Monthly Archives: August 2011

A new genetically modified soybean

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Foodfacts.com recently came across an article which we found interesting pertaining to soybeans. Soybean oil has received some negative attention for including trans fats, which as we all know, has been linked to cardiovascular disease. The soybean industry took a hard hit with the limited amount of soybean oil sales and came up with a new solution, genetic modification. Check out the article below to learn more!

The soybean industry is seeking government approval of a genetically modified soybean it says will produce oil lower in saturated fat, offer consumers a healthier alternative to foods containing trans fats and increase demand for growers’ crops.

Demand for soybean oil has dropped sharply since 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring labels to list levels of trans fats, which have been linked to coronary heart disease. Vegetable oil does not naturally contain trans fats, but when hydrogen is added to make it suitable for use in the food industry, trans fats are created.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. says oil from its new soybean will meet manufacturers’ requirements for baking and shelf life without hydrogenation, resulting in food that’s free of trans fats as well as lower in saturated fat.

The FDA approved the new bean, called Vistive Gold, earlier this year, and Monsanto and several state and national soybean groups are now seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said in an email to The Associated Press that it has no timeline for making a decision.

U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans valued at nearly $39 billion in 2010. But the Iowa Soybean Association said in a letter to APHIS the industry’s share of the food oil market dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent after the FDA enacted the labeling requirements. Iowa grows more soybeans than any other state.

“We believe because of the trans-fat labeling, 4.6 billion pounds of edible soybean oil was not used for food over a three-year period,” said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association. The oil was turned into biodiesel instead, and farmers got less money for their soybeans, he said.

Industry officials believe Vistive Gold could command as much as 60 cents more per bushel than other soybeans, raising a farmer’s income by thousands of dollars.

Jim Andrew, who grows 625 acres of conventional soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, said he hopes Vistive Gold soybeans also will reduce consumers’ fears about biotech crops by providing a direct health benefit. Most genetically modified crops so far have been engineered to fight pests and increase harvests, benefiting farmers.

“I think it’s a case where we’re trying to modify crops to address specific needs to make other industries more efficient and healthier,” Andrew said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto introduced a first generation of the bean, called Vistive, in 2005 to reduce or eliminate trans fats in response to the labeling requirements. Vistive Gold retains those qualities and offers lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of healthier monounsaturated fats.

Joe Cornelius, a Monsanto project manager who has worked on the Vistive soybeans for 15 years, said Vistive Gold could make a real difference in efforts to produce healthier foods. As an example, he said it could produce French fries with more than 60 percent less saturated fat.

“I don’t think we can say fried food will ever be a health food, but you can improve the nutritional profile of that food,” Cornelius said.

But Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, said Vistive Gold and other engineered crops don’t face rigorous enough testing. No animal feeding trials were conducted on the new soybean to see what would happen when it was consumed, he said.

And, the FDA approved it based on the agency’s review of a similar soybean produced by another company, not an actual review of Vistive Gold, he said, adding, “That struck me as very odd.”

Without proper scrutiny, genetically modified crops have a “high potential for harmful and unintended consequences,” such as increased toxicity that could make someone sick or decreased nutritional content, he said.

“Not every genetically modified crop is going to be dangerous,” Freese said. “The bottom line is we need to have a really stringent regulatory system, which we currently don’t have.”

Monsanto said it tested Vistive Gold extensively and found it to be safe. A notice posted on the APHIS website in June said its assessment of Vistive Gold indicated the bean wasn’t a risk to other plants.

Walter Fehr, an Iowa State University agronomist involved in soybean breeding research, said he thinks the federal government has a stringent and effective procedure for reviewing genetically modified crops and he saw no reason to question the soybean’s safety.

“People use different methodologies for different things, and scientists are very aware of potential negative side effects,” Fehr said.

(The Sacramento Bee)

Monsanto corn finds competition in rootworms

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Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.

The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.

Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.

“These are isolated cases, and it isn’t clear how widespread the problem will become,” said Dr. Gassmann in an interview. “But it is an early warning that management practices need to change.”

The finding adds fuel to the race among crop biotechnology rivals to locate the next generation of genes that can protect plants from insects. Scientists at Monsanto and Syngenta AG of Basel, Switzerland, are already researching how to use a medical breakthrough called RNA interference to, among other things, make crops deadly for insects to eat. If this works, a bug munching on such a plant could ingest genetic code that turns off one of its essential genes.

