North Carolina’s Chinese-Owned Industrial Pig Factories

Soyalism

Directed by Stefano Liberti and Enrico Parenti (2018)

Film Review

The title of this documentary is somewhat misleading: it actually concerns the industrial production of pork for the growing Chinese middle class. Under our present globalized system of industrial agriculture, pigs raised on factory farms (both in China and the US) are fed industrially produced corn and soybeans. Most of this (genetically engineered) soy comes from recently deforested areas of the Brazilian Amazon.

Given the current US trade war with China, I was astonished to learn that a Chinese company (having acquired Smithfields in 2013) is operating gigantic factory pig farms in North Carolina. Most are located in the state’s poor rural (and black) communities that struggle with the toxic aerosols from the (illegal) open pits adjacent to buildings warehousing tends of thousands of hogs.

In addition to visiting North Carolina hog factories and their distressed neighbors,* the filmmakers travel to Brazil to film the massive soybean plantations, as well as local small farmers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by industrial soy production. Together with local environmentalists and indigenous activists, these farmers are fighting the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest by expanding soy plantations.

Predictably only a handful of farmers and international agrobusinesses are becoming fabulously wealthy, while more and more Brazilians struggle to feed themselves.

The filmmakers also visit Mozambique, where local grassroots organizers are successfully fighting the Pro-Savannah initiative. This is a (currently suspended) government initiative involving Japan, Brazil, and Mozambique. It seeks to drive local subsistence farmers off their land to create factory farms producing soy, cotton, and corn for export to China.

Most activists blame these trends on the continued drive, both in the industrial North and China, for cheap meat – irrespective of its quality. Sadly most Chinese consumers are totally unaware of the true cost of their cheap meat. Brazil’s GM soybeans are sprayed with massive amounts of Roundup and other carcinogenic pesticides. This results in serious potential health consequences for human beings who eat pigs that are fed on them.


*North Carolina has its own grassroots organization, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network fighting their exposure to health-damaging pollution and industry harassment. See https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/02/step-toward-environmental-justice-north-carolinas-hog-country

 

Insect Apocalypse

Insect Apocalypse

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about German research into the 75% drop in global insect numbers over 25 years. After demonstrating the research methods used to measure this decline, the filmmakers focus on the plight of specific insect species. Some entomologists predict total ecosystem collapse if insect populations decline any further.

The film also explores specific threats insects face: overuse of insecticides (particularly neonicotinoids), the spread of agricultural “deserts” (large cultivated areas devoid of flowers) and the herbicide Roundup.*

Scientists are most concerned about the plight of butterflies, moths and other pollinators – without them humanity can’t mass produce fruits and vegetables. Other insects play an important role in feeding fish, birds, frogs and small mammals. Their populations are also collapsing.

The segment I found most interesting features the mayor of Miami protesting the nightly spraying of his city with pesticides (theoretically to destroy mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus). Owing to the short mosquito life cycle (egg to egg in 11 days), pesticide overuse paradoxically increases mosquito numbers. Following pesticide spraying, mosquito recovery takes two days. Meanwhile it takes weeks for the insect predators that feed on them to recover.


*Although Roundup (which is meant to target weed) doesn’t kill bees, it reduces their heartbeat and brain oxygenation. This, in turn, impairs orientation and can prevent them from returning to the hive. In wild bees, this can result in brood death.

 

Monsanto Papers

The Monsanto Papers: The Secret Tactics Monsanto Used to Protect Roundup – Its Star Product

Four Corners (ABC) 2018

Film Review

This is an Australian documentary about a long history of deceptive tactics by Monsanto to conceal the link between the herbicide Roundup and non-Hodgkins lymphoma – known in Australian medical circles as farmer’s lymphoma.

The film centers around Dwayne Johnson’s $289 million award in a California lawsuit against Monsanto. Johnson was a groundskeeper who developed aggressive (and fatal) non-Hodgkins lymphoma after two years of routine spraying with Roundup. Legal analysts believe his victory stemmed mainly from secret documents the court ordered Monsanto to release. They reveal that Monsanto knew that Roundup was potentially carcinogenic and did everything possible to cover it up.

