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Madge Digest #140 April 2014

Submitted by Development on Tue, 04/08/2014 - 13:38
  1. Roundup, GM and health – especially kids and women's health
  2. The Easter bunny is nearly here! What chocolate should he bring?
  3. SA’s new Agriculture Minister stands up to the GM companies in support of health!
  4. Farmers say FFFU! Creating Fair Food together
  5. Refugees and Australians building communities and friendships with food
  6. What MADGE has been up to

1. Roundup, GM and health – especially kids and women's health

Mums in America are having their children’s urine tested for glyphosate (the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup). This is the most commonly used weedkiller in the world. It’s sprayed on most GM crops and used to ‘dry off’ grain crops like lentils, beans, barley and wheat before harvest. It’s sprayed on curbs, roadsides, playgrounds and parks. 

Glyphosate is linked to infertility, birth defects, cancer, bowel and stomach disorders, kidney disease and endocrine disruption. It is also linked to autism. In the US it is estimated that by 2025 half of all children (1 in 2) will be on the autistic spectrum. This is up from 1 in 10,000 in the 1970s.

Glyphosate has been found in groundwater and in the urine of European city dwellers at rates 5-20 times the allowable level in drinking water. Glyphosate was found in all humans and animals tested. People who are chronically ill have higher levels than healthy people.

What is happening?

Glyphosate attacks the shikimate pathway in bacteria. Since humans do not have this pathway it was assumed that we would be unaffected by glyphosate. However only 1 in 10 of our cells is human. The vast majority of our cells are microbial, especially in our guts. We cannot digest food, make certain nutrients or detoxify without the help of the ‘microbiome’ (bacteria) in our digestive tract. The majority of our immune system is in our gut. Glyphosate also locks up many minerals, including zinc and manganese, which are essential for our health. Watch Dr. Stephanie Seneff talk about her work on glyphosate and illness (18.30 onwards). Prior to that a pro-GM scientist speaks. See whom you find more credible. 

What is being done about this in Australia and worldwide?

Ask your council to phase out Roundup:

  1. Action sheet on how to get your council to phase out Roundup 
  2. Petition 
  3. Site listing all the studies showing harm from Roundup 
  4. If you live in the City of Yarra in Melbourne you can contact Clare Murrell, the Consultation and Research Officer, as they are currently inviting people to contribute creative ideas on ways for the council to consult with the community. 

Australian groups working on pesticides:

  1. National Toxics Network  
  2. Friends of the Earth
  3. Pesticide Action Group WA
  4. Action group in Bellingen 

Other Actions around the world include:

  • Sign a petition for a Royal Commission into the use of pesticides and the effect on health in Australia. Please share widely;
  • Glyphosate has just been banned in Sri Lanka although this has been partially reversed due to lobbying by the plantation industry . Recent research shows glyphosate is causing an epidemic of fatal kidney disease. It ‘chelates’ (locks onto) metals that damage kidneys, making the metals a thousand times more toxic. Water in farming areas is polluted with both Roundup and these metals, leading to farmers in poor areas being most affected by the disease. It is occurring in 11 countries and tens of thousands of people have died; 
  • Denmark is investigating the effect of glyphosate on animal health; and
  • The EU has a public consultation on the re-approval of glyphosate. Anyone worldwide can comment on the draft assessment produced by Germany. This report claims no toxic effects. However these claims are based on industry studies and data which the public and scientists are not allowed to see! 

Removing GM foods from your diet is likely to lessen your exposure to Roundup because most GM crops are sprayed with Roundup. This paper shows extremely high levels of glyphosate on GM soy but none on organic or conventional soy.  

Eating organic food will reduce exposure even more as crops at harvest time cannot be sprayed with glyphosate to ‘dry’ them off. 

Mums and kids in the US are reporting great improvements in health from getting rid of GM food. After two years on organic food the teachers of one child didn’t even realize he has once been severely autistic (9 mins in)

CA State Grange Rally for GE Labeling Jan 6th CA Capitol Steps- Zen Honeycutt's Speech

Other kids are recovering from asthma:

Child recovers form Asthma after removing GMOs from diet

And nut allergy

Nut Allergy and GMOs

Pesticides, GM foods and chemicals have been allowed into our food and lives on the basis of flawed company data and the complicity of regulators. They are causing widespread harm. Watch “Endocrine Disruption -The Male Predicament”  to see the full extent of the harm being done. We cannot turn away from this – our children need us to protect them and our joint future.

