In death, HIV-positive man may become symbol of transplant hope for othersDecember 19, 2013

Lamont Valentin needed an oxygen tank to breathe. Everything he did — whether it was traveling by bus from his home in Harlem to his doctor’s office, teaching HIV-positive kids photography at a New York City nonprofit or taking care of his 2-year-old son — the tank accompanied him.
About a year and a half ago, it became clear a lung transplant was Valentin’s only hope to breathe easier. And he could have been a good candidate for the procedure — he was young and otherwise healthy. He, his friends and some medical experts believed he would have been able to survive for many more years if he had been given new lungs.
But when he began looking for a transplant, he was denied almost everywhere he turned, supporters said.
Holding him back was the virus he was born with in 1984, HIV. Early in life, before he began using modern antiretroviral drugs, it left him with permanent lung damage.  
Despite years of living with HIV, Valentin had virtually undetectable levels of antibodies of the disease in his blood throughout his 29 years.
But his lungs became progressively more inflamed and infected until about two years ago, when he became reliant on the oxygen tank. As his condition deteriorated, so did his outlook on the chances of getting the procedure that would save his life.
"Over the past month I watched his morale begin to decline," his friend Adam Melaney said. "He called me and said, ‘I don’t understand why no one wants to take care of me.’"
On Dec. 3, while riding a New York City bus back home from a doctor’s appointment, Valentin died.
Now activists are hoping to use his story as a way to spark a conversation about the patchwork of policies that influence medical decisions surrounding the medical treatment of HIV-positive people.
The activists say they hope to highlight that while new and better medicine has made procedures like lung transplants — once deemed too risky for people infected with HIV — feasible, the policies that guide doctors’ decisions have not caught up.
As more and more HIV-infected people have longer lives, and therefore require more non-HIV-related care, the activists and some experts say adapting medical practice to the new reality is imperative. They say that if the policies were modernized, people like Valentin could live longer.
The circumstances leading up to his death are complex, and most of his friends and supporters don’t place blame on any particular doctor.
But they say several prominent hospitals failed to live up to their high standards of care by ruling out a lung transplant for Valentin because of his HIV status. They say that at the very least, hospitals like New York–Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Valentin received much of his care, had the responsibility to see if he would have made a good candidate for pulmonary transplantation.
On Wednesday, Valentin’s friends will join protesters from the AIDS activism group ACT UP at Rockefeller Center to express their dismay at his treatment, and to remember his life.
His friends say that when he died, he took with him a legacy of inspiration for people born with HIV.


'Insurmountable factors'


Valentin was born to a drug-addicted mother with HIV. His mother died when he was 6, kicking off his years-long journey through the foster care system, homelessness and an eventual rebound through Camp AmeriKids, an organization that provides services to children with HIV.
Valentin attended summer camp and year-round programs there until he aged out, at which point he became a leader at the camp, helping kids deal with the emotional toll of living with HIV.
"He was always this shining example for other people and how to choose what’s best in life," Melaney said. "He could have gone on disability, had his rent paid for and not work. But he didn’t do that."
Eventually, though, Valentin was forced to stop working because of his deteriorating lungs.
He had to stay home, being cared for by his wife, Lah-Nah, whom he married last summer.
As his lungs got worse, the bureaucracy surrounding his care became bigger.
He and his friend Jose Gonzalez would spend hours at a time on the computer looking at studies about lung transplants, paying special attention to studies — of which there are only a few — on HIV-positive people.
Gonzalez and others say no doctor in New York City was willing to consider the surgery.
"He loved his son and Lah-Nah," Gonzalez said. "He got to experience some of the love he didn’t have in his life (previously). He became determined to keep experiencing that."
So Valentin and his family began exploring options outside the city. Doctors at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they’d be willing to put him through tests to see if he was a good candidate for transplant.
But it gradually became clear that neither California nor Massachusetts was a practical option. In order for Valentin to be tested, he and his family would need to move close to one of the hospitals, integrate his continuing care within a new hospital system and persuade his insurance company to accept the switch of providers. He had neither the money nor the good health to make the switch.
"There were just too many insurmountable factors," Melaney said. "That’s when he started to get scared."
Valentin and his family got their hopes up when President Barack Obama signed the HOPE Act in late November. The act legalized organ donation from HIV-positive people to other HIV-positive people for the first time. But, as with any law, its effects will take years to be fully felt.
In the meantime, Valentin hoped that the intervention of groups like ACT UP would help persuade hospitals in New York to seriously consider giving him new lungs.
The group targeted New York–Presbyterian, one of the only lung transplant hospitals in the city. Protesters said that because the hospital was providing other care to Valentin, and because its doctors had performed risky transplants in the past, it had a responsibility to give him a shot.
New York–Presbyterian could not be reached for comment in time for publication of this story.
While some experts say Valentin would have been a good candidate for a transplant, lung transplants are rare, and those in HIV-positive people are even rarer.
There’s no law barring people with HIV from receiving transplants, no requirement that doctors report when they determine a transplantation contraindicative because of HIV, and therefore no way to know how common situations like Valentin’s are.
But experts say that as people with HIV live longer, it’s likely that the need for lung and other organ transplantation will rise dramatically. Valentin’s story provides an example of what may happen more frequently if policies are not clarified.
"Because there’s no blanket regulation, it’s very hard to know what the numbers are," said Tim Horn, the HIV project director for Treatment Action Group, which advocates for research and improved treatment for patients with various illnesses. “But I think Lamont’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Full article
Lamont lived a full life surrounded by his family & I’ve heard stories of what a dedicated worker he was at Streetwork Project, where I currently work. The rally yesterday was a powerful testament to how vital & life-saving Lamont’s Law would be. 

In death, HIV-positive man may become symbol of transplant hope for others
December 19, 2013

Lamont Valentin needed an oxygen tank to breathe. Everything he did — whether it was traveling by bus from his home in Harlem to his doctor’s office, teaching HIV-positive kids photography at a New York City nonprofit or taking care of his 2-year-old son — the tank accompanied him.

About a year and a half ago, it became clear a lung transplant was Valentin’s only hope to breathe easier. And he could have been a good candidate for the procedure — he was young and otherwise healthy. He, his friends and some medical experts believed he would have been able to survive for many more years if he had been given new lungs.

But when he began looking for a transplant, he was denied almost everywhere he turned, supporters said.

Holding him back was the virus he was born with in 1984, HIV. Early in life, before he began using modern antiretroviral drugs, it left him with permanent lung damage.  

Despite years of living with HIV, Valentin had virtually undetectable levels of antibodies of the disease in his blood throughout his 29 years.

But his lungs became progressively more inflamed and infected until about two years ago, when he became reliant on the oxygen tank. As his condition deteriorated, so did his outlook on the chances of getting the procedure that would save his life.

