Newly released pesticide usage statistics for 2018 confirm that the British people are being used as lab rats. That’s the message environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has sent to Dave Bench, senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan. In her open letter to Bench, Mason warns that things could get much worse.
In 2016, the UK farming minister said that the nation could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives if it votes to leave the EU. George Eustice, the minister in question, said that the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style ‘risk-based’ system that would allow for faster approvals.
There is little doubt that Eustice had GM crops in mind: the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the most promising crops suitable for introducing to England would be Roundup Ready GA21 glyphosate-tolerant crops as they synergise well with herbicides already widely used in the UK.
Similarly, Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister in July 2019:
Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.
However, the ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. The technology has a questionable record and, anyhow, there is already enough food being produced to feed the global population, yet around 830 million are classed as hungry and two billion experience micronutrient deficiency. If Johnson wants to ‘feed the world’, he would do better by looking of the inbuilt injustices of the global food regime which is driven by the very corporations he seems to be in bed with.
Conservative politicians’ positive spin about GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops, using more glyphosate (or similar agrochemicals) and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards. It is no secret that various Conservative-led administrations have wanted to ditch the EU regulatory framework on GM for some time.
Unregulated chemical cocktail
Mason asks Bench why Defra and the Chemicals Regulation Division refuse to ban glyphosate-based herbicides in Swansea between 2014-2017 when she told them that it was poisoning her nature reserve:
Analysis of local tap water in August 2014 revealed a 10-fold increase since August 2013: from 30 ppt to 300 ppt. I told them that these were of the order of concentrations found in a laboratory study in 2013 that showed that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations. We had several neighbours who have recently developed breast cancer. Now, in 2019, with many scientific papers reporting apocalyptic insect declines around the world, we are facing a global Armageddon; yet the public has no idea, because the press has concealed it from them.
Bench is also asked:
Have you seen the pesticides usage statistics for 2018? They confirm what a European NGO said in 2013, that the British citizens are being used as lab rats!
Dave Bench, you presented a paper at the Soil Association meeting on 20 November 2017… [it] showed that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops had increased between 6-18 fold between 1974 and 2016, rather than halved as farmers and industry had claimed!! As well as hearing this new evidence of increased pesticide use in the UK, the conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health via our food supply.
Were you shocked? Presumably you weren’t because you described the regulatory system for pesticides as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society. That statement is rubbish. It is for the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides, including over children and babies, without warning.
Ian Boyd, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, says pesticides, once they have been authorised, are never reviewed.
Mason adds there is consistent denial by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Defra and the agrochemical industry about the massive amounts of pesticides used on farmland and herbicides used in towns and cities on weeds; and there is silence from the UK corporate media.
She informs Bench that although glyphosate was relicensed in Europe by a “corrupt” group of individuals, it is distributed to every organ of the body and has multiple actions: it is an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.
In her previous reports, as in her letter to Bench, Mason has documented the consequences of this for human health.
Just as concerning is the UN Global Chemicals Outlook II report that indicates large quantities of hazardous chemicals and pollutants continue to leak into the environment, contaminating food chains and accumulating in our bodies, where they do serious damage. Estimates by the European Environment Agency suggest that 62 per cent of the volume of chemicals consumed in Europe are hazardous to health. The World Health Organization estimates the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives. The lives of many more are negatively impacted.
Business as usual: public health crisis
Mason goes on to highlight numerous disturbing aspects of the revolving door between the pesticide industry and public bodies/government in the UK. She also notes that David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta, to Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) board and awarded him a CBE in 2017 for services to cancer research.
Mason explains that the British government’s UK life sciences strategy is dependent on funding from the pharmaceutical sector which has links with the pesticide industry. In 2011, CRUK started donating money (£450 million/year) to the government’s ‘Strategy for UK Life Sciences’ while AstraZeneca (Syngenta’s parent company) was providing 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines in the UK. She argues that Syngenta’s products cause diseases, while its parent company tries to cure them with synthetic chemicals. And CRUK is a willing enabler.
In 2014, the NFU, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) launched ‘Healthy Harvest’ to safeguard the crop protection pesticide toolbox. The NFU and the agrochemical companies have continually defended the use of pesticides for economic reasons and complain about any attempt to restrict the 320-odd at their disposal. CPA, AIC and the NFU commissioned Andersons to write a report: ‘The effect of the loss of plant protection products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture’. Conveniently for the report’s commissioners, Andersons predicted dire economic effects on UK farming if pesticides were to be restricted.
And it is not that these powerful interests do not have the government’s full attention. Between May 2010 and the end of 2013, the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry. According to Mason, it is business as usual and patently clear that the pesticides industry is being protected.
While continuing to ignore and side-line important scientific research findings which highlight inconvenient truths for government and the pesticide industry, prominent public officials and scientists as well as the media attempt to explain away all the diseases now affecting the UK as a result of individual behaviour: bad lifestyle choices.
In her various reports, Mason has discussed the importance of the gut microbiome and the deleterious effects of glyphosate which result in various health issues, such as obesity and depression. By 2018, CRUK was claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers, but Mason argues that contamination by residues from 123 different pesticides on the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools by the Department of Health is the real reason for childhood obesity – not biscuits or poor choices.
Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers with no treatments making any difference to the numbers. While certain prestigious research centres are lavished with funding, Mason argues their work merely serves to strengthen the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries and implies the entire process is little more than a profitable racket at the expense of public health.
The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies…
Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, added:
While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.
So the presumption was that you really just need your basic macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc., and the mitochondria will take care of everything. What is ignored is that to get from those macronutrients to ATP you actually need functional enzymes and you need micronutrients – vitamins and minerals at each step and there’s 22 of them you need. Thiamine happens to be the most important because of its geographic position, if you will, and because of its great limiting step along the various pathways.
No matter what other deficiency you may or may not have, if you do not address thiamine you will never heal. It’s not the only vitamin you need, but it’s the one you absolutely must address before you deal with everything else. I think that’s the most difficult thing for people to realize and why folks will go on these things with folate and B12 and this, that and the other thing, forgetting entirely that that’s so much further down the pathway than thiamine. So they wonder why they don’t heal and they seem to think, “Well it must not be the nutrients. It’s not the vitamins. I’ve done the vitamin thing and it’s not working.” But they haven’t done the right ones yet.
— Chandler Marrs, PhD. and editor of Hormones Matter April 2019 interview
In so many deceptive and not so deceptive ways, Western Medicine has failed a great many hundreds of millions of people. Anything tagged “Western” under this penury and punitive parasitic-reactionary-zombie-shock-to-the-system capitalism is more than just suspect when one looks at the project of finance and command and control the financiers of the world have unleashed for several hundred years.
Western Agriculture (the so-called greening of farming with former Nazi chemists retrofitting war tools into farmers’ nerve agents, hormone disrupters, brain scrambling toxins into the war against nature; i.e., the so-called green revolution) we can ask, how is that working out for humankind? It doesn’t take a Michael Pollan to understand that just the Western diet and the loads of preservatives, emulsifiers, anti-caking tricks, nanoparticles and fake, cheap, trickster ingredients — thanks to Western Life Goes Better with Chemicals paradigm – are killing Americans and others tied to these crack cocaine delivery systems supplying the West with “nutritional” and “farming” beasts of a nation.
We can’t mix apples and oranges, can we, as we are told by Western Mass Media, et al, when we couple the war on human food with the war on ecology and nature, which is what agriculture has unleashed and continues to supercharge this highly industrialized, mono-culture focused, scaled-up version of a Brave New Farm New Order consumer pipeline. Water polluted, aquifers drained, rivers clogged, dams the old-new normal, most wild systems destroyed, fractured and quickly endangered, and, well you have a system that is sick under any person’s definition of the word or concept of “illness.”
However, hand in hand goes the medical and pharma communities lavishly gaining trillions in profits from this pipeline of cancer-causing, heart-disease tripping, stroke-inducing, diabetes-setting high fat-salt-sugar-meat-dairy diet. In part, the medical community has facilitated reinforcing that death pipeline through co-option of the “normalcy” of capital and profits ruling the market — ruling citizens by flipping us into consumers, perennial patients, targets, marks, victims, Guinea pigs, and then chucking any sense of the precautionary principle in lieu of our so called better angels (actual devils of GMOs, HFCS, hyphenated carcinogens).
Every doctor making a cool five million bucks a year on gastric by-passes, heart surgeries, diabetes maintenance programs and cancer-treatments is part of the problem.
Doctors invest in Pizza Hut, Coca Cola, Merck, Monsanto, and whatever bulks up their investment portfolios. Their well-being and their families’ well-being and their rich status in our New Gilded Age society are dependent/interdependent on disease treatment, disease maintenance, disease-embracing medicine, and disease as the new normal.
What goes into Johnny’s gullet-lungs-brain comes back to the rich and Western elite in literal gold reserves and hedge fund derivatives.
So, Western Industrialization – in agriculture, in medicine, in food, in education, in production lines – greased vis-à-vis those economy of scales that aid and abet putting out of business any sane (AKA alternative) treatment modality (naturopathic, holistic, Eastern “medicine” steeped in health care preventative models), or holistic food system (agroecological, organic, scaled to human size farming), or education program (the whole person, intergenerational, creative, hands on, sans core curriculum and standardized test model kind) –is not just the bane of humanity, big or small communities, but also the bane of civilization as we know it.
Any veterinarian looking at an over-sized, arthritis-prone, pre-diabetic, sluggish, tired, itchy skin, anxious, stinky mouthed youngish Labrador Retriever will prescribe more veggies, no commercial dog food (of the rendered roadkill variety) lean chicken, rice, carrots, corn, squash, err, a vegetarian diet.
The human patient doctors really are glad the advertisement says, “Things deep-fried, refined, greasy, meat-centric do go better with Coca Cola.” Money, money, money, guaranteed job security, great gobs of power in our society as sickness and disease come to younger and younger cohorts with each passing year.
Johnny, Juanita, Quyen, Ahmed are Dining on Death
It goes without saying that anyone following my polemics and non-polemical writing know that I am solidly anti-corporation, anti-top down government, and for peace colleges, for an entirely new and different educational system, and that’s not just for PK12, but lifelong education. I am for scaling down, localizing, and working bio-regionally and globally on these systems of pain, oppression, subjugation, and disease.
We are only going to get out of this plundering, and end these enslaved systems of oppression, pollution, and lobotomy through ecosocialism and a true people’s contract through a people’s direct democracy, and strong collective engagement and education.
The revolution will not happen here in the USA, as we know, and when I say revolution, I am speaking about all of those systems of penury and oppression tied to the Military-Prison-Chemical-Pharmacological-Fossil Fuel-Finance-Banking-Insurance-Medical-IT-Real Estate-Education-Legal-AI Complex going down down gone!
While I parachute into jobs tied to the social services, homeless citizen services, PK12 education, environmental activism, localized community rights building, art, literature, politics, media, journalism, anti-poverty programs, I get more than a bird’s eye view of the systems of oppression in this white supremacist patriarchal society.
Just three days ago, I was the teacher of record (substitute) with seven para-educators (women who not only assist that special ed classroom, but who are also teachers, aides, psychologists, so to speak) as I worked an elementary school’s special education self-contained classroom.
First, the parents of these children are amazing, but they are hobbled not only by poverty, by their working class struggle, and by the vagaries of paying so much to live in poverty, but also by these special needs children.
These children are mostly honored and loved.
Then those seven hours, five days a week, in a school, these youth are then shepherded by caring people working under systems of oppression and penury and disappearing funding, until alas, these educational frameworks become failures.
And to what end? Young kids I taught Monday were 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old. Where will they be when they hit 18 or 21? The society is not planning for their adulthood, for their needs, for their pathway to some sense of independence. Think living on the streets or staying at home until parents die.
This is the problem, now, is it not? Youth who need one-on-one, sometimes two staff-to-one child attention. The funding isn’t there, and when localities face budget constraints, they go after the “lower rung,” to include firing/laying off para-educators. No teacher in her right mind would have a classroom of a dozen or more youth with behavioral, developmental, intellectual disabilities under her wing WITHOUT the support of paraeducators.
A million people have a million “ideas” and “opinions” about what is wrong and needs fixing with education, but in the end, the American hating, trolling, everyone’s opinion is sacrosanct citizen is more than out to lunch when it comes to almost every armchair prognostication made.
We put young and old immigrants in cages, or these wire boxes where most anyone in this society would not dare put their pet dogs in, and yet we let children die, force children away from family, and, well, a society that accepts that (and by it happening, we all accept that sort of Gestapo Nazi style of punishment), will easily accept the broken and breaking systems of education we have come to see in thousands of communities across the land.