2) The Easter bunny is nearly here! What chocolate should he bring?

Shop Ethical recommends Haigh’s chocolates as they are non-GM, use ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients, support a rabbit-free Australia and are locally owned! Also their chocolate is delicious. 

The ingredients in chocolate that may come from GM sources are: soy lecithin, sugar from GM sugar beet and milk from cows fed GM feed. It is very useful if you can contact companies, ask them about their ingredients and tell them why avoid or buy their product. If you ring companies make sure to stress you want to know if the ingredients came from a GM crop.
 
Refined products derived from GM crops (ie oils and sugars and ingredients like lecithin) escape our labelling laws. Manufacturers often use these loopholes and state "does not contain GM ingredients/material" or "complies with Australian laws”.  This is not good enough.  For more information see p 10-12 of MADGE report Fed Up With FSANZ

3) SA’s new Agriculture Minister stands up to the GM companies in support of health!

Leon Bignell (ALP) said "I don't want to be the politician like the politicians in the 70s, who listened to James Hardie who said there are no dangers with asbestos…."As members of parliament, we have a responsibility to protect the citizens of South Australia in terms of any health consequences that come from GM crops." You may want to thank him for his brave stance and his integrity.  ministerleonbignell@sa.gov.au

The push for the takeover of the food system by global companies is intense and needs to be resisted:

Australian fruit and vegetable growers claim the levy they and taxpayers pay for research is being unduly influenced by the peak body Ausveg.  Ausveg is sponsored by Bayer, Syngenta and BASF who are also the GM seed giants. Are they spending growers’ money on developing GM fruit and vegetables and increasing chemical use?
 
The Health Department is calling for a strategy to deal with GM foods that enter Australia without approval. The US and Canada were unsuccessful at the FAO meeting in Rome this year in persuading countries to allow ‘low levels’ of GM contamination of crops that have not been approved anywhere or to accept contamination from GM approved elsewhere but not in their country.   Last April Australia and 5 other GM growing countries signed a joint statement that appears to forgive the contamination of the non-GM food supply with unapproved GM and stop the enforcement of measures to prevent it.   We must not allow Australia to be the dumping ground for untested, unapproved GM crops.
 
We are told we need GM and industrial agriculture to ‘feed the world’. What really feeds people is local farmers able to earn a decent living and seeds with genetic diversity.

The Chilean Congress has protected small farmers by withdrawing the “Monsanto law” which would have patented and controlled seed.

Africa is under ‘philanthropic’ pressure to accept industrial agriculture, Monsanto and GM seed via the Gates Foundation’s “A Green Revolution for Africa".

In India the Green Revolution meant rice varieties plummeted from 100,000 to 6,000. Indian conservationist Debal Deb is helping farmers bring back diversity, including drought resistant and high yielding varieties. “I have varieties of rice that can grow and live for months in 12ft-deep water. There are varieties with amazing medicinal properties. The tribals know about certain dark-grained rice that give high levels of antioxidants and can prevent cancers."   He stressed the importance of farmers using their fields as living seed banks. Up to 90% of seeds stored in conventional seed banks cannot be germinated but their genes can still be extracted and used by biotech companies. He says companies have used bribery and deception to try and get his seeds. 

What we need is farmers and scientists working together with the aim of feeding people well. Not increasing corporate profits. This amazing short film shows the incredible success evolutionary plant breeding is having in Iran. Farmers are told to plant many different types of (F2) seeds in their worst fields. The vigorous growth crowds out weeds and brings them their best crops.

Evolutionary Plant Breeding in Iran

Corporations are more profitable the larger the share of the market they control. They are using propaganda and political influence to expand their power and profits. Activists in the UK wittily provided a cake to the UK’s Department of International Development that is funding the expansion of companies like Unilever and Monsanto into Africa. Strangely the officials did not want to ‘carve’ into the Africa shaped cake, perhaps it too clearly showed this is not ‘helping’ people but the same old resource grab by another name. 

Another resource rich area is the Ukraine. It was known as the bread basket of Europe and now it is being targeted by global agricultural companies. Cargill, a privately owned US company that controls much of the world’s grain, recently spent $200 million on a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. This company “is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer.” Cargill also purchased as stake in the Black Sea port at Novorossiysk

Cargill bought the Australian Wheat Board in 2010. They have been prosecuted for tax evasion, using child labour, mistreatment of workers and deforesting the Amazon

Should we feel secure in a world where a handful of companies with records of criminal behavior are buying up the world’s food resources and infrastructure with the help of governments? It is up to us to stop it. See item 4 for what you can do. 

