tasting” the corn and soy fed to conventionally farmed cows, elk, or buffalo.  Pastured hens lay eggs with a deep orange-colored yolk, yet the vast majority of eggs on the market have yolks that are pale yellow in color. That deep orange color is a testament to the chicken’s natural outdoor diet that includes bugs and therefore has higher levels of Omega 3s and vitamin A.

Rule of thumb: the lighter the color of the meat, egg yolks, butter, etc., the lower the quality of the animal’s diet and probably quality of life.

When you find sources of organic food you trust and love, then support them. As an example, I am a devout customer of Redwood Hill Farm and particularly their plain goat milk kefir. Far from “reasonably priced” at around $7 per quart, I love how their kefir makes me feel when I drink it, how they treat their animals, and the very high quality of their products. Because it is not cheap, I have to budget accordingly, but the goat milk kefir is a staple in our house and I love supporting that farm. I am not affiliated personally or professionally with Redwood Hill Farm and have nothing to gain by discussing this food company. I just love them and enjoy supporting them while supporting my health at the same time!

What is the difference between Palm Fruit and Palm Kernel Oils?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

frogWhile palm fruit and palm kernel oils have noteworthy differences, the most important question is how and where these oils are sourced.  The organic, non-GMO certified palm fruit oil we use in all MELT products is sourced from Columbia (South America) and certified Fair Trade/ Ecosocial by the RSPO and Rainforest Alliance (www.rspo.orgwww.rainforest-alliance.org).The palm fruit oil we source is not linked to the destruction of old growth rain forests, the release of greenhouse gases, the displacement of native people, or the extinction of orangutans or Sumatran tigers (which only live in Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia). Our certifications verify the palm plantations we source from are not developed by removing rain forests, but by converting pre-existing agricultural land to palm oil production. Because our supplier has several Fair Trade programs above and beyond the standards set forth by the RSPO, they are currently in the process of achieving Fair Trade certification by the end of 2015.

We often receive inquiries asking the difference between palm fruit and palm kernel oils, which we are happy to address. First, it is important to note that both palm fruit and palm kernel oils are better to consume than oxidized oils, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and other “bad” fats. We only use palm fruit oil in our products, not because palm kernel oil is “bad”, but because palm fruit oil contributes a better overall balance of fatty acids in MELT®’s Perfect Blend. The concept behind the Perfect Blend is balancing a variety of fatty acids in the diet for wellness.

Both palm fruit oil and palm kernel oil come from palm trees, but there the similarity ends.

Palm fruit oil comes from the palm fruit, the orange flesh that surrounds the palm seed. About 37 percent of palm fruit oil is monounsaturated fat, 50 percent is saturated fat, and 9 percent is polyunsaturated fat (see below). Unrefined, palm fruit oil’s reddish or golden color indicates the presence of carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A. Most importantly, palm fruit oil is high in tocotreinols, a form of vitamin E. We use palm fruit oil over palm kernel oil because of its monounsaturated fat content and high levels of Vitamin E.

Palm kernel oil is extracted from the palm seed and has a fatty acid composition that is almost identical to coconut oil (see below), high in medium-chain fatty acids (i.e., caprylic, capric, and lauric acids) and with a total saturated fat content of over 80 percent. For MELT Organic spreads, we use palm fruit oil over palm kernel oil for its monounsaturated fat content, which provides a better overall balance to the fatty acid composition of MELT Organic spreads.

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New White Paper Makes the Case Against GMOs

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Portfolio 21, an investment management group based in Portland, OR, recently released a 20-page white paper entitled The Case Against GMOs: An Environmental Investor’s View of the Threat to our Global Food Systems.

The White Paper provides an overview of the history and context for the development of Genetically Modified crops, the aggressive, long-term strategy of Monsanto for dominating the regulatory environment, and Monsanto’s strategy for targeting markets in primarily developing economies in South America, India, and Africa.

“All things considered, the risks associated with GM agriculture outweigh the benefits,” the white paper concludes, adding, “while genetic modification as a tool is neither inherently negative nor positive, the history of its use indicates that the GM product is largely deployed to increase short-term profits for agricultural biotech corporations at the expense of consumers, small farmers, and the environment.”

Environmentally, “GM agriculture and its systemic effects reinforce many of the most damaging aspects of monoculture and mechanization. These include biodiversity loss, agro-chemical use, and accelerated soil exhaustion. Additionally, the foreign genetic material can spread beyond its intended area through cross-pollination and interbreeding, as well potentially migrate across species.” Socially, “the demographic shifts that have accompanied the marketing and adoption of GMOs show disturbing patterns, especially in developing countries. Small farmers often become trapped by seed licensing fees and other rising input costs. Furthermore, the switch to crops that then get exported for processing can exacerbate local food supply and quality issues.” From the perspective of governance and regulation, “the intellectual property system allowing for corporate patents on organisms opens the door for a range of ethically problematic business practices. Also, agricultural biotech companies have repeatedly used their undue influence on regulators to gain product approval, circumvent regulations, and suppress dissenting independent studies.”