Is it any wonder that the food we feed these special education students is one hot mess of triple fat, triple salt, triple carbs, triple sugar?
Children – either deemed special ed or behaviorally challenged, or gifted and talented – are being fed the most perverse diets on earth. Flooded with empty calories and dead-end oils that are toxic and inflammatory, but also chemicals that make up the ingredient list on a box of crackers that hardly any college educated person can pronounce, let alone understand the origins and consequences on the human physiology, the food (sic) served is deadly. Daily deadly dose of cafeteria (they don’t cook in school cafeterias anymore, but microwave prepacked junk) slop.
Pollution Starts with the Polluting of the Mind
Polluting people with propaganda, with bad food, bad air, bad soil, bad water, bad culture, and, alas, these children in special education are dealing with a multitude of issues they will never fully or even partially get out from under.
Chronic disease, chronic fatigue, chronic brain fog, chronic pain, chronic anxiety, chronic addiction, chronic confusion, chronic anger, chronic discombobulation, all of it have their origins right smack in the center of the gooey nougat of death-inducing capitalism.
I’m interested in people thinking outside of the box, and pushing against the paradigms of oppression, in any arena, whether it’s industry, big oil, big finance, or, in this article’s case, medicine.
How many times does a guy who is pugnacious and pugilistic get to interview a doctor whose pedigree goes way back – he’s alive and well, age 95, living in England?
Old school – mandatory (national service) in the RAF (7 years) in England, and working for the national health service in the UK (10 years).
I have been tracking the work of people like Derrick Lonsdale around naturopathy, the foods-vitamins-lifestyles-vaccinations connection for decades. I have looked at the value of Vitamin and Herbal Supplemental enrichment in our lives for years — lifestyles broken by the chemical exposures, the pesticides exposures, the drug exposures, the pollution exposures, the GMO exposures, the electrical magnetic frequency (WiFi, cellular phone, etc) exposures, the heavy metal exposures.
Add to that the magical thinking, the lobotomizing education systems, the consumer-droning mass media mush, and we have some really hard times in Western Society that is so hobbled by fear, falling in line (in a goosestep sometimes) with the corporate-government narrative, etc.
Autoimmune Disease Goes to the Mitochondria
There are so many maladies tied to autoimmune diseases, bowel conditions, blood issues, and complete endocrine and hormone discombobulation.
In many cases, women especially are deemed hysterical, psychologically-motivated, insane when they come to Western Medicine with such issues listed above:
Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
I’ve been lucky to have written for Hormones Matter – tied to my mistreatment by social services non-profits and Planned Parenthood for a simple sex ed training class in Seattle where I dared to ask the facilitators with PP that the Gardasil debate was not yet settled.
Here I was as a foster youth social worker, and you can imagine the foster parents that have children in their charge – many are tied to homeschooling and are skeptical of vaccinations. You just need to go to Hormones Matteror just do the Google (if Google hasn’t scrubbed all the evidence against Gardasil) and put in “ Merck and Gardasil and criticism and lawsuits.” What have you.
Derrick, along with Hormones Matter editor, Chandler Marrs, have written an amazing book, Thiamine Deficiency Disease, Dysautonomia, and High Calorie Malnutrition.
Go to Hormonesmatter (dot) com and check out the depth of the articles, depth of the outside the Western Medicine Paradigm the articles address. Writers who are PhD’s, MDs, or experts through their own trials and tribulations suffering under myriad of diseases.
Here’s my interview:
Paul Haeder: So you are 95 years old, and have seen many changes in Western Society and innovative arenas of thought and knowledge around disease and human health. What are some of the biggest impacts you believe from your learning have greatly changed the way you see health? What are some of the most troubling aspects of medicine and health you can discuss after, what, more than 50 years in medicine?
Derrick Lonsdale: I started my medical career, after National Service as a medical officer in the RAF, in family practice for 7 years under the NHS. Not liking the bureaucracy I immigrated to Canada with a short service commission in the RCAF. I did residency in pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic and in 1962 I was invited to join the staff.
I was on the pediatric staff at the Cleveland Clinic from 1962 to 1982. I headed a section on biochemical genetics. A six year old boy who had repeated episodes of brain disease had every conventional test normal. He proved to be the first case of vitamin B1 dependency, a mutation in the gene that enabled glucose to fuel energy metabolism. It changed my professional life. With the extensive library research required, I learned the details of energy metabolism and began to be aware that it was the core issue of disease. I began to realize that the present medical model, dependent on the Flexner report of 1910, is inadequate. I found that so many of the children referred to the Clinic were emotionally sick from diet rather than from poor parenting. I published a suggested new medical model, based on a combination of genetics/environmental stress/and energy, represented as three interlocking circles. The body is an electrochemical “machine” and if the genetic code is perfect (it never is) all it requires is energy.
Genetic mutations seldom act by themselves. Another factor comes into play, giving rise to the gene expression. Diabetes sometimes makes its first appearance after a cold or an injury, strongly indicating that energy deficiency affects the gene(s) at root. The troublesome aspects of modern medicine are far reaching. The profession has been taken over by the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Drugs only treat symptoms and do not address cause. Surgery to remove a sick organ is tacitly an admission of medical failure.
PH: Great scientists like Robert Sapolsky have looked at the diseases of Homo sapiens as they are tied to stress, as in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
DL: Hans Selye was the great interpreter of the physiologic and pathophysiogic effects of stress. He was able to show that the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) in experimental animals required energy for the animal to adapt to the many forms of stress that he used in his experiments. Lab data obtained from stressed animals imitated the lab data from sick humans and he formulated the idea that human diseases were “the diseases of adaptation”. One of his students was able to produce the GAS by making the animal thiamine deficient, thus showing the importance of energy metabolism. The only way that we can help the body in synthesizing the required energy is by providing the right fuel and the catalysts that enable oxidation to occur efficiently. Pharmaceuticals only address symptoms but do nothing for their underlying cause.
PH: Discuss your work and knowledge around just the real and perceived stress of our Western Culture (not tied to our Western diets — that’s for a later question) and how that plays havoc on the human biological system?
DL: Well, I guess that comes under the heading of stress. Just like Selye’s animals, we require energy to adapt b . . . meaning that our brain/body complex defense mechanisms go into action. We live in a world that takes little notice of our biology. The further we get away from it the greater the risk. There are thousands of toxic chemicals that increase the stress load. The relatively new science of epigenetics has yet to emerge in clinical medicine. This, as you know, is the science of how nutrition and lifestyle influence our genes. Epigenetics is even emerging in the complex field of cancer.
PH: On Hormones Matter, you have many articles tied to thiamine deficiency, but also other areas:
October 14, 2019, Sleep Requires Energy
September 30, 2019, A New Medical Model to Prevent Physician Burnout
September 17, 2019, SIDS and Vaccination
September 12, 2019, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Unusual Treatment
August 22, 2019, When Glaucoma Is More Than an Eye Disease
July 1, 2019, Energy Loss as a Cause of Disease
DL: Yes, but they are all tied to our capacity to synthesize energy. I did sabbatical in Australia after David Read published thiamine deficiency as a cause of SIDS. My colleagues and I published abnormal auditory brain-stem evoked potentials in threatened SIDS and showed that megadose thiamine stopped the apnea alarms from ringing. We also published our work. Thiamine deficiency disease gives us the prototype for dysautonomia. Interestingly, many case reports of dysautonomia have been published in association with an assortment of diseases, without recognizing the importance of the association. I have suggested that it hallmarks the association as evidence that each disease is caused by oxidative inefficiency. The dysautonomia is really very much part of the disease expression.
PH: So, Dr. Lonsdale, there seems a sense of urgency in these pieces, and the thread to each of them goes to deficiency in nutrition. Why is it in 2019, we have Western medicine treated disease rather than preventing disease?
DL: A good question. The medical profession as a whole has rejected the deficiency of non caloric nutrients as a common cause of disease. They claim that vitamin enrichment has abolished them and that these diseases are only of historical interest. Hence they are not familiar with the symptoms that would have been recognized 70-80 years ago. Many of these patients are diagnosed as “psychosomatic” and there are probably millions of Americans affected. Any physician who claims that a patient’s symptoms are due to (e.g.) beriberi is considered to be “off his head” and is exactly what happened to me at Cleveland Clinic. I actually saw beriberi in CCH patients and nobody would believe me. I have outlined their cases in our book that needs to be read by every physician, since laboratory proof is used.
PH: We have in the USA more than 150 million people with at least chronic illness, many with co-occurring. We have an obesity epidemic. We have a society that is fed the propaganda of Madison Avenue. How do you see this logjam getting broken when so much of Western Medicine “depends” on the food industries of high salt, fat, sugar?
DL: Chandler [Marrs] and I are more than convinced that thiamine deficiency is widespread because this deficiency is easily induced by inordinate ingestion of sugar in many different forms. The last statistics that I saw for the U.S. was 150 pounds of sugar per capitum per annum. We have suggested that the early symptoms, if recognized at onset, are easily treated. We believe that if there is failure to recognize them, chronic disease follows later, giving rise to an assortment of neurodegenerative diseases. Each is named by the first individual to recognize the repeated appearance of a constellation of symptoms and signs (Parkinson, Alzheimer etc). Not acknowledging the overlap of these symptoms in patients with a diagnosis of one disease versus another, each is thought to have a separate cause that must be specifically identified as a “cure”. We regard that as trying to shut the stable door after the horse has gone.
In 1936 Sir Rudolph Peters opened the studies of oxidative metabolism by the discovery of the catatorulin effect. He showed that there was no difference in the respiration of thiamine deficient pigeon brain cells compared with cells from a thiamine replete pigeon until glucose was added to the preparation. The thiamine sufficient cells immediately began to respire, whereas the TD cells did not. I have seen hundreds of patients whose extremely variable symptoms were due to mild to moderate thiamine deficiency and proved it via lab testing.
PH: Where do you see the work you and Chandler have accomplished going? Most people I see and work with as a teacher and social worker just can’t understand the axiom – You are what you eat. I could take that further, of course, by saying “you are what you read, do, say, believe, hold dear, don’t believe, hope for, dream of, observe, watch, hear, listen to.”
DL: We believe that we must try to address both physicians and patients, hence our reports on Hormones Matter. It has led to a great deal of correspondence between patients and us. What appalls us is the many years of suffering expressed by many of them and their rejection by their physicians as “problem patients”. One young woman discovered from reading our book that her Flagyl toxicity symptoms were due to TD. Not only did her physician insist that her symptoms were “psychological”, she was rejected from that multi-doctor clinic “ because she would not accept the psychology diagnosis”. Her physician denied Flagyl toxicity even though the symptoms are published.
PH: Is it a matter of hormones in most cases you have experienced in both medicine and in communicating with individuals with major physical health concerns?
DL: Hormones enter the picture because they are under the control of the limbic brain with the autonomic system. Energy deficiency in the brain affects their synthesis and their distribution.
PH: What could med schools be doing to really help the health of a community, the country?
DL: Med schools have produced research to show that a lot of disease in America is biochemical in origin. Even if these common symptoms are correctly found to be biochemical in origin, they then assume that a drug must be found to correct them. The whole climate of medicine is based on pharmaceutical “genius”.
PH: Talk about the violence-hormone-vitamin deficiency connection in more depth, if you will?
DL: Our emotional sensations arise from the lower brain and are tied to the perceived event. They can be modified by the cortex but it implies brain communication. TD is equivalent to a mild degree of hypoxia and is thought of as causing pseudohypoxia. Because this is dangerous to the organism, either of them will excite the tendency to initiate the fight-or-flight reflex behavior. Hence, I see a boy who has had a mild redress in school, nursing it with a sense of human injustice, bursting into nonsensical violence. Nobody has ever questioned a perpetrator as to the quality of his diet. Nobody has reported a physical exam that might show the imprint of dysautonomia. Some years ago a probation officer in Cuyahoga Falls managed to get a judge to bind over juvenile criminals to her for dietary supervision. The recidivity rate fell to virtually zero.
PH: What do you attribute your longevity to?
DL: I don‘t know. I do take a lot of supplements.
PH: What role does epigenetics play in your research around energy and Vitamin B?
DL: I think that my use of megadoses of thiamine is epigenetic.
PH: Diseases of adaptation v. diseases of maladaptation is what you allude to when speaking of Seyle. Give a connotation and denotation of what this is saying for the average reader to understand.