Monsanto said its rootworm-resistant corn seed lines are working as it expected “on more than 99% of the acres planted with this technology” and that it is too early to know what the Iowa State University study means for farmers.

The discovery comes amid a debate about whether the genetically modified crops that now saturate the Farm Belt are changing how some farmers operate in undesirable ways.

These insect-proof and herbicide-resistant crops make farming so much easier that many growers rely heavily on the technology, violating a basic tenet of pest management, which warns that using one method year after year gives more opportunity for pests to adapt.

Monsanto is already at the center of this issue because of its success since the 1990s marketing seeds that grow into crops that can survive exposure to its Roundup herbicide, a glyphosate-based chemical known for its ability to kill almost anything green.

These seeds made it so convenient for farmers to spray Roundup that many farmers stopped using other weedkillers. As a result, say many scientists, superweeds immune to Roundup have spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the South and Midwest.

Monsanto became the first company to sell rootworm-resistant biotech corn to farmers in 2003. The seed contains a gene from a common soil microorganism called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, from which crop biotechnology has been used to mine several genes for making insecticidal proteins.

One of the genes Monsanto developed makes a crystalline protein called Cry3Bb1. It rips apart the gut of the rootworm but is harmless to mammals, birds and most beneficial insects. Competitors, which use other Bt genes to attack the rootworm, estimate that roughly one-third of the corn grown in the U.S. carries Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 gene.

Monsanto said it generated world-wide sales of $4.26 billion from corn seed and biotechnology traits, about 40% of its overall sales, in its last full year.

Until insecticide-producing corn plants arrived, Midwest farmers typically tried to keep pests like the corn borer and the rootworm in check by changing what they grew in a field each year, often rotating between corn and soybeans. That way, the offspring of corn-loving insects would starve the next year.

Some farmers began to plant corn in the same field year after year. The financial incentive to grow corn has increased in recent years in part because the ethanol-fuel industry’s exploding appetite for corn has helped to lift prices to very profitable levels for growers.

According to Dr. Gassmann, the Iowa fields in which he found rootworms resistant to the Cry3Bb1 toxin had been producing Monsanto’s Bt-expressing corn continuously for at least three years. Dr. Gassmann collected rootworm beetles from four Iowa cornfields with plant damage in 2009. Their larvae were then fed corn containing Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 toxin. They had a survival rate three times that of control larvae that ate the same corn.

Dr. Gassmann found that Monsanto’s Bt toxin still had some lethal impact on the larvae from the problem Iowa fields, and that the bugs were still highly susceptible to a rootworm-resistant corn plant from a competitor that uses a different Bt toxin, called Cry34/35Ab1.

Scientists in other Farm Belt states are also looking for signs that Monsanto’s Bt corn might be losing its effectiveness. Mike Gray, a University of Illinois entomologist, said he is studying rootworm beetles he collected in northwest Illinois earlier this month from fields where Monsanto’s Bt-expressing corn had suffered extensive rootworm damage.

The government requires that farmers who plant the genetically modified corn take certain steps aimed at preventing insects from developing resistance. Farmers are told to create a refuge for the bugs by planting non-modified corn in part of their fields. The refuge, which can be as much as 20% of a farmer’s field, is supposed to reduce the chances that two toxin-resistant bugs mate and pass along that trait to their offspring.

Dr. Gray said the confirmation of toxin-resistant rootworms in Iowa could force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revisit its policy of allowing the size of these insect refuges to shrink to as little as 5% of a cornfield as crop biotechnology companies begin to sell seed for corn plants that can make two different rootworm-killing toxins.

Part of what has attracted some farmers to Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn line is that it allows them to plant a smaller refuge. But one of the two anti-rootworm toxins in that variety is the Cry3Bb1 protein at the center of Dr. Gassmann’s study.

The EPA said it is too early to comment on any implications arising from Dr. Gassmann’s paper.

(Wall Street Journal)

More on Aspartame and its Controversy

Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

It seems that people have always had a “sweet tooth” to some extent.
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So much so, that much of the Caribbean and the American south was covered with sugar plantations throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

This need for something sweet has carried on to the present-day. Unfortunately, sugar, as sweet and delicious as it is, is also very effective at packing on the pounds.
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So, when James Schlatter, a drug researcher at G.D. Searle and Co., stumbled upon aspartame in 1965, it was instantly studied as a substitute for sugar.

