2002/05/27 IMF and World Bank: Out of Control
THE International Monetary Fund and World Bank are institutions out of control. For evidence, consider the institutions' feeble and fatally flawed debt relief program. Under their Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, the world's poorest countries can receive reduction of approximately one third of their current payments to overseas creditors -- if they endure six years of closely monitored, extremely intrusive "structural adjustment." ... HIPC is the institutions' most important fig-leaf, a program designed to obscure the view of the harm they are doing to poor countries.

Greenwash + 10
The UN's "Global Compact" with global corporations associates with notorious violators of UN values -- Global Compact companies have already violated the Principles of the Compact, without censure -- or even acknowledgement -- from UN officials. The Global Compact represents a smuggling of a business agenda into the United Nations. It should not be considered a contribution to or framework for the Johannesburg Summit. Here's the evidence.

Technology and the poor
The United Nations Development Programme's "Human Development Report 2001 -- Making new technologies work for human development" attempts to address a key question for the 21st century: will technology entrench millions in even greater poverty -- or can it be used to eradicate poverty and suffering? But it chooses the wrong challenge. The key issue is not "making new technologies work for human development". The challenge is enabling poor people to make technologies work for them.

Philip Morris Sees the Light
After decades of denial about the hazards of tobacco, Philip Morris has been promoting the benefits to society of premature deaths from smoking, in a study that found the early deaths of smokers have "positive effects" for society that more than counteract the medical costs of treating smoking induced cancer and other diseases.
Updated resources.

The Enemies of Democracy
Report of a chilling, documented history of ongoing corporate efforts to use propaganda and "public relations" to distort science, manipulate public opinion, discredit democracy, and consolidate political power in the hands of a wealthy few. Details, references, and lots of resources.

Murder that is a threat to survival
There is a strong link between diminishing global biodiversity and the disappearance of languages. While new trees can be planted and habitats restored, it is much more difficult to restore languages once they have been murdered. It has taken centuries for people to learn about their environments and to name the complex ecological relationships that are decisive for maintenance of biodiversity. When indigenous peoples lose their languages, much of this knowledge also disappears. And languages are being murdered today faster than ever before in human history.

Seed patents threaten world food resources
Just as the Prince of Wales launched a millennium gene bank in Britain last November to conserve 10% of the plant kingdom, in Switzerland a threat appeared to the future availability of the seeds used to feed the world. Negotiations to keep their ownership in the public domain were only rescued at the 11th hour. These negotiations are a life insurance for humanity against rapid environmental, social and economic changes. Future food supplies will be under threat unless the talks succeed.
Updated resources.

The wreckers who trade in misery
Dedicated and well-organised groups are ruthlessly chipping away at the remnants of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) credibility. There is a real danger that they will cause the rules-based trading system to collapse, destroying efforts to reduce poverty and global inequality. The wreckers are not from the broadening anti-globalisation, anti-WTO protest movement. They are the governments of the world's richest countries, using their power to subordinate the WTO to their national interests and to the pursuit of corporate profit, regardless of the cost to poor countries, public health and the environment. -- By Kevin Watkins, Senior Policy Adviser for Oxfam UK -- Guardian Weekly report.
Updated resources.

BP -- Beyond Preposterous
BP Amoco won a Corporate Watch "Greenwash Award" for its thoroughly misleading ad campaign "Beyond Petroleum". "Beyond Belief," commented the Earth Day Network's Grist Magazine. "Beyond Preposterous," said Corporate Watch. "Beyond Pretentious." The slogan "Beyond Petroleum" is supposed to mean moving "beyond fossil fuels" to renewable fuels, but BP uses it to refer to its marketing push for natural gas -- a fossil fuel. BP spent more on their new eco-friendly logo in 1999 than on renewable energy. This was BP's second Greenwash award in 18 months. Read how BP boss Sir John Browne won a Greenpeace "Academy Award" for "Best Impression of an Environmentalist" for creating "an environmental fantasy of epic proportions". And behind the fantasy? Spin, lies, cheating, abuses, broken laws, pollution on a grand scale.
Updated resources.

Shell wins Greenwash Award
Corporate Watch awarded its Greenwash Award to Shell for its ad claiming that Shell is at the forefront of reducing harmful greenhouse gases. Kenny Bruno, co-author of "Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism", takes a deeper look and finds that the company is full of hot air. Journey to Forever takes a further look, and finds that it's worse than that.
Updated resources.

Talking pure manure
Agribusiness mouth Denis T. Avery keeps claiming that "people who eat organic and 'natural' foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria (0157:H7)" -- despite solid proof that his "evidence" and "tests" are all falsified. In fact nearly all cases of E. coli 0157:H7 poisoning result from contaminated meat from industrial factory farms and meat processing plants, NOT organic farms. So why does he keep claiming it? Because the truth hurts.
Updated resources.

2000/5/19 Hi-tech crops are bad for the brain
"Miracle" crops, hailed as the answer to global famine, are contributing to widespread brain impairment in the developing world, a new report concludes. The high-yielding rice and wheat varieties of the "Green Revolution" are among a range of environmental factors undermining the intelligence of millions of people.

2000/5/3 The WTO: "These guys just don't get it!"
In response to the anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protests, a Washington think-tank sponsored a day-long seminar entitled "After Seattle: Restoring Momentum in the WTO". "This was supposed to be a seminar on how to rebuild public confidence in the WTO, not transform the agency into the former Soviet KBG."