"Over the past month I watched his morale begin to decline," his friend Adam Melaney said. "He called me and said, ‘I don’t understand why no one wants to take care of me.’"

On Dec. 3, while riding a New York City bus back home from a doctor’s appointment, Valentin died.

Now activists are hoping to use his story as a way to spark a conversation about the patchwork of policies that influence medical decisions surrounding the medical treatment of HIV-positive people.

The activists say they hope to highlight that while new and better medicine has made procedures like lung transplants — once deemed too risky for people infected with HIV — feasible, the policies that guide doctors’ decisions have not caught up.

As more and more HIV-infected people have longer lives, and therefore require more non-HIV-related care, the activists and some experts say adapting medical practice to the new reality is imperative. They say that if the policies were modernized, people like Valentin could live longer.

The circumstances leading up to his death are complex, and most of his friends and supporters don’t place blame on any particular doctor.

But they say several prominent hospitals failed to live up to their high standards of care by ruling out a lung transplant for Valentin because of his HIV status. They say that at the very least, hospitals like New York–Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Valentin received much of his care, had the responsibility to see if he would have made a good candidate for pulmonary transplantation.

On Wednesday, Valentin’s friends will join protesters from the AIDS activism group ACT UP at Rockefeller Center to express their dismay at his treatment, and to remember his life.

His friends say that when he died, he took with him a legacy of inspiration for people born with HIV.

'Insurmountable factors'

Valentin was born to a drug-addicted mother with HIV. His mother died when he was 6, kicking off his years-long journey through the foster care system, homelessness and an eventual rebound through Camp AmeriKids, an organization that provides services to children with HIV.

Valentin attended summer camp and year-round programs there until he aged out, at which point he became a leader at the camp, helping kids deal with the emotional toll of living with HIV.

"He was always this shining example for other people and how to choose what’s best in life," Melaney said. "He could have gone on disability, had his rent paid for and not work. But he didn’t do that."

Eventually, though, Valentin was forced to stop working because of his deteriorating lungs.

He had to stay home, being cared for by his wife, Lah-Nah, whom he married last summer.

As his lungs got worse, the bureaucracy surrounding his care became bigger.

He and his friend Jose Gonzalez would spend hours at a time on the computer looking at studies about lung transplants, paying special attention to studies — of which there are only a few — on HIV-positive people.

Gonzalez and others say no doctor in New York City was willing to consider the surgery.

"He loved his son and Lah-Nah," Gonzalez said. "He got to experience some of the love he didn’t have in his life (previously). He became determined to keep experiencing that."

So Valentin and his family began exploring options outside the city. Doctors at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they’d be willing to put him through tests to see if he was a good candidate for transplant.

But it gradually became clear that neither California nor Massachusetts was a practical option. In order for Valentin to be tested, he and his family would need to move close to one of the hospitals, integrate his continuing care within a new hospital system and persuade his insurance company to accept the switch of providers. He had neither the money nor the good health to make the switch.

"There were just too many insurmountable factors," Melaney said. "That’s when he started to get scared."

Valentin and his family got their hopes up when President Barack Obama signed the HOPE Act in late November. The act legalized organ donation from HIV-positive people to other HIV-positive people for the first time. But, as with any law, its effects will take years to be fully felt.

In the meantime, Valentin hoped that the intervention of groups like ACT UP would help persuade hospitals in New York to seriously consider giving him new lungs.

The group targeted New York–Presbyterian, one of the only lung transplant hospitals in the city. Protesters said that because the hospital was providing other care to Valentin, and because its doctors had performed risky transplants in the past, it had a responsibility to give him a shot.

New York–Presbyterian could not be reached for comment in time for publication of this story.

While some experts say Valentin would have been a good candidate for a transplant, lung transplants are rare, and those in HIV-positive people are even rarer.

There’s no law barring people with HIV from receiving transplants, no requirement that doctors report when they determine a transplantation contraindicative because of HIV, and therefore no way to know how common situations like Valentin’s are.

But experts say that as people with HIV live longer, it’s likely that the need for lung and other organ transplantation will rise dramatically. Valentin’s story provides an example of what may happen more frequently if policies are not clarified.

"Because there’s no blanket regulation, it’s very hard to know what the numbers are," said Tim Horn, the HIV project director for Treatment Action Group, which advocates for research and improved treatment for patients with various illnesses. “But I think Lamont’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Full article

Lamont lived a full life surrounded by his family & I’ve heard stories of what a dedicated worker he was at Streetwork Project, where I currently work. The rally yesterday was a powerful testament to how vital & life-saving Lamont’s Law would be. 

Supreme Court allows Texas to keep enforcing abortion restrictionsNovember 20, 2013
A sharply divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to continue enforcing abortion restrictions that opponents say have led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions.

The justices voted 5-4 to leave in effect a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The court’s conservative majority refused the plea of Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics to overturn a preliminary federal appeals court ruling that allowed the provision to take effect.

The four liberal justices dissented.

The case remains on appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. That court is expected to hear arguments in January, and the law will remain in effect at least until then.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the liberal justices, said he expects the issue to return to the Supreme Court once the appeals court issues its final ruling.

The Texas Legislature approved the requirement for admitting privileges in July.

In late October, days before the provision was to take effect, a trial judge blocked it, saying it probably is unconstitutional because it puts a “substantial obstacle” in front of a woman wanting an abortion.

But a three-judge appellate panel moved quickly to overrule the judge. The appeals court said the law was in line with Supreme Court rulings that have allowed for abortion restrictions so long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Priscilla Owen noted that the Texas law would not end the procedure, only force women to drive a greater distance to obtain one.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in support of the high court order Tuesday, said the clinics could not overcome a heavy legal burden against overruling the appeals court. The justices may not do so “unless that court clearly and demonstrably erred,” Scalia said in an opinion that was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy did not write separately or join any opinion Tuesday, but because it takes five votes to overturn the appellate ruling, it is clear that they voted with their conservative colleagues.

Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics said in their lawsuit to stop the measure that it would force more than a third of clinics in the state to stop providing abortions. After the appeals court allowed the law to take effect, the groups said that their prediction had come to pass.

In their plea to the Supreme Court, they said that “in just the few short days since the injunction was lifted, over one-third of the facilities providing abortions in Texas have been forced to stop providing that care and others have been forced to drastically reduce the number of patients to whom they are able to provide care. Already, appointments are being canceled and women seeking abortions are being turned away.”
Full article

Supreme Court allows Texas to keep enforcing abortion restrictions
November 20, 2013

A sharply divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to continue enforcing abortion restrictions that opponents say have led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions.

The justices voted 5-4 to leave in effect a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The court’s conservative majority refused the plea of Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics to overturn a preliminary federal appeals court ruling that allowed the provision to take effect.