According to Aspartame.org, which is a member The Calorie Control Council, an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie food and beverage industry, the artificial sweetener is currently “consumed by over 200 million people around the world and is found in more than 6,000 products.”

Controversy over Safety and Toxicity

However, since the artificial sweetener was approved by the FDA in 1974, there has been controversy around its safety and toxicity.

After it hit the market in 1985, several complaints against the artificial sweetener arose. However, the government maintained that aspartame is safe for human consumption. Yet, opponents of the artificial sweetener state that the government’s investigation and subsequent approval were corrupted due to a conflict of interest.

Nevertheless, the Aspartame.org maintains, “The safety of aspartame has been affirmed by the U.S. FDA 26 times in the past 23 years.”

Many people, including some doctors and researchers, are not convinced.
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In article by Dr. John Briffa for The Epoch Times, the link between Aspartame side effects and fibromyalgia is explored. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome usually characterized by fatigue and chronic pain in the muscles and in tissues surrounding the joints.

Two Cases Linking Aspartame to Fibromyalgia

Braiffa cites two cases from Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal published in December 2010.

In the first case, a woman suffered from the syndrome for years. While on vacation she discontinued her aspartame consumption and her symptoms ceased. When she returned home, she resumed consuming aspartame and her symptoms returned.

In the second case, a man suffered from fibromyalgia for three years. His doctor removed aspartame from his diet and his symptoms ceased. In reference to these two cases Braiffa states:

“Case studies such as these don’t prove that these individuals’ symptoms were due to aspartame. [snip] Certainly, should I see an individual suffering from generalized pain andfibromyalgia in the future, I’ll be making doubly sure I ask about their consumption of aspartame and will be advising them to stop it as a matter of course.”

Side Effects of Aspartame

In a recent article found at The Gleaner, Dr. Janet Star Hull stated the following were common Aspartame side effects:

• Nervous system: epileptic seizures, headaches, migraine, severe dizziness, unsteadiness, memory loss, drowsiness and sleepiness, numbness of the limbs, slurring of speech, hyperactivity, restless legs, facial pain, tremors, attention-deficit disorder and brain tumors.

• Eyes/Ears: blindness, blurring or decreased vision, bright flashes, and decreased night vision, pain in the eyes, bulges in eyes, ringing or buzzing sounds, hearing loss.

• Psychological/Psychiatric: depression, irritability, aggression, anxiety, personality changes, insomnia, phobias.

• Chest: palpitations, shortness of breath, high blood pressure.

• Intestinal: nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain.

• Allergies: wheezing, asthma, itching, skin rash.

• Diabetes: Aspartame can precipitate diabetes, worsens blood sugar control, may cause diabetics to have seizures and interact badly with insulin.
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Aspartame aggregates diabetic retinopathy, damages the optic nerve and promotes blindness. The free methyl alcohol it produces causes neuropathy and increases the risk of diabetics losing limbs.

However, Aspartame.org contends that these allegations are false – proven not only by the FDA, but also by other food safety organizations.

“Recently, several governments and expert scientific committees (including the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Commission, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency, the French Food Safety Agency and Health Canada) carefully evaluated the Internet allegations and found them to be false, reconfirming the safety of aspartame. In addition, leading health authorities, such as the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The National Parkinson Foundation, Inc., the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Lupus Foundation of America, have reviewed the claims on the Internet and also concluded that they are false.”

The organization also states the artificial sweetener has received a clean bill of health from the National Cancer Society and the American Diabetes
Association.

This controversy has been going on for nearly three decades and there is no sign of it letting up any time soon.
(Top Secret Writers)

Labeling Tricks

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Foodfacts.com came across an article featured on Food Network which discusses how to avoid food labeling tricks which are used to make some foods appear healthier. Check it out below! Have any advice of your own to share?

Food labels are carefully worded to entice shoppers to choose certain items. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found dieters often fall for simple labeling tricks that make them believe certain foods are healthier than they are. Find out the top 5 traps people fell into and how to avoid them.

#1: Fruit Chew vs. Candy Chew
The same food labeled with the word “fruit” verses “candy” had dieters opting for the fruit-labeled boxes with identical chews inside. If it doesn’t contain real fruit, it’s probably the same product with different flavoring. Check the ingredients before you buy!