DL: Stress is defined as a mental or physical environmental force acting on an organism, including humans. Like Selye’s experimental animals such a person first must perceive the form of the stress and adapt to it. Infection excites a defensive response that is organized automatically by the brain. A deadline, a business problem, a divorce etc requires a thought process conducted by the brain. Both physical and mental stress require energy expenditure. It explains why a divorce might result in sickness in one person and not in another, depending on the energy status. In other words, the ability to meet life stresses depends on the combination of adequate nutrition and genetics.
PH: Industrial agriculture and industrial food and industrial everything have come from the industrial revolution, from then to now. What can we do to reverse this turbo charged world of turbo charged living, eating, consuming and surviving? Your message is clear, smart and elegant, but in Capitalism, we always want to blame the victim, the patient, the person. It’s our fault if we are in constant fatigue, or if we are fat and can’t lose weight, or if we have difficulty dealing with the everyday “norms” of modern society.
DL: I don’t think that we can do anything about altering the cause. All we can do is to repeat and repeat what IS the cause, pointing out HOW it affects us. If a person will not change diet, he/she may well accept supplements because they are trained to taking pills for health correction. Perhaps, artificial as that may be, clinical improvement will enhance the perceived importance of nutrition and lifestyle, acting as a learning process.
PH: Where is the new frontier in medicine, in your estimation?
DL: I think that it is in the hands of ACAM [ACAM is the pioneer integrative organization and advocate of education for dedicated professionals who set out to make a difference in the standards of healthcare. Our membership includes MD, DO, ND, ARNP, NP, DC, DDS, scientists, medical students/residents, dietitians, nutritionists, researchers, and more.] and ICIM [The International College of Integrative Medicine is a community of dedicated physicians who advance innovative therapies in integrative medicine by conducting educational conferences, supporting research, and cooperating with other scientific organizations, while always promoting the highest standards of practice.]
PH: I have friends and others researching the chemical-human disease connection, to include Dr. Rosemary Mason, looking at the unbelievable amounts of chemicals – poisons – in our ecosystems, food systems, and bodies.
Campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has written an open letter to the Chief Medical Officer of England, Sally Davies. In it, Mason states that none of the more than 400 pesticides that have been authorised in the UK have been tested for long-term actions on the brain: in the foetus, in children or in adults.
The UK Department of Health (DoH) has previously stated that pesticides are not its concern. But, according to Mason, they should be. She says that Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s showed that endocrine disrupters (EDCs) were changing humans and the environment, but this research was ignored by officials. Glyphosate, the most widespread herbicide in the world, is an EDC and a nervous system disrupting chemical.
Speak to these concerns, too, Dr. Lonsdale.
DL: I totally agree but this kind of common sense usually falls on deaf ears. I have entered my posts on the metronidazole toxicity group and sent a letter to the FDA in regard to the nature of its toxicity. It hasn’t changed a thing but a lot of people have been helped. A paper I wrote in 1980 reporting 20 adolescents who had proved thiamine deficiency disease caused my phone to light up but it has long been forgotten. We can only just keep plugging on!!!
Promoters of genetic modification (GM) in agriculture have long argued that genetically engineered Golden Rice is a practical way to provide poor farmers in remote areas with a subsistence crop capable of adding much-needed vitamin A to local diets. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem in many poor countries in the Global South and leaves millions at high risk for infection, diseases and other maladies, such as blindness.
Some scientists believe that Golden Rice, which has been developed with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, could help save the lives of around 670,000 children who die each year from Vitamin A deficiency and another 350,000 who go blind.
Meanwhile, critics say there are serious issues with Golden Rice and that alternative approaches to tackling vitamin A deficiency should be implemented. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the claims being made by the pro-Golden Rice lobby are misleading and are oversimplifying the actual problems in combating vitamin A deficiency.
Many critics regard Golden Rice as an over-hyped Trojan horse that biotechnology corporations and their allies hope will pave the way for the global approval of other more profitable GM crops. The Rockefeller Foundation might be regarded as a ‘philanthropic’ entity but its track record indicates it has been very much part of an agenda which facilitates commercial and geopolitical interests to the detriment of indigenous agriculture and local and national economies.
Smears and baseless attacks
As Britain’s Environment Secretary in 2013, Owen Paterson claimed that opponents of GM were “casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world”. He called for the rapid roll-out of vitamin A-enhanced rice to help prevent the cause of up to a third of the world’s child deaths:
“It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology. I feel really strongly about it. I think what they do is absolutely wicked.”
Just recently, Robin McKie, science writer for The Observer, wrote a piece on Golden Rice that uncritically presented all the usual industry talking points. On Twitter, The Observer’s Nick Cohen chimed in with his support by tweeting: “There is no greater example of ignorant Western privilege causing needless misery than the campaign against genetically modified golden rice.”
Whether it comes from the likes of corporate lobbyist Patrick Moore, Owen Paterson, biotech spin-merchant Mark Lynas, well-remunerated journalists or from the lobbyist CS Prakash who engages more in spin that fact, the rhetoric takes the well-worn cynically devised PR line that anti-GM activists and environmentalists are little more than privileged, affluent people residing in rich countries and are denying the poor the supposed benefits of GM crops.
Golden Rice does not work and opponents are not to blame
Despite the smears and emotional blackmail employed by supporters of Golden Rice, in a 2016 article in the journal Agriculture& Human Values Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover found little evidence that anti-GM activists are to blame for Golden Rice’s unfulfilled promises. Golden rice was still years away from field introduction and may fall far short of lofty health benefits claimed by its supporters.
Professor Glenn Stone from Washington University in St. Louis stated that:
Golden Rice is still not ready for the market, but we find little support for the common claim that environmental activists are responsible for stalling its introduction. GMO opponents have not been the problem.
Stone added that the rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done. While activists did destroy one Golden Rice test plot in a 2013 protest, it is unlikely that this action had any significant impact on the approval of Golden Rice.
Destroying test plots is a dubious way to express opposition, but this was only one small plot out of many plots in multiple locations over many years. Moreover, they have been calling Golden Rice critics ‘murderers’ for over a decade.
Believing that Golden Rice was originally a promising idea backed by good intentions, Stone argued:
But if we are actually interested in the welfare of poor children – instead of just fighting over GMOs – then we have to make unbiased assessments of possible solutions. The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for release.
Researchers continue to have problems developing beta carotene-enriched strains that yield as well as non-GM strains already being grown by farmers. Stone and Glover point out that it is still unknown if the beta carotene in Golden Rice can even be converted to vitamin A in the bodies of badly undernourished children. There also has been little research on how well the beta carotene in Golden Rice will hold up when stored for long periods between harvest seasons or when cooked using traditional methods common in remote rural locations.
Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch, has argued that the rapid degradation of beta-carotene in the rice during storage and cooking means it’s not a solution to vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. There are also various other problems, including absorption in the gut, the low and varying levels of beta-carotene that may be delivered by Golden Rice in the first place and the rapid degradation of beta-carotene when stored.
In the meantime, Glenn Stone says that, as the development of Golden Rice creeps along, the Philippines has managed to slash the incidence of Vitamin A deficiency by non-GM methods.
In whose interest?
The evidence presented here might lead us to question why supporters of Golden Rice continue to smear critics and engage in abuse and emotional blackmail when they are not to blame for the failure of Golden Rice to reach the commercial market. Whose interests are they really serving in pushing so hard for this technology?
In 2011, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist with a background in insect ecology and pest management, asked a similar question:
“Who oversees this ambitious project, which its advocates claim will end the suffering of millions?”
She answered her question by stating:
An elite, so-called “Humanitarian Board” where Syngenta sits – along with the inventors of Golden Rice, Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and public relations and marketing experts, among a handful of others. Not a single farmer, indigenous person or even an ecologist, or sociologist to assess the huge political, social, and ecological implications of this massive experiment. And the leader of IRRI’s Golden Rice project is none other than Gerald Barry, previously Director of Research at Monsanto.
Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, has called on the donors and scientists involved to wake up and do the right thing:
Golden Rice is really a ‘Trojan horse’; a public relations stunt pulled by the agri-business corporations to garner acceptance of GE crops and food. The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money… we want to send out a strong message to all those supporting the promotion of Golden Rice, especially donor organizations, that their money and efforts would be better spent on restoring natural and agricultural biodiversity rather than destroying it by promoting monoculture plantations and genetically engineered (GE) food crops.
And she makes a valid point. To tackle disease, malnutrition and poverty, you have to first understand the underlying causes – or indeed want to understand them. Walden Bello notes that the complex of policies that pushed the Philippines into an economic quagmire over the past 30 years is due to ‘structural adjustment’, involving prioritizing debt repayment, conservative macroeconomic management, huge cutbacks in government spending, trade and financial liberalization, privatization and deregulation, the restructuring of agriculture and export-oriented production.
And that restructuring of the agrarian economy is something touched on by Claire Robinson who notes that leafy green vegetables used to be grown in backyards as well as in rice (paddy) fields on the banks between the flooded ditches in which the rice grew. She argues that the ditches also contained fish, which ate pests. People thus had access to rice, green leafy veg, and fish – a balanced diet that gave them a healthy mix of nutrients, including plenty of beta-carotene.
But indigenous crops and farming systems have been replaced by monocultures dependent on chemical inputs. Robinson says that green leafy veg were killed off with pesticides, artificial fertilizers were introduced and the fish could not live in the resulting chemically contaminated water. Moreover, decreased access to land meant that many people no longer had backyards containing leafy green veg. People only had access to an impoverished diet of rice alone, laying the foundation for the supposed Golden Rice ‘solution’.
Whether it concerns The Philippines, Ethiopia, Somalia or Africa as a whole, the effects of IMF/World Bank ‘structural adjustments’ have devastated agrarian economies and made them dependent on Western agribusiness, manipulated markets and unfair trade rules. And GM is now offered as the ‘solution’ for tackling poverty-related diseases. The very corporations which gained from restructuring agrarian economies now want to profit from the havoc caused.
In finishing, let us turn to what the Soil Association argued in 2013: the poor are suffering from broader malnourishment than just vitamin A deficiency; the best solution to vitamin A deficiency is to use supplementation and fortification as emergency sticking-plasters and then for implementing measures which tackle the broader issues of poverty and malnutrition.
Tackling the wider issues includes providing farmers with a range of seeds, tools and skills necessary for growing more diverse crops to target broader issues of malnutrition. Part of this entails breeding crops high in nutrients; for instance, the creation of sweet potatoes that grow in tropical conditions, cross-bred with vitamin A rich orange sweet potatoes, which grow in the USA. There are successful campaigns providing these potatoes, a staggering five times higher in vitamin A than Golden Rice, to farmers in Uganda and Mozambique.
The Soil Association says, despite the fanfare, Golden Rice has not yet actually helped a single person and if commercialised it will not be helping to reduce people’s reliance on a rice-based diet. It believes that we could have gone further in curing blindness in developing countries years ago if only the money, research, and publicity that have gone into Golden Rice over the last 15 years had gone into proven ways of curing the Vitamin A deficiency that causes blindness.
However, instead of pursuing genuine solutions, we continue to get smears and pro-GM spin in an attempt to close down debate.
Campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has just written an open letter to Bayer Crop Science shareholders and Chairman of the Board Werner Wenning. She has also sent them a 13,000-word report. Mason is appealing to shareholders to put human health and nature ahead of profit and to stop funding Bayer. In her report, she sets out why shareholders should take this course of action.
Mason outlines how the gradual onset of the global extinction of many species is largely the result of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture. For instance, she argues that Monsanto’s (now Bayer) glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and Bayer’s clothianidin are largely responsible for the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and that the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoid insecticides are wiping out wildlife species across the globe. Mason also argues that the science behind (chemical-dependent) GMOs is fraudulent and that the devastating effects of pesticides on human health can no longer be ignored.
She begins by addressing some of her concerns directly to Werner Wenning and Bayer shareholders. The following is a slightly edited (for clarity) version Mason’s letter to Wenning (and shareholders) and sets the scene for what is in her report.
Dear Mr Wenning,
I have taken the liberty of writing an Open Letter to Bayer Crop Science Shareholders for your next meeting. I apologise because I can’t find the email address of Paul Singer, Founder of Elliott Management Corporation but could you please pass it on. I understand that Elliott disclosed in June that it has a $1.3 billion stake in Bayer and Paul Singer was anxious for a settlement (glyphosate litigation cases in the US).
US District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco suggested a high-profile mediator, Ken Feinberg to lead settlement talks over the herbicide litigation. Has he resolved anything?
