June 2008


Once again, it is that time of year. We just had the sheep shearer out, and the wool is ready to go. If you are in the market for raw wool, I sell my Navajo Churro and Jacob Sheep raw fleeces on eBay. The first one I have listed is a Jacob Sheep fleece from Mama. She has a wonderful, soft and bouncy multi-colored wool, perfect for spinning. Here is a pic, and a LINK to the listing:

Mama

Barb

I went to the local gas station/market today, and gas was $5.00 per gallon. We live in a very rural community, so the price of gas in our one-pump town is generally 40-50 cents more per gallon than in the city 50 miles away. As I walked into the store, I heard some people talking about how much the price of gas has gone up in such a short time. Tell me about it. I only go to town when I have to. The days of a spur of the moment trip to town for fun have long gone.

I spoke with the owner of the store, and suggested that she put up a hitching post so that people could ride their horses to town in order to save on gas. She took me around to the side of the store and pointed out a tree and a fence post that would be suitable to tie my horse to. She was all for it. She feels bad about the price of gas, but what can she do?

When I got home, I checked my e-mail and found the following article from Carolyn Baker’s e-mailing. I think I will take this very seriously. Having once been in the truck dispatching business, I know how the cost of fuel affects the price of goods. With truckers looking at $5.00+ per gallon diesel prices, you don’t have to be an economics major to see the end result – exorbitant food prices, not to mention shortages.

Our nation has been led down the garden path of dependency on cheap transportation to deliver food from one side of the country to the other, and from one nation to the other. It has taken many years, but this dependency is now taking its toll. We are reaping what we have sown. Our addiction to oil has brought us to the brink of change, and since we cannot seem to curb this dependency on our own, it looks like nature is going to do it for us whether we like it or not.

Barb

Here is the article by Michael Savage:

Article Reprinted from UK INDEPENDENT

Aberdeen heliport is heaving. Dozens of rig men are waiting to board helicopters and begin a two-week stint in the middle of the North Sea. It appears that business out on the rigs, known simply as “the job” in these parts, is booming. Eventually, it’s our turn to board a cramped chopper, shoulder to shoulder with the solidly built workers who sit silently, psyching themselves up for a fortnight surrounded by cold, crashing waves.

 

Two hours later, we land at a rusting rig named Alwyn, 440 kilometres off the coast of Aberdeen. Ollie Bradshaw, the rig’s burly production supervisor, meets the new arrivals.

“What’s life like offshore? Busy. Very busy,” he says. He’s not joking. As we traipse around the rig’s two platforms, perched 200 feet above the (thankfully) calm waters of the North Sea, we navigate between the numerous piles of scaffolding, timber and new equipment that take up almost every last square inch of space. The on-board population has swollen to 250 people lately. In some cases, three men are having to share a room, while new digs are built next to the rig’s busy helipad, where several flights land and take off each day, delivering a conveyer belt of fresh workers – from painters and decorators to extra scaffolders and, of course, the men whose expertise lies in harvesting fossil fuels from beneath the sea bed.

Even in the common room, no one is standing idle – not around the television, nor the snooker table. The on-board gym is empty. In the canteen, a few men grab bacon rolls before heading off to start their 4pm shift. Those on an earlier shift have just had their lunch – there’s been a run on lemon tart. Yet the hive of activity that Alwyn has become of late is not down to all the oil it is producing. Far from it.

“Alwyn started out as an oil well and platform more than two decades ago. As oil production has fallen, it has been adapted and changed,” says Bradshaw, a man who seems devoted to his life here in the middle of nowhere. The rig’s expanding team is having to work harder than ever to keep it going. A vast network of underground pipes has linked it to new pockets of oil and gas – some of the neighbouring platforms seem like they are just touching distance away. New techniques have been used to boost the quality of the last dregs of oil coming out of the ground. Empty reservoirs are being drained of natural gas. Now, a major discovery of a field of natural gas has meant that, after 21 years of work, Alwyn’s creaking infrastructure is being given a facelift to keep going for another 20 years. But it will also mean its conversion from the oil platform it once was will be complete.

The end of Alwyn’s oil well days is a familiar story in the North Sea. The rig men may be working as hard as ever, but UK oil production has been falling rapidly ever since 1999. In the past, that hasn’t been such a problem – other producers around the world have always been able to produce more of the black stuff to keep the wheels of world industry lubricated. But according to some, that may be about to change. Oil prices are so high – $137 a barrel – and predicted by Alexey Miller, head of Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, to rise as high as $250 a barrel – that social tensions have begun to emerge, while the world’s leaders have been going cap in hand to oil producers, asking them to squeeze a few more barrels out of their wells. And as prices have kept on breaking records, an ever-growing worry looms in the background, the elephant in the room of the oil price rise: what if they can’t produce any more? What if, this ti me, the oil taps really are running dry?