Taken in totality, the reputational and financial risks are that “consumers are becoming increasingly educated on their eating habits and the consequences of these choices. In addition to raising questions concerning the health effects of consuming GMOs, the spread of this information builds up negative perceptions of the agricultural biotech corporations and the industry as a whole. Given the information and the choice, an increasing number of consumers (and the companies that cater to them) are becoming less accepting of GMOs. The market, especially among consumers in wealthy countries, has pushed GM crops to the low end of the market, where they are now a cheap choice for animal feed, biofuel feedstock, and heavily processed food. Additionally agricultural biotech companies must contend with litigation costs, settlements, and “restructuring charges” arising from failed deployments.”

New Study Shows Sustained Improvement in Child Behavior with Omega-3 Supplementation

Friday, October 17th, 2014

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported that daily supplementation of an omega-3 blend improved antisocial and aggressive behavior in children between the ages of eight and sixteen. Furthermore, daily supplementation of an omega-3 blend over a six month period reduced behavioral problems in children both at the end of treatment and for six months thereafter.

It is worth noting this study used a blend of omega-3 for supplementation and not just fish oils, which are high in EPA and DHA. Currently, some individuals (e.g., Dr. Mercola, Dr. Murray) are virtually dogmatic about fish oils as the ONLY legitimate source of omega-3, as if the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in flax and chia seed serves no nutritional benefit. This generalization has led some in the blogosphere to circulate the idea that flax oil is “bad” because of its ALA content, which is categorically incorrect unless it’s rancid.

426 highHistorically, flax oil was promoted over fish oils in part because of very low quality, rancid fish oils in capsules that did more harm than good. Now high quality liquid sources are available (e.g., Carlson’s, Nordic Naturals) so more emphasis is being placed on consuming cod liver oil, and for good reason since not everyone converts ALA to EPA and DHA. However, there are also several studies that show ALA consumption is critical for optimal absorption of specifically DHA.

As one might expect, omega-3 supplementation is not about taking one type of omega-3 over another. Omega-3 supplementation is about combining omega-3 into one’s diet, such as eating one tsp of Carlson’s lemon-flavored cod liver with your morning toast with MELT® Organic (which contains 425 mg ALA per serving). Or, grinding one to two tbsp of flax or chia seed and adding it to your favorite yogurt in addition to one tsp of cod liver oil.

Methods and Results

A community sample of 8 to 16 year old children were randomized into a treatment group (100 subjects total) and a placebo-control group (100 subjects total) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Supplementation consisted of a fruit drink containing 1000 mg/day of an omega-3 blend or a placebo consisting of the same fruit drink without omega-3. The omega-3 blend included 300 mg DHA, 200 mg EPA, 400 mg ALA, and 100 mg of docosapentaenoic acid [DPA]. Treatment lasted for 6 months, and all participants were followed for another 6 months after discontinuation of treatment. Changes in behavior problems were reported by both the child subjects and their caregivers.

Primary outcome measures were externalizing behavior problems that included acting out, being aggressive, and reactive. Secondary outcome measures looked at the impact on internalizing behavior (social withdrawal, feelings of loneliness or guilt, fearfulness, etc.). The children were assessed by the parents and researchers, as well as through a self-assessment questionnaire. The parents also completed a self-assessment questionnaire.

While the children themselves did not report improvement, the parents reported a significant improvement in children’s behavior in the treatment group for all behavioral issues. Specifically, omega-3 supplementation for 6 months resulted in a 41.6% reduction in parent-rated child externalizing behavior compared to the placebo group. This effect persisted 6 months after the treatment period had ended. An even larger reduction of 68.4% was seen for internalizing behavior.

Findings provide evidence that omega-3 supplementation can produce sustained reductions in externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in children between eight and sixteen years old.

Reference

Raine A, Portnoy J, Liu J, Mahoomed T, Hibbeln J. 2014. Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8-16 years: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12314. [Epub ahead of print]

Barceló-Coblijn G, Murphy EJ. 2009. Review: Alpha-linolenic acid and its conversion to longer chain n-3 fatty acids: Benefits for human health and a role in maintaining tissue n-3 fatty acid levels. Progress in Lipid Research 48:355–374.

 

 

 

General Mills to Buy Annie’s Homegrown for $820M: Sell-out or Sell-up?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Within minutes of the announcement that General Mills was acquiring Annie’s, the beloved maker of bunny-shaped crackers and organic mac ‘n cheese, the social media sphere lit up with consumer response … and the vast majority of viewpoints on the pending deal were far from positive.