I understand that the Monsanto lobbyist organisation Genetic Literacy Project (Founding Director Jon Entine) has suggested that you might take the European Union to Court if they ban glyphosate in 2022. Liam Condon for Bayer Crop Science said: If we feel a scientific process, an established regulatory pathway, is being completely ignored, then of course we’ve got to look at all our options.
As you must be aware, Cancer Research UK protects the agrochemical industry: the CRUK website claims “there is little evidence that pesticides cause cancer.”
Michael Pragnell former Chairman of Cancer Research UK (2010-2017), founder of Syngenta and former Chairman of CropLife International, was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to cancer research. CropLife International was founded in 2001. As of 2015, CropLife International´s member list included the following eight companies: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC Corp, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. Many of these corporations make their own formulated glyphosate. CRUK said that there was little evidence that pesticides caused cancer. CRUK, the CMO England and PHE, linked cancer to alcohol, obesity and smoking. They blamed the people for ‘lifestyle choices’.
But I have warned Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Under-Secretary of State for Defra, that when the British people wake up to the fact that pesticides are responsible for their reduced life expectancy (and the fact that they spend the last 16-20 years or so in poor health), Defra may be taken to court for re-registering Roundup when they knew it not only caused cancer but a host of other problems that have been outlined in my document.
The 2019 UK State of Nature revealed shocking declines in the natural world 04/10/2019.
Jon Snow, in the Channel 4 Report ‘Extinction Britain: Wildlife survey shows shocking declines in animals’, noted that 14% of UK wildlife faces extinction. Jon Snow has finally told the truth: “We all thought it was climate change. Now we are told we are actually poisoning the land with our agriculture.”
Most UK farmers who manage ‘75% of UK land’ are drowning their crops in pesticides and lobbied to continue this.
The National Farmers’ Union, the Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation combined to lobby the EU not to restrict the 320+ pesticides available to them.
Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development March 2019.
Mandated by the UN Environment Assembly in 2016, this agenda seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development. It takes stock of global trends as well as progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020.
However, there is Continued growth in the pesticide/crop protection industry.
“Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, termiticides, nematicides, rodenticides and fungicides. These products are largely used for crop protection in agriculture. Today the industry is valued at over US dollars 50 billion and there are around 600 active ingredients. Herbicides account for approximately 80 per cent of all pesticide use (Phillips McDougal 2018).”
Top 10 products used on major crops in the United States by volume, 1968 – 2016 (Phillips McDougal 2018, p. 4).
No 1 Glyphosate (an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc. (Monsanto/Bayer),
No 2 metolaclor, an organochlorine, selective herbicide
No 3 pyraclostrobin, a fungicide (Sigma-Aldrich)
No 4 mesotrione, a herbicide (Syngenta)
No 5 thiamethoxam, a systemic neonicotinoid insecticide (Syngenta)
No 6 acetochlor, a herbicide (Monsanto and Zeneca)
No 7 azoxystrobin, a fungicide (Syngenta)
No 8 atrazine, an herbicide and endocrine-disrupting chemical (Syngenta)
No 9 abamectin, an insecticide, an acaricide
No 10 clothianidin, a long acting systemic neonicotinoid insecticide (Bayer)
Bayer Crop Science shareholders, please read the attached document
Do you really want to put your money into two corporations that lied about the safety of their products for more than 40 years and continue to produce BIOCIDES for agriculture; chemicals that are weapons of war and kill all life?
Bayer Crop Science, the former IG Farben, a private chemical company allied with the Nazis in WW2, built a factory and a concentration camp at Auschwitz. IG Farben was probably the most well-known corporate participant in the Holocaust, and the company’s history sheds a chilling light on how genocide became tied in with economics and business.
Rosemary Mason 09/10/2019
Key points for Bayer shareholders to consider
The following lists just some of the key bullet points from Mason’s report. A wide range of peer-reviewed studies are listed in support of the claims made. Readers are strongly urged to access it in full via the acadameia.edu site.
Monsanto and pesticide regulators claim that Roundup only affects plants, fungi and bacteria because they have the shikimate pathway which is absent in humans and animals. Their assertion displays considerable ignorance of human physiology. Alternatively, it is deliberately fraudulent. Humans and animals have trillions of bacteria in their gut: the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is the collective genome of organisms inhabiting our body. Obesity is associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto‘s Roundup and other herbicides, disrupts the shikimate pathway within these gut bacteria, without which we cannot survive. Glyphosate is a strong chelator of essential minerals. In addition, it kills off beneficial gut bacteria and allows toxic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile to flourish. Two key problems caused by glyphosate residues in our diet are nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals and essential amino-acids, and systemic toxicity.
The richness of the human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers: we are facing a global metabolic health crisis provoked by an obesity epidemic. Britain and the US are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis.They are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early.
There is a gradual onset of the global extinction of trees and crops. Moreover, the fungicidal action of Roundup is destroying the means by which trees communicate. It would be irresponsible to release genetically engineered trees into the environment.
Glyphosateis being connected to Lake Erie’s troubling algae blooms, which has fouled drinking water and suffocated and killed marine life in recent years. Roundup and clothianidin are largely responsible for the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef because the APVMA did not read the instructions.
Massive kills of wildlife during flooding now make sense with glyphosate and clothianidin having been found to be toxic to aquatic invertebrates, biocides and immune suppressants.
Emerging pathogens are wiping out wildlife species across the globe partly due to immune suppression by glyphosate and neonicotinoid insecticides.
The science behind GMOs is fraudulent. US Attorney Steven Druker says that governments and leading scientific institutions have systematically misrepresented the facts about GMOs.
In the UK, each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.
Roundup/glyphosate causes birth defects at low doses.
Neurotransmitter changes in the brain derive from exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides.
The global legacy of aspartame, Monsanto’s neurotoxic sweetener: Erik Millstone has just analysed EFSA Panel decisions on Aspartame and finds they are biased towards industry (2019 paper).
All of Rosemary Mason’s reports and open letters to officials can be accessed here.
Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina, localised, traditional methods of food production have given way to global supply chains dominated by policies which favour agri-food giants, resulting in the destruction of habitat and peasant farmer livelihoods and the imposition of a model of agriculture that subjugates remaining farmers and regions to the needs and profit margins of these companies.
Many take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. There is the premise that water, seeds, land, food, soil, forests and agriculture should be handed over to powerful, corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity.
These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible.
Common ownership and management of these assets embodies the notion of people working together for the public good. However, these resources have been appropriated by national states or private entities. For instance, Cargill captured the edible oils processing sector in India and in the process put many thousands of village-based workers out of work; Monsanto conspired to design a system of intellectual property rights that allowed it to patent seeds as if it had manufactured and invented them; and India’s indigenous peoples have been forcibly ejected from their ancient lands due to state collusion with mining companies.
Those who capture essential common resources seek to commodify them — whether trees for timber, land for real estate or agricultural seeds — create artificial scarcity and force everyone else to pay for access. Much of it involves eradicating self-sufficiency.
Traditional systems attacked
Researchers Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahe note that for thousands of years Indian farmers have experimented with different plant and animal specimens acquired through migration, trading networks, gift exchanges or accidental diffusion. They note the vital importance of traditional knowledge for food security in India and the evolution of such knowledge by learning and doing, trial and error. Farmers possess acute observation, good memory for detail and transmission through teaching and storytelling. The very farmers whose seeds and knowledge have been appropriated by corporations to be bred for proprietary chemical-dependent hybrids and now to be genetically engineered.
Large corporations with their seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. Genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced. The eradication of seed diversity went much further than merely prioritising corporate seeds: the Green Revolution deliberately sidelined traditional seeds kept by farmers that were actually higher yielding and climate appropriate.
Across the world, we have witnessed a change in farming practices towards mechanised industrial-scale chemical-intensive monocropping, often for export or for far away cities rather than local communities, and ultimately the undermining or eradication of self-contained rural economies, traditions and cultures. We now see food surpluses in the West and food deficit areas in the Global South and a globalised geopoliticised system of food and agriculture.
A recent article on the People’s Archive of Rural India website highlights how the undermining of local economies continues. In a region of Odisha, farmers are being pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide tolerant cotton seeds and are replacing their traditional food crops.
The authors state that Southern Odisha’s strength lay in multiple cropping systems, but commercial cotton monoculture has altered crop diversity, soil structure, household income stability, farmers’ independence and, ultimately, food security. Farmers used to sow mixed plots of heirloom seeds, which had been saved from family harvests the previous year and would yield a basket of food crops. Cotton’s swift expansion is reshaping the land and people steeped in agroecological knowledge.
The article’s authors Chitrangada Choudhury and Aniket Aga note that cotton occupies roughly 5 per cent of India’s gross cropped area but consumes 36 to 50 per cent of the total quantum of agrochemicals applied nationally. They argue that the scenario here is reminiscent of Vidarbha between 1998 and 2002 – initial excitement over the new miracle (and then illegal) Bt cotton seeds and dreams of great profits, followed by the effects of their water-guzzling nature, the huge spike in expenses and debt and various ecological pressures. Vidarbha subsequently ended up as the epicentre of farmer suicides in the country for over a decade.
Choudhury and Aga echo many of the issues raised by Glenn Stone in his paper ‘Constructing Facts:Bt Cotton Narratives in India’. Farmers are attracted to GM cotton via glossy marketing and promises of big money and rely on what are regarded as authoritative (but compromised) local figures who steer them towards such seeds. There is little or no environmental learning by practice as has tended to happen in the past when adopting new seeds and cultivation practices. It has given way to ‘social learning’, a herd mentality and a treadmill of pesticides and debt. What is also worrying is that farmers are also being sold glyphosate to be used with HT cotton; they are unaware of the terrible history and reality of this ‘miracle’ herbicide, that it is banned or restricted in certain states in India and that it is currently at the centre of major lawsuits in the US.
All this when large agribusiness concerns wrongly insist that we need their seeds and proprietary chemicals if we are to feed a growing global population. There is no money for them in traditional food cropping systems but there is in undermining food security and food sovereignty by encouraging the use of GM cotton and glyphosate or, more generally, corporate seeds.
Across the world, the Green Revolution dovetailed with an international system of chemical-dependent, agro-export mono-cropping and big infrastructure projects (dams) linked to loans, sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF directives, the outcomes of which included a displacement of the peasantry, the consolidation of global agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries into food deficit regions.
Often regarded as Green Revolution 2.0, the ‘gene revolution’ is integral to the plan to ‘modernise’ Indian agriculture. This means the displacement of peasant farmers, further corporate consolidation and commercialisation based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants. If we take occurrences in Odisha as a microcosm, it would also mean the undermining of national food security.
Although traditional agroecological practices have been eradicated or are under threat, there is a global movement advocating a shift towards more organic-based systems of agriculture, which includes providing support to small farms and an agroecology movement that is empowering to people politically, socially and economically.
In his final report to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur, in 2014 Olivier De Schutter called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democratically redesigned. His report was based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years. However, he stated that insufficient backing seriously hinders progress.
And this last point should not be understated. For instance, the success of the Green Revolution is often touted, but how can we really evaluate it? If alternatives had been invested in to the same extent, if similar powerful and influential interests had invested in organic-based models, would we now not be pointing to the runaway successes of organic-based agroecological farming and, importantly, without the massive external costs of a polluted environment, less diverse diets, degraded soils and nutrient deficient food, ill health and so on?
The corporations which promote chemical-intensive industrial agriculture have embedded themselves deeply within the policy-making machinery on both national and international levels. From the overall bogus narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, global agri-food conglomerates have secured a perceived thick legitimacy within policy makers’ mindsets and mainstream discourse. The integrity of society’s institutions have been eroded by corporate money, funding and influence, which is why agroecology as a credible alternative to corporate agriculture remains on the periphery.
But the erosion of that legitimacy is underway. In addition to De Schutter’s 2014 report, the 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommends agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. Moreover, the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.
Writer and academic Eric Holtz-Gimenez argues that agroecology offers concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture. In doing so, it challenges – and offers alternatives to – plunder which takes place under a prevailing system of doctrinaire neoliberal economics that in turn drives a failing model of industrial agriculture.
The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology by Nyeleni in 2015 argued for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It went on to say that agroecology should not become a tool of the industrial food production model but as the essential alternative to that model. The Declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.
It involves prioritising localised rural and urban food economies and small farms and shielding them from the effects of rigged trade and international markets. It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions.