2000/4/5 Countering myth with facts
"Agriculture needs to counter false charges" and to "educate the general public and government officials" in order to "counter myth with facts", say two spokesmen of the American poultry industry. Myths to be countered with facts: animal welfare, worker safety, environmental contamination, antibiotic use.
Updated resources.

2000/4/1 Rape of a rainforest
Malaysian timber companies have become notorious for their systematic destruction of the world's remaining rainforests. Latest victim is Liberia, which has one of the largest surviving rainforest areas in West Africa -- report on an ecological and social crime.
Updated resources.

2000/3/17 Do pesticides cause cancer?
The answer, straight from the horse's mouth -- chemical corporation Monsanto's "Fact Sheet On Pesticide Use": "Number of active ingredients in pesticides found to cause cancer in animals or humans: 107." Read on!


Talking pure manure

Denis T. Avery, author of "Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic - The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming" (not a joke, he means it!), has been claiming that "people who eat organic and 'natural' foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria (0157:H7)."

He says this is because organic food is grown in animal manure, a known carrier of the killer bacteria.

He claims his data come from Dr. Paul Mead, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US federal agency that tracks outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Dr. Mead denies this, and says CDC data don't support Avery's claim. But Avery still sources the false data back to Dr. Mead.

The CDC even issued a press release stating they had not conducted any such study, and called Avery to tell him to stop claiming that the CDC was the source of the allegation. Avery took no notice, and claimed the CDC was conducting a "cover-up" under pressure from environmentalists.

Avery's a good self-publicist, and the story has appeared in a lot of media in the US, including ABC's "20/20", with co-anchor John Stossel aggressively asserting that organic food "can kill you".

On August 11, Stossel, under heavy attack from environment and consumer groups, admitted he'd falsified evidence in the report, and that tests he'd said supported his claims had never been conducted. The report relied almost exclusively on the testimony of Dennis Avery.

Avery is director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the right-wing "think tank" the Hudson Institute, which is funded by AgrEvo, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Novartis Crop Protection and Zeneca, among others in the biotechnology industry, along with agrichemical corporations like Du Pont, Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, and agribusiness giants ConAgra, Cargill, Procter & Gamble and many others.

It's easy to see their concern. In the US and many other countries, organic farming is now the fastest-growing sector of the food economy. Worldwide demand for organic food has skyrocketed with consumer rejection of the Genetically Modified "Frankenfood" crops sold by the biotechnology industry, along with a growing and well-founded distrust of the toxic pesticides and antibiotics used in "conventional" farming. (See for instance Countering myth with facts FYI 2000/4/5 and Do pesticides cause cancer? FYI 2000/3/17.)

The chemical stuff doesn't work anyway. Experts have shown that using pesticides does not guarantee increased yields. David Pimentel, professor of insect ecology and agricultural sciences at Cornell University, says: "[Pesticide] use does not always decrease crop losses. For example, even with the 10-fold increase in insecticide use in the United States from 1945 to 1989, total crop losses from insect damage have nearly doubled from 7% to 13%."

Contrary to Avery's claim, E. coli 0157:H7 contamination from manure is much more likely to occur on the factory farms Avery promotes than on organic farms.

Manure applications on organic farms are strictly controlled: it must either be composted first or spread months before harvest, either of which destroys pathogens like E. coli.

In fact, most of the manure spread on land in the United States is used by "conventional" farmers. Factory farming's cattle feedlots produce huge amounts of manure, and farmers spread it on their fields, raw, because they have nowhere else to put it. They spray raw manure on crops mere days before harvest, as well as human sewage sludge and slurry from industrial animal farms, all forbidden to organic farmers.

Nearly all cases of E. coli 0157:H7 poisoning result from contaminated meat from industrial factory farms and meat processing plants.

Microbiologist Dr. Robert Elder of the US Department of Agriculture's Meat Animal Research Center specializes in E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle. He says that in the summertime, when E. coli 0157:H7 levels peak, 80 to 100% of the feedlot cattle he tested carried the deadly 0157:H7 strain.

Most US ground beef tainted with E. coli
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2000 (Reuters) -- Most raw U.S. meat processed into ground beef patties may be tainted with tiny amounts of the illness-causing E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, according to a draft study released by Agriculture Department scientists.

Feces, vomit on raw meat a growing risk
WASHINGTON, September 6, 2000 (Reuters) -- Americans face a growing risk of eating feces, vomit and metal shards in meat and poultry because the US Agriculture Department is allowing companies to perform more of their own food safety inspections, two consumer groups and a labor union said. Their survey of 451 federal inspectors showed many were concerned that too much contaminated meat and poultry was slipping through company production lines under the government's new food safety procedures. Some 206 meat inspectors who responded to the survey said there were weekly or monthly instances when they did not take direct action against animal feces, vomit, metal shards or other contamination because of the new USDA rules.

Organic farming reduces E. coli risk -- FAO
"The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the main source for human infection with E. coli as meat contaminated during slaughter. Virulent strains of E. coli, such as E. coli 0157:H7, develop in the digestive tract of cattle, which is mainly fed with starchy grain as research at Cornell University has demonstrated. Cows mainly fed with hay generate less than 1% of the E. coli found in the faeces of grain-fed animals. It is one of the most important goals of organic farming to keep the nutrient cycles closed. Therefore, ruminants like cattle and sheep are fed with diets with a high proportion of grass, silage and hay. It can be concluded that organic farming potentially reduces the risk of E. coli infection." -- "Food Safety And Quality As Affected By Organic Farming", UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), July 2000.

See also Jo Robinson's "Eat Wild" site: "Why Grassfed Is Best!"