The four liberal justices dissented.

The case remains on appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. That court is expected to hear arguments in January, and the law will remain in effect at least until then.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the liberal justices, said he expects the issue to return to the Supreme Court once the appeals court issues its final ruling.

The Texas Legislature approved the requirement for admitting privileges in July.

In late October, days before the provision was to take effect, a trial judge blocked it, saying it probably is unconstitutional because it puts a “substantial obstacle” in front of a woman wanting an abortion.

But a three-judge appellate panel moved quickly to overrule the judge. The appeals court said the law was in line with Supreme Court rulings that have allowed for abortion restrictions so long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Priscilla Owen noted that the Texas law would not end the procedure, only force women to drive a greater distance to obtain one.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in support of the high court order Tuesday, said the clinics could not overcome a heavy legal burden against overruling the appeals court. The justices may not do so “unless that court clearly and demonstrably erred,” Scalia said in an opinion that was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy did not write separately or join any opinion Tuesday, but because it takes five votes to overturn the appellate ruling, it is clear that they voted with their conservative colleagues.

Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics said in their lawsuit to stop the measure that it would force more than a third of clinics in the state to stop providing abortions. After the appeals court allowed the law to take effect, the groups said that their prediction had come to pass.

In their plea to the Supreme Court, they said that “in just the few short days since the injunction was lifted, over one-third of the facilities providing abortions in Texas have been forced to stop providing that care and others have been forced to drastically reduce the number of patients to whom they are able to provide care. Already, appointments are being canceled and women seeking abortions are being turned away.”

Full article

Organizing for food justice: An oasis in the South LA food desertOctober 11, 2013
Under the protective shade of a white tent Ruthie Cordova lays out the organic produce she is selling for the week: basil, chives, heirloom tomatoes, purple beans, collard greens, kale, amaranth, guava, red peppers and fuji apples. All of it is fresh and locally grown. Dubbed Fresh Fridays, the stand would fit in at any of Los Angeles’ tony farmers markets. But Cordova isn’t selling at a farmers market. She is set up in the parking lot of a liquor store on 39th and Western, a notoriously troubled corner in South L.A. 
The produce stand, run by Community Services Unlimited, is South L.A.’s latest response to its dearth of healthy food options. In the sprawling low-income, predominantly black and Latino neighborhood it’s far easier to find a bag of chips than a crisp apple. Roughly 75 percent of the restaurants in the area sell fast food. South L.A. is the very definition of a food desert.
“This is organic, local food serving South L.A., grown on South L.A.’s own farms,” says Joanne Kim, chief operating officer of the organizing group Community Coalition, which helped bring Fresh Fridays to the neighborhood. The stand is also two blocks away from a shopping center that until June housed a Ralphs supermarket. Ralphs had been there for more than two decades and was the only grocery store in the immediate area. The closest market is now more than two and a half miles away.
When Ralphs’ parent company Kroger announced the location would close this summer, the community took the news hard. It was the second South L.A. Ralphs shutdown in the last year, and its closure drew protests from neighbors who for years had complained about the store’s condition but were angry about being abandoned.
The parking lot produce stand, which is in its third month of operation, wasn’t organized as a direct response to Ralphs closing its doors. But the recent grocery store shuffle and the creative, if small-scale response are emblematic of the neighborhood’s long struggle for access to healthy food. South L.A. residents are dependent on fresh food purveyors who aren’t particularly interested in doing business with them. 
“We don’t have any grocery stores close by,” says Maria Plummer, a South L.A. resident who lives a few doors away from the liquor store and stops by the Fresh Fridays stand regularly. The produce stand is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, she says. But it’s no substitute for an actual supermarket.”I like to cook fish, turkey wings, greens, string beans and rice, but there’s no store.”
Plummer shopped regularly at the Ralphs when it was open but was often disappointed by their offerings. “I’d go there to get vegetables and I could not find one fresh vegetable,” she recalls.  
Plummer’s not alone. For years, South L.A. shoppers complained that Ralphs sold old food and rancid meat, says the Community Coalition’s Kim. The kinds of supermarket amenities that people in richer neighborhoods take for granted—fresh meat, organic produce, a hot food counter—were nonexistent or only inconsistently offered, shoppers say. The real burn about being abandoned was that Ralphs shoppers had so few alternatives, says Plummer and several former Ralphs shoppers.
Ralphs spokesperson Kendra Doyel denies the allegations of rotten meat and expired food. “We have the highest standards in food safety,” Doyel says. “We would never want to sell bad product or product that is not fresh.”
Supermarkets are themselves a struggling breed. Across the nation, they now fight for survival against online grocers and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart, which have aggressively expanded their grocery offerings in recent years. The grocery store shuffle happening nationwide has hit poor communities of color particularly hard. The formerly British-owned grocery chain Fresh and Easy, which opened a location in South L.A. to great fanfare, was sold off last month after six unprofitable years of business in the U.S. In the wake of the announcement the company has been shutting down dozens of its 150 stores throughout the U.S.
In 2012 Ralphs shut down 15 of its Southern California locations. Two were in South L.A. “Closing stores is the last thing we want to do,” spokesperson Doyel says. “But both of those stores were losing a little over $1 million every year for quite some time.”
It’s clear that supermarkets are not going to deliver the food revolution to poor communities of color who are shut out of the fresh food market.
But a person’s promixity to a grocery store is the very measure by which the USDA gauges people’s access to healthy food. It’s still an illustrative indicator. In South L.A., each grocery store serves roughly 6,000 people whereas in whiter and wealthier West L.A., there’s a grocery store for every 3,763 people, according to Community Health Councils, Inc. 
There’s a seeming disconnect—with roughly 1 million people living in South L.A., all of whom need to eat, it seems an obvious place for fresh food development. But since the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, the community has had serious difficulty bringing grocery stores and broader economic development to the area. In the rebuilding process which followed the uprising, grocery store chains like Vons, Smart & Final and the Kroger-owned Ralphs and Food 4 Less vowed to open as many as 32 new stores in South L.A. But between 1992 and 2008, the area saw a net gain of just five new grocery stores, according to Community Health Councils, Inc. (PDF). At the heart of people’s food access struggles is poverty, say advocates. 
“Stores don’t come into communities because they think communities are too poor,” says Aiha Nguyen, director of the Grocery and Retail Project at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. “But if you don’t support good jobs that keep people out of poverty, such as union jobs, … then you’re not really solving the root cause of the problem. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.”
In the short-term though, the community is working on its own creative social enterprise with the produce stand. The produce is grown by youth with Community Services Unlimited’s gardening program. The money from the stand goes to support the organization’s community and youth programs. Still, as welcome a sight as the produce stand is, “right now a lot of these activities are not dramatically changing how accessible food is in the community,” Kim says. They’re just too small-scale at the moment.
And it’s not always an easy sell. On Friday outside Century Liquor and Market, Cordova lured passersby with free samples of figs and guava. She’d let people pinch the herbs to catch their scent and chatted with folks as they reminisced about the guava jams of their childhoods. But last Friday, more people stopped for a sample and a chat, and would walk away without buying anything. One man circled the table and eventually bought a small 50-cent apple and left. But then he came back and bought another for his wife. “She’d kill me if I didn’t bring one for her too,” he explained.
“That’s the point, to be at places where there isn’t a lot of fresh produce available,” says Cordova. “These fruits and vegetables are not just for certain people. We should all have affordable, fresh, organic food.”
Source