#2: Pasta vs. Salads

Diners watching their calories often jump to the salad section over pasta, since that seems like the healthier choice. But not always: Toppings like avocado, cheese, beans, croutons, fried chicken or too much dressing drive salad calories sky-high (that’s why they made our top 9 “healthy” foods to skip). Ask the server how the salad is prepared, and if any of the toppings or dressings are optional. Get our tips for swapping out high-cal salad toppings >>

#3: Flavored Water vs. Juice
Find yourself grabbing the “flavored” water because it seems like the healthier choice? That’s what the Journal of Consumer research study found their subjects did. Water seems harmless, but many varieties are nothing more than sugar water. If sugar isn’t added, then oftentimes artificial sweeteners are. A glass of freshly squeezed juice may contain natural sugar called fructose, but also a variety of vitamins and minerals. If in doubt, real, unadulterated water is always a great choice.

#4: Veggie Chips vs. Potato Chips
Think veggie chips are healthier than potato chips? Think again: Aren’t potatoes vegetables?!? Any vegetable fried and made to look like a chip can be labeled a veggie chip, so don’t fall for that labeling trick! If you want chips (whether veggie or potato), be sure to stick to a reasonable portion (about 15 chips).

#5: Smoothies vs. Milkshakes

Milkshakes are loaded with fat and calories, but slap on a label that says “smoothie” and dieters feel they’ve made a healthier decision. Be sure to inquire about the ingredients that go into that smoothie, and keep the portion size reasonable. Get our tips for a healthier smoothie >>

Bottom Line: Don’t fall into the naming trap — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do some investigating by reading food label ingredient lists and nutrition facts. If you’re dining out, don’t be shy! Ask the wait staff about menu items.

(Food Network- Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN)

Avocado Spreads on BK Whoppers to Produce More Sales

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Just what we need.. Burger King is now targeting “health-conscious” consumers with the addition of avocado on their whoppers. The avocado industry, they’re thrilled! Instead of promoting these fruits in a healthy-eating campaign, they’re opting for the quickest way to get sales, fast-food. Yikes. Check out the article below to learn more!

Coral Beach — Keeping the avocado in the fast food spotlight, Burger King Corp.’s menu for a limited time includes the California Whopper — and California Whopper Jr. — featuring guacamole.

The guacamole burgers come on the heels of Subway’s summer promotion offering avocado spread on its sandwiches.
Miami-based Burger King is the fourth of the top five quick-serve chains with recent campaigns featuring produce.
Wendy’s introduced a line of salads with fresh berries and apples and McDonald’s announced that its Happy Meals will include fresh sliced apples along with the standard french fries. Starbucks is the only one of the top five not yet in the fresh produce deal.
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Even though the Burger King guacamole isn’t made fresh at each location, California Avocado Commission officials believe the new campaign will keep the fruit in the forefront with consumers.

“By creating the usage concept for consumers and keeping the avocados out there in the eye of the public it can only be a good thing for overall consumption numbers,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president for the Irvine-based commission.

DeLyser said when consumers see restaurants using avocados it reminds them that they can use the fruit at home.

Burger King officials declined to comment on the amount of avocados and fresh produce the chain uses. They also declined to comment on who is supplying the guacamole. A source at an avocado distributing company, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed to J.R. Simplot Co., which supplies frozen french fries for Burger King. Simplot officials declined to comment Aug. 25 on the Burger King guacamole, citing customer confidentiality policies.

Regardless of the supplier, the avocado category will certainly benefit from the Burger King promotion, according to several companies that handle the fruit.

Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce of Oxnard, Calif., said the category has seen 10% annual growth in recent years. Mission Produce handles fresh and processed avocados.

“These are exciting times for the avocado worldwide,” Wileman said. “The growth in Japan is very exciting, and interest in China is growing with the increase of Western influences there, and Chile’s numbers are going through the roof.”

Wileman said there is no way to speculate what volume of avocados Burger King will use with its promotion, partly because the international chain has more than 12,000 restaurants.

R.J. Hottovy of Equity Research said his company stopped following Burger King when the chain went private. However, he said in the restaurant world of today innovative menu items such as the California Whopper are key to driving traffic.
Jose Luis Obergon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board, Irvine, echoed comments made by Hottovy and Wileman and said the exposure in mainstream America can only be a good thing for avocados.

“The education campaign that the industry started 10 years ago is paying off,” Obergon said. “This will ultimately help maintain good prices because overall demand will increase as more people become familiar with what you can do with avocados.”