In her book Whitewash, investigative journalist Carey Gillam documents two instances in the 80’s and 90’s in which labs Monsanto used were caught falsifying data about Roundup’s alleged safety. When the EPA followed up with studies showing Roundup to be “possibly” carcinogenic, Monsanto lobbyists forced them to Alter their findings to “not likely” carcinogenic.

Then in 2003, Monsanto’s own chief toxicologist sent an email to his superiors maintaining the company couldn’t rightly assert that Roundup was non-carcinogenic because they had failed to undertake the appropriate studies. At the same time Monsanto lobbyists effectively blocked EPA efforts to conduct an independent review of Roundup’s potential link to cancer.

The saddest part of the film is the various Australian and US farmers interviewed who believe all the PR hype Monsanto (now Bayer-Monsanto) has been spouting and continue to risk their own lives and those of their families and consumers who eat the crops they produce. Bayer-Monsanto’s slick PR team (featured in the film) have totally convinced them the lawsuit they lost in California was merely a fluke, thanks to the state’s “treehugging” juries.

At present Bayer-Monsanto faces more than 9,000 lawsuits for cancer and other serious health problems related to Roundup.

 

 

 

Roundup Linked to Antibiotic Resistance

A recent study from University of Canterbury in New Zealand shows that glyphosate (Roundup) and other commonly used herbicides can make bacteria quickly adapt and resist antibiotics like ampicillin and tetracycline. Glyphosate, 2,4-D (dioxin) and dicamba (recently approved by the FDA) appear to disable the antibiotics and trigger bacterial resistance to them.

Researchers tested E. coli and Salmonella, two of the most deadly and widespread bacteria in the world, and consistently replicated their results

The dosage required to induce antibiotic resistance was small, comparable to the concentration found in household use or agriculture, but higher than the concentration of incidental residue found in food. However researchers cautioned that people could easily reach this threshold by consuming large quantities of food with small amounts of residue, through children and pets exposed to weed killers used on lawns or via livestock pastured in spray drift zones.

Growing antibiotic resistance is already increasing the death rate from untreatable infectious disease. Epidemiologists estimate drug resistant bacteria kill roughly 23,000 Americans annually.

Given established links between glyphosate, dioxin, dicamba and cancer, this new evidence linking them to antibiotic resistance will only increase global pressure for them to be banned.

Source:  Study Says Pesticides Spur Antibiotic Resistance

Peer Reviewed Study Links Roundup and Growing Gluten Intolerance

Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance

Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff

Abstract:

Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer.

Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup®, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes.

Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids.

Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to the harvest.

We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America. We conclude with a plea to governments to reconsider policies regarding the safety of glyphosate residues in foods.

From  Interdisciplinary Toxicology

The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddon

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat

By Philip Lymbery with Isobel Oakeshott

Bloomsbury Press (2014)

Book Review

Farmageddon is about the false economy of industrial meat production. While the corporations that promote factory farming applaud themselves for producing “cheap meat” for poor people, when societal costs are counted, industrially produced meat costs society approximately 25 times the sticker price. So as not to infringe on corporate profits, the excess costs (for environmental clean-up and a myriad of health problems) are transferred to the taxpayer.

Lymbery, a long time organic farming proponent, provides an extremely thorough and compelling expose of the numerous drawbacks of raising livestock in concrete warehouses. The side effects of living adjacent to a factory farm include air and water pollution by toxic herbicides and pesticides, nitrates, pathogenic bacteria and arsenic; loss of songbirds, bees and other insect species; reduced life expectancy,* increased exposure to disease carrying mosquitoes, loss of earthworms (due to fertilizer-related soil acidification), increased incidence (by threefold) of childhood asthma; increased antibiotic resistance (due to routine feeding of antibiotics to factory farmed cows, pigs and chickens); reduced sperm counts and increased breast cancer and renal tumors related to Roundup, the herbicide used with GMO crops.