Whether in Europe, Africa, India or the US, agroecology can protect and reassert the commons and is a force for grass-root change. This model of agriculture is already providing real solutions for sustainable, productive agriculture that prioritise the needs of farmers, citizens and the environment.
Anti-Imperialism protest in the Phillippines. Photo: Carlo Manalansan by Bulatlat
‘Ukrainegate’ has opened the floodgates of impeachment in Washington, DC. President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky provided such an opportunity that Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who resisted pressure for impeachment, is now on board along with a majority of the party. Democrats are moving quickly to make Trump the third president ever to be impeached.
Conviction is up to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required, so that is very unlikely. Trump will probably be the Republican nominee even though he has never broken 50 percent support in the polls. Chris Hedges writes that a partisan impeachment will anger the people in Trump’s base who view him as challenging the establishment and could backfire for the Democrats.
The political impact of impeachment depends on how the Democrats build their case and whether it becomes bi-partisan. Richard Nixon grew more unpopular and public support for his impeachment grew during the process. Bill Clinton consistently had more than 60 percent support during his presidency, ending with 66 percent popularity while support for impeachment decreased as it progressed. Trump starts with a historically low level of popularity, whether an angered base and failed impeachment in the Senate will help Trump is too soon to say.
Impeachment by the House seems inevitable even though less than a majority of voters currently support it. The Democrats need to be careful because shining a light on Ukraine, where Obama-Biden conducted the most open coup in US history (until the recent Trump failed coup in Venezuela,) could undermine Joe Biden, their highest polling candidate. It will also expose the ugly realities of US foreign policy, the corporate control of both parties and the need for fundamental change in US politics.
Joe Biden with Petro Poroshenko, who was an informant for the US government for six years before becoming president. Photo: Sergey Dolzhenko for EPA.
The US Coup in Ukraine
The openness of the US coup in Ukraine is something to behold. In December 2013, Victoria Nuland, the Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, bragged to a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and “five years worth of work and preparation” to bring Ukraine into the US orbit. In November 2013, President Yanuyovch rejected an EU Agreement in favor of joining Russia’s Common Union with the other Commonwealth Independent States.
The timeline of events around the coup shows pressure and bribery were being used including the promise of a $1.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and $850 million from the World Bank. Nuland described three trips to Ukraine where she made it “absolutely clear” to Yanukovych that the US required “immediate steps” …to “get back into conversation with Europe and the IMF.” Threats and payoffs were the modes of US operation.
Nuland was also meeting with the Ukrainian opposition including the neo-Nazi Svoboda party. Less than one month before the coup removed Yanuyovch on January 30, 2014, the State Department announced Nuland would be meeting “with government officials, opposition leaders, civil society and business leaders to encourage agreement on a new government and plan of action.” On February 4, Nuland was caught speaking on a taped open telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, discussing the next government saying, “I think Yats is the guy,” referring to Holocaust-denier, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became the post-coup prime minister. In the call, she also urged that Yats should work with neo-Nazis.
Shortly after Yats became Prime Minister, Joe Biden called him. Biden was the White House point-person on Ukraine. At a press conference, Obama touted Biden’s role while stumbling over Yats’ name, saying: “Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister [pause] – the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts.”
OU added another US agent, Natalia Jaresko, a long-time State Department official, who went to Ukraine after the U.S.-sponsored Orange Revolution. Jaresko was made a Ukrainian citizen by OU on the same day he appointed her finance minister. Between the Orange Revolution and the 2014 coup, William Boardman reports, Jaresko ran a hedge fund in Ukraine used to manage “a CIA fund that supported ‘pro-democracy movements’ and laundered much of the $5 billion the US spent supporting the Maidan protests that led to the Kiev coup.” Jaresko received $1.77 million in bonuses from the tax-payer funded investment project in addition to her $150,000 annual salary. She is now head of the “La Junta” in Puerto Rico.
In addition to controlling the top government posts in Ukraine, the US moved to control key economic sectors. Regarding agriculture, Monsanto was given the ability to buy property (which had been previously forbidden) and an $8.7 billion IMF loan required Ukraine to allow biotech farming and the sale of Monsanto’s poison crops and chemicals thereby destroying farmland that was one of the most pristine in Europe.
Regarding energy, the largest private gas company in Ukraine, Bursima Holdings, appointed Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter Biden, and a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry, and Devon Archer, the college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, to the board. Archer also served as an adviser to Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, co-chaired his National Finance Committee and serves as a trustee of the Heinz Family Office, which manages the family business. Hunter Biden and Archer, along with Christopher Heinz, co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners.
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Saul Loeb for Getty Images
Trump’s Phone Call with Zelensky Urging Investigation of Biden
Donald Trump is concerned about Biden as a political opponent in the 2020 election. Although he is fading in current polls, Biden still leads among Democrats seeking the nomination and defeats Trump in all head-to-head polls, as do other leading Democratic candidates.
The impeachment spike occurred because of a July 25 telephone call between Trump and President Zelensky where Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Biden. A CIA official filed a whistleblower complaint about it and the Inspector General sent a letter to Jerry Maguire, Director of National Intelligence, who initially withheld both from Congress. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, found the complaint to be “credible” and “of urgent concern” and alerted Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, about it. The administration has taken steps to restrict access to records of the call, the transcript of which has still not been provided to Congress.
Since December 2018, Rudy Guiliani had been pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and Hunter Biden’s involvement with Bursima. The April 21 election of Zelensky and July 21 Parliamentary elections, which brought in a new government, undid much of Guiliani’s lobbying. Trump’s call after the legislative elections, ostensibly to congratulate Zelensky, included multiple mentions of the need to investigate Biden. The Washington Post reports, “Days after the two presidents spoke…Giuliani met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden’s son Hunter on his board. Another was an allegation that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.”
Manafort was one of the few convictions from the Mueller investigation. Manafort was indicted on twelve counts, including committing conspiracy against the United States by failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine. Manafort pleaded guilty to that charge in September 2018.
Democrats calling for impeachment describe Trump’s actions as coercing a foreign nation into the 2020 elections by pressuring them to investigate a chief rival, Joe Biden. Trump withheld military funding for Ukraine and scheduling a meeting with Zelensky at the White House as coercive instruments. US policy in Ukraine has emphasized militarism against Russia since the coup. The New Yorker reports, “McCain was calling for the U.S. to arm Ukraine for defense against a ‘Russian invasion’ that he sees as part of Putin’s plan to ‘re-establish the old Russian empire.’ McCain also called for the U.S. to send military ‘advisors.’”
Trump says he is waiting to see if Zelensky will “play ball” with the US. Trump is using threats and payoffs in Ukraine, just as Joe Biden did.
Joe Biden points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2009. Photo: Carlos Barria For Reuters.
The Risk to Biden Grows
While Trump is deservedly at serious risk for impeachment, the risk to Biden is also growing. Politico reports that Joe Biden is waging war on the Hunter Biden-Ukraine reporting. The risk to Biden is existential, he needs Democrats to remain silent and for the impeachment inquiry not to examine what Trump was investigating in Ukraine.
In January 2018, Biden bragged on video in his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations how he pressured Ukraine to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin saying he would not approve a $1 billion dollar IMF loan if Shokin was not fired before Biden left Ukraine during a six-hour visit. On April 1, The Hill published an article that reports: “The prosecutor [Biden] got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.” They report Rosemont Seneca Partners received “regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015,” confirmed by US banking records. Shokin’s file shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer, and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of the money.
The article further reports that Shokin wrote before he was fired that he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.” This is consistent with a sworn affidavit of Shokin (see shokin-ukraine-prosecutor-sworn-statement) where he said, “Poroshenko asked me to resign due to pressure from…Joe Biden…who was threatening to withhold USD $1 billion in subsidies to Ukraine until I was removed.” There were no complaints against Shokin at the time. He explains, “The truth is I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe of Bursima Holdings.” Shokin describes how Poroshenko had asked him to end the probe multiple times and he had refused.
The Hill reports that “interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day.” Obama named Biden the administration’s point man on Ukraine in February 2014, after the coup and as Crimea was voting to return to Russia.
The New Yorker not only details Hunter’s personal and professional problems but also reports that Guiliani said “in the fall of 2018, he spoke to Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former Prosecutor General. Shokin told him that Vice-President Biden had him fired in 2016 because he was investigating Burisma and the company’s payments to Hunter and Archer. Giuliani said that, in January 2019, he met with Yurii Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, in New York, and Lutsenko confirmed Shokin’s version of events.” Biden and his supporters are working to change the narrative, perhaps the impeachment inquiry will get the facts out.
This weekend, Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s former prime minister from 2010-2014, said in an interview that Ukraine must investigate whether Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma complied with the country’s laws; i.e., investigate what Biden had done for Burisma to justify his remuneration. Further, he said allegations that Joe Biden had gotten Ukraine’s prosecutor general fired to protect his son must also be investigated. On Friday, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was investigating activity at Burisma between 2010-2012, but it was not looking into changes to its board in 2014 when Hunter Biden joined.
Protesters opposing a coup against Nicolás Maduro outside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2019. Photo: Jose Luis Magana for AP.
The Quagmire Of US Imperialism
The Ukraine crisis exposes the bipartisan corruption inherent in the US imperialist foreign policy. An investigation into Ukraine may expose what are actually common practices by both Democratic and Republican administrations in regime change efforts. As John Kiriakou explained when he gave a talk at the Venezuelan Embassy during the Embassy Protection Collective action, the CIA has a secret regime change office that provides plans to overthrow any government the US chooses to target. These plans involve similar tactics – the investment of large amounts of money into NGOs (often ‘human rights groups’), support for a violent opposition, installing US-trained and controlled leaders and payoffs for those involved.
In the past, these practices occurred behind closed doors, but now it seems the ruling class has become so brazen, it doesn’t try very hard to hide what it’s doing. This provides an opportunity for the public to discuss whether or not the current foreign policy is serving our interests or the world. If we agree that it doesn’t, then it is up to us to organize to change it.
Other countries have resisted regime change but have paid a heavy price. Syria is trying to rebuild after more than eight years of war instigated and supported by the US. Venezuela is resisting ongoing coup attempts and brutal unilateral coercive measures imposed by the US. This week at the United Nations, Venezuela successfully prevented the US from removing its diplomats but the US doubled down on its regime change tactics. Even leading Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are making false claims about Venezuela.
As residents in a corrupt, corporate-controlled, imperialist country, we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to take action to stop the US disastrous foreign policy. The world is changing. The US will no longer be the hegemon. Will we allow the US to continue wreaking havoc as it goes down, or are we ready to change course and become a cooperative member of the global community? Last weekend, we held the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine. On October 11, we’ll participate in the Rage Against the War Machine actions at the White House. We are committed to organizing to end US imperialism because it is fundamental in creating the future world we need.
Much of the following article is based on a new 20-page report by environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason. Readers are urged to access the full report containing all relevant citations here.
In a new paper published in King’s Law Journal — ‘The Chemical Anthropocene: Glyphosate as a Case Study of Pesticide Exposures’ — the authors Alessandra Arcuri and Yogi Hale Hendlin state:
As the science against glyphosate safety mounts and lawsuits threaten its chemical manufacture’s profits, the next generation of GMO crops are being keyed to the pesticide dicamba, sold commercially as XtendiMax® – and poised to be the next glyphosate. Regulatory agencies have historically been quick to approve products but slow to reconsider regulations after the decades of accumulated harms become apparent.
They add that the entrenched asymmetries between public and ecological health and fast-to-market new chemicals is exacerbated by the seeming lack of institutionalised precautionary policies.
According to environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason, these ‘entrenched asymmetries’ result from the corporate capture of key policy-making bodies and their subversion by agri-food oligopolies.
Such collusion comes as little surprise to Mason who says the government’s ‘strategy for UK life sciences’ is already dependent on funding from pharmaceutical corporations and the pesticides industry:
Syngenta’s parent company is AstraZeneca. In 2010, Syngenta and AstraZeneca were represented on the UK Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Foods, Consumer Products and the Environment. The founder of Syngenta, Michael Pragnell CBE, was the Chairman of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) from 2011-2017. CRUK started by giving money (£450 million/year) to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences and AstraZeneca provided 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines. AstraZeneca manufactures six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.
It seems like a highly profitable and cozy relationship between the agrochemical and pharmaceutical sectors and the government at the expense of public health.
Mason states that pesticides have been conveniently kept off the public health agenda: people are being blamed for obesity and rising rates of illness because of lifestyle choices. Because ‘loosely’ regulated and unmonitored pesticides continue to proliferate, she says that each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.