Worryingly, for a world reliant on the dirt-cheap energy that oil provided throughout the last century, the idea that oil production in all nations may soon start to decline just as in the North Sea has been seeping into the mainstream. The “peak oil” theory – that oil production has reached its maximum and will soon begin its decline, bringing potentially catastrophic consequences to the modern world – no longer just comes from internet crackpots and conspiracy theorists; now geologists, market analysts and oil prospectors believe that this scenario is becoming reality. And within the past year, there have been signs that the major oil companies are admitting this themselves. If they are right, high petrol prices could be the least of the world’s problems.

The idea is simple enough. Those warning against an imminent peak oil crisis – the “peakists” – say that while the world will not totally run out of oil, all of the oil that is easy to reach has been all but used up, meaning that producing enough oil to meet the growing world demand is becoming an ever harder task. Worse, we now stand at the high water mark of oil production. That means that not only will we never be able to produce much more oil than the 87 million barrels a day we now consume, but world oil production will actually begin to fall very soon, causing not only ever higher prices, but also creating the prospect of shortages, industrial upheaval, battles over ever-depleting resources, and even an end to the modern world built upon the assumption of a plentiful supply of cheap oil.

“A lot of people keep talking about ‘this peak oil theory’ – but there’s nothing theoretical about it. It’s just a very obvious fact of nature,” says Colin Campbell, a geologist who searched for oil on behalf of several oil companies, and is the high priest of the peakists. “Oil is formed in the geological past. That means it’s a finite resource. That means production begins and ends, and passes a peak in between. So the fact that there is a peak is beyond dispute. We’ve had the first half of the age of oil, which has changed the world in every conceivable way. We now face a decline.”

Campbell is in no doubt that the world’s oil production is as high as it is ever going to get. “The result of the latest update I made using industry data was that the regular, conventional oil peaked in 2005 and if you put all the other types in – the heavy oils, the gas liquids, the Arctic oil, the deep water projects – I have it this year,” he says, in a softly spoken, matter-of-fact tone. “That’s not cast in stone. It could slip a year or two. But I’m absolutely confident that it’s in the right area.”

Whereas Campbell’s fears once branded him a wacky radical, as the years have gone by he has been joined by a growing band of industry experts who have reached a similarly grim conclusion. One of those was an American investment banker examining “flow rates” – the speed at which oil was being taken out of the ground. After being asked to advise Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush on energy policy during the 2000 election campaign, Matthew Simmons found that more and more oil fields had begun to decline. That was because, though new technology was helping to extract oil faster than ever before, it was also causing the fields to run dry more quickly, too. “All of a sudden there were fields that were declining by as much as 30 per cent per year,” he says. “But I didn’t call it ‘peak oil’ – I didn’t even know what that was back then.”

Simmons came across peak oil in 2002, when he attended the first meeting of a new group founded by Colin Campbell. Only around 45 people showed up to the first meeting of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (Aspo), but since then, its findings have convinced a lot more people around the world. Aspo now has branches in 36 countries, with Kuwait the latest wanting to found one. And some serious analysts have also made the mental journey from dissenters to peak-oil prophets.

“I’ve been on that journey,” says Chris Skrebowski, who spent half his career in the oil industry and now edits the UK oil industry’s publication of record, Petroleum Review. He admits to having been dismissive of the idea that the world’s wells were running dry. It was a visit from Campbell in 1996 that made him change his mind. “I didn’t quite believe him, but I didn’t think he was the average nutter,” he says. Skrebowski began to take a look at the issue himself. The numbers told a clear story. “You can just about struggle through to 2011, if everything goes to plan – which, of course, it won’t – but after that, the numbers don’t add up. And that’s taking a reasonably conservative rate of decline. If you wind it up to a 5 or 6 per cent annual decline, then you are at this peak or plateau now.”

One man who believes that could be the real rate of decline is the archetypal US oilman, T Boone Pickens, otherwise known as the “Oracle of Oil”. Having made a fortune in the oil industry, Pickens now invests heavily in the oil alternatives he believes will be necessary to fill the gap left by falling oil production.

From the window of helicopter, flying above the uninviting waves of the North Sea, it seems hard to believe that the world could really be running low on easy oil. Dozens of rigs pepper the vast expanse of water, their burning flares making them look like floating candles. Spiralling wisps of smoke fill the North Sea sky – a reminder that there is still oil churning around. Despite the pedigree of the peakists, it’s hard not to think we’ve heard it all before, that it’s just the usual doomsayers predicting that the oilfields would run out, and that more will be found somewhere. But for the peakists, the North Sea is a great case study. Its rapid decline has come despite all the advantages the modern world could throw at it.