Lymbery also includes a section on industrially farmed fish and they risks they pose to the health of wild fish populations.

His final chapter includes a variety of policy recommendations that could facilitate a move away from industrial farming to safer, less environmentally destructive traditional farming.


*Individuals who live adjacent to intensive dairy farms have a ten year decrease in life expectancy.

The Care and Feeding of Gut Bacteria

diet myth

The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat

by Tim Spector

Weidenfeld and Nicholson (2015)

Book Review

The Diet Myth is all about looking after our intestinal bacteria – which are ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of our digestive, immune, endocrine and nervous system. As Professor Tim Spector explains, all mammals co-evolved over millions of years with the bacteria that inhabit their intestines. Because these bacteria produce a number of vital biochemicals that our bodies are genetically incapable of producing, without them the species homo sapiens would not exist. This relatively recent discovery has led many scientists to classify the microbiome (the collective name given to gut bacteria) as a vital organ like the brain, liver or kidneys.

Civilization hasn’t been kind to our intestinal bacteria. For various reasons (overuse of antibiotics, processed foods and pesticides like Roundup), urban life has caused us to lose half of the septillions of gut bacteria we started out with. Nearly all the chronic illnesses that plague modern society (obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression, autism, schizophrenia and possibly drug addiction and alcoholism) can be traced to loss or malfunction of intestinal bacteria.

For this book, Spector has chosen to focus on dietary research into foods that improve the health and diversity of our remaining gut bacteria. He blames the myriad of contradictory diet fads on the reality that each human being has their own distinct collection of bacteria. This means the foods that keep them healthy depend on the preferences of their particular bacteria.

Fortunately he’s able to make a few general recommendations that seem to apply to most people.

According to Spector, people with the most diverse profile of gut bacteria are the healthiest. The best way to promote this diversity is through a diverse fiber-rich diet that includes:

  • At least 20 different food types per week
  • A daily serving of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits
  • Daily servings of probiotic foods (fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso, raw milk and unpasteurized cheeses) that contain beneficial bacteria.*
  • Daily servings of prebiotic foods rich in polyphenols that gut bacteria love**
  • A strict limitation on red meat,*** sugar, refined carbohydrates, transfats (hydrogenated fats found in vegetable oils, margarine and Crisco) and processed foods

Research also indicates that lifestyle factors such as exercise (athletes have the most diverse microbiomes) also promote bacterial diversity (and good health). As does episodic fasting.****


*These mainly provide different strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that crowd out harmful inflammatory gut bacteria.

**Foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, coffee, green tea, turmeric, red wine, onions, garlic, (uncooked) extra-virgin olive oil, roasted nuts, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, broccoli, bananas, wheat bran and fermented fruits and vegetables.

***Citing numerous studies, Spector totally debunks the claim that red meat is harmful due to its fat content. He maintains the risk associated with red meat is the conversion (by gut microbes) of L-carnitine to trimethylamine oxide, which causes plaque build-up in arteries (in Europeans – this effect appears to be absent in other ethnic groups). He recommends that Europeans limit their intake of red meat to ½ serving or less per day. Those who eat more than this have a 10% increase in mortality. Those who eat one daily serving or more of processed meat (sausages, ham, salami, etc) have a 40% increase in mortality.

****When people fast, a gut organism caused Akkermansia cleans up gut inflammation by feeding off the intestinal lining. Research reveals specific benefit from the 5/2 diet in which people fast two days a week and eat normally the other five.

Monsanto Has Known Since 1981 that Glyphosate Promotes Cancer

Great interview with researcher Dr Anthony Samsel from Dr Mercola’s website.

mercola
Researcher Reveals Monsanto Has Known Since 1981 That Glyphosate Promotes Cancer

Dr Anthony Samsel has obtained copies from Monsanto’s original glyphosate studies from the 1970s. After reviewing thousands and thousands of pages of data, this is what he found:

What amazed me was that Monsanto knew in 1981 that glyphosate caused adenomas and carcinomas in the rats that they’ve studied… The highest incidence of tumorigenic growth occurred in the pituitary gland… the second highest levels were in the breasts of the female rats, in the mammary glands… Thirdly, the next highest tumorigenic growth was found in the testicles of male rats.