Organizing for food justice: An oasis in the South LA food desert
October 11, 2013

Under the protective shade of a white tent Ruthie Cordova lays out the organic produce she is selling for the week: basil, chives, heirloom tomatoes, purple beans, collard greens, kale, amaranth, guava, red peppers and fuji apples. All of it is fresh and locally grown. Dubbed Fresh Fridays, the stand would fit in at any of Los Angeles’ tony farmers markets. But Cordova isn’t selling at a farmers market. She is set up in the parking lot of a liquor store on 39th and Western, a notoriously troubled corner in South L.A. 

The produce stand, run by Community Services Unlimited, is South L.A.’s latest response to its dearth of healthy food options. In the sprawling low-income, predominantly black and Latino neighborhood it’s far easier to find a bag of chips than a crisp apple. Roughly 75 percent of the restaurants in the area sell fast food. South L.A. is the very definition of a food desert.

“This is organic, local food serving South L.A., grown on South L.A.’s own farms,” says Joanne Kim, chief operating officer of the organizing group Community Coalition, which helped bring Fresh Fridays to the neighborhood. The stand is also two blocks away from a shopping center that until June housed a Ralphs supermarket. Ralphs had been there for more than two decades and was the only grocery store in the immediate area. The closest market is now more than two and a half miles away.

When Ralphs’ parent company Kroger announced the location would close this summer, the community took the news hard. It was the second South L.A. Ralphs shutdown in the last year, and its closure drew protests from neighbors who for years had complained about the store’s condition but were angry about being abandoned.

The parking lot produce stand, which is in its third month of operation, wasn’t organized as a direct response to Ralphs closing its doors. But the recent grocery store shuffle and the creative, if small-scale response are emblematic of the neighborhood’s long struggle for access to healthy food. South L.A. residents are dependent on fresh food purveyors who aren’t particularly interested in doing business with them. 

“We don’t have any grocery stores close by,” says Maria Plummer, a South L.A. resident who lives a few doors away from the liquor store and stops by the Fresh Fridays stand regularly. The produce stand is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, she says. But it’s no substitute for an actual supermarket.”I like to cook fish, turkey wings, greens, string beans and rice, but there’s no store.”

Plummer shopped regularly at the Ralphs when it was open but was often disappointed by their offerings. “I’d go there to get vegetables and I could not find one fresh vegetable,” she recalls.  

Plummer’s not alone. For years, South L.A. shoppers complained that Ralphs sold old food and rancid meat, says the Community Coalition’s Kim. The kinds of supermarket amenities that people in richer neighborhoods take for granted—fresh meat, organic produce, a hot food counter—were nonexistent or only inconsistently offered, shoppers say. The real burn about being abandoned was that Ralphs shoppers had so few alternatives, says Plummer and several former Ralphs shoppers.

Ralphs spokesperson Kendra Doyel denies the allegations of rotten meat and expired food. “We have the highest standards in food safety,” Doyel says. “We would never want to sell bad product or product that is not fresh.”

Supermarkets are themselves a struggling breed. Across the nation, they now fight for survival against online grocers and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart, which have aggressively expanded their grocery offerings in recent years. The grocery store shuffle happening nationwide has hit poor communities of color particularly hard. The formerly British-owned grocery chain Fresh and Easy, which opened a location in South L.A. to great fanfare, was sold off last month after six unprofitable years of business in the U.S. In the wake of the announcement the company has been shutting down dozens of its 150 stores throughout the U.S.

In 2012 Ralphs shut down 15 of its Southern California locations. Two were in South L.A. “Closing stores is the last thing we want to do,” spokesperson Doyel says. “But both of those stores were losing a little over $1 million every year for quite some time.”

It’s clear that supermarkets are not going to deliver the food revolution to poor communities of color who are shut out of the fresh food market.

But a person’s promixity to a grocery store is the very measure by which the USDA gauges people’s access to healthy food. It’s still an illustrative indicator. In South L.A., each grocery store serves roughly 6,000 people whereas in whiter and wealthier West L.A., there’s a grocery store for every 3,763 people, according to Community Health Councils, Inc. 

There’s a seeming disconnect—with roughly 1 million people living in South L.A., all of whom need to eat, it seems an obvious place for fresh food development. But since the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, the community has had serious difficulty bringing grocery stores and broader economic development to the area. In the rebuilding process which followed the uprising, grocery store chains like Vons, Smart & Final and the Kroger-owned Ralphs and Food 4 Less vowed to open as many as 32 new stores in South L.A. But between 1992 and 2008, the area saw a net gain of just five new grocery stores, according to Community Health Councils, Inc. (PDF). At the heart of people’s food access struggles is poverty, say advocates. 

“Stores don’t come into communities because they think communities are too poor,” says Aiha Nguyen, director of the Grocery and Retail Project at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. “But if you don’t support good jobs that keep people out of poverty, such as union jobs, … then you’re not really solving the root cause of the problem. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.”

In the short-term though, the community is working on its own creative social enterprise with the produce stand. The produce is grown by youth with Community Services Unlimited’s gardening program. The money from the stand goes to support the organization’s community and youth programs. Still, as welcome a sight as the produce stand is, “right now a lot of these activities are not dramatically changing how accessible food is in the community,” Kim says. They’re just too small-scale at the moment.

And it’s not always an easy sell. On Friday outside Century Liquor and Market, Cordova lured passersby with free samples of figs and guava. She’d let people pinch the herbs to catch their scent and chatted with folks as they reminisced about the guava jams of their childhoods. But last Friday, more people stopped for a sample and a chat, and would walk away without buying anything. One man circled the table and eventually bought a small 50-cent apple and left. But then he came back and bought another for his wife. “She’d kill me if I didn’t bring one for her too,” he explained.

“That’s the point, to be at places where there isn’t a lot of fresh produce available,” says Cordova. “These fruits and vegetables are not just for certain people. We should all have affordable, fresh, organic food.”