“The North Sea has the benefit of all the investment anybody could need,” says Campbell. “It’s got the most modern technology, and it’s got a political environment that’s stable. There’s no reason why it would be producing less oil than is possible, yet it has been declining at a rate of 7 per cent a year.” Perhaps even more worryingly, the last year has seen major oil companies begin to make more noises about potential problems ahead. Foremost among them has been head of the French oil company Total, Christophe de Margerie, who has declared that world production will never exceed 100 billion barrels a day, a level of demand expected in less than a decade. “The oil companies are changing their tune,” says Campbell. “They can’t quite say ‘peak’ in so many words. They don’t want to rock the boat.”

Back on dry land, in a seafood restaurant in Aberdeen, a senior oil executive talks freely about a future. “We can try to slow the decline, but we will never stop it,” he says casually, over a plate of scallops. “All we can do is get as much oil out of the ground as possible.” Meanwhile, Colin Campbell is flirting with official approval. He is already advising a Norwegian oil firm, and has recently been invited to give informal presentations to executives from two of the world’s biggest oil companies. A clear momentum has been built up around peak oil fears. For Simmons, it is the peak oil deniers that are now the ones sounding shrill. “I daily read these shrill sounding experts who still believe that oil should be at $40 a barrel,” he says. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s still cheap.”

Not everyone is convinced by the peak oil theory, though. This week, The Independent reported that, according to Richard Pike, a former oil industry man, now chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, there is more than twice as much oil in the ground than producers claim. But the most notable peak oil refusnik is the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil supply watchdog set up by the world’s richest nations. It has said that not only is the world not running out of oil, but that production will continue to match the 135 million barrels a day that is forecast to be needed by 2050. It says that while conventional sources of oil may only provide around 92 million barrels a day of that, investment in Saudi Arabia’s fields and the growth of new sources of oil will provide the rest.

To the peakists, these standard oil industry ripostes are starting to wear a little thin, and have been damaged by the crashing and burning of some great white hopes. Not a single barrel of commercially viable shale oil, made from oil-rich sedimentary rock, has yet been produced. Oil made from tar sands found in northern Canada is near the top of the list of innovative sources of oil, but even the oil companies themselves admit that the amount of energy currently needed to produce a single barrel of it makes it very inefficient. And while drilling into ever-deeper waters might keep world production on its current plateau, the peakists say the days of “easy oil” are over.

As for the comforting idea that Saudi Arabia could simply turn up its taps and produce far more oil if it felt like it – the preferred belief of President Bush and Gordon Brown – the peakists have some pretty big problems with that, too. “The one thing that made peak oil a bogus issue was the supposedly proven fact that in the Middle East, we had 200 years of oil supply,” says Simmons. “Because of that, we obviously couldn’t have peaked. I’d just assumed it had to be true. Then I started doing my research.” After poring over more than 200 technical papers, he made the grim conclusion that, just like elsewhere, production in Saudi Arabia was either at or very near its peak.

And even the conservative estimates of the IEA have not been unaffected by the spectre of peak oil. It has decided to review how it sources its data on oil reserves, which is widely expected to lead to a lowering of its predictions of future oil supplies when it publishes its overview of the industry in November. If it, too, reveals that the days of free flowing oil could be over, the halls of power might begin to take notice.

None of this will make any difference to life on the Alwyn rig in the near future. For the next 20 years, it will be producing natural gas, and making low-grade oil from some of it. “We’ll be here until every last drop of oil is out of the ground,” Ollie Bradshaw reassures me.

But unlike Alwyn, more rigs will be decommissioned than refurbished if the peak oil theorists turn out to be right – and they warn that the effects on the world could be dramatic.

A world without plentiful oil, as described by the peakists, looks very different from today’s. The peakists are in no doubt about the aspect of modern living that would have to change. With transport soaking up the vast majority of the world’s oil, they maintain that our addiction to the car will have to go. According to Chris Skrebowski, large-scale electrification will be needed in all vehicles, perhaps with pylons placed down motorways to provide power. Diesel-powered public transport needs to be replaced with electric trains, trams, and trolley buses. That would create breathing space to make more profound societal changes, such as a growth of working from home. Matthew Simmons also sees the current global economy soon becoming unsustainable. “Local farms are now coming back,” he says. “We have all the technology in place to do that.”