And new research has found that crop pesticides actually encourage killer bacteria like E. coli O157:H7, Shigella, Salmonella and Listeria.

Food poisoning bugs thrive in crop sprays
New Scientist, 7 October 2000: Pesticide sprays encourage life-threatening bacteria to grow on crops, a researcher in Canada has discovered. The bugs could pose a threat to people eating raw fruit and vegetables such as strawberries, raspberries and lettuce. Alarmed by the rise in cases of food poisoning caused by fresh produce, researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg prepared formulations of common pesticides approved for spraying on raw fruit or vegetables and added strains of bacteria that cause food poisoning. "Numbers could increase one-thousandfold," they said.

Denis Avery doesn't believe his own story -- he knows he's lying. When told by the CDC that they had conducted no such study as he claimed, he replied: "You've got your interpretation, I've got mine."

That's what he's paid for. He's just a small part of a multi-million-dollar campaign to put a spin on food facts. More on spin:

Avery's "High-Yield Farming" is also misleading: many studies have shown that factory farms do not outyield organic farms.

One 15-year study found that organic farming is not only kinder to the environment than "conventional", intensive agriculture but has comparable yields of both products and profits. The study showed that yields of organic maize are identical to yields of maize grown with fertilisers and pesticides, while soil quality in the organic fields dramatically improves. (Drinkwater, L.E., Wagoner, P. & Sarrantonio, M. Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen losses. Nature 396, 262–265.)

A Rodale study found that organic farm yields equal factory farm yields after four years using organic techniques.

"In the USA, for example, the top quarter sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment," says Jules Pretty, Director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex ("Feeding the world?", SPLICE, August/September 1998, Volume 4 Issue 6).

In fact, small family farms are generally much more productive than the big, industrialised farms Avery favours: "For every country for which data is available, smaller farms are anywhere from 200 to 1,000 percent more productive per unit area." -- See "The Case for Small Farms":

And new studies are finding that it's not industrialised farming or GMOs that will feed the world of the future.

"The truth, so effectively suppressed that it is now almost impossible to believe, is that organic farming is the key to feeding the world." -- The Guardian, August 24, 2000

"Organic farming can 'feed the world'" -- BBC Science, September 14, 1999

"Feeding the world?" Quietly, slowly and very significantly, sustainable agriculture is sweeping the farming systems of the world.

"It sounds like an environmentalist's dream. Low-tech 'sustainable agriculture', shunning chemicals in favour of natural pest control and fertiliser, is pushing up crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 per cent or more. But it's no dream. That's the claim being made in the biggest ever survey of green-minded farming (see p 16). The findings will make sobering reading for people convinced that only genetically modified crops can feed the planet's hungry in the 21st century. The gains are greatest among poor farmers..." -- "The greener revolution", New Scientist, 3 February 2001

Hence the corporations' need for spin -- the truth hurts.

1998 Donors to Avery's Hudson Institute (there is no direct link to this document at the Hudson Institute website). The lowest level of donation is $50 for FRIENDS. The highest is over $25,000 for TRUSTEES and buys the donor special consultation and the opportunity to meet politicians in Washington, D.C. See how many agribusiness giants you can count. See how many corporate PR agencies you can count.

See also Organic gardening and Small farms.

Update -- 2001/1/29

Agent fired "for hitting back at Avery"

Cooperative Extension agent Dennis Bishop, of Stafford County, Virginia, was allegedly fired for "defending organics in a letter to the editor". Bishop's letter was in response to an editorial by Dennis Avery. Bishop's case has been taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Avery meanwhile continues unabashed with his campaign of disinformation, with, most recently, an article in the Editorials & Opinion section of the Europe edition of the Wall Street Journal on January 24, 2001, titled "Organic Farming vs. the Environment": "The merits of organic farming have been greatly oversold. And its costs are barely understood," he rants. "So what's the solution? Biotech."

Uh-huh. Two days later the Institute of Science in Society in London announced that "UK Top Research Centre Admits GM Failure": "Scientists in UK’s top GM crop research institute, the John Innes Centre, are finally admitting to the public that GM crops are no good. It amounts to pronouncing the death sentence on GMOs."

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Hi-tech crops are bad for the brain

"Miracle" crops, hailed as the answer to global famine, are contributing to widespread brain impairment in the developing world, a new report concludes. It says that the high-yielding rice and wheat varieties that brought about the much-heralded "Green Revolution" are among a range of environmental factors undermining human intelligence.

The study concludes that a deadly combination of soil erosion, pollution and inadequate diet is affecting the intelligence of millions of people, with effects ranging from severe intellectual disabilities to "sub-clinical decline" in whole populations.

The report says that the new crops, unlike their predecessors, fail to take up minerals such as iron and zinc from the soil. So even as people consumed more calories, their intake of these key "micronutrients" fell.

"High-yielding Green Revolution crops were introduced in poorer countries to overcome famine," the report says. "But these are now blamed for causing intellectual deficits, because they do not take up essential micronutrients."

The report is written by Dr Christopher Williams, a research fellow with the Global Environmental Change Programme. Using already published UN data he has calculated that 1.5 billion people -- one quarter of the earth's population -- are affected by "Green Revolution iron deficiency". He claims the condition impairs the learning ability of more than half of India's schoolchildren.

The greatest drops in the intake of iron took place in South and South East Asia, the very areas where the Green Revolution was most successful.

Other UN figures show that half the world's pregnant women are anaemic, because they have too little iron, putting both them and their babies at risk. The condition is thought to be responsible for 200,000 deaths a year.

