Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Have Y'all Heard Anything About This?

Whilst Stumbling, I ran across this website called Ecoversity, and it posts what is apparently an open letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton written by Linn Cohen-Cole, a former classmate of Hillary's from Wellsley. I'm posting some excerpts below. The full letter is here.

Note: GE= genetically engineered; GMO= Genetically modified organism. BGH= Bovine Growth Hormone

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton From a Wellsley College Alumna
Sunday, 03 February 2008
by Linn Cohen-Cole

Dear Hillary,
By polling logic, I should be your supporter - Democrat, older woman, white, liberal. I was even in a dorm with you in college. I have pulled for you for years. But something this past summer fundamentally changed my responsibility to my children and grandchildren. In the time I have left in my life to protect them and others, I need to speak out.

I saw a News Hour piece on Maharastra, India, about farmers committing suicide. Monsanto, a US agricultural giant, hired Bollywood actors for ads telling illiterate farmers they could get rich (by their standards) from big yields with Monsanto's Bt (genetically engineered) cotton seeds. The expensive seeds needed expensive fertilizer and pesticides (Monsanto, again) and irrigation. There is no irrigation there. Crops failed. Farmers had larger debt than they'd ever experienced.
And farmers couldn't collect seeds from their own fields to try again (true since time immemorial). Monsanto "patents" their DNA-altered seeds as "intellectual property." They have a $10 million budget and a staff of 75 devoted solely to prosecuting farmers. (ref). Since the late 1990s (about when industrial agriculture took hold in India), 166,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide and 8 million have left the land.

Farmers in Europe, Asia, Africa, Indonesia, South America, Central America and here, have protested Monsanto and genetic engineering for years.

What does this have to do with you?

You have connections to Monsanto through the Rose Law Firm where you worked and through Bill who hired Monsanto people for central food- related roles. Your Orwellian-named "Rural Americans for Hillary" was planned with Troutman Sanders, Monsanto's lobbyists.

Genetic engineering and industrialized food and animal production all come together at the Rose Law Firm, which represents the world's largest GE corporation (Monsanto), GE's most controversial project (DP&L's - now Monsanto's - terminator genes), the world's largest meat producer (Tyson), the world's largest retailer and a dominant food retailer (WalMart).


You didn't just work there, you made friends. That shows in the flow of favors then and since. You were invited onto Walmart's board, you were helped by a Tyson executive to make commodity trades (3 days before Bill became governor), netting you $100,000, Jackson Stephens strongly backed Bill for Governor, and then for President (donating $100,000).

Food and friends, in Clinton terms:
Bill's appointed friend Mike Espy, Secretary of Agriculture, who immediately significantly weakened federal chicken waste and contamination standards, opening the door to major expansion of Tyson's chicken factory farms. Espy resigned, indicted for accepting bribes, illegal contributions, money laundering, illegal dispersal of USDA subsidies, .... Tyson Foods was the largest corporate offender.
But what Bill did for Monsanto "genetic engineering" goes beyond inadequate concepts of giving corporate friends influence: He unleashed genetic engineering into the world. And then he helped close off people's escape from it.


What did Bill do?

1. Bill's put Monsanto people in at the FDA, as US Agricultural Trade Representatives, on International Biotechnology Consultive Forums, and more ... (ref) or (ref 2) or (ref 3)

2. Bill's FDA gave Monsanto permission to market rBGH (a GE bovine growth hormone), the first genetically engineered product let loose on us (or did tomatoes with fish DNA get there first?).

3. Despite reports of bovine illness and death, Bill's FDA did not recall it or put warnings on it. Even "a very angry, very vocal nationwide consumer base" had no impact."

4. Bill's FDA wouldn't even label rBGH as "present" in milk.

5. When dairy farmers tried to label their own milk rBGH-free so the public could choose, Bill's USDA threatened all dairies that their products could be confiscated from stores. Michael Taylor, USFDA Deputy Commissioner, was formerly Monsanto's counsel.

6. How were consumers to protect their family, given Bill's FDA enforced public blindness, except to buy only organic? But Bill's FDA tried to close off that last escape, proposing to include in "organic" standards, "the dirty three": genetic engineering of plants and animals, use of irradiation in food processing and use of municipal sewage sludge as a fertilizer. (My emphasis.) The FDA backed down.
Had this gone through, Monsanto could have finally labeled rBGH milk ... as "organic." And animal waste from factory farms, a pollution nightmare for Tyson and others, could have been sold as fertilizer.

USDA head Dan Glickman: "This is probably the largest public response to an [Agriculture Department] rule in modern history." In fact the response was 20 times greater than anything ever before proposed by the USDA.


Politically, Bill sided against small farmers and against the public's right to know, and with Monsanto.