How did Monsanto and Biodynamics—the company doing the research—hide these inconvenient facts?

According to Dr. Samsel, they cancelled out the controls and the damning findings by using historical control data from unrelated studies. It’s also worth noting that these negative findings were never published in the peer-reviewed literature or submitted to the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cancer was clearly shown in their 26-month long feeding study, but the only studies Monsanto has published are studies done in less than three months, which hides the consequences of eating glyphosate and genetically engineered foods over the course of a lifetime.

Read more here.

 

 

Campaigning Against Roundup in New Plymouth

roundup1

 

Last night Green Party MP Stephen Browning and I presented a petition to the New Plymouth District Council Policy Committee asking them to cease spraying Roundup in our streets and parks. Here’s an excerpt from Taranaki Daily News:

Council Asked to Remove Possible Cancer-Causing Herbicides from Urban Areas

There are concerns about the health effects of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller being used in urban areas by New Zealand councils. The New Plymouth District Council is considering its continued use of Roundup in urban areas.

The common weed killer contains glyphosate, a compound which many studies have linked to a raft of health issues, include infertility and cancer, Green Party MP Steffan Browning said.

Browning was campaigning throughout New Zealand to convince local authorities of alternative options to the spray, and to continue to put pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a review of how dangerous it really was to human health.

“We’re really focused on getting it out of urban areas,” he said.

Browning addressed councillors at Tuesday’s policy committee meeting, encouraging them to reconsider the harm they could be doing to their community.

He said there had not been enough independent research into the effects of glyphosate but the World Health Organisation declared it a “probable carcinogen” in March 2015.

Read more here

Fighting Monsanto in India

Bullshit!

Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Kardalian (2005)

Film Review

Bullshit! is about Indian environmental activist Vendana Shiva. It takes its title from the “Bullshit Award” she received from a pro-Monsanto lobby group in 2004. Despite the intended insult (they sent the cow dung through the mail), Vendana was thrilled. Cow dung is revered in rural India, where it’s used as fuel and mixed with mud to construct water tight walls and flooring.

The film traces how Vendana abandoned nuclear physics in 1985 to start the Novdanya Institute, dedicated to reclaiming native plants and seeds as a commons for people to enjoy collectively – instead of a private commodity to increase the profits of multinational seed companies like Monsanto.

Novdanya runs a seed bank called The School of Nine Seeds. Its primary purpose is to preserve rare and heritage seeds that have been large replaced by a handful of hybrid monoculture crops. With growing water scarcity, Novdanya places special emphasis on drought resistant millets with a high protein content.

Another high priority for Vendana is her battle against Monsanto’s campaign to flood India, an early target starting in the late nineties, with GMO crops. Many Indian farmers have bankrupted themselves purchasing GMO seeds, particularly Roundup-ready varieties. When the high yields they were promised failed to eventuate, thousands committed suicide.*

Bullshit! also profiles Vendana’s role in the antiglobalization movement, particularly the anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico in September 2003. The public suicide of Korean farmer Lee Kyung-Hae was instrumental in galvanizing opposition from third world farmers against WTO provisions enabling the US to destroy local markets by dumping cheap agricultural products in third world countries.

In 2000 Vendana collaborated with Greenpeace to force the EU to revoke a patent they had granted Monsanto on the neem tree and an ancient variety of Indian wheat.

The film  ends by highlighting Shiva’s involvement, along with other high profile antiglobalization activists (including Canadian water activist Maude Barlow and French farmer Jose Bove) in a 640-day sit down strike to shut down a Coca Cola bottling plant that was illegal depleting a fresh water aquifer.


*According to New Dehli TV, close to 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995.
** The final breakdown of the so-called “Doha Round” of WTO negotiations in 2008 would eventually lead the US to promote the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and Transatlantic Trade and Partnership Initiative (TTPI) in its place.