See News report in The Independent, London:

Pollution 'damages intelligence' -- BBC News

"The Environmental Threat to Human Intelligence", by Dr Christopher Williams

See also Seeds of the world and Nutrient starved soils lead to nutrient starved people.

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The WTO: "These guys just don't get it!"

By Bruce Silverglade
Director of Legal Affairs
Center for Science in the Public Interest

In response to protests over the operations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Cordell Hull Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank dedicated to rebuilding public support for free trade, recently sponsored a day-long seminar entitled "After Seattle: Restoring Momentum in the WTO".

The meeting was called in light of recent protests in Seattle and anticipated protests in Washington, DC by organizations who believe that the rules of international commerce set by the WTO are leading to lower consumer, environmental, and labor standards around the world.

In attendance at the seminar was an invitation-only group of about 50 present and former international trade officials from federal government agencies, congressional staff, representatives from embassies of major trading partners of the US, and lawyers and consultants representing multinational companies involved in trade disputes such as the recent row between the US and the European Union over meat and banana exports.

The speakers were high level. They included Clayton Yeutter (former Secretary of Agriculture), Robert Litan (former Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget), Lawrence Eagleburger (former Secretary of State), and Luiz Felipe Lamreia, the Foreign Minister of Brazil.

I was disappointed that only one representative like myself, from a non-profit organization concerned about the impact of the WTO on food safety regulation, was invited. But I was pleased that the door had been opened and I looked forward to the high level event aimed at addressing concerns about the WTO's impact on consumer and environmental protection raised by my organization and many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- the international term for what is referred to in the US as public interest groups.

I anticipated that the group would discuss how to give credence to President Clinton's remarks at the Seattle WTO meeting that trade proceedings should be more open to the public.

The President had stated there that "We can do it a little bit now and little bit later. We can drag our feet, or we can run through an open door. But my preference is to open the meetings, open the records, and let people file their opinions."

The Office of the US Trade Representative was represented at the meeting, and I eagerly anticipated what the agency would say about following up on the President's remarks.

As it turned out, I got a lot more than I bargained for. The seminar that I was invited to, by a think tank whose mission it is to build public support for free trade, turned out to be a strategy session on how to defeat those opposed to the current WTO system. Apparently, no one knew who I was (perhaps my graying temples and dark suit helped me blend in with the overwhelming older male group of attendees) and I did not speak up until the end of the meeting.

The meeting was kicked off by a gentleman named Lord Parkinson who was [former right-wing British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher's Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He began by stating that "Our number one job is to restore confidence in the WTO before embarking on any new rounds" of trade negotiations. So far, so good, I thought.

But he then proclaimed that non-profit groups have no right to criticize the WTO as undemocratic because the groups themselves do not represent the general public. (I wondered which groups he was talking about because organizations that are gravely concerned about the impact of the WTO on environmental and consumer protection, like the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, have hundreds of thousands of members.)

He then stated that "we must never have another WTO meeting on US soil" because it was too easy for advocacy groups to organize here and security could not be assured. Was this for real, I thought?

He added that President Clinton's speech during the WTO meeting in Seattle, in which the President acknowledged the protesters' concerns, was "disgraceful" and stated that it was also disgraceful that delegates to the WTO meeting in Seattle had to survive on sandwiches and couldn't get a decent meal during three days of social protest by 40,000 people.

The Lord finished his speech by recalling better times, having tea with "Maggie", and stating that the staff of the WTO Secretariat (the general administrative office of the WTO responsible for its day-to-day operations) should not be balanced with people from developing countries just "because of the color of their skin". After a few words with the Chairman of the meeting, Lord Parkinson added "Oh, I hope I have not offended anyone."

I thought I was hearing an arcane viewpoint from someone from another country and eagerly anticipated a response from some of the American officials attending the seminar. But the largely American audience of trade officials and policy wonks took the Lord's pronouncements seriously.

The first comment, by an American, picked up on the criticisms and asked "How can we de-legitimize" the NGOs? The questioner from the audience claimed that these groups are usually supported by just a few charitable foundations and if the foundations could be convinced to cut off funding, the groups would be forced to cease operations.

Mr. Litan, the former White House budget official, endorsed another approach to "Give the NGOs other sandboxes to play in" and have them take their concerns to groups like the International Labor Organization (a toothless United Nations sponsored group in Geneva Switzerland). The representative from the US Trade Representative's office said nothing.

I was hoping for a more enlightened approach from Clayton Yeutter, the former Secretary of Agriculture of the US. I knew that Mr. Yeutter was a conservative, but I presumed that his speech would be more in tune with reality than those of the speakers who preceded him. After all, this was supposed to be a seminar on how to rebuild public confidence in the WTO, not transform the agency into the former Soviet KBG.

I was again shocked at what I heard. Under the banner of rebuilding public confidence in the WTO, Mr. Yeutter concurred with his British colleague's suggestion that the next WTO meeting be held in some place other than the US "where security can be assured". He further suggested that the WTO give the public "little advance notice" of where the meeting would be held so as to "keep the protesters off balance".

He said that the protesters' demands for greater "transparency" in WTO proceedings was a "misnomer" because the protesters didn't really want to participate in WTO proceedings -- all they wanted was "to get TV coverage and raise money for their organizations". There was a reprise from the questioner in the audience who had suggested earlier that everyone should just find a way to cut off the NGOs' foundation grants. The representative for the US Special Trade Representative's office was again silent.