That’s just for starters. According to Campbell, a wholesale change in the western lifestyle will be needed a little further down the road. “Cities will face massive challenges,” he says. “By the end of the century, when there really isn’t very much oil left, the world will be a very different one – much more rural, probably with fewer people. It’s a sort of doomsday message, but in some ways, it’s just a change from the modern mindset. There are people in the world who live a simple life like that and are very happy.” But that’s nothing compared with what could happen if we attempt to carry on regardless with ever-growing oil consumption. “If we don’t make changes, we’re going to have a resource war and blow ourselves up,” says Simmons. “I think that would be a really inconvenient way to end the world.”

So will the end of the oil age herald in a new dark age? Are we doomed to go back to sheltering in mud huts and living off a diet of turnips and water? Not necessarily. Thankfully, other peakists are optimistic that we can cope with a world without such vast quantities of cheap oil – if we act now. “Humanity is very ingenious,” says Skrebowski. “But at the moment, it doesn’t yet see a crisis. We’re just acting like a spoilt child who has had its lollipop taken away. At some point, some politician has got to come out and state clearly that the world is going to be different. It’s not the end of the world, but we’re all going to have to change the way we do things. And the sooner we get on with it, the better. The anticipation is probably worse than the reality.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

I had a dream the other night in which there was famine. Fuel was not available, and the land was barren. This dream affected me greatly because of our current state of world affairs, and the way our politicians are hell-bent on national destruction. I hope it does not come to this, but if we are indeed being thrown straight into third-world status, we need to prepare.

 

Most people I have come across that realize the need to prepare for the coming economic crash emphasize purchasing survival equipment and stocking up on food. But what do you do when the food you have stored is gone? This is a question that not many have tackled, and one that needs to be answered.

 

The answer is that the best survival equipment you can have at your disposal is a basic set of skills. This skill-set should contain things such as how to grow your own food and how to apply basic medical attention to yourself and those around you.

 

When the grocery store shelves are either bare or the food on them is so high-priced that only the rich can afford it, we need to know how to survive off the land. When access to health care is not possible, we need to be able to take care of basic health-care needs ourselves.

 

The Surviving the Middle Class Crash website is dedicated to providing people with information they can use to learn skills needed to survive in a post-crash world. Learning these skills takes time and soon, if the indicators we are seeing are correct, we will need to know how to apply these skills. The time to start learning is when you still have the capability to brush off the mistakes and start again without serious consequences.

 

There are many links on the site dedicated to growing healthy food. This morning I posted a link devoted to healthcare that I received from a friend, Carroll, titled “Where There Is No Doctor.” Thank you Carroll, for this timely submission. This is a free downloadable e-book from the Hesperian Foundation. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

 

It [the book] has been written in the belief that:

 

·         Health care is not only everyone’s right, but everyone’s responsibility.

 

·         Informed self-care should be the main goal of any health program or

activity.

 

·         Ordinary people provided with clear, simple information can prevent and

treat most common health problems in their own homes—earlier, cheaper,

and often better than can doctors.

 

·         Medical knowledge should not be the guarded secret of a select few, but

should be freely shared by everyone.

 

 

·         People with little formal education can be trusted as much as those with a

lot. And they are just as smart.

 

·         Basic health care should not be delivered, but encouraged.

 

Some of the book’s instructions may not apply, or are invalid such as any referral to Sodium Fluoride as being good for the teeth. However, the bulk of the material is valuable, so please use common sense when figuring out how to apply the health-care methods proposed in this book.

 

Again, and I cannot emphasize strongly enough; we need to be prepared, and we need to start now. Stocking up on food and supplies is only a temporary fix. When the food and supplies run out, we need to know how to replace them. Learning how to grow your own food and take care of basic medical needs are necessary survival skills that we will all need to develop or simply go without.

 

Here is a link to the free e-book “Where There Is No Doctor.”

 

Copyright 2008, Barbara H. Peterson

by Jim Goodman

We seldom think about the availability of food. As a nation we have never been hungry and until recently food shortages always happened somewhere else. Still, we have little connection to the farm, most of us don’t know where our food comes from and we couldn’t care less. Some farmers are still small, growing and selling locally, but the big guys need GPS in the tractor and constant commodity updates as they contemplate planting more soy in Brazil or an investment in a Polish hog factory.

That’s a problem, our food system has gone global. Food is no longer food in the sense of “let’s sit down to supper,” food is an international commodity. It is viewed in strict economic terms both by the shopper looking for bargains at the supermarket and the stock traders who deal in pork bellies, unit trains of corn and cargo ships full of GM soy.

Commodities are fine in the financial world, but they have no place in our bellies. Wall Street couldn’t care less how many varieties of corn are cultivated in Mexico or Guatemala or for how many thousands of years it provided both physical and spiritual sustenance.

The fact that we place little value on our food, or that it no longer gives us the sense of home and community that it once did, goes to the heart of the problem. We have lost control of our food system, as consumers and as farmers. So? Since we still have plenty of food and most of us can still afford it, the current rise in food prices is little more than an inconvenience. Well perhaps, if you have money.