Al Ahmer, vice president of sales and production for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., agreed that the Burger King promotion is good news for avocados. He said even if only 1 ounce of gaucamole is used per sandwich it will translate into a large volume of avocados being used.
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“The rule of thumb is for every two pounds of avocados you have about one pound of fruit flesh,” Ahmer said.
The introduction of the California Whopper, which includes Swiss cheese and bacon along with the guacamole, is hitting television screens and billboards across the nation as Burger King says so long to its mascot, The King. No longer will the big-headed character be wielding his scepter or peeping into windows during Burger King’s commercials.

The fast food chain, purchased by the global investment firm 3G Capital less than a year ago, recently switched ad agencies. It ditched Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, the company behind the commercials with what many media observers referred to as that “creepy king guy,” for McGarryBowen, which created a new line of TV spots that reflect Burger King’s new “food-centric” approach.

The new spots started airing nationwide Aug. 20 and feature a montage of shots of fresh avocados, lettuce, tomatoes and other fresh produce being sliced and chopped. The new commercials with upbeat music and limited voice-overs are expected to attract the attention of health-conscious moms.

(The Packer)

August 26th, Fast-Food Friday

Silhouette of cheese burger and summer garden vegetables

Foodfacts.com can’t ignore the relationship between fast-food sales now back on a steady incline; and reports of the obesity epidemic worsening. Therefore, we would like to deem this day as “Fast-food Friday,” or a day when we try to post the worst of the worst in hopes of steering consumers further away from drive-up windows. Also, we’ll throw in some healthier menu items throughout the day for those who may not have the time or resources to prepare their own meals (we’re not going to judge.)

We know that many of our Foodfacts.com followers are well aware of the health effects fast foods impose on our bodies, however, there are clearly still some people out there who may choose to ignore the facts, or maybe just out of the loop. Share this information and HELP US OUT in hopes of educating others.

“Half of the adults in the United States will be obese by 2030″

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Thank you to one of our Foodfacts.com followers for bringing this article to our attention. It won’t come as a shock to most that our population continues to fall deeper into the obesity epidemic. We find this article helpful because it discusses a possible new theory to cut calories, rather than the rule of excluding 500kcal from your current diet. If anyone knows anyone dealing with obesity, or experiences it themselves, make sure to share and read this article in hopes of starting your own journey towards a healthier weight. Also, if you have any tips of your own that has helped you reach a more desirable weight, post it on our Foodfacts.com Facebook Page in an effort to help others!

(Washington Post) Based on trends, half of the adults in the United States will be obese by 2030 unless the government makes changing the food environment a policy priority, according to a report released Thursday on the international obesity crisis in the British medical journal the Lancet.

Those changes include making healthful foods cheaper and less-healthful foods more expensive largely through tax strategies, the report said. Changes in the way foods are marketed would also be called for, among many other measures.

A team of international public health experts argued that the global obesity crisis will continue to grow worse and add substantial burdens to health-care systems and economies unless governments, international agencies and other major institutions take action to monitor, prevent and control the problem.

Changes over the past century in the way food is made and marketed have contributed to the creation of an “obesogenic” environment in which personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthful weight are largely impossible, the report noted.

It also laid out a new way of calculating how many calories to cut to lose weight, giving what it said is a more accurate means of estimating projected weight loss over time.

The common weight-loss wisdom is that reducing calorie intake by about 500 calories a day “will result in slow and steady weight loss of about 0.5 kg (about a pound) per week.” That rule doesn’t take into account the way the body adapts to the change. In particular, as anyone who has actually lost weight can attest, the less you weigh, the fewer calories you can consume if you wish to lose more weight or maintain the loss.

The report said that weight loss should be viewed over a longer period of time and proposed a new “approximate rule of thumb” for an average overweight adult. It said that “every change of energy intake of [about 24 calories] per day will lead to an eventual body-weight change of about 1 kg (just over two pounds) . . . with half of the weight change being achieved in about 1 year and 95 percent of the weight change in about 3 years.”

Though the report acknowledged that it’s ultimately up to individuals to decide what to eat and how to live their lives, it maintained that governments have largely abdicated the responsibility for addressing obesity to individuals, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations. Yet the obesity epidemic will not be reversed without government leadership, regulation, and investment in programs, monitoring, and research, it said.

The report, issued in a four-part series published in the Lancet, was released in advance of the first high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly focused on noncommunicable disease prevention and control, which will take place in New York next month.

Monsanto’s 5 Evil Contributions

Foodfacts.com recently discovered an article on Takepart.com that basically summarizes the products that Monsanto is credited for. Take a look at the list below, and wonder if Monsanto really has human health as one of their top priorities.