I really had had about all I could take. Even if these guys really wanted to save the WTO, they were going about it precisely the wrong way. However, I decided to keep my true feelings in and instead simply tried to give the group some advice.

I stated that it would be a mistake to write off the NGOs and attempt to de-stabilize them. I explained that this approach was tried in the early 1950s at the time of the civil rights movement, it was tried again in the 1960s during the anti-Vietnam war movement, and it was tried once more in the 1970s at the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Each time the strategy failed.

The NGOs that arose during these periods grew in size and ended up making a very major impact on public policy, but only after a long battle during which those who tried to "de-legitimize" them lost credibility. I told the group that it would be unfortunate to have to repeat this battle on an international level, and even more unfortunate to lose the battle on terms not favorable to those who support free trade.

I said that I did not have a crystal ball, but that if we are at the beginning of a new social movement, simply "drawing the wagons in a circle" would exacerbate, not alleviate, public mistrust of the WTO and would ultimately be self-defeating.

Let us learn from history, not repeat it, I said, and let's bring the NGOs into the WTO process instead of trying to keeping them out.

A young trade lawyer from a major Washington DC law firm put it this way: "I don't have as much experience as you people, but I can tell you that the days of going to a seaside resort and negotiating trade agreements in secret are over."

The day ended with the usual Washington reception but which this meeting agenda fittingly identified as "Drinks". After the "Drinks", several appetizers and a heavy entree was served along with fine wines. During dessert, the foreign minister of Brazil spoke and lamented that if the next WTO meeting had to be held in an out of the way place, he preferred that it be held on a "cruise ship" instead of "in the middle of the desert".

He then gave an impassioned speech in which he opposed writing core labor standards into the WTO agreement and defended child labor by describing how in one region of Brazil, more than 5,000 children "help their families earn a little extra money" by hauling bags of coal from a dump yard to a steel mill. He stressed, however, that the children do not work directly in the steel mill. He was greeted by a hearty round of applause.

On the way home, I thought of children hauling coal on their backs and had trouble digesting my meal. I thought -- these guys just don't get it!

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Countering myth with facts

The March 2000 edition of the Poultry Letter (, published by the Dairy and Poultry Sciences Department at the University of Florida, quotes a speech by two spokesmen of the American poultry industry attacking the many critics of agriculture -- by which they mean the industrialized, chemicalized brand of mass-production practised by corporations rather than farmers.

The "enemy" are the environmentalists and consumer activists opposing antibiotic use in livestock production, genetically engineered crops, and other such misunderstood blessings of modern factory-farming.

Focusing on the use of antibiotics in poultry feed for promoting growth, they say: "Agriculture needs to counter false charges" and to "educate the general public and government officials" in order to "counter myth with facts".

The challenge to be overcome is the "knee-jerk reaction" of the consumer groups and the media, which is interested in communicating emotion rather than facts.

"Small events can cause panic. For example, the health concerns in recent years with apples, grapes from Chile, mad-cow disease, etc."

Mad-cow disease a "small event"? But it's killed scores of people, and it's feared it could kill far more.

Your first reaction is that he wouldn't think it was a "small event" if it happened to him. Your second reaction is that it has already happened to him -- surely only a man with a rotting sponge for a brain could say such a stupid thing.

These are some of the "negatives" they perceive are causing increasing concern to various groups, myths to be countered with facts: animal welfare, worker safety, environmental contamination, antibiotic use.


Animal welfare

"Bright Lights, Pig City" is an exposé of factory farming by Jane Rissler, a senior staff scientist on the Union of Concerned Scientists' Agriculture and Biotechnology Program: "And on that farm there were 100,000 hogs..." Not for the faint-hearted.

Industrial hog farms affect the health and quality of life of people living near them, a new study suggests. The finding provides more ammunition to opponents of large-scale hog farms, which are already implicated in water pollution, algae blooms and fish die-offs, and to environmental justice activists. -- Environment News Service, February 9, 2000

A group of Mississippi environmentalists and farmers, backed by the Sierra Club, is pushing ahead with a $75 million lawsuit against hog producers for allegedly releasing pollutants that have made people sick. The suit would compensate 160 families who live near hog farms. "This stench can give you diarrhoea and sinus headaches. It's like living inside a gutter," said a local cotton farmer. -- Reuters, February 7, 2000

Hog factories benefit nobody except the corporations that own them -- see our Pigs page for real pig farming.

"The Price We Pay for Corporate Hogs" by Marlene Halverson, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, July 2000 -- book-length investigative report, free online. Time Magazine reported in November 1998 that the 1997 hog death toll at Seaboard Farms in Oklahoma was 48 hog deaths an hour, or 420,000 for the year. Industry spokespeople estimate that as many as 20% of breeding sows die prematurely from exhaustion and stress due to impacts of restrictive confinement and accelerated breeding schedules. Sows, adult females, may collapse and not be able to stand up again when they are made to walk. They may be beaten and dragged before they are killed and placed on the "dead pile" to be picked up by rendering trucks. Bad enough? The full picture is far worse.

Worker safety

-- "Fact Sheet On Pesticide Use", Monsanto

Farmers in California are increasing their use of carcinogenic and other harmful chemicals. The state's own analysis shows that the use of pesticides linked to cancer grew by 7.5 million pounds from 1994 to 1998, a 32% increase. -- Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2000

Fields of Poison: California farmworkers face a greater risk of pesticide poisonings than any other segment of the population. -- PANNA

"Pesticides are the badge of the amateur" (an organic grower) -- see Insect pests

Environmental contamination

The 1999 report on the University of Wisconsin-Madison's ongoing 37-year project monitoring the effects of nitrogen fertilizers in the US concluded that agriculture's continuing overapplication of nitrogen fertilizers is causing irreparable damage to the soil, causing it to age the equivalent of 5,000 years.