General Mill’s announcement tapped into the raw nerve of distrust felt widely across the US: large food companies dominate food choices in the grocery store without concern or regard for the health of the consumer. Consumers widely perceive large food companies, like General Mills, as having lied to the general public over the course of several decades in an effort to promote inferior food products containing synthetic and or sub-quality ingredients in order to drive profit margins irrespective of the impact on consumer’s health.

On Facebook, loyal consumers were outraged primarily over General Mills history of heavily funding the opposition to labeling Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Consumers are concerned that General Mills will use revenues derived from Annie’s extensive line of GMO-free products to fund opposition to GMO labeling. They are also concerned that Annie’s Homegrown has lost control of their product line and could begin containing GMO ingredients.

The sale of Annie’s Homegrown to General Mills brings to the surface consumer’s frustration over seeing a company that successfully overcame widespread distrust of the food industry being taken over by a company who is perceived as having no moral compass.

Annie’s Homegrown successfully won consumer trust in an era of cynicism around the food industry.  Will outrage in the social media sphere translate to a loss of revenues, or will it be a temporary expression of disappointment that has little to no impact on buying habits?

Founded in 1989, Annie’s has grown from a small player in the food business to one that had $204 million in food sales in the last fiscal year on over 145 products across 35,000 retail locations. Its rise has corresponded with the huge growth in consumer demand for organic food. Annie’s claims its products are made without artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or preservatives used in many other conventional packaged foods — like the ones General Mills is known for.

Support Brands like MELT Sourcing Fair Trade Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

With permission from Dr. Bronner’s, we are pleased to reprint Lisa Bronner’s blog on Dr. Bronner’s sourcing of organic virgin coconut oil certified Fair For Life by the IMO. Lisa’s blog is an impressive testament to the importance of supporting brands like MELT® Organic and Dr. Bronner’s who go the extra mile to source the highest quality ingredients that also foster excellent labor practices in Third World countries. Both brands source our coconut oil from Serendipol in Sri Lanka.

A Closer Look at Fair Trade

July 16th, 2014

The Bronner Mom is far from home.  In fact, I could hardly be further.  Kuliyapatiyia, Sri Lanka.  A 12 ½ hour time change.  Site of Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade coconut oil project Serendipol.  And before you go off thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Sri Lanka.  I bet she does that all the time”, let’s get one thing straight.  I don’t.

I am learning firsthand what Fair Trade is all about.  In a nutshell (coconut shells, to be exact!) Fair Trade is a certification that verifies all the practices you hope your favorite companies already do.  Fair Trade is about people – paying living wages and providing community benefits for farmers, workers and their families.

“I buy organic.  Doesn’t that mean it’s all good?”

Organic means a lot of good things: no petrochemical pesticides, no synthetics, no GMO’s to name a few.  But Organic is completely silent about the issue of labor.  While it is better for laborers not to be exposed to all that, they could still be paid pittance, work in slummy conditions, and live in near poverty while providing us with our organic goodies. This is where Fair Trade comes in.  Organic certification is a pre-requisite for Fair Trade certification.

What Fair Trade looks like at Serendipol

A witness to worker well-being at Serendipol is the employee retention rate.  Workers stay.  They don’t find better work elsewhere.  What they have at Serendipol is very good.

Guaranteed year round work.

Annual bonuses

Daily production incentives

Fixed monthly salaries

Direct deposit bank accounts

Eye care and medical benefits

school books , uniforms and shoes annually for all employee children

Grants for employee personal home improvement projects.

There’s also a physiotherapist on site twice weekly to assist workers in worker-related muscle fatigue or strain.  There are morale boosting annual family celebrations with cricket, badminton, and other competitions.  There are educational opportunities for workers and farmers to provide advancement or increased yield.

Here’s one [example] of the improvement in the socio-economic well being of the workers:

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Initially, the factory provided a shed for all the employees’ bikes.  Now, more space is needed for their motorcycles.  Some employees already have tuk-tuks (local three wheeled vehicles) or even cars.  Gordon de Silva, Serendipol’s Managing Director,  joked, but seriously, that he’s soon going to have to buy additional property for employee parking.

Serendipol is a state of the art facility whose goal in 2014 is to process 20 million coconuts.  They’re on track.  They receive 17 truckloads of nuts every day.

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These gleaming silos hold the oil before final filtration.

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That’s a lot of coconuts!

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Here’s an on-site vegetable garden whose produce is all given to employees.

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The buildings at Serendipol are beautifully constructed.

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The grounds are lush and manicured with landscaped paths, flower beds, and even a badminton court.  There is also an employee canteen to provide a comfortable place for them to eat their meals.