Source

Mexico: Ground Zero in the fight against Monsanto for the future of maizeMay 13, 2013
In the 2011 action-thriller “Unknown”, scientists are persecuted by the biotech industry because they plan the open release of a drought- and pest-resistant strain of maize that could help eradicate world hunger.
There are certain parallels with the situation today in Mexico, the birthplace of maize, which is at the centre of the global fight to protect the crop’s diversity from the onslaught of genetically modified varieties.
“It’s the first time in history that one of the most important harvests in the world is threatened in its centre of diversity,” Pat Mooney, the head of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), an international NGO, told IPS.
“If we let the companies win, there will be no chance to defend them in other parts. What is happening here is of key importance for the rest of the world.”
Civil society organisations are raising their guard against the possibility that the government of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may approve commercial cultivation of transgenic maize, a move widely condemned by environmentalists and other activists, academics, and small and medium producers due to the risks it poses.
In September, the U.S. corporations Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow Agrosciences presented six applications for commercial plantations of transgenic maize on more than two million hectares in the northwestern state of Sinaloa and the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Moreover, in January these companies and Syngenta presented 11 applications for pilot and experimental plots to grow transgenic corn on 622 hectares in the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa and Baja California. And Monsanto has applied for an additional plantation in an unspecified area in the north of the country.
Since 2009, the Mexican government has issued 177 permits for experimental plots of transgenic maize covering an area of 2,664 hectares, according to the latest figures provided by the authorities.
But large-scale commercial release of GM maize has not yet been authorised.
“They are going to serve up transgenic maize on every table in spite of the fact that food sovereignty depends on growing native corn,” said Evangelina Robles, a member of Red en Defensa del Maíz (Maize Defence Network) which campaigns against GM corn. “As a result, we have to demand its prohibition by the state,” she told IPS.
Mexico produces 22 million tonnes of maize a year, and imports 10 million tonnes, according to the agriculture ministry. The country purchased about two million tonnes of GM maize from South Africa over the last two years, and is set to import another 150,000 tonnes.
Three million maize farmers cultivate about eight million hectares in Mexico, two million of which are devoted to family farming. White maize is the main crop for human consumption, while yellow maize, for animal feed, is largely imported.
The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy (CONEVAL) estimates the country’s annual consumption of maize at 123 kg per person, compared to a world average of 16.8 kg.
The historical link with pre-Columbian indigenous cultures gives maize a strong symbolic and cultural significance throughout Mesoamerica, the area comprising southern Mexico and Central America, where it was domesticated, producing 59 landraces or native strains and 209 varieties.
In the state of Mexico, adjacent to the capital city’s Federal District, small farmers have found their native maize to be contaminated with GM maize, according to tests carried out by students at the state Autonomous Metropolitan University.
“We swapped seeds and decided to do some tests. Now we are more careful when exchanging, and over who participates in the fair, although we still have to carry out confirmation tests,” activist Sara López, of the Red Origen Volcanes (Volcanoes Origins Network), an association of small farmers that has been organising producers’ fairs since 2010, told IPS.
Environmental, scientific and small farmers’ organisations have discovered GM contamination of native maize in Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Puebla and Oaxaca.
Contamination is “a carefully and perversely planned strategy,” according to Camila Montecinos, from the Chile office of GRAIN, an international NGO that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.
Transnational food companies “chose maize, soy and canola because of their enormous potential for contamination (by wind-pollination),” said Montecinos, one of the experts participating in the preliminary hearing on transgenic contamination of native maize at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, an international opinion tribunal which opened its Mexican chapter in 2012 and will conclude with a non-binding ruling in 2014.
“When contamination spreads, the companies claim that the presence of transgenic crops must be recognised and legalised,” in order to pave the way for marketing the GM seeds, to which they own the patents, she said.
Mexico’s environment minister, Juan Guerra, has said that all available scientific information will be examined before a decision is made.
But that will not be easy. The National Confederation of Campesinos (Small Farmers), one of the main internal movements in the ruling PRI, has had an agreement with Monsanto since 2007 under which the company is to “conserve” native varieties.
Meanwhile, the Peña Nieto government still has not approved regulations for the format and contents of reports on the results of releasing GM organisms, and the possible threats to the environment, biodiversity, and the health of animals, plants and fish.
“For 18 years, corporations have been unsuccessful in convincing the people that their products are good. Maize is being used as a means of political and economic control. People need maize to be alive,” the ETC Group’s Mooney said.
The transgenic seeds on the market are herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready and Bt (for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene they carry for pest resistance) versions of cotton, maize, soy and canola. While they are legally grown in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, they are banned for example in China, Russia and the majority of the EU countries.
Recent studies published in the United States show that transgenic crops do not significantly increase yield per hectare, do not reduce herbicide use, and do not increase resistance to pests, in contrast to biotech industry claims.
“We are analysing what legal action to take against the new applications (to plant GM maize),” said Robles, of the Maize Defence Network.
SourcePhoto
 
Monsanto KILLS.

Mexico: Ground Zero in the fight against Monsanto for the future of maize
May 13, 2013

In the 2011 action-thriller “Unknown”, scientists are persecuted by the biotech industry because they plan the open release of a drought- and pest-resistant strain of maize that could help eradicate world hunger.

There are certain parallels with the situation today in Mexico, the birthplace of maize, which is at the centre of the global fight to protect the crop’s diversity from the onslaught of genetically modified varieties.

“It’s the first time in history that one of the most important harvests in the world is threatened in its centre of diversity,” Pat Mooney, the head of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), an international NGO, told IPS.

“If we let the companies win, there will be no chance to defend them in other parts. What is happening here is of key importance for the rest of the world.”

Civil society organisations are raising their guard against the possibility that the government of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may approve commercial cultivation of transgenic maize, a move widely condemned by environmentalists and other activists, academics, and small and medium producers due to the risks it poses.

In September, the U.S. corporations Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow Agrosciences presented six applications for commercial plantations of transgenic maize on more than two million hectares in the northwestern state of Sinaloa and the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.

Moreover, in January these companies and Syngenta presented 11 applications for pilot and experimental plots to grow transgenic corn on 622 hectares in the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa and Baja California. And Monsanto has applied for an additional plantation in an unspecified area in the north of the country.

Since 2009, the Mexican government has issued 177 permits for experimental plots of transgenic maize covering an area of 2,664 hectares, according to the latest figures provided by the authorities.

But large-scale commercial release of GM maize has not yet been authorised.

“They are going to serve up transgenic maize on every table in spite of the fact that food sovereignty depends on growing native corn,” said Evangelina Robles, a member of Red en Defensa del Maíz (Maize Defence Network) which campaigns against GM corn. “As a result, we have to demand its prohibition by the state,” she told IPS.