Oregon State University researchers found that tadpoles and young frogs raised in water with low levels of nitrates typical of chemical fertilizer runoff ate less, developed physical abnormalities, suffered paralysis, and eventually died. In control tanks with normal water, none died. "We're looking at levels of nitrates so low we didn't think we'd get any effect,'' said Andrew Blaustein, a zoology professor. -- "Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry" journal, December 1999. See Research Archives at Jo Robinson's "Why Grassfed is Best!" website:

Jo Robinson points out that the ground water in properly managed grazing land has been found to be as free of nitrate and other contaminants as the water from nearby forestland. See "Non-Federal Grazing Lands in the United States", from the Ecological Sciences Division at the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service:

"Nitrogen's Deadly Harvest: Feeding the world, poisoning the planet",", five-part series, Baltimore Sun, September 24, 2000: Nitrogen runoff is threatening ecological calamity -- environmental devastation is mounting worldwide from an explosion in man-made nitrogen that has thrown the planet's chemistry out of whack. Feeding the world, poisoning the planet; Cycle of growth and devastation; Sea grasses vanish, marine life in peril; China's prosperity turns seas toxic; Seeds of solution to nitrogen glut.

"The buildup of nitrogen fertilizer in the oceans is such a serious problem -- I feel it is worse than global warming, and far less acknowledged in the public mind." -- Ned Ford, Vice Chair, National Energy Committee, Sierra Club

There's no need for chemical fertilizers -- see Composting, Composting for small farms.

Antibiotic use

In 1969, a British panel called the Swann Committee recommended that antibiotics used to treat people or drugs closely related to medical antibiotics -- which could produce resistant bacteria -- should not be given to animals.

The World Health Organization reinforced the recommendations in 1997 -- 28 years later.

To take one antibiotic: Farmers have been using an estimated 125 metric tons of the antibiotic avoparcin a year as a growth promoter in chicken feed. Avoparcin is very similar to vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic reserved for serious illness in people who are not responding to other antibiotics.

In Denmark, for instance, in 1994, 24 kilograms of vancomycin were used for human therapy, whereas 24,000 kg of avoparcin were used in animal feed.

In 1997 Japanese scientists discovered that Staphylococcus aureus bacteria had developed resistance to vancomycin, the last line of defence against this killer disease, which had previously developed resistance to penicillin, methicillin and cloxacillin.

Deaths have since been reported in several parts of the world when doctors were unable to treat the disease.

ProMED reported in December 1999 that the use of avoparcin in poultry feed had finally been discontinued wordwide following pressure by governments and doctors on the manufacturer, Roche Vitamins.

The February 2000 issue of the University of Florida's Poultry Letter reported that the poultry industry in Denmark, which had voluntarily stopped using all antibiotics in feeds in 1998, had found, nationwide, raising more than 100 million birds a year, that there had been no major outbreaks of disease, and that although the birds had eaten more food, they weighed more at slaughter -- and were cheaper to produce. There was no need for the antibiotics in the first place.

In 1999, a major British food chain, Marks and Spencer, refused to purchase chickens which had been grown using antibiotics for growth promotion.

In December 1999, Britain's biggest producer, Grampian Country Food Group, which supplies 200 million broiler chickens a year, announced it would stop using antibiotics as growth promoters, in response to consumer demands for healthier eating.


"FDA to Ban 2 Poultry Antibiotics It Says Make Germs Drug-Resistant", Washington Post, October 27, 2000: The Food and Drug Administration announced plans yesterday to ban two antibiotics widely used by poultry farmers to keep chickens and turkeys healthy, saying the practice increases the danger that humans will become infected with germs that resist treatment.

"Bayer Refuses To Recall Poultry Antibiotic", Environment News Service, December 5, 2000: Health, consumer and public interest groups this week criticized the Bayer Corporation for not voluntarily recalling an agricultural antibiotic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says might cause antibiotic resistance in humans.

"A Prescription for Poultry: Challenging Bayer Corp. to Stop Misusing Antibiotics", Environmental Defense
Most people know that bacteria from uncooked chicken can cause a nasty case of food poisoning. What many don't know is that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against such illnesses. Bacteria have developed increasing resistance to fluoroquinolones, the antibiotics often used to treat severe gastrointestinal infections. Part of the problem is the unnecessary overuse of these drugs on farm animals.

"Scientists See Higher Use of Antibiotics on Farms" New York Times, January 8, 2001
Antibiotics are being used far more heavily in pigs, cows and chickens than has been revealed by the drug and livestock industries, a public interest group is saying today, citing as evidence its own calculations of the drugs' use on farms.

"70% of all antibiotics given to healthy livestock", Environment News Service, January 9, 2001: Excessive use of antibiotics by meat producers -- eight times more than in human medicine -- contributes to an alarming increase in antibiotic resistance, a new study reveals. Every year in the U.S., 25 million pounds of valuable antibiotics -- about 70 percent of total U.S. antibiotic production -- are fed to chickens, pigs, and cows for nontherapeutic purposes like growth promotion, says the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). This finding -- 50% higher than the livestock industry's estimate for all animal uses -- is the first transparent estimate of the quantities of antibiotics used in meat production. "It puts everyone's health at risk," said Dr Charles Benbrook, an independent economist and co-author of the report.