However, it is not just human health that is at risk from pesticides.
In 2010, Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes described neonicotinoid insecticides as an unfolding disaster. In his book The Systemic Pesticides: a Disaster in the Making, he catalogued a tragedy of monumental proportions regarding the loss of invertebrates and subsequent losses of the insect-feeding (invertebrate- dependent) bird populations in all environments in the Netherlands.
The disappearance can be related to agriculture in general, and to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid in particular, which is a major contaminant of Dutch surface water since 2004. The relationship exists because there are two crucial (and catastrophic) disadvantages of the neonicotinoid insecticides: they cause damage to the central nervous system of insects that is virtually irreversible and cumulative. There is no safe level of exposure, and even minute quantities can have devastating effects in the long term; they leach into groundwater and contaminate surface water and persist in soil and water chronically exposing aquatic and terrestrial organisms to these insecticides. So, what, in effect, is happening is that these insecticides are creating a toxic landscape, in which many beneficial organisms are killed off.
From Rachel Carson back in 1962 with her book Silent Spring to more recent researchers, governments have been warned about the catastrophic effects of pesticides but have continued to capitulate to industry interests.
Mason counts the costs of these unheeded warnings. In 2017, scientists in Germany found three quarters of flying insects had vanished in 25 years in protected habitats surrounded by intensively farmed land. It was predicted that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon” and profound impacts would be felt by human society.
In France, scientists have revealed a massive decline in bird populations. The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn. The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects which they depend on for food have disappeared.
This global insect apocalypse is largely the result of intensive agriculture and pesticide usage. According to Mason, one of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.
The demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached alarming proportions over the last two decades.
Mason refers to documents that reveal the EU bowed to demands of pesticide lobbies and created SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) which she says is “a committee of corrupt individuals that would actually increase sales of pesticides.”
She notes that the environmental group Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) has obtained over 600 documents showing top EU officials fighting to “cripple” the bloc’s pesticide protection legislation. They show top officials trying to protect chemical and farming interests (and profits) from incoming European rules that were expected to directly ban up to 32 endocrine disrupting (EDC) pesticides. Mason concludes that current EU legislation is set up in favour of the pesticides industry.
In discussing the failure of regulators to keep hazardous chemicals from polluting our wildlife, food, air and drinking water. Mason cites several studies and reports and concludes that thousands of chemicals have entered the food system. Their long-term, chronic effects have been woefully understudied and their health risks inadequately assessed.
It is worrying to think that, globally, sales of synthetic chemicals are to double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment if governments continue to fail to rein in the plastics, pesticides and cosmetics industries. The second Global Chemicals Outlook (2019) says the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity’s dependence on chemicals ever been as great.
Global agricultural corporations have been severely criticised by Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food. A report presented to the UN human rights council in 2017 was severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.
Elver says many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people: “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger,” she says, despite industry propaganda which claims it and its chemicals are necessary for feeding the world. This is simply not true. Numerous high-level reports say that agroecology can feed the world healthily and sustainably.
At the Royal Society of Medicine Conference on pesticides safety, the late Peter Melchett presented alarming figures from official sources. The number of active ingredients applied to wheat had risen 12-fold from 1.7 in 1974 to 20.7 in 2014; that those applied to potatoes had risen 5.8 times from 5.3 in 1975 to 30.8 in 2014; that those applied to onions and leeks had risen 18-fold from 5.3 in 1975 to 30.8 in 2014. Pesticides are tested individually but no one tests the cocktail of pesticides to which humans and the environment are exposed.
The Chief Scientist for the UK’s Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Professor Ian Boyd has pointed out that once a pesticide is approved there is no follow up.
Moreover, Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London, told a Royal Society of Medicine conference that the adjuvants in commercial pesticide formulations can be toxic in their own right and in some cases more toxic than the declared active ingredients. Yet only the active ingredients are tested and assessed for long-term health effects in the regulatory process. He also said that research on hormone-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides, shows that very low realistic doses can be more toxic than higher doses.
Nevertheless, Dave Bench, head of UK Chemicals Regulation Division, has described the regulatory system for pesticides as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society. Does this mean balancing industry profits against public interest on a set of scales heavily weighted in favour of the former?
Glyphosate in the dock
Hilal Elver has stated that to address the pesticides issue, we must deal with the corporations pushing them. And this is not lost on Mason who documents Monsanto’s dirty tactics to keep its multi-billion-dollar money-spinner glyphosate-based Roundup on the market.
Bayer CEO Werner Bauman has told his top-tier investors that Bayer had performed an adequate due-diligence on Monsanto before purchasing the company for $66 billion. At the time of its purchase, Monsanto told its German suitors that a $270-million set-aside would cover all its outstanding liabilities arising from Monsanto’s 5,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits.
But Bauman has conceded to anxious shareholders that Monsanto had withheld internal papers relevant to the case. Bayer never saw those internal Monsanto documents prior to the purchase.
Robert F Kennedy, co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Law, which is representing nearly 800 people in the US who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma, says that it was no surprise that Monsanto kept secrets from Bayer.
He notes that Dewayne Johnson’s jury heard evidence that for four decades Monsanto maneuvered to conceal Roundup’s carcinogenicity by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning. The jury found that these activities constituted “malice, fraud and oppression” warranting $250 million in punitive damages.
Perhaps more ominously for Bayer, Monsanto also faces cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts. Strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.
“Researchers peg glyphosate as a potent endocrine disruptor, which interferes with sexual development in children. The chemical compound is certainly a chelator that removes important minerals from the body, including iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and molybdenum. Roundup disrupts the microbiome destroying beneficial bacteria in the human gut and triggering brain inflammation and other ill effects.
Kennedy states that glyphosate now accounts for about 50% of all herbicide use in the US. About 75% of glyphosate use has occurred since 2006, with the global glyphosate market projected to reach $11.74 billion by 2023. He adds that never in history has a chemical like glyphosate been so pervasive. It is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. It’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.
The issues outlined here are not confined to Europe, the UK or the US. From Argentina to India, the agri-food industry is subverting public institutions and adversely impacting diets, food, public health and the environment.
Regardless of a rapidly emerging health and environmental apocalypse, unrestrained capitalism reigns, profits trump public interest and its business as usual.
It’s a modest apartment in Newport where I sit with Susan Swift to go over “quite the life” as any listener might say about this feisty, spiritual and articulate, world-traveling woman.
The hitching post Susan and I tie our respective philosophical steeds on is “philosophy” and “fate,” although we could have brought in a whole team of other steeds to pull the conversation toward all spiritual directions.
“I know what is mine to do,” the 73-year-old Swift states early on in our talk. Since her life here on the coast — Five Rivers first — not only started in 1972 as a search for environmental justice, she also fell into a what would be a life-long walkabout as a student of karma, Dharma and the meaning of interconnected “souls.”
Before the Central Coast mountains, Waldport, Seal Rock and Newport, Susan was living the Southern California lifestyle in Compton.
The Alsea basin seems worlds away from her birthplace of Inglewood. Quickly, though, she and her husband and a whole slew of residents became embroiled in cloak and dagger drama, rising to the level of the US Forest Service spraying chemicals on their land, Dow Chemical and their lawyers attempting to wear down citizens’ groups, bugged telephones, and various sundry nefarious things unfolding in a seemingly isolated rural community.
One of Susan’s cohorts has already been featured in my column Deep Dive — Carol Van Strum. For more information on those battles with toxics, bad science and broken promises by officials breaking the rule of protecting public health, safety and welfare, read Oregon Coast TODAY, “A Real-Life Toxic Avenger.”
Sometimes a young life lived produces an amazingly detailed and complex life, for sure. However, in the end, when a journalist runs into a person like Swift, with seven-plus decades under her belt, a series of floodgates open up.
Toxins, Dirty Water, Building Family
Sure, Citizens Against Toxic Sprays is a big part of her foundation, 45 years ago when she was living in the woods, in a teepee and a small shack with Calvin Parker, husband number two (one of three, but who’s counting), and her son Joe Lund from a previous marriage.
C.A.T.S. was created with the organizing skills of Susan and others in the rural community, propelled by fear — the debilitating, permanent and deadly harm being perpetrated by officials and for-profit companies upon adults, children, pets, penned animals, wildlife and drinking water through herbicide spraying.
There’s plenty of newspaper copy and radio clips on Susan’s life out here, her singing, putting on events for the legal battle against the chemical companies and their spraying ways; her work on the Lincoln County Planning Commission and other issues tied to public health. She’s been featured in a November 23, 1980 article in Salem’s Statesman Journal.
What anchors much of what I see while talking with Susan (and in reporting on the people of this area) is best captured in one short passage from that article about Susan written by Kristine Rosemary with the Statesman Journal:
Now, to make any sense of the art of diplomacy as practiced in the hidden rural valleys and insulated towns of the Oregon Coast Range, you must consider this: It is a place of overlapping generations of emigrants, each with its own notions of how to live with the land. Rain and shards of Chinese-looking mists blow into those hollows in a thrashing wind. And writhing vines of domestic blackberry gone feral make a slow triumph of thorns. The children of homesteaders who came to farm these fertile valleys were joined 50 years after, by a second wave of urban exiles.
An emblematic quote and a microcosm of what this Oregon Coast now faces with population influxes, lack of affordable housing, more pollution to contend with, climate change and shifting economic, cultural and generational baselines. What is left out even in this Statesman Journal’s prescient description is what’s not included so many times in countless articles — who was here first.
The Siuslaw and Kuitsh people began settling the coast more than 9,000 years ago. They have probably lived in the same locations for hundreds of generations.
Who knows if that paper mill, hotel or housing development was built on an ancient significant site? Or on top of sacred burial grounds, or over summer root-picking fields or a shaman’s spiritual place?
Coast as Healing Center
Susan Swift, RN, formerly known as Mrs. Parker, Swedish massage therapist, is keenly aware of Native American history as her daughter, Autumn Rayne, is part Cheyenne. What has been germinated from those early days in Five Rivers, then in Waldport, and then to the Valley and even Portland, is a determined septuagenarian who has lived on a wildlife refuge in India, ended up in Egypt on a spiritual journey and has met the Dali Lama.
There are stories layered onto life lessons, like shoots on an old fig tree. Her past, Susan says, is her journey forward. She’s helped Mo and her husband (of the Oregon Coast’s famed seafood and chowder restaurants, Mo’s) get through the last days of their lives as their in-home certified care taker. She’s played guitar and sang with husband number three — musician and instrument maker, and she’s chased elephants out of her garden of succulents.
Iterations of her life include head of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, nursing school, working at a mental health unit in Portland, and now writing, which she’s recently pursued in a memoir workshop at the senior center.
The coast is the healing breath she takes with her wherever she ventures. Susan believes she has past lives (that we all do) to account for and to make amends with, as well as to understand in order to carry forth on a pathway to enlightenment. Ironically, Susan Swift says her gift of energy empathy and nursing came at a young age: “I first learned my hands could take away pain when I was 10 years old.”
Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.
— Thích Nh?t H?nh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist
Do what you love because the universe will support you. Speak and say what you want.
Be specific. Then get out of the way and let the universe take care of the details.
— Susan Swift, July 8, 2019
She laughs because her prayers for a partner were answered, but she wasn’t specific enough — “I didn’t mention that partner should be on the same continent.” That spiritual partner was living in India.
She went to India for a workshop with 45 people from 15 countries. That’s where she met this tall, dark handsome Reiki master. “He was raised Muslim, and I was raised Christian, and we came to the same spiritual place, looking for the same spiritual answers.” That was in 2005. She returned to the USA and had a spiritual awakening with him over the years — sharing emails, letters, phone calls.
“In 2010, I retired, closed up the Vancouver house, put everything I owned into my son’s house in Covington, Washington.” She spent a total of four years in India, on a wildlife refuge: Mudamalli Wildlife Refuge in Tamil Nadu. Her partner was Nijamudeen. Susan was “totally embraced by this huge Muslim family.”
Her travails get complicated as Susan courses back and forth through her own chronological history and these many points of enlightenment in her 73 years. She has a thousand stories floating around her cranium. I fill pages and pages of notes.
How she got to India, with her healing touch on a dog that had been attacked by a black panther, covers all levels of spiritual and geographical ground. She went to Egypt in 2003 on a prayer for peace journey with 250 people from 25 nations. She talks excitedly about going down the Nile and to a resort on the Red Sea. She talks about the guides and hotel charges playing the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, wherever they went since the tour’s theme was taken from the songwriter’s famous piece.