We don’t like to think about the nearly 50,000 people who, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, die every day world-wide from starvation or malnutrition-related diseases. Pictures of emaciated children make us very uncomfortable, but so long as we are not part of those pictures we can pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

But, the problem does exist, people cannot afford to eat. The image of Haitians eating cakes made of oil, sugar and mud in an attempt to stave off hunger pangs has to tell us something is terribly wrong.

Food shortages, high prices, corn ethanol, drought, together creating the “perfect storm”? It’s more than that, this food crisis points to a system in meltdown. In a world controlled by corporations, only one thing matters, profit, not ethics, not the environment, not food sovereignty, not even starvation. If you have money you matter, if you are poor you don’t.

While the price of bread and rice forces the poor to eat mud, could a butter shortage in Japan or a shortage of rye flour in the US, however inconsequential, cause even the rich to ask some questions about their food? Who could pass up beef tenderloin selling for $4.99/lb? A bargain, yet, how can it happen, what’s the hidden cost? Record high feed costs are forcing farmers to sell off their breeding stock, which means cheap tenderloin today and expensive burger tomorrow. We never question bargains, but we should.

Our apathy about our food, where it was grown, who grew it, what’s been added to it, is an open invitation for corporate interests to take control. We handed them the keys to the pantry and told them to make their profits however they wished.

Fuel shortages and high energy prices do not surprise us, why should food shortages and high food prices? The parallels are precise and exact. When we allow corporations to control entire systems they determine the source, supply and price.

It’s time we took control of our food system. Started producing more food locally, planted a garden again. Time we found the nearest Farmers Market. Time we started thinking about food in the big picture rather than whatever happens to be on our plate at the moment. Time we scrapped this corn ethanol nonsense. In sum, we need to reclaim our food system from the speculators, the corporations and the international financial institutions that pressure farmers to grow commodities instead of food.

And, what would it take for us to overcome our apathy towards food? No more pastrami on rye, no more butter? We seem oblivious to the 800 million people at risk of starvation, could a scarcity of our luxuries wake us up? We assume that the food we need and the food we love will always be available but, maybe it won’t.

Copyright 2008, Jim Goodman

Original posting at OpEdNews

by SurviveLA.com

For detailed instructions from SurviveLA go here: earthbox

 

Critiquing Monsanto’s Response to Vanity Fair
by Pamela Drew

 

In the May 2008 issue, Vanity Fair published Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear, by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. If you haven’t read the article, you should; it is a wonderful recap of what’s been happening in the legislation, politics, science and spin zones of America’s food supply. In response to the Vanity Fair article, Monsanto’s Communications Director, Darren Wallis, put together a page by page reply to issues raised by the authors. This is my critique of Monsanto’s response; it selects points in the Monsanto letter to address because doing a full five page point by point is too much for readers to slug through. Monsanto must have had a preview copy, since the article was published in May and the reply is dated March. Monsanto’s full reply is linked below if anyone wants to read that first or in addition to selected passages here.

Friday, March 14, 2008 Mr. Jim Steele Contributing Editor VANITY FAIR 4 Times Square, 22nd Floor New York, NY 10036 Dear Jim: Thanks for your recent correspondence and your interest in Monsanto Company. As someone who values research, you’ve undoubtedly seen that the name “Monsanto” has been associated with a company headquartered in America’s Heartland since 1901. However, today’s Monsanto is a relatively new company that took shape in the year 2000, and is today 100 percent focused on agriculture.

This is priceless; just erase the past and begin anew in 2000, free from all the toxic history that came before. Like a Holy Baptism by the powers vested in the SEC, voila, out with the old and in with the new.

In 1997, the company formerly known as Monsanto (“Old Monsanto”) spun off its chemical businesses as Solutia Inc. In 2000, Old Monsanto merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn to form Pharmacia Corp. In 2002, Pharmacia Corp. was acquired by Pfizer Inc. and spun off its agricultural businesses as Monsanto Company (“New Monsanto”). A provision in the spin-off agreement states that in the event Solutia fails to meet its environmental obligations outlined in the 1997 spin-off agreement, New Monsanto would be responsible for them on behalf of Pharmacia. This is what happened when Solutia filed for bankruptcy in December 2003.

Glad we’re all clear on who is who. What happens to the Solutia facility in Texas that’s ranked in the top toxic waste with tens of millions of pounds of known carcinogens released into the environment. I know the government stops reporting the releases and soon we can look forward to all pesticide data vanishing (LINK).

It sure makes the new technology look brighter when the critics and evidence disappear. What the heck, if Monsanto and Solutia get it wrong and stuff makes people sick the Pfiser opportunities explode (LINK).