By Oliver Lee.

Oh, Monsanto, you sly dog.

You keep trying to make us believe you are “committed to sustainable agriculture” with your canny advertisements on American Public Media, even as you force-feed farmers your lab-grown Frankenseeds that expire every year (which are, let’s be honest, opposite of sustainable).

But we shouldn’t be surprised by the mixed message, should we? After all, you’ve been doing this for decades. With long-running corporate sponsorships like Disney’s Tomorrowland building reserves of goodwill as you spray us with DDT, it’s clear you’re entitled to send out products into the world with nary an environmental or health concern—just as long as you spend a bit of that hard-earned cash convincing us otherwise.

On that note, let’s take a quick look at some of the biotech giant’s most dubious contributions to society over their past century in business.
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1. Saccharin

Monsanto burst onto the scene in 1901 with the artificial sweetener saccharin, which it sold to Coca-Cola and canned food companies as a sugar replacement.
Sweet, low, and according to the FDA, no longer carcinogenic. (Photo: costco.com)

But as early as 1907, the health effects of the sweetener were being questioned by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists.

“Everyone who ate that sweet [canned] corn was deceived,” said Harvey Wiley, the first commissioner of the FDA. “He thought he was eating sugar, when in point of fact he was eating a coal tar product totally devoid of food value and extremely injurious to health.”

After enjoying decades of unfettered consumption, the sweetener was slapped with a warning label in the ’70s when it was found to cause cancer in lab rats.

A subsequent three-decade effort by Monsanto to reverse the decision finally won out in 2001. After all, how could a product derived from coal tar not be safe for consumption?
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2) Polystyrene

By the ’40s, Monsanto had moved on to oil-based plastics, including polystyrene foam (also known as styrofoam).
This cup will be still be here in a thousand years. (Photo: nationalaquarium.wordpress.com)

As most of us are aware by now, polystyrene foam is an environmental disaster. Not only is there nothing out there that biodegrades it, it breaks off into tiny pieces that choke animals, harm marine life, and release cancer-causing benzene into the environment for a thousand years or more.

“Polystyrene foam products rely on nonrenewable sources for production, are nearly indestructible and leave a legacy of pollution on our urban and natural environments,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin in 2007. “If McDonald’s could see the light and phase out polystyrene foam more than a decade ago, it’s about time San Francisco got with the program.”

Despite the ovewhelming evidence against it, the noxious containers are still pervasive elsewhere around the country. Amazingly, they were even voted to be reintroduced into House cafeterias by Republicans earlier this year.
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3) Agent Orange

First developed as an herbicide and defoliant, Agent Orange was used infamously as a military weapon by the U.S. Army during Vietnam to remove the dense foliage of the jungle canopy.
This is what Agent Orange exposure looks like.

In the process, they dumped over 12 million gallons of the potent chemical cocktail—described by Yale biologist Arthur Galston as “perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man”—over towns, farms, and water supplies during a nine-year period.

“When [military scientists] initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. . .,” said Dr. James R. Clary, a former government scientist with the Chemical Weapons Branch. “However, because the material was to be used on the ‘enemy,’ none of us were overly concerned.”

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that lack of concern led to 4.8 million exposures to the herbicide, along with 400,000 deaths and disfigurements and 500,000 babies born with birth defects.
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4) Bovine Growth Hormone

Did you know the United States is the only developed nation that permits the sale of milk from cows given artificial growth hormones?
Nothing like the taste of hormones in the morning. (Photo: bigteaparty.com)

With the lone exception of Brazil, the rest of the developed world—including all 27 countries of the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia—has banned growth hormone use in milk destined for human consumption.

Why all the lact-haters? Milk derived from hormone-injected cows shows higher levels of cancer-causing hormones and lower nutritional value, leading even the most stubborn U.S. courts to rule in favor of separate labels for hormone-free milk.

“The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking without apparent harm for 2,000 years,” said Harvard scientist Ganmaa Davaasambuu. “The milk we drink today may not be nature’s perfect food.”

According to the Center for Food Safety, thanks to increased consumer demand (and certain movies), approximately 60 percent of milk in the U.S. is rBST-free today.
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5) Genetically-Modified Seeds

Not content to do mere incidental damage to the environment, Monsanto decided to get to the root of the matter in the ’80s: seeds.
Just remember: We are what we eat. (Photo: deminvest.wordpress.com)

But with much fuss being made over the company’s aggressive scare tactics and rampant mass-patenting, the biotech giant has, true to form, fought back with a multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising campaign featuring smiling children and making outlandish claims that “biotech foods could help end world hunger.”