A snap shot of our food:

Oils: Sheep died in India after feeding on Bt cotton fields. We feed our children Bt cotton, as cottonseed oil in peanut butter and cookies.

Grains: 49% of US corn acreage was planted in Bt corn in 2007. A French study proved Monsanto's GMO corn causes kidney and liver toxicity.

Soft drinks and candy have highly concentrated Bt corn, in the form of high fructose Bt corn syrup. The US food system depends most on two crops, soy (90% GMO, 90% of traits owned by Monsanto) and corn, the largest crop (60% GMO, nearly 100% Monsanto traits). "Essentially our entire food supply is genetically modified, to the benefit of one company." The Grocery Manufacturers of America in 2000 estimated that 70 percent of US food contains GM traits.

Meat: Steroids bulk up atheletes. Monsanto steroids bulk up animals - more weight, more profit. We feed our children steroids in meats. Is this why our children are fattening, like Hansel and Gretel?

Poultry: Bill's USDA weakened chicken waste and contamination standards and attempted to allow sewage sludge as fertilize crops. I will say more about disease from industrialized poultry farms waste, at the end of this letter.

Milk: Over 30 scientific publications have shown increased levels of IGF-1 in milk with rBGH increases risks of breast cancer by up to seven-fold, also increasing colon and prostate cancers risks. Canada, 29 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa ban U.S. rBGH dairy products. Bill's USFDA put no restrictions, no warning labels (not allowing labels at all). (My emphasis.)

American children eat that food and drink that milk, Hillary. Coincidentally, American children are increasingly fat and sick.


Terminator genes, developed by DP&L, a Rose Firm client, prevent seeds from "working" after only one season. Farmers "must" repurchase (patents and suing not certain enough control, it seems). Those "killing" genes pose the apocalyptic risk of breaking out into nature. Natural seeds could fail, too. Nature could fail.

GMO fields are already contaminating normal species Berkeley Professor of Microbiology, Ignacio Chapela, wrote an open letter, warning the Mexican government about just this breaking out phenomenon happening in maize.

And it has already happened with weeds - pesticide resistant GMO seeds break lose and weeds become pesticide-resistant Superweeds.

But Bill's USDA spokesman, Willard Phelps said the USDA wanted the technology to be `widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies.'

"Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers." David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University.

Hillary, one third of the world's bee colonies have collapsed. Gone. Farmers in India are killing themselves. Farmers and bees. Since organic farmers in India are fine and organic farmers report no colony collapse, what does these farming catatrophes say about "industrial agriculture"?


Monsanto is also aggressively pushing for state laws to limit farmers' right to choose what to plant and the public's right exclude GE plants from their communities.

Cattle bloated by steroids, lapse and loss of 10,000 year old normal seeds, immense pollution from factory farms, deadly-disease-ridden feed, world-wide bee colony collapse, poisoned soil and depleted water supplies, Superweeds, lawsuits against farmers, loss of family farms, and ... India farmers killing themselves in what may be the largest mass suicide in recorded human history (on average ... one farmers' suicide every 30 minutes since 2002 - The Hindu 1.30.08) - that is industrial agriculture.

Monsanto and Tyson are two of the largest industrial agricultural corporations in the world. Industrial agriculture is represented by your Rose Law Firm.

Your claim to care about food safety is terrifying double-speak given what Bill did and who you take donations from. Your idea of a Department of Food Safety would centralize control of food - in whose corporate connected hands? You talk tough about labeling food - ah, but "foreign" food - a sleight of hand tricking a public desperate for safe US food. You talk about food safety but Bill degraded food in every imaginable way and prevented minimally sane labeling.


Monsanto uses child labor in India, primarily very young girls, exposing them to a lethal pesticide 13-14 hours a day, for pennies in pay. But you take donations from their lobbyists. You say you care about black people but as the poorest people in this country, they are least able to buy organic and are forced to eat the contaminated foods Bill let into our food system. The National Black Farmers Association has a boycott out on all Monsanto products.

Do you eat organic?
So, who are you with, hapless black consumers and black farmers, or Monsanto? Mothers left to give their children rBGH milk, or Monsanto? Women exposed to 7 times greater risk of breast cancer, or Monsanto? Desperate farmers in India and young children forced into child labor in cottonseed factories there, or Monsanto? Animals suffering from lives in filthy cages and disgusting feedlots, shot up with steroids and hormones and antibiotics, or Monsanto? Our children who eat candy with high fructose Bt corn syrup associated with kidney and liver toxicity, or Monsanto?

Edwards was right about your corporate connections. I just didn't understand until I saw that PBS show and read about Monsanto, how personally affected my children and grandchildren, and all people around the world, have been.

I will not vote for you. I will vote for someone who will commit themselves to work on behalf of small farmers and real food and decent treatment of animals and to end this industrialized agricultural nightmare that is taking us off a cliff.

-Linn Cohen-Cole