Mexico produces 22 million tonnes of maize a year, and imports 10 million tonnes, according to the agriculture ministry. The country purchased about two million tonnes of GM maize from South Africa over the last two years, and is set to import another 150,000 tonnes.

Three million maize farmers cultivate about eight million hectares in Mexico, two million of which are devoted to family farming. White maize is the main crop for human consumption, while yellow maize, for animal feed, is largely imported.

The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy (CONEVAL) estimates the country’s annual consumption of maize at 123 kg per person, compared to a world average of 16.8 kg.

The historical link with pre-Columbian indigenous cultures gives maize a strong symbolic and cultural significance throughout Mesoamerica, the area comprising southern Mexico and Central America, where it was domesticated, producing 59 landraces or native strains and 209 varieties.

In the state of Mexico, adjacent to the capital city’s Federal District, small farmers have found their native maize to be contaminated with GM maize, according to tests carried out by students at the state Autonomous Metropolitan University.

“We swapped seeds and decided to do some tests. Now we are more careful when exchanging, and over who participates in the fair, although we still have to carry out confirmation tests,” activist Sara López, of the Red Origen Volcanes (Volcanoes Origins Network), an association of small farmers that has been organising producers’ fairs since 2010, told IPS.

Environmental, scientific and small farmers’ organisations have discovered GM contamination of native maize in Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Puebla and Oaxaca.

Contamination is “a carefully and perversely planned strategy,” according to Camila Montecinos, from the Chile office of GRAIN, an international NGO that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

Transnational food companies “chose maize, soy and canola because of their enormous potential for contamination (by wind-pollination),” said Montecinos, one of the experts participating in the preliminary hearing on transgenic contamination of native maize at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, an international opinion tribunal which opened its Mexican chapter in 2012 and will conclude with a non-binding ruling in 2014.

“When contamination spreads, the companies claim that the presence of transgenic crops must be recognised and legalised,” in order to pave the way for marketing the GM seeds, to which they own the patents, she said.

Mexico’s environment minister, Juan Guerra, has said that all available scientific information will be examined before a decision is made.

But that will not be easy. The National Confederation of Campesinos (Small Farmers), one of the main internal movements in the ruling PRI, has had an agreement with Monsanto since 2007 under which the company is to “conserve” native varieties.

Meanwhile, the Peña Nieto government still has not approved regulations for the format and contents of reports on the results of releasing GM organisms, and the possible threats to the environment, biodiversity, and the health of animals, plants and fish.

“For 18 years, corporations have been unsuccessful in convincing the people that their products are good. Maize is being used as a means of political and economic control. People need maize to be alive,” the ETC Group’s Mooney said.

The transgenic seeds on the market are herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready and Bt (for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene they carry for pest resistance) versions of cotton, maize, soy and canola. While they are legally grown in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, they are banned for example in China, Russia and the majority of the EU countries.

Recent studies published in the United States show that transgenic crops do not significantly increase yield per hectare, do not reduce herbicide use, and do not increase resistance to pests, in contrast to biotech industry claims.

“We are analysing what legal action to take against the new applications (to plant GM maize),” said Robles, of the Maize Defence Network.

 
Monsanto KILLS.
The sickening cost of health care: Why Americans pay the highest health care costs in the worldMarch 18, 2013
Health care costs in the United States continue to skyrocket, with dire consequences ranging from personal bankruptcies to the growing national debt. Yet the even more outrageous fact is that these inflated costs—the highest in the world—produce health outcomes that trail countries which spend far less.
In a Time magazine special report titled "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," published in February, investigative journalist Steven Brill pulls back the curtain to expose the price-gouging and profiteering that explains why health care in the U.S. costs so much.
Brill’s article details the devastating impact that health care costs—which are behind six in 10 personal bankruptcies—have on working-class people. As Time managing editor Richard Stengel pointed out, Brill “inverts the standard question of who should pay for health care and asks instead: Why are we paying so much?”
Barack Obama used the urgency of this crisis to press Congress to pass his health care law. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little to address rising health care costs.
On the contrary, it will almost certainly make things worse by requiring the uninsured to get coverage from for-profit companies and providing subsidies from taxpayer revenues to pay the premiums. Rather than challenging industry giants, Brill writes, “Obamacare enriches them. That, of course, is why the bill was able to get through Congress.”
Meanwhile, outsized health care costs—which continue to rise faster than inflation—are a central reason for big government deficits, which the very same politicians then use as a pretext to push for cuts in “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare, by reducing payments for the former and raising the eligibility age for the latter.
However, as Brill points out, Medicare, the government’s universal health care system for the elderly, is one of the few bright spots in the current system. Whatever its flaws, caused by cuts and restrictions over the past few decades, it is still far more efficient than private insurance, it offers universal coverage while even Obama’s health care law will leave tens of millions of people uninsured—and it has mechanisms to keep costs down.
If Medicare, instead of being cut, was expanded to cover everyone and to provide even better care than it does now, it would save about $380 billion per year by cutting down on administrative waste, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine—and on top of that, it would actually improve health care.
Over ten years, that’s just about the same amount—$4 trillion—that Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission proposes to save, with massive cuts to entitlement programs that dwarf proposed increases in taxes.
It’s true that government spending on Medicare has been rising much faster than inflation and is a major cause of government deficits. Medicare spending, after adjusting for inflation, increased fivefold from $110.2 billion in 1990 to $554.3 billion in 2011,according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And that was after it nearly tripled in 10 years from $37.4 billion in 1980.
In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office figures, protected increases in health care costs are behind most of the expected growth in government debt.
While a significant part of this increase is the result of a growing and aging population, much of the increase in Medicare spending is being driven by increased health care costs overall. The CMS reports that total per capita health care spending in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, more than tripled from $2,854 in 1990 to $8,680 in 2011. Health care accounts for nearly one-fifth of the GDP in the U.S..
Other advanced industrial countries such as Germany have a significantly higher percentage of their populations over age 65. Yet they spend much less on health care than the U.S.—and achieve better outcomes.
In “Bitter Pill,” Brill examines hospital bills to expose how extreme price inflation generates massive hospital industry profits, while driving health care costs sky-high—a price that is ultimately paid by consumers.
According to Brill, hospitals charge patients different amounts for the same equipment and procedures, depending on what kind of insurance they have. While Medicare and Medicaid pay a set amount for each item, various insurers negotiate the rates they pay. Many insurers negotiate a discount off the “chargemaster”—a hospital’s list of charges for everything from aspirin and gauze to major procedures and cancer drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars each.
Because hospitals use the chargemaster as a starting point in negotiations, these prices are much higher than the items actually cost. To cite one example, Brill points out a hospital that charges $24 for a niacin pill which costs about 5 cents in an ordinary pharmacy: a markup of 47,900 percent.
Hospitals also gouge patients by charging multiple times for the same procedure. In the article, Brill quotes Patricia Palmer, who is paid to negotiate with hospitals on behalf of patients to lower exorbitant bills:

First, they charge more than $2,000 a day for the ICU, because it’s an ICU and it has all this special equipment and personnel. Then they charge $1,000 for some kit used in the ICU to give someone a transfusion or oxygen…And then they charge $50 or $100 for each tool or bandage or whatever that there is in the kit. That’s triple billing.