Union of Concerned Scientists report "Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock", executive summary -- also, full report downloads (pdf), press statement, Antibiotic resistance pages, Rogue's gallery of foodborne diseases:

"Antibiotics on the Farm", The New York Times, January 9, 2001: Most of these drugs are administered in small doses to farm animals not to cure sickness but to promote more growth on less feed and to prevent the infections that come with crowding in feedlots and confinement systems. [The amount being used] may be as much as 50% higher than it was in 1985.

"Setback in battle against superbugs" -- Guardian Weekly, April 19-25, 2001
A new drug hailed as a key weapon against drug-resistant "superbugs" may already be losing its power. Linezolid ("Zyvox") is used to treat patients with pneumonia and other infections associated with vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE). In three out of five recent test cases at the University of Illinois in Chicago the drug has failed.

"Antibiotic Resistant Genes Traced From Farms To Groundwater" -- Environment News Service, May 1, 2001
CHAMPAIGN, Illinois: Genes resistant to tetracycline, a common antibiotic, have been found in groundwater as far as a sixth of a mile downstream from two swine facilities that use antibiotics as growth promoters. The finding shows the potential for spreading antibiotic resistance back into the food chain of animals and people, researchers say. For more than 50 years, U.S. farmers have used tetracycline and other antibiotics to enhance the growth of livestock.

"Eat Well, Eat Antibiotic-Free: New guide for meat raised without antibiotics" Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Widespread overuse of antibiotics in raising animals for food has helped create "superbugs," bacteria resistant to these drugs. Scientists now link this agricultural use, and meat consumption, to rising numbers of human infections that are harder to treat because they respond poorly or not at all to these compromised antibiotics. Eat Well, Eat Antibiotic-Free provides background on the problem and tells consumers where to buy meats raised without antibiotics in their state: from local and national producers, supermarkets, co-ops, community supported agriculture networks and restaurants.

"Health Canada bans swine antibiotic carbadox" -- Reuters, August 13, 2001
Health Canada last week banned the sale of the controversial swine antibiotic, carbadox, after receiving reports of misuse and accidental contamination. Carbadox, a veterinary drug that is mixed into livestock feed, was approved in the 1970s for use in Canada and the US to promote growth in swine as well as to prevent and treat dysentery and other conditions. Health Canada said tests showed that when the by-products of the drug are metabolized, it can cause cancer in rats. Carbadox is sold by the animal health division of Pfizer Inc.

See IATP Listserv Archives: Message Archive for
Antibiotics and the Food System (

"Regulators hide true extent of dangerous drug levels in poultry products" -- Britain's Soil Association challenges senior officials' claims that "99% of poultry meat and 97% of eggs are free of detectable residues." The report, "Too Hard to Swallow -- the truth about drugs and poultry", says: "Despite repeated assertions by regulators that nearly all poultry products are free from detectable residues, figures show clearly that about 20 per cent of chicken meat and 10 per cent of the eggs tested contain residues of drugs deemed too dangerous for use in human medicine."

"Get Those Antibiotics Out of My Hamburger!",, September 4, 2001 -- The American Medical Association (AMA) recently added its authoritative voice to an increasingly global call for an end to the routine use of antibiotics in agriculture. With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unwilling, or unable, to act, our medical arsenal is rapidly being depleted of one of its chief weapons in the fight against food-borne illness.

"Human resistance to antibiotics worries WHO", Reuters, September 12, 2001 -- Humans are building up dangerous levels of resistance to modern antibiotics that could leave them vulnerable to killer diseases, the UN World Health Organization said. Farmers who use antibiotics to fatten up livestock and poultry are aggravating the problem because microbes on animals build up defenses against the drugs, then jump across the food chain and attack human immune systems, WHO said.

"$17 billion spent researching new drugs in the past five years could be lost just as quickly without global action" -- World Health Organization, Press Release WHO/39, September 11, 2001

"Poultry Industry Quietly Cuts Back on Antibiotic Use", NY Times February 10, 2002 -- The poultry industry has quietly begun to bow to the demands of public health and consumer groups by greatly reducing the antibiotics that are fed to healthy chickens. Three companies which produce a third of the chicken consumed by Americans each year say they have voluntarily taken most or all of the antibiotics out of what they feed healthy chickens. But there is no way for the consumer to know whether one of these companies' chickens has been treated with antiobiotics. Treating a few sick birds requires treating the entire flock, and flocks often number more than 30,000. The only way for consumers to be certain the chickens they buy have not been treated with antibiotics is to purchase those labeled antibiotic-free, or organic.

See Poultry for small farms

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Rape of a rainforest

Malaysian timber companies have become notorious for their systematic destruction of the world's remaining rainforests.

Latest victim is Liberia, which has one of the largest surviving rainforest areas in West Africa. This well-researched report details an ecological and social crime.

Investigative Report: How a Dutch gun-runner and a giant Malaysian forestry company are destroying Liberia's rainforest, propping up a brutal and corrupt regime, and fuelling regional strife.