I’m going to stop here for the day and I haven’t even gotten to the multitude of Community Improvement Projects Serendipol has funded.  Stay tuned.

Fair Trade is not as widespread as it should be.  It’s a concept many consumers as well as suppliers and manufacturers are still finding out about.  You won’t find all your products available with Fair Trade options.  But the ball has started rolling.  Help it pick up speed by

Asking companies to pursue Fair Trade certification

Buying products from companies with strong Fair Trade certification

Educating friends and associates about what Fair Trade is and how much it does.

Check out more information about Serendipol on the Dr. Bronner’s website, www.drbronner.com, including the Coconut Rock video.  Also, our Serendiworld site shares about all of our Fair Trade operations worldwide.  

David and Goliath: Long-Term Study Damming GMOs is Republished in Spite of Monsanto Pressure to Suppress Results

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In September of 2012, the peer review journal Food and Chemical Toxicology published the most rigorous study of its kind (Séralini et al) evaluating the long-term effects of consuming Genetically Modified (GM) corn and Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup on rats.

The results of this study were devastating for the biotech industry on several fronts.

“Significant biochemical disturbances and physiological failures”

The original study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed both GM maize and low levels of Roundup below allowable limits in drinking water:

  • In female rats, all treated groups died 2 to 3 times more than controls and more rapidly than occurred in 3 male groups fed GMOs. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often and earlier than controls. The pituitary was the second most affected organ because the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments.
  • In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher than controls. Significant and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3 to 2.3 times greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors that occurred 600 days earlier than the control group.
  • Underscoring the inadequacy of 90-day trials, the first large detectable tumors occurred at 4 and 7 months into the study in males and females, respectively.
  • The effects described above occurred at the lowest doses studied (i.e., most observed effects were not proportional to the dose of treatment) but had a threshold effect at the lowest doses tested.
  • The effects described above occurred in residual levels of Roundup formulations found in contaminated drinking water falling well within authorized, regulated limits.

Study Highlights Inadequacy of Current Safety Testing 

No regulatory authority requires chronic (i.e., long-term) animal feeding studies to be performed for edible GMOs and formulated pesticides. The current approval process is based on animal feeding trials of only 90 days, which is an inadequate duration when chronic diseases in animals and humans do not usually manifest until mid-life.

Moreover, the newly emerging science of epigenetics demonstrates that endocrine systems can be seriously disrupted by the presence of chemical residues at concentrations as low as a few parts per billion. Chemicals like Roundup do not produce a linear response where the extent of exposure determines the biological response. Instead, residues well below legal limits cause serious disruptions; non-linear responses to glyphosate undermine the logic of an approval process based on MRL (maximum residue levels).

Lastly, the studies conducted by the biotech industry focus on one single active ingredient, such as glyphosate in Roundup, instead of the total chemical mixtures that are actually used in agriculture, thus under-representing the potential toxic effects on environmental pollution and human health.

Publication Buckles Under Biotech Industry Pressure, Study Republished Elsewhere

Sustained criticism and defamation by Monsanto scientists successfully forced the editor-in-chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology – A. Wallace Hayes – to retract the study in November 2013 in spite of rigorous peer review. The Séralini et al study was recently republished in Environmental Sciences Europe.

In the republished study, the authors explain the retraction was “a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide… We also show the decision to retract [the original study] cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper.”

The republished study contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication as well as the raw data underlying the study’s findings – unlike the raw data for the biotech industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. The new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

Paper Subjected to Three Rounds of Scrutiny and Peer Review

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist based in London, commented, “Few studies would survive such intensive scrutiny by fellow scientists.”

The paper was first peer reviewed for its initial publication in Food and Chemical Toxicology, which passed with only minor revisions.

The second review involved a non-transparent examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data by a secret panel of unnamed persons organized by the editor-in-chief Hayes in response to criticisms of the study by pro-GMO scientists. In a letter to Prof Séralini, Hayes admitted  the anonymous reviewers found nothing incorrect about the results. However, Hayes argued the tumor and mortality observations in the paper were “inconclusive” which justified his decision to retract the study.

Even so, numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, including Monsanto’s own short (90-day) study on the same GM maize, and have not been retracted. The retraction was even condemned by a former member of the editorial board of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

The study passed a third peer review arranged by Environmental Sciences Europe, the journal republishing the study.

Dr Antoniou states: “The republication of the study after three expert reviews is a testament to its rigor, as well as to the integrity of the researchers. If anyone still doubts the quality of this study, they should simply read the republished paper. The science speaks for itself… If even then they refuse to accept the results, they should launch their own research study on these two toxic products that have now been in the human food and animal feed chain for many years.”

Dr Jack Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, responded: “This study has arguably prevailed through the most comprehensive and independent review process to which any scientific study on GMOs has ever been subjected.”

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