For the un- or underinsured, tragic illnesses can be a financial catastrophe. The terminally ill can even be forced into an impossible choice: whether to extend their lives and leave their families with a crippling debt, or give up time with their families to avoid burdening them financially.
This was the choice faced by Steven D., who Brill profiles in his article. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Steven’s wife Alice, who earns about $40,000 a year, racked up over $900,000 in debt to pay for treatment to keep her husband alive for an extra 11 months. Although Alice was able to get Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage and hired an advocate to negotiate with the hospital, she still ended up owing $142,000, more than three times her yearly salary. Not only did she have to cope with losing her husband, but she was left financially crippled as well.
When pressed by Brill, hospital administrators weren’t able to give a plausible explanation for the chargemaster rates, except to say that they are only a starting point and patients aren’t actually expected to pay them. The grim irony is that it is the uninsured patients—those among the least likely to be able to afford it—who are charged full chargemaster prices. And many don’t know negotiation is an option.
Full article

The sickening cost of health care: Why Americans pay the highest health care costs in the world
March 18, 2013

Health care costs in the United States continue to skyrocket, with dire consequences ranging from personal bankruptcies to the growing national debt. Yet the even more outrageous fact is that these inflated costs—the highest in the world—produce health outcomes that trail countries which spend far less.

In a Time magazine special report titled "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," published in February, investigative journalist Steven Brill pulls back the curtain to expose the price-gouging and profiteering that explains why health care in the U.S. costs so much.

Brill’s article details the devastating impact that health care costs—which are behind six in 10 personal bankruptcies—have on working-class people. As Time managing editor Richard Stengel pointed out, Brill “inverts the standard question of who should pay for health care and asks instead: Why are we paying so much?”

Barack Obama used the urgency of this crisis to press Congress to pass his health care law. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little to address rising health care costs.

On the contrary, it will almost certainly make things worse by requiring the uninsured to get coverage from for-profit companies and providing subsidies from taxpayer revenues to pay the premiums. Rather than challenging industry giants, Brill writes, “Obamacare enriches them. That, of course, is why the bill was able to get through Congress.”

Meanwhile, outsized health care costs—which continue to rise faster than inflation—are a central reason for big government deficits, which the very same politicians then use as a pretext to push for cuts in “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare, by reducing payments for the former and raising the eligibility age for the latter.

However, as Brill points out, Medicare, the government’s universal health care system for the elderly, is one of the few bright spots in the current system. Whatever its flaws, caused by cuts and restrictions over the past few decades, it is still far more efficient than private insurance, it offers universal coverage while even Obama’s health care law will leave tens of millions of people uninsured—and it has mechanisms to keep costs down.

If Medicare, instead of being cut, was expanded to cover everyone and to provide even better care than it does now, it would save about $380 billion per year by cutting down on administrative waste, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine—and on top of that, it would actually improve health care.

Over ten years, that’s just about the same amount—$4 trillion—that Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission proposes to save, with massive cuts to entitlement programs that dwarf proposed increases in taxes.

It’s true that government spending on Medicare has been rising much faster than inflation and is a major cause of government deficits. Medicare spending, after adjusting for inflation, increased fivefold from $110.2 billion in 1990 to $554.3 billion in 2011,according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And that was after it nearly tripled in 10 years from $37.4 billion in 1980.

In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office figures, protected increases in health care costs are behind most of the expected growth in government debt.

While a significant part of this increase is the result of a growing and aging population, much of the increase in Medicare spending is being driven by increased health care costs overall. The CMS reports that total per capita health care spending in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, more than tripled from $2,854 in 1990 to $8,680 in 2011. Health care accounts for nearly one-fifth of the GDP in the U.S..

Other advanced industrial countries such as Germany have a significantly higher percentage of their populations over age 65. Yet they spend much less on health care than the U.S.—and achieve better outcomes.

In “Bitter Pill,” Brill examines hospital bills to expose how extreme price inflation generates massive hospital industry profits, while driving health care costs sky-high—a price that is ultimately paid by consumers.

According to Brill, hospitals charge patients different amounts for the same equipment and procedures, depending on what kind of insurance they have. While Medicare and Medicaid pay a set amount for each item, various insurers negotiate the rates they pay. Many insurers negotiate a discount off the “chargemaster”—a hospital’s list of charges for everything from aspirin and gauze to major procedures and cancer drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

Because hospitals use the chargemaster as a starting point in negotiations, these prices are much higher than the items actually cost. To cite one example, Brill points out a hospital that charges $24 for a niacin pill which costs about 5 cents in an ordinary pharmacy: a markup of 47,900 percent.

Hospitals also gouge patients by charging multiple times for the same procedure. In the article, Brill quotes Patricia Palmer, who is paid to negotiate with hospitals on behalf of patients to lower exorbitant bills:

First, they charge more than $2,000 a day for the ICU, because it’s an ICU and it has all this special equipment and personnel. Then they charge $1,000 for some kit used in the ICU to give someone a transfusion or oxygen…And then they charge $50 or $100 for each tool or bandage or whatever that there is in the kit. That’s triple billing.

For the un- or underinsured, tragic illnesses can be a financial catastrophe. The terminally ill can even be forced into an impossible choice: whether to extend their lives and leave their families with a crippling debt, or give up time with their families to avoid burdening them financially.

This was the choice faced by Steven D., who Brill profiles in his article. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Steven’s wife Alice, who earns about $40,000 a year, racked up over $900,000 in debt to pay for treatment to keep her husband alive for an extra 11 months. Although Alice was able to get Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage and hired an advocate to negotiate with the hospital, she still ended up owing $142,000, more than three times her yearly salary. Not only did she have to cope with losing her husband, but she was left financially crippled as well.

When pressed by Brill, hospital administrators weren’t able to give a plausible explanation for the chargemaster rates, except to say that they are only a starting point and patients aren’t actually expected to pay them. The grim irony is that it is the uninsured patients—those among the least likely to be able to afford it—who are charged full chargemaster prices. And many don’t know negotiation is an option.