4) Farmers say FFFU! Creating Fair Food together

Australian farmers have created the Fair Food Farmers United (FFFU) organization designed to support farm families so that Australia is fed fairly.  The wonderful Tammy Jones of Jonai Farms is the spokesperson. If you are a farmer, get involved. If you know a farmer, tell them about it. 
 
Tammi Jonas, Jonai Farms
 
This is not wooly-headed nostalgia as the US and Canada show supporting their local farms boosts economies
 
Australia is part of this trend as 14% of people surveyed shop at Farmers Markets for their fresh fruit and vegetables. Being part of this local food economy has huge ramifications. It can shift us from an industrial model of ‘eat what you are offered’ mass produced, corporate junk food to “dramatically increase(ing) sustainability and yields. It offers the potential for employment, local empowerment and will ensure we are all fed. “ This verdict is not being promoted by organic zealots, but by the world's leading food scientists.
 
'Free Trade’ agreements currently under negotiation threaten this local food movement and much else. One particularly concerning aspect are Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions. These allow companies to sue governments for passing laws they do not like. Please sign this petition and make a submission to the Senate by 11th April in support of a Bill to ban ISDS provisions. 
 
Democracy needs us to be active for it to mean anything. In the US Citizens Rights Movements are prohibiting factory farms from their townships. They are imposing penalties on companies for ‘Toxic Trespass'. This is "the involuntary introduction of toxic chemicals into the human body”. They are developing democracy schools so people do not regard voting every few years as the only way to participate in the power that shapes their lives.
 
Our actions create our world. Deciding to shop at farmers markets, grow your own food, cook, swap and share has huge benefits. See Item 5 for inspiration. 
 

5) Refugees and Australians building communities and friendships with food

The wonderful Somali refugee Mariam Issa and German migrant Katharina Kons have created a garden, and with it a community, in Brighton. They set up RAW - Resilient, Aspiring Women with the aim of building connections, particularly between women, and creating a sense of community.
 
“They say it takes a whole village to raise a child and I add, when you nurture the women, you nurture the village,” she says. The garden, that has no fences, has groups meeting for conversations, story telling and gardening. There are yoga sessions, advice on medicinal plants and permaculture. Year 9 students helped dig a pond. “There are so few chances now for teenagers just to grab a shovel and get dirty,” she says.
 
“I really feel that we are failing young people in Australia; there is a lot of isolation and depression, for girls in particular,” she says. “We are often not there [as parents] and we don't have the time to talk about deep issues.”
 
Soon there will be cooking workshops and a plan to get local young people watching out for older isolated people in the area. 
 
In Sydney pot-luck dinners welcoming refugees and migrants have been such a success they have spread nationwide.
 
 
We cannot live without each other. We need to find a way to live together in a caring, peaceful way. “The Roots of Empathy” uses babies as ‘teachers’ in primary schools to allow children to develop kindness, imagination and humanity. Watch this amazing video on the results.    
 
 
It’s not just kids that are able to improve their lives by developing empathy. Adults find “having compassion leads to increased happiness, freedom from gender stereotypes, and better relationships with others.”
 
Together we can create a delicious and decent world. Local food and community is a way to begin that journey.
 

6) What MADGE has been up to:

The Annual GM-Free Australia Alliance meeting in Sydney was a great success. Three delegates came from “Stop OGM Pacifique” in New Caledonia. The Pacific islands import significant amounts of food, including from Australia and they are concerned that we may be the first country to grow GM wheat. Who wants to eat GM croissants or baguettes!  We also had a representative from GE-Free New Zealand. They have done amazing work stopping GM animals and trees.  It is inspiring and encouraging to work with people passionate about protecting our food. 
 
“Fair Fresh Local GM-Free Forum”. Video of the Sydney forum with farmers Michael Croft and Fred Haskins, Claire Chauvet from Stop OGM Paciifque in New Caledonia, Claire Bleakley from GE-Free New Zealand and Fran Murrell from MADGEAll presentations are on this link. For best viewing, paste the link into your browser and watch on your computer after clicking the "download" button. Many thanks to all the speakers for their contribution to the debate. 
 

Your right to know what in your food

Press releases:

Coming attraction!

 
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