The trip was part of a far-reaching international push to get George W. Bush and his administration to hold off on a violent attack on Iraq, to instead follow international players’ plans to get Saddam Hussein to agree to step down with loads of money.
“I told an Egyptian woman that this was my first use of a passport as an American, and I was ashamed and told her I couldn’t handle it. She held me and told me calmly: ‘America is the world’s great hope for democracy and freedoms. We understand that your president was appointed by the court and wasn’t elected by the people of your country.’”
The Enlightened Being is Really Inside Our “self”
Now rewind to 1982, and Susan Parker is headed for Seaside, to catch a talk by the Dali Llama concerning China’s latest offer to return Tibet to China. “It was quite an entourage. I was at the greeting line. Oh my gosh, there I was telling the Dali Llama I was so honored and most joyful about his visit, with my sandalwood mala in my hand. He leaned in and bonked third eyes with me.”
A life is not always marked out with milestones set forth in an organized and clear path, but for the sake of brevity, it might be wise to follow our Central Coast resident using a timeline to get through some of her dynamic, compelling life chapters.
She grew up in a working-class family in Compton, and as stated earlier, she knew she had healing hands as a youngster placing them on her mom’s two ruptured spinal discs. The young Susan wanted to be outside playing baseball, “but my hands seemed to know what to do with the muscle spasms the size of my fists.”
Those healing hands more than five decades later would take care of a large tumor on Nami (Namaste), the Basenji dog in India she adopted, and used her healing words to help Gemmee, who has his shoulder gashed after it had outrun a black panther. “Nami never barked, just commented about everything in this yodeling song.”
Back to the Land on the Lam
Back to how she ended up in Five Rivers — she was with Calvin Parker, a Northern Montana Cheyenne she met in Pasadena. He was a sergeant in the US Army, about to be sent to Vietnam. He ended up AWOL, and the couple moved to Five Rivers where his sister was living in an old school house.
They lived in a 15-by-30, cold-water shack heated by a wood-burning-stove. “During this time, I was dreaming of a dark-haired, light-eyed girl.” (which eventually was their daughter, Autumn Rayne)
Susan ended up taking minutes for the local school committee. She found an old mimeograph machine and put together the Five Rivers Run-off Community Newsletter, stuffing flyers into mailboxes. That’s when she took notice of the herbicides issue popping up in editorials inside the Newport News Times.
“I hadn’t gone to school at that point, but I created a health form survey, passing it out door to door, all the way from Highway 34 to the mill. So many miscarriages, tumors and cancers were reported.” That was 1974, and Susan Swift shakes her head as she tells me that a scientist from OSU still advocates there is nothing wrong with 2,4,5-T.
This community of mostly women fighting the forest service and prevailing conservative strains of science worked together to build their adopted family on many levels. Susan laughs again recalling she was living in a teepee with two kids before getting her first place in Waldport. She was a single mom with a three- and 11-year-old. “They were exposed to musicians and artists coming and going all the time.” Joseph Lund graduated from Waldport High in 1985, and did the first video yearbook for the school.
She became an EMT-in-training for the Waldport Ambulance, graduating as the first woman to drive the ambulance. She ended working at a spa in Yachats. In 1978 she was lecturing at Lane Community College teaching different classes on the health effects of herbicide exposure, chemical releases in forestry and the dioxin molecule, diagramming it on the board, showing students how it worked.
She moved into her first house in Seal Rock, and put out her first shingle, “Susan Parker, LMT,” above a Waldport barbershop. The place became a center for healing. Transpersonal healing, encounters with lives, and more would begin to charge her life and encompass her interests.
“No matter what you believe, doing things out of compassion for others is as healing as we can get.”
She moved to Newport in the 1980s, at this point managing the Ocean Food Co-op. She was one of the spearheads to create an Oceana board of directors, hire a paid bookkeeper and charge a $10 yearly fee.
She met Husband Number Three at an open mic session at a local bar and eatery in Waldport. He was a guitarist and “amazingly gifted instrument maker.”
“I bought a guitar for twenty-five dollars cash and twenty-five in food stamps. I taught myself guitar and sang the songs I wanted to sing . . . positive ones. That’s when he said, ‘I like your voice.’” The marriage lasted one and a half years, but they are still friends.
With a belief in past lives, Susan takes many things both in stride and contextualized through transpersonal psychology, but she also has both feet in the waters of transglobal spirituality and multiple contexts for enlightenment and “godliness.”
Healing & Being in the Right Place Spiritually
Fate, she calls it, or her life’s proscribed journey points. She even ended up getting the finances for nursing school after working hard to take care of Mo (Mohava Niemi) who she was with until Mo died in 1992, as well as taking care of Mo’s spouse, Dutch Niemi, until he too passed on.
Dutch (he was a Finnish fisherman) had always wanted to send a child in need to college, but instead after Susan’s healing ways and hearing all the people taking care of his medical needs tell Susan she was a born natural for RN school, Dutch came through. “Dutch said he wanted to help me. That $9,000 helped me pay off bills and made it possible to go to nursing school.”
She worked for Dutch on weekends while she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. That healing and spiritual medical caretaking continued after nursing school graduation. She worked for a Portland neurosurgeon for three years, and she worked with the Oregon State Mental Hospital Portland campus as the lead nurse for six.
Her first nursing job was at Corvallis Manor, but she also took her caring hands and gifted spirit of empathy to a group home for developmentally disabled adults, Portland’s Eliot House.
“I treated every patient as a precious soul.”
While there was a 20-year absence from Lincoln County between 1994 and 2014, the draw to this area has been strong. She has joined up with Lincoln County Community Rights which just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its successful effort to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County.
She’s done some driving for Yaquina Cab, shuttling people to and from the hospital. In this interview, Susan and I gravitate back to her story and her natural gifts — her abilities to organize and to start things, and her deep well of beliefs around alternative healing, energy fields on the body, and reincarnation.
These are book-level ideas, sculpted around a life still in the making, but one lived complexly and with mindfulness: with the added hues and tones of adventure, unique healing and death and dying situations painted in. One can hope she will see the light and eventually put down in writing a life well-lived, one where young and old might learn new (or old) meditative and mediation practices.
In our vapid celebrity culture, which is obsessed with putting the limelight on the rich, famous, or infamous, an authentic woman’s gritty and universal story should be compelling, to say the least.
“We have a choice everyday how we think. What you focus on, expands. We can choose how to go through this life. We need to just get out of our own way and begin living.”
The information below and the quotes were taken from the 12-page report that accompanied Rosemary Mason’s recent open letter to the Chief Medical Officer to England, Sally Davies. It can be accessed here.
Campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has written an open letter to the Chief Medical Officer of England, Sally Davies. In it, Mason states that none of the more than 400 pesticides that have been authorised in the UK have been tested for long-term actions on the brain: in the foetus, in children or in adults.
The UK Department of Health (DoH) has previously stated that pesticides are not its concern. But, according to Mason, they should be. She says that Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s showed that endocrine disrupters (EDCs) were changing humans and the environment, but this research was ignored by officials. Glyphosate, the most widespread herbicide in the world, is an EDC and a nervous system disrupting chemical.
In a book published in 1996, Our Stolen Future: How Man-made Chemicals are Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival, Colborn (d. 2014) and colleagues revealed the full horror of what was happening to the world as a result of contamination with EDCs. There was emerging scientific research about how a wide range of these chemicals can disrupt delicate hormone systems in humans. These systems play a critical role in processes ranging from human sexual development to behaviour, intelligence and the functioning of the immune system.
In addition to glyphosate, EDCs include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). DDT, chlordane, lindane, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, heptachlor, dioxin, atrazine and dacthal.
The concentration of persistent chemicals can be magnified millions of times as they travel to the ends of the earth… Many chemicals that threaten the next generation have found their way into our bodies. There is no safe, uncontaminated place.
Mason says that Colburn predicted that this would involve sexual development and adds this is why certain people may be confused about their sexuality.
She says to Davies:
You were appointed as interim CMO by David Cameron in June 2010; you became the permanent holder in 2011. Was that once you had assured him of your loyalty by not mentioning pesticides?
She continues by saying:
You did not train as a specialist in public health but as a consultant haematologist, specialising in haemoglobinopathies. You joined the Civil Service in 2004 and became Chief Scientific Adviser to the Health Secretary. Did David Cameron instruct Tracey Brown OBE from Sense about Science, a lobby organisation for GMO crops, to be your minder? When the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a paper saying that exposure to chemicals during pregnancy could damage the foetus, you and Tracey Brown publicly made fun of it.
After that I wrote to you about the Faroes Statement: in 2007, twenty-five experts in environmental health from eleven countries (including from the UK) met on the Faroes and contributed to this statement: ‘The periods of embryonic, foetal and infant development are remarkably susceptible to environmental hazards. Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in infants, children and across the entire span of human life.’ You asked Dr John Harrison from Public Health England to write to me to reassure me that there was no evidence that it was true.
You made an announcement in 2011 that antibiotic resistance was an apocalyptic threat to humans and the issue should be added to the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies… When I informed you that one of glyphosate’s many actions was as an antibiotic, you ignored me. Dr Don Huber, a Plant Pathologist from Purdue University, Indiana, says that glyphosate is an antibiotic, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.
Mason doesn’t waste much time in drawing conclusions as to why her previous letters to Davies and other officials have been ignored or sidelined. She notes that between May 2010 and the end of 2013 the UK Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry and concludes that commercial interests are currently in control of key decisions about the public’s health.
In 2014, an open letter from America warned citizens, politicians and regulators in the UK and EU against adopting GM crops and glyphosate. It was endorsed by NGOs, scientists, anti-GM groups, celebrities, food manufacturers and others representing 60 million citizens in the US. Mason draws attention to the fact that the letter outlined eight independent papers describing environmental harm and six about the threat to human health.
But David Cameron, PM at the time, ignored it. The European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority also ignored it. Glyphosate was relicensed.
Mason asked relevant officials why the EFSA was regularly increasing the maximum residue levels of glyphosate in foods at the request of Monsanto but has received no reply.
Professor Philippe Grandjean, the leader of the conference that issued the ‘Faroes Statement’, released the book: Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development – and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation (2013). In reviewing the book, Theo Colbern said:
This book is a huge gift to humankind from an eminent scientist. Grandjean tells the truth about how we have been ruining the brain power of each new generation and asks if there are still enough intelligent people in the world today to reverse the problem. I cannot rid myself of the idea that too many brains have been drained and society is beyond the point of no return. We must learn from the follies and scandals that Grandjean reveals and stop the chemical brain drain before it is too late.
But pesticides are ignored
A key point that Mason wants to make to Davies is that lifestyle choices are not to blame for rising rates of diseases, cancer and obesity; these increases are the outcome of the toxic cocktails of pesticides and other chemicals we are consuming.
Mason says to Davies about the Chief Medical Officer for England’s 2019 annual report:
For your final report, you failed to mention many diseases afflicting people in the UK… You claim that you work independently and you are going to write about childhood obesity in September. But why did you collude with Cancer Research UK to blame the people for obesity?
Not only did David Cameron ignore the ‘Letter from America’, he also appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta and former Chairman of CropLife International, to the board of Cancer Research UK in 2010. He became Chairman in 2011. As of 2015, CropLife International´s member list included BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC Corp., Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. Many of these make their own formulated glyphosate.
Mason says to Davies:
CRUK, you, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and Public Health England, linked cancer to alcohol, obesity and smoking. You all blamed the people for ‘lifestyle choices’. Where is the scientific evidence for this?
Syngenta is a member of the European Glyphosate Task Force, which sought to renew (and succeeded) European glyphosate registration. Not surprisingly, Mason says, the CRUK website denies that there is any link between pesticides and cancer. Its website says the following about pesticides:
For now, the evidence is not strong enough to give us any clear answers. But for individual pesticides, the evidence was either too weak to come to a conclusion, or only strong enough to suggest a “possible” effect. The scientific evidence on pesticides and cancer is still uncertain and more research is needed in this area.
Mason refers to a survey commissioned by CRUK, ‘People lack awareness of link between alcohol and cancer’, but asks what credible scientific evidence is there that alcohol causes seven different types of cancer and that obesity causes 13 different types of cancer? She concludes, none, and writes that certain top scientists have questioned (ridiculed) the messages being conveyed to the public about alcohol use.
In the Observer and the Guardian in July 2019, CRUK took out half-page advertisements stating that obesity (in huge letters) is a cause of cancer. In a smaller box, it was stated that, like smoking, obesity puts millions of adults at greater risk of cancer. Bus stops and advertising hoardings were replete with black text on a white background. The adverts invited people to fill in the blanks and spell out OBESITY, asking the public to ‘Guess what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking’.