Full article

Uprooting racism in the food system: Communities organize for justiceMarch 11, 2013
A shovel overturned can flip so much more than soil, worms, and weeds. Structural racism - the ways in which social systems and institutions promote and perpetuate the oppression of people of color – manifests at all points in the food system. It emerges as barriers to land ownership and credit access for farmers of color, as wage discrimination and poor working conditions for food and farmworkers of color, and as lack of healthy food in neighborhoods of color. It shows up as discrimination in housing, employment, redlining, and other elements which impact food access and food justice.
Many people involved in creating food - from Haitian tomato pickers organizing in Florida, to Native Americans saving seeds in Arizona, to Black Detroit residents growing gardens in fractured neighborhoods – are simultaneously chipping away at structural racism. In the Harvesting Justice series we touch on many of these issues, starting with a look at African-American farmers and what they doing to win justice in the food system.
In 1920, one in every seven farmers in the U.S. was African-American. Together, they owned nearly 15 million acres. Racism, violence, and massive migration from the rural South to the industrialized North have caused a steady decline in the number of Black farmers. So, too, has, institutional racism in the agricultural policies of the USDA. By 2007, African-American farmers numbered about one in 70, together owning only 4.2 million acres.
Over the years, studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CRC), as well as by the USDA itself, have shown that the USDA actively discriminated against Black farmers, earning it the nickname ‘the last plantation.’ A 1964 CRC study showed that the agency unjustly denied African-American farmers loans, disaster aid, and representation on agricultural committees. But organizations like the National Black Farmers Association, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, the Land Loss Prevention Project, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives have been challenging racism in agricultural policy through legal action. In 1997-98, African-American farmers filed class-action lawsuits against the USDA for unjustly denying them loans. The lawsuits were consolidated into one case, Pigford v. Glickman, which was settled in 1999. But due to delays in filing claims, nearly 60,000 farmers and their heirs were left out of this settlement. In November 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the Claims Settlement Act (known as Pigford II) to compensate Black farmers who were left out of the first settlement. President Obama signed the bill a month later, making $1.25 billion available for claimants in the form of cash payments and loan forgiveness, though the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association has filed an appeal because Pigford II provides smaller payments and places limits on claimants’ future legal options.
bell hooks wrote, “Collective black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way of our ancestors… Living in modern society, without a sense of history, it has been easy for folks to forget that black people were first and foremost a people of the land, farmers.”[1]
Some who are still farmers are carrying on the fight for economic and civil rights for land-based African-American people, a fight which dates back to the days of slavery. Probably the most impressive contemporary example of such organizing has been the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. An outgrowth of the civil rights movement, it formed in 1967 when 22 cooperatives met at Atlanta University. The federation has used collective action ever since to support Black and other small farmers and rural communities. Today, their members include over 100 coops in 16 states across the South.
A fast-growing movement is African-Americans reclaiming their connection to their urban land and their food, as part of food justice and food sovereignty movements. People’s Grocery and Mo’ Better Food in Oakland, Growing Power, Rooted in Community, Detroit Black community Food Security Network, and many others are organizing with farmers and connecting African-American growers and consumers. Many of these, such as the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, are working forcommunities of color to have democratic control over their own food systems. Their work includes youth programs and urban gardening in areas where access to healthy, affordable food is limited, as is the case in many low-income and people of color neighborhoods.
These groups are also raising awareness of the ways that African-American communities, and communities of color in general, have been sidelined within the food movement itself. Inclusion and participation of people of color has come slowly and late. Often, African-American neighborhoods are targeted as ‘intervention’ areas by outside organizations that - though well-meaning - are neither led by nor accountable to the community and its most urgent needs and goals. The prevailing white culture of the food movement as a whole creates barriers: the typical image of farmers presented often reflects a white archetype and the types of food solutions presented are not always culturally relevant or practical.
A critical element of many African-American groups’ work thus involves nation-wide education and organizing on structural racism as it impacts health, farming, food, and land. Among other elements, these organizations are committed to knocking down barriers to food production and food access. Some have joined the world-wide movement for food sovereignty, in their own communities and through the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, so that citizen control over food and agriculture can exist across global economic systems.
Ultimately, we all eat, and we are all implicated. Achieving racial justice in the food system is not the sole burden of African-Americans organizing but will take multiracial alliances of people raising awareness of systemic disparities, and working together to end them.
SourcePhoto
I want to add many Latino & low-income communities have started community farms as well. It’s a huge step toward autonomy, mutual aid & collectivism in these areas where healthy food isn’t readily available or it’s very expensive.
I recently began working with a women’s collective & migrant farm workers to develop a community farm in south El Paso near the Texas/Mexico border. I would really encourage people with the time & resources to start organizing a community farm because food justice is a human right’s issue!

Uprooting racism in the food system: Communities organize for justice
March 11, 2013

A shovel overturned can flip so much more than soil, worms, and weeds. Structural racism - the ways in which social systems and institutions promote and perpetuate the oppression of people of color – manifests at all points in the food system. It emerges as barriers to land ownership and credit access for farmers of color, as wage discrimination and poor working conditions for food and farmworkers of color, and as lack of healthy food in neighborhoods of color. It shows up as discrimination in housing, employment, redlining, and other elements which impact food access and food justice.

Many people involved in creating food - from Haitian tomato pickers organizing in Florida, to Native Americans saving seeds in Arizona, to Black Detroit residents growing gardens in fractured neighborhoods – are simultaneously chipping away at structural racism. In the Harvesting Justice series we touch on many of these issues, starting with a look at African-American farmers and what they doing to win justice in the food system.

In 1920, one in every seven farmers in the U.S. was African-American. Together, they owned nearly 15 million acres. Racism, violence, and massive migration from the rural South to the industrialized North have caused a steady decline in the number of Black farmers. So, too, has, institutional racism in the agricultural policies of the USDA. By 2007, African-American farmers numbered about one in 70, together owning only 4.2 million acres.

Over the years, studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CRC), as well as by the USDA itself, have shown that the USDA actively discriminated against Black farmers, earning it the nickname ‘the last plantation.’ A 1964 CRC study showed that the agency unjustly denied African-American farmers loans, disaster aid, and representation on agricultural committees. But organizations like the National Black Farmers Association, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, the Land Loss Prevention Project, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives have been challenging racism in agricultural policy through legal action. In 1997-98, African-American farmers filed class-action lawsuits against the USDA for unjustly denying them loans. The lawsuits were consolidated into one case, Pigford v. Glickman, which was settled in 1999. But due to delays in filing claims, nearly 60,000 farmers and their heirs were left out of this settlement. In November 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the Claims Settlement Act (known as Pigford II) to compensate Black farmers who were left out of the first settlement. President Obama signed the bill a month later, making $1.25 billion available for claimants in the form of cash payments and loan forgiveness, though the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association has filed an appeal because Pigford II provides smaller payments and places limits on claimants’ future legal options.

bell hooks wrote, “Collective black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way