“Unless I’m missing something,” wrote Michael Pollan in The New York Times Magazine, “the aim of this audacious new advertising campaign is to impale people like me—well-off first-worlders dubious about genetically engineered food—on the horns of a moral dilemma…If we don’t get over our queasiness about eating genetically modified food, kids in the Third World will go blind.”

What’s clear is that no matter what its justification, Monsanto is a) never giving away all these seeds for free; and b) rendering them sterile so that farmers need to re-up every year, making it difficult to believe that the company could possibly have the planet’s best intentions at heart.

“By peddling suicide seeds, the biotechnology multinationals will lock the world’s poorest farmers into a new form of genetic serfdom,” says Emma Must of the World Development Movement. “Currently 80 percent of crops in developing countries are grown using farm-saved seed.”

“Being unable to save seeds from sterile crops could mean the difference between surviving and going under.”

(TakePart.com)

How to Stay Away from BPA!

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(Huffington Post) The more I know about Bisphenol A, the more I realize what a truly sneaky little substance it is.

First I found out it was leaching into my water from plastic bottles, so I stopped buying bottled water and started filling up from the tap. Then I learned that BPA can enter the body through the coating on register receipts, so I started asking the cashier to trash them for me. And, most recently, I found out that because it coats the inside of cans — even those that contain baby formula — the stuff can sneak into our food, too. (So much for mom’s “homemade” black bean soup.)

In fact, a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that 93 percent of us have detectable levels of BPA in our bodies at any given time.

Yikes!

Why should we worry? In a nutshell: BPA is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to cancer, birth defects, brain and nervous system dysfunction, and reproductive abnormalities.

Double yikes.

But now, BPA, your days may be numbered. That’s because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced plans to test you for toxicity and environmental impact, according to UPI. This comes on the heels of a January announcement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would examine the potential human health effects of BPA in the food supply, and last year’s FDA proclamation that parents should take “reasonable steps” to reduce their infants’ exposure.

That’s good news, because a recent study reported in Endocrine Today linked thyroid disruption to BPA — adding yet another negative impact to an extremely long list of BPA side effects.

The bad news is that those silver bottles we’ve all been filling up — in order to avoid BPA — may actually release up to eight times more BPA than polycarbonate plastic, according to a new study reported by ScienceDirect.

So, what’s a concerned citizen to do? Check with manufacturers to make sure your bottles are made from stainless steel, rather than aluminum lined with epoxy-based resin. Wash your hands after you handle receipts. Limit your intake of canned foods, and look for cans that are “BPA-free.” Then take a look at a series of recipes which doctors say can block the impact of BPA, which we collected for Healthy Child Healthy World’s Eat Healthy section.

Finally, help us urge Campbell’s — one of the largest canned food corporations — to stop using BPA in their cans. Sign our petition telling Campbell’s that BPA is NOT “Mmm mmm good!”

BPA, you’re in our sights. Consider yourself warned.

Preparing for extreme weather! (Hurricane Irene)

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Foodfacts.com and the rest of the East Coast are awaiting the wrath of Hurricane Irene. Although we’ve been hit by hurricanes many times before, none have been quite the capacity of this one approaching. Therefore we have decided to quickly share some information we’ve found resourceful in regards to preparing for Irene.

First, and depending on your location, determine a safe evacuation route inland. So far, it appears the center of this hurricane will in some cases be on land. Prepare now and locate your community evacuation route.

Protect your home if you haven’t already. Stock up on plywood and boards to secure windows and glass.

Make sure to research the locations of nearby official shelters. In case there is significant damage to your home; you’ll want to find safe shelter close by. Most counties provide shelter areas for residents.

Double check your home for emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators and battery-powered equipment like cell phones portable radios. Purchase batteries now just to be safe.

Prepare a first-aid kit with band-aids, rubbing alcohol, ace-bandages, and all the essentials.

Buy foods that will keep store and safe, clean drinking water. What we suggest are canned fruits and vegetables, including lentils and beans, dried fruits, wheat crackers, 100% fruit juice, cereals, etc.

It’s also important to double check that your vehicle is prepared with enough gas to travel. Also, make sure you have cash!

Stay safe!
Foodfacts.com