Mason notes that CRUK has also paid for many TV adverts, describing how it looks after people with cancer and encourages donations from the public. It claims to have spent £42 million on information and influencing in 2018.
She says that the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) has residues of 123 different pesticides that seriously impact the gut microbiome. Mason states that obesity is associated with low diversity of bacteria in the microbiome and glyphosate destroys most of the beneficial bacteria and leaves the toxic bacteria behind. In effect, she argues (citing relevant studies) that Roundup (and other biocides) is a major cause of gross obesity, neuropsychiatric disorders and other chronic diseases including cancers, which are all on the rise, and adversely impacts brain development in children and adolescents.
She asks Davies:
Why did you not attend the meeting in the Houses of Parliament on Roundup? If you were away, you have hundreds of staff in the DOH or Public Health England that could have deputised for you. Dr Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Indiana, and one of four experts on Roundup, spoke at a meeting in the House of Commons on 18th June 2014 on the dangers of Roundup. In what was one of the most comprehensive meetings ever held in Europe on Glyphosate and Roundup, experts from around the World gathered in London to share their expertise with the media, members of a number of UK political parties, NGO representatives and members of the general public. EXCEPT THAT NONE OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA WAS PRESENT, NOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NOR PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND. They are protecting the pesticides industry.
Mason makes much of the very cosy relationship between the Murdoch media and successive governments in the UK and asks:
Roundup weed killer is present in all our foods: why does the UK media not want us to know?
She notes that women in the UK are being warned to cut back on sweet treats or risk cancer. Sally Davies says women are consuming “two biscuits too much each day” and should lose weight. Davies says obesity will surpass smoking as the leading cause of cancer in women by 2043. Last year, official figures revealed 30 per cent of women in the UK are overweight and 27 per cent are obese. Obesity levels across all genders have risen from 15 per cent to 26 per cent since 1993.
But as Mason has shown time and again in her reports and open letters to officials, pesticides (notably glyphosate) are a key driver of obesity. Moreover, type 2 diabetes is closely associated with being very overweight. According to NHS data, almost four in five of 715 children suffering from it were also obese.
Type 2 diabetes is a disaster for the child and their family and for the NHS,” says Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular health at Queen Mary University of London who is also the chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar. “If a child gets type 2 diabetes, it’s condemning them to a lot of complications of that condition, such as blindness, amputations and kidney disease,” he said. “These figures are a sign that we are in a crisis and that the government doesn’t seem to be taking action, or not enough and not quickly enough. The UK obesity levels now exceed those of the US.
I am one of the many British women in 2014-16 who were spending nearly 20 years of their life in poor health (19.3 years) while men spend just over 16 years in poor health. Spanish women live the longest, with UK longevity ranked 17th out of 28 EU nations, according to Public Health England’s annual health profile. Each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.
Britain and America are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. These countries are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early.
Political posturing aligned with commercial interests means that truth is becoming a casualty in the debate about genetically modified (GM) crops in India. The industry narrative surrounding Bt cotton is that it has been a great success. The current Modi-led administration is parroting this claim and argues its success must be replicated by adopting a range of GM food crops, amounting to what would be a full-scale entry of GM technology into Indian agriculture. Currently, Bt cotton is India’s only officially approved commercially cultivated GM crop.
With the aim of putting the record straight, a media event took place on Friday, 6 September in New Delhi at the Constitution Club of India during which it was declared that Bt cotton has been a costly and damaging failure. Speakers included prominent environmentalists Aruna Rodrigues and Vandana Shiva who presented a good deal of information based on official reports, research papers and documents submitted as evidence to the Supreme Court on Bt cotton.
It was argued that even the government’s own data contradicts its tale of Bt cotton success and that the consequences of irresponsibly rolling out various GM crops based on a false narrative would be disastrous for the country.
PR and broken promises
In the early 2000s, Bt cotton was being heavily promoted in India on the basis it would cut pesticide use dramatically, boost yields and contribute to the financial well-being of farmers. However, pesticide use is back to pre-Bt levels and yields have stagnated or are falling. Moreover, some 31 countries rank above India in terms of cotton yield and of these only 10 grow GM cotton.
As will be shown, farmers now find themselves on a chemical-biotech treadmill and have to deal with an increasing number of Bt/insecticide resistant pests and rising costs of production. For many small-scale cotton farmers, this has resulted in greater levels of indebtedness and financial distress.
Failure to yield
Over 90% of cotton sown in India is now Bt. Although initially introduced to the country in 2002, its adoption was only about 12 and 38% respectively in 2005 and 2006. A good deal of data was contained in the media briefing that accompanied the event in Delhi. In it, Aruna Rodrigues and Vandana Shiva show that, even then (2005-2006), average yields had already reached the current plateau of about 450-500 kg/ha. Average all-India Bt cotton yields hovered around or below 500 kg/ha during the period 2005-2018.
What is particularly revealing is that cotton production for 2018-2019 will be the lowest in a decade, down to an estimated 420.72 kg/ha, according to a press release issued in July by the Cotton Association of India.
Furthermore, the argument is that increases in yields that may have occurred were in any case due to various factors, such as increased fertiliser use and high-yielding hybrid seeds, and not Bt technology.
The data presented by Rodrigues and Shiva shows that cotton yield in the pre-Bt era increased significantly from its 191 kg/ha low in 2002 to 318 kg/ha in 2004-2005, registering an increase of 66% in just three years (the baseline for Bt cotton is 2005-2006 as prior to this adoption rates were not significant). The two environmentalists say this was a result of increased acreage under hybrids and a new class of insecticides.
They note that the momentum of this upward swing carried into the Bt era and had nothing to do with that technology. Their argument is that Bt cotton has failed but is being trumpeted as a success under the cover of increased fertiliser use, hybrid seed trait yield (not attributable to Bt technology), better irrigation and insecticide seed coating.
Biotech treadmill and ecological disruption
Bt technology was used in conjunction with high-yielding hybrids (as opposed to pure line varieties) and has no trait for intrinsic yield. This, Rodrigues and Shiva argue, conveniently allowed a smudging of the yield data (isolating the precise impact of hybrid yield would prove to be difficult) and also provided a ‘value-capture’ mechanism for Monsanto: the introduction of these hybrids disallows seed saving, forcing farmers to buy new expensive hybrid Bt cotton seed each year (hybridisation gives one-time vigour).
Prior to Bt cotton, the extensive use of insecticides to cope with the Pink Bollworm (PBW), which is native to India, had become a problem. Spraying for PBW caused outbreaks of the American Bollworm (ABW). The ABW is a secondary pest that was induced by extensive insecticide use and became the target for Bt cotton.
Although Bt cotton was supposed to control both species of bollworm, PBW resistance to Bt toxin has now occurred and the ABW is also developing resistance. Moreover, post 2002, new pests have appeared, such as whitefly, jassids and mealybugs.
However, Rodrigues and Shiva note that resistance in PBW now occurs to both Monsanto’s Bollgard I and Bollgard II Bt cotton (BGI and BG II). BGI was replaced by BG II as early as 2007-8, just six years after its introduction because the PBW had developed resistance. The ABW is also now developing resistance to stacked Bt toxins in BG II.
Irresponsible roll out
Hybrids are input intensive and are sown at suboptimal wide spacing. Unlike in other countries that grow Bt cotton, they are long season cottons and are thus more susceptible to pest build-up. With this in mind, Rodrigues and Shiva refer to Dr K R Kranthi, former director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, who says:
Insecticide usage is increasing each year because of resistance development in sucking pests to imidacloprid and other neonicotinoid insecticides—by 2012 insecticide usage was at 2002 levels and will continue to increase inducing further outbreaks of insecticide and Bt resistant pests.
Bt cotton hybrids also require more human labour and perform better under irrigation. However, 66% of cotton in India is cultivated in rain fed areas, where yields depend on the timing and quantity of highly variable monsoon rains. Unreliable rains, the high costs of Bt hybrid seed, continued insecticide use and debt have placed many poor (marginal) smallholder farmers in a situation of severe financial hardship.
In fact, Professor A P Gutierrez argues that Bt cotton has effectively put these farmers in a corporate noose: his research has noted a link between Bt cotton, weather, yields, financial distress and farmer suicides.
Rodrigues and Shiva note that Monsanto was allowed a ‘royalty’ on Bollgard I seed without having a patent on it. Drawing on conservative estimates (by K R Kranthi), on average, the additional expenditure on seeds (compared to non-Bt seeds) was at least Rs 1,179 per hectare and the Indian farmer may have spent a total extra amount of Rs 14,000 crores (140 billion) on Bt cotton seeds during the period 2002-2018. The trait value charged (2002-2018) is around Rs 7,000 crores. This excludes royalties accruing to Mahyco-Monsanto, which were illegal on Bollgard I (first generation Bt cotton) and yet allowed by the regulators.
Overall net profit for cotton farmers was Rs 5,971/ha in 2003 (pre-Bt) but plummeted to average net losses of Rs 6,286 in 2015, while fertiliser use kg/ha exhibited a 2.2-fold increase. As Bt technology was being rolled out, costs of production were thus increasing. And these costs were increasing in the face of stagnant yields.
Why GM anyway?
At this point, it is worth broadening the scope of this article by noting that in 2010, an indefinite moratorium was placed on Bt brinjal, which would have been India’s first GM food crop. Despite the current push for a full-scale entry of GM into Indian agriculture, the moratorium is still in place: the conflicts of interest, secrecy, negligence and lack of competence inherent in the GM regulatory process that were acknowledged at that time remain unaddressed.
It would therefore be grossly irresponsible to roll out GM. If the experience of Bt cotton tells us anything, it would also be extremely unwise to proceed without carrying out independent health, environmental and socio-economic risk assessments.
Of course, establishing the need for GM – crops that outperform current non-GM options currently available – is paramount but totally absent. With this in mind, Rodrigues and Shiva cite evidence that traditional plant breeding and newer methods outperform GM agriculture at much less cost, release fewer carbon emissions and earn much greater profits for farmers.
If we look at the Green Revolution, it too was also sold under the guise of ‘feeding the world’. But in India, according to Professor Glenn Stone, it merely led to more wheat in the diet, while food productivity per capita showed no increase or actually decreased. Nevertheless, there have been dire consequences for the Indian diet, the environment, farmers, rural communities and public health.
More generally, the Green Revolution dovetailed with an international system of chemical-dependent, agro-export mono-cropping and big infrastructure projects (dams) linked to loans, sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF directives, the outcomes of which included a displacement of the peasantry, the consolidation of global agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries into food deficit regions.
Often regarded as Green Revolution 2.0, the ‘gene revolution’ is integral to the plan to ‘modernise’ Indian agriculture. This means the displacement of peasant farmers, further corporate consolidation and commercialisation based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants. It would also mean the undermining of national food security.
GM-based agriculture is key to what would amount to a wholesale corporate capture of the agri-food sector: a sure-fire money spinner that would dwarf the amount drained from India courtesy of Monsanto’s ‘royalties’ on Bt cotton.
This wholesale shift to industrial agriculture would have devastating impacts on the environment, rural communities, public health, local and regional food security, seed sovereignty, nutritional yield per acre, water tables and soil quality, etc. Industrial agriculture has massive health, social and environmental costs which are borne by the public and taxpayers, certainly not by the (subsidised) corporations that rake in the massive profits.
It is no surprise, therefore, that an increasing international consensus is emerging on the role of agroecology. In this respect, smallholder farmers are not to be regarded as residues from the past but as being crucial to the future.
And this is not lost on Rodrigues and Shiva who note the vital importance and productivity of small farms (which outperform industrial-scale enterprises and feed most of the global population) and the advantages of agroecological farming. They refer to the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts which concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.
Furthermore, according to Rodrigues and Shiva, regenerative organic farming can draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere and put it in the soil, thereby reversing climate change and making agriculture climate resilient. They argue that organic systems are competitive with conventional yields and leach no toxic chemicals. As for cotton, they state that ‘desi’ species of cotton varieties are highly amenable to low-cost organic farming, providing an excellent opportunity for India to emerge as a global leader in organic cotton.
The take-home message is that if GM food crops are to be rolled out – based on a narrative about Bt cotton that relies more on industry spin than actual facts – it would be disastrous for India. Given the evidence, it’s a warning that should not be taken lightly.
An eight-page briefing was issued to coincide with the media event and contains relevant references, additional data and numerous informative charts. It can be accessed here.