THE BLOG
01/22/2016 12:59 pm ET Updated Jan 22, 2017

Five-Way Food Fight

So many assaults on food lately, I had to zero in on the most urgent topics.

1. Illegal Seeds: An amendment to California's "Seed Law" bans the sharing and sale of seeds amongst gardeners and farmers. AB 2470 forbids seed savers who live farther than three miles of each other from swapping seeds unless they have registered the seed, tested it, and become a licensed seed merchant.

These rules were supposedly meant to prevent the spreading of weed seeds that might have contaminated bulk collection. But California Grange President Bob McFarland warns that it's more about control of the food supply. "This unjust bill does little more to prevent the spread of weeds, but it certainly exterminates beneficial seed sharing traditions that have been practiced by humankind for more than 10,000 years."

A particularly frightening provision of the law opens the door for the Secretary of Agriculture to veto any restrictions that Californians want to impose on the use of Genetically Engineered seeds. With a pro-industry Secretary of Agriculture, this provision gives corporations unfair competition over organic practices, mandating possible contamination of heritage seeds via pollen drift.

2. Plate of the Union: Mark Bittman, former New York Times columnist, and Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, will meet with the staff of presidential campaigns on January 21, ahead of the Iowa caucuses. They represent a growing coalition of community groups, farmers, parents and scientists who are concerned about how food is grown and what pesticides and herbicides they and their children are eating.

3. USDA Avoids Analyzing Herbicide Residues in Food: On January 11, Consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing an annual pesticide residue report that avoided any evaluation of residues from glyphosate, a top-selling herbicide important to corporate agricultural companies, but one that has been linked to cancer.

Only once in the 24 years that glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) has been in use has there been a test conducted of its residues. Out of 300 soybean samples, 271 were found to contain the herbicide.

4. Independent Testing of Glyphosate Finds High Levels in Breastmilk and Urine Samples: Moms Across America published a report showing levels of glyphosate 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides in drinking water.

The glyphosate testing commissioned by Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse, with support from Environmental Arts & Research, analyzed 35 urine samples and 21 drinking water samples from across the U.S. and found levels in urine that were over 10 times higher than those found in a similar survey done in the EU by Friends of the Earth Europe in 2013.

The amount of glyphosate used on U.S. crops are staggering: of the 500 million acres of Genetically Engineered crops in the U.S., 90% is sprayed with RoundUp herbicide. Eighty percent of processed foods are contaminated with glyphosate.

Dr. Thierry Vrain, former GMO scientist with Agriculture Canada and now a whistle-blower, says, "It's almost as if the entire population of North America is on a low-grade diet of antibiotic [glyphosate] day in and day out from birth."

5. Dietary Guidelines by Secretary of Agriculture Missed the Big Picture: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, tasked with the responsibility to "Develop and expand safe, effective, and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices to ensure availability of recommended amounts of healthy foods to all segments of the population," neglected to mention that the current CAFO-style agriculture is no longer healthy for the animals or the humans who eat them, and is unsustainable.