Logs of War: The relationship between the timber sector, arms trafficking and the destruction of the forests in Liberia -- Greenpeace, March 2001 (Acrobat file)
Also available: Spanish version

Liberia's precious forests are being destroyed by uncontrolled logging and non-existent reforestation efforts. But it is not only timber companies wiping out this West African country's most valuable export -- the links between forestry, presidential power, regional conflict and 'logs of war'. Geographical -- The Magazine, April, 2001

Liberian Timber Profits Finance Regional Conflict: Global Witness has called for the United Nations to impose a total ban on Liberian timber exports because their proceeds are funding the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone. May 4, 2001

Liberia's vanishing rain forests: President, foreign firms ravage nation's lush jungles for profit" -- San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2001

How a tyrant's 'logs of war' bring terror to West Africa: Charles Taylor is a feared despot who has made Liberia a private fiefdom. Now he's defying the UN to spread terror in the region. On 7 May UN sanctions were imposed covering Liberia's trade in stolen diamonds and banning foreign travel by members of Taylor's inner circle. But the trade in timber -- to the exasperation of Britain and the United States -- was exempted at the insistence of France, which imports up to a third of it. -- The Observer, May 27, 2001,4273,4193531,00.html

"European Timber Trader Linked With Liberian Arms Trafficking" -- Greenpeace, 16 July 2001

"Liberian timber riches seen fuelling regional war" -- Revenues from Liberian timber are allowing President Charles Taylor to fuel war in West Africa and are more important than diamonds as a source of funds, an international campaigner said this week. Reuters, August 9, 2001

Mugabe's loggers to ravage rainforest -- The army of Zimbabwe's despotic ruler Robert Mugabe will help to fell trees in 85m acres of Congo -- in the heart of an area recently designated one of the most important forests on the planet by the United Nations. The logging revenues are likely to be shared by a small clique of senior generals and politicians. -- The Observer, August 26, 2001,2763,542675,00.html

Rainforest plundered by Murdoch's ex son-in-law -- Fortune-hunting businessman has struck lucrative deal with Mugabe. The Observer, January 27, 2002: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's ex son-in-law Elkin Pianim has struck up a highly controversial partnership with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's regime in which both sides stand to make millions selling precious tropical hardwoods plundered from rain forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).,6903,639983,00.html

Greenpeace blocks timber ship from French port, Reuters, February 26, 2002: PARIS -- Environmental activists blocked a ship carrying African wood from docking at a French port in protest of what they called illegal and destructive rain forest timber logging practices. Twenty Greenpeace activists tried to prevent the Aja Irene from unloading its cargo of tropical wood from Liberia at the Mediterranean port of Sete. Greenpeace said this, its third such operation in a week, was aimed at raising awareness of the issue of deforestation ahead of an Ancient Forests Summit in the Netherlands in April.

Greenpeace Exposes Greek Links To Liberian Ancient Forest Crimes, 22 March 2002, Athens, Greece -- Greenpeace activists against forest crime boarded the vessel 'African Trader' in the port of Lefkanti as it was preparing to offload hundred of logs from Liberia’s last remaining ancient forests, and prevented the logs from being offloaded. The port facilities are owned by the Greek flooring and plywood manufacturer Shelman, who claim to be "one of the largest purchasers of African logs in the world". Shelman has imported logs from several powerful logging companies implicated in numerous human rights abuses and arms trafficking between Liberia and Sierra Leone, including Oriental Timber Company (OTC).

See Trees, soil and water

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Do pesticides cause cancer?

The answer, straight from the horse's mouth -- chemical corporation Monsanto's "Fact Sheet On Pesticide Use":

"Copyright 1999 Monsanto All Rights Reserved". More (Biotech Knowledge Center, sponsored by Monsanto):

Update: This document was withdrawn from the site in January 2001 -- see below for full text.

Why did the pesticides giant publish this? A US organic grower commented to the Sustainable Agriculture Net mailing list: "I guess Monsanto is trying to prove that we need GMOs, so they are coming clean on pesticides."

Many of the new "Frankenfood" Genetically Engineered crops (GMOs) being produced by companies like Monsanto have their own built-in pesticides, as well as immunity to the corporations' weedkillers, leading to claims the new seeds will cut toxic pesticide use on farms.

Not so, says WWF Canada in a new study,
"Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce Pesticide Use? The Evidence Says Not Likely". "Genetically-engineered (GE) crops cannot be depended on to reduce pesticide use... Recent US data show that GE crops are not producing such reductions. Farmers planting GE crops have often actually increased their use of herbicides and insecticides." Acrobat file, 110kb

GE Crop Yields/Pesticide Use No Better -- Recent data from the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service for the 1997 and 1998 growing season found that in most cases genetically engineered crops were not getting any better yields than conventional crops, and farmers were using about the same amount of pesticides on engineered crops as conventional crops.

Troubled Times Amid Commercial Success for Roundup Ready Soybeans -- A report by consultant Charles M. Benbrook of the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center in Idaho found that farmers are using more herbicide than ever before, despite biotech industry claims to the contrary. Using US Department of Agriculture data from 1998, Benbrook found that farmers sprayed 11.4% more herbicide on herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops than on fields treated with conventional herbicides.

Roundup and cancer -- A study conducted in Sweden and published in the 15 March 1999 Journal of the American Cancer Society has revealed clear links between glyphosate -- Roundup -- and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.

U.S. Pesticide Exports Remain High, Pesticide Action Network, January 11, 2002 -- Nearly 3.2 billion pounds of pesticide products were exported from U.S. ports between 1997 and 2000, according to a recent report. This average rate of almost 2.2 million pounds per day -- or 45 tons per hour -- represents a 15% increase over the rate of 936 tons per day documented for the years 1992-1996. Nearly 65 million pounds of pesticides were exported that are banned or severely restricted in the United States, an average of more than 22 tons per day. Much of it went to developing countries.

Monsanto's "Fact Sheet On Pesticide Use" -- full text:

Reference No.: 2
April 1998

Fact Sheet On Pesticide Use

Copyright 1999 Monsanto All Rights Reserved

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