Monsanto’s rebirth process may have helped feed a cadre of hungry lawyers and meet the letter of the law in financial reporting terms, but there are a few problems with this approach. First is how the “new” Monsanto begins with a selective product line from the “old” Monsanto. To an average observer it looks like dumping the liabilities and keeping the money makers, which include seeds that are tolerant to Monsanto’s herbicide and the monopoly in bovine growth hormone. Tossing off losses is not a concept most Boards of Directors ignore; profitability stays on the agenda. The PCB and dioxin pollution and associated criminal activity, was handily spun off to a tidy solution, by creating a new corporation called Solutia. But the patented seeds and dairy hormones remained core agricultural offerings. See how confusing this is to appreciate where the “old” Monsanto ends and “new” Monsanto begins? Monsanto’s gmo Bovine Growth hormone treatments have been uninterrupted in in America’s food supply and banned in developed countries since 1994. We do know the ban is not worldwide any longer, Pakistan and Mexico now allow these treated products too. Consumers across America should be tickled pink to know that such bastions of protection in human rights and science are with us in swallowing the stuff.

I just want my right to know who’s hands are on my food and opt out of any help from folks who mostly know how to kill stuff. I want to know how many of the folks who consume the bulk of the low priced stuff are getting diabetes now. When the European Union first banned hormone treatments for cows they cited concerns about increased risk for diabetes and cancers. Have we tracked consumers to see if we’re seeing that now? Nope, don’t look don’t find is the policy and then the argument becomes that absence of evidence of harm is substantially equivalent to proof of safety. Monsanto’s other GMO seed patents are uninterrupted by the rebirth. I’d like to be rebirthed, with my losses cut, too bad we can’t all enjoy being corporate citizens!

At Monsanto, we apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world be more successful, produce healthier foods, and better animal feeds, and create more fiber, all while reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

Never have more inspiring words been uttered, but sadly they do not reflect the reality of a decade of biotech crops. Where are these healthier foods? As long as we’re looking at health, where are the human health studies showing these things are safe? Who has the peer reviewed studies? Where are these acres of nutritionall improved varieties? According to the USDA these biotech crops are divided into three categories, herbicide tolerant, pesticide producing or both also known as stacked.

This product summarizes the extent of adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect–resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Three tables devoted to corn, cotton, and soybeans cover the 2000-07 period by State. (LINK)

In 2007 biotech was over 90% of the US soy acreage. Which one of those is healthiest for me? Can I ask my doctor? Have the New England Journal of Medicine and Jama endorsed those or should we look for the pharma rice to be evaluated there first? Don’t ask a medical doctor because no studies have been done for them.

On the biotech side is a cadre of veterinarians and Ph.D.’s, serving as the industry’s voice of the “Doctors” and the animal studies, comparing relative weight gain from gmo feeding is what the focus is on. There’s no human health study done by industry. Here are all the often cited industry studies, but feel free to add any I have missed (LINK).

Will a fatter pig help me reach my health and fitness goals? No. Will the same gmo feed traits bioaccumulate so the stuff that made the pig fatter might make people fatter too? Probably not, as if we’d miss an obesity epidemic and not look to it like a population wide feeding result to investigate. A pig feed, that grows the bottom line for agribusiness, may have its appreciative fans, but don’t sell it to the public as healthier to anything more than revenues. It isn’t. There are downstream effects of industrial farming.

From Scorecard, the global authority on chemicals and pollution. Almost two trillion pounds of animal waste are produced per year nationally. An increasing amount of this animal waste is produced by intensive livestock operations, which are really more factories than farms. Common animal waste treatment practices used by these livestock factories are often inadequate to protect our drinking water and environment, posing one of America’s serious pollution problems. See Scorecard’s overview of animal waste problems. (LINK)

What about being better for the environment? Surely that would count to the positive side, if it were true. We see the claims but not the evidence. It is not true that this new technology does anything it was billed to do at the outset. Past the third year of gmo crops, insect and weed tolerance begin to require heavier applications of chemicals. It’s survival of the fittest in the world’s natural order. Organisms either targeted or non-targeted mutate or vanish from the chemical exposure. Stronger toxins need to be used over time. Denying the basics of Nature isn’t going to change the reality of mutation. The myth of chemically intensive yield advantages was busted by the Cornell 22 year study that found organic farming produces the same corn and soybean yields as chemically intensive farming, without chemicals! (LINK)

Then there are findings which relate specifically to the gmo crops, which predate the creation of the “new” Monsanto, but use the exact same technology and product name. Imagine my confusion, again!

Roundup Ready (RR) GM soya Studies from 1999 – 2007 consistently show RR GM soya to yield 4 – 12% lower than conventional varieties. A 2007 study by Kansas State University agronomist Dr. Barney Gordon suggests that Roundup Ready soya continues to suffer from a yield drag: RR soya yielded 9% less than a close conventional relative. A carefully controlled study by University of Nebraska agronomists found that RR soya varieties yielded 6% less than their closest conventional relatives, and 11% less than high yielding conventional lines (Elmore et al, 2001). This 6% ‘yield drag’ was attributed to genetic modification, and corresponds to a substantial loss in production of 202 kg/ha. In 1998 several universities carried out a study demonstrating that, on average, RR soy varieties were 4% lower in yield than conventional varieties (Oplinger et al., 1999). These results clearly refuted Monsanto’s claim to the contrary (Gianessi, 2000). Yields of GM soybeans are especially low under drought conditions. Due to pleiotropic effects (stems splitting under high temperatures and water stress), GM soybeans suffer 25% higher losses than conventional soybeans( Altieri and Pengue, 2005) 5 studies between 2001 -2007 show that glyphosate applied to Roundup Ready soybeans inhibits the uptake of important nutrients essential to plant health and performance. The resultant mineral deficiencies have been implicated in various problems, from increased disease susceptibility to inhibition of photosynthesis. Thus, the same factors implicated in the GM soya yield drag may also be responsible for increased susceptibility to disease. (Motavalli, et al., 2004; Neumann et al., 2006; King, et al.,2001; Bernards,M.L, 2005; Gordon, B., 2007). The yield drag of RR soya is reflected in flat overall soybean yields from 1995 to 2003, the very years in which GM soya adoption went from nil to 81% of U.S. soybean acreage. By one estimate, stagnating soybean yields in the U.S. cost soybean farmers $1.28 billion in lost revenues from1995 to 2003 (Ron Eliason, 2004). More recent evidence shows that the kilogram per hectare ratio of soybean has been in decline since 2002, leading to the conclusion that RR soy does not have an impact on yield (ABIOVE, 2006a). (LINK

Where are all the loudly boasted benefits borne out in the data? Noble goals a plenty, but talk is cheap.

Agriculture is facing great challenges: increasing population, limited arable land and precious fresh water resources, among others. Farmers are being asked to address these challenges in an environmentally sustainable way while also balancing pressures that face them on their farm. Helping address these topics is not only important, but at Monsanto we believe they are essential in helping farmers succeed today and tomorrow. This introduction to you describes Monsanto’s focus and commitment to the success of farmers and agriculture around the globe. It’s important because you’ve raised questions on complex topics which face our business, questions that seem to cast doubt on our intentions.

There are no doubts about the intentions of Monsanto. All corporations are chartered to deliver increasing returns for stock holders. People understand that and a quick glance at the MON stock shows your Directors get it too. This trail of benevolent concern leading the market growth is hard to follow. So very much falls through the cracks with the end of one Monsanto and the beginning of another. Take the feeding study for example, the glyphosate tolerant soy sounds exactly like the patented varieties that belong to the “new” Monsanto.

Hammond, B., J. Vicini, G. Hartnell, M.W. Naylor, C.D. Knight, E. Robinson, R. L. Fuchs, and S.R. Padgette et al. 1996. The feeding value of soybeans fed to rats, chickens, catfish and dairy cattle is not altered by genetic incorporation of glyphosate tolerance. J. Nutr. 126: 717-727. (LINK)

They also leave no doubt the proiducts are designed to benefit agribusiness customers, but where’s the healthier part? Maybe health is measured in profits alone and by that measure there’s nothing about the “new” Monsanto that isn’t robust. Imagine the delight of the public if they could find an investment opportunity like this, from start up in 2000 to what? Ah yes, the seed and genomics business had sales of $4bn for 2006, or more than half of Monsanto’s total revenue. Quite a nice sum for a start up venture in a market not known to reward farming so richly. (LINK)

Bovine somatotropin, or bST, is a naturally-occurring protein produced by all dairy cows. It’s a necessary component of milk production. Supplementing dairy cows with bST enables dairy farmers to produce more milk using fewer cows and other resources which ultimately benefit the environment. All milk and dairy products meet stringent safety requirements and pass regular inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture making milk one of the safest foods available. Milk produced by cows supplemented with bST is the same, safe, nutritious milk as that which comes from cows not receiving supplemental bST. Regulatory agencies and independent scientific and academic organizations throughout the world have reviewed and studied the use of supplemental bST in dairy production for more than 20 years and determined it to be a safe, responsible and effective management tool for dairy farmers. Monsanto supports accuracy in consumer labeling. Dairy product labels that make unqualified absence claims, such as no hormones or bST-free, imply a safety or quality difference and are misleading to consumers. These labels undermine consumer confidence in dairy products. To that end, we applaud the efforts many states are making to ensure accuracy in consumer labeling for dairy products. Monsanto supports many industry groups across all areas of agriculture. And we have provided assistance to the Center for Global Food Issues, CGFI, and to American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology, known as AFACT.

It may be an effective “tool” for factory farm operations, but let’s be honest about the lack of safety testing and the interests of these “self directed” groups of supporters. To date the safety assurance at the FDA website remains the opinion of a fluid scientist at Cornell, written in 1994 (LINK). Using measurement tools that are older than Monsanto itself to support the claims of no difference is deceiving.

Where are the follow up studies showing how rBGH consumers fare compared to the consumers with no hormone supplemented dairy in their diets? Surely there’s something more substantial! One would think so and no small credit goes to father and son, Dennis and Alex Avery who have championed biotech from the 1990’s. Not only did they create the Center for Global food Issues, but they made Milk is Milk, Stop Labeling Lies and Voices for Choices. These busy promoters should be recognized and applauded for adding the same list of opinions on all the sites yet making it seem they’re all citing other sources, brilliant really how one or two individuals can seem like a dozen organizations worth listening to. The sites all feature the same collection of Monsanto supporters like the coalition who tried to eliminate labeling of milk from cows not treated with rBGH.

Just a few months ago the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, former Monsanto Dairy farmer, Dennis Wolff, got a bill right to the desk of the Governor and no small credit is due Avery’s and the AFACT members. Yes indeed, unbiased informed opinion is what consumers deserve. That’s what we are supposed to find with AFACT as well. But there’s a problem once again. Leader of AFACT is a farmer on the Board of Directors for Corner Bank and the communications contact was listed as a rep for Monsanto’s PR firm from 1998, and beyond to the new Monsanto. (LINK)

AFACT Web site: http://www.itisafact.org/Default.aspx Fax number given on Web site: (720) 367-5047 Contact information listed on AFACT media alert: Jason Gerke gerkej@osborn-barr.com

These are bankers and advertising agencies and individuals with increased personal fortunes tied to the sale of Monsanto products. The connections are well documented but in some ways the point of who will stand and suypport the benefits of Monsanto is a moot one. Theoretically we Americans are free people with a free market economy. Why is my right to choose what to eat not a basic right? Why is a company formed in 2000 determining what we eat? If so many legislators and executives think the gmo food is so wonderful why not put your mouths where your money is? Why isn’t the White House and Capitol converted to a full biotech menu? Have the visiting dignitaries compare the subtle nuance of difference between herbicide tolerant corn bread and stacked trait, serve some ring spot virus papaya smoothies with Bt soy milk, the possibilities are endless. Just don’t try to do it at Monsanto where the employee cafeteria is GMO Free!!

August 8, 2007 UNITED KINGDOM. From now on, staff at the British headquarters of biotech giant Monsanto will be eating only non-genetically modified products on their lunch breaks. Foods containing genetically modified soy and corn are no longer available in the company cafeteria. (LINK)

Thanks for the opportunity to share our story with you and with your readers. It is our sincere hope that the context that surrounds each of these topics is included within your article. Sincerely, Darren Wallis Monsanto Public Affairs

There’s oodles I’ve left out but for those who have an appetite for more of the scams, frauds, false claims and fronts, Jeffrey Smith who has tracked the biotech mutations the of products and process longer than almost anyone, just released a downloadable report called State-of-the-Science on the Health Risks of GM Foods. The pdf is 28 pages and Smith doesn’t miss a trick.

Sources:

Vanity Fair http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear http://www.democracynow.org/pdf/MonsantoResponse.pdf

Monsanto’s Letter to Vanity Fair http://www.nass.usda.gov/research/atlas02/Farms/Land%20in%20Farms%20and%20Land%20Use/Acres%20Covered%20under%20a%20Federal%20or%20Other%20Crop%20Insurance%20Policy.gif

USDA Crop Insurance Bonanza for Biotech http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Farmers_for_the_Advancement_and_Conservation_of_Technology

Bad news about pesticides http://pameladrew.newsvine.com/_news/2008/05/21/1502582-bad-news-about-pesticides-end-pesticide-reporting

Destruction of Amazon at Record Levels http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Destruction-of-Amazon-reaches-record-level/2005/05/20/1116533544020.html

Soil Association Study

State-of-the-Science on the Health Risks of GM Foods http://www.seedsofdeception.com/DocumentFiles/145.pdf

 
Copyright 2008, Pamela Drew
 

 

 

 

“In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest; one that can – and will – overturn the corporate powers that be.” Dervaes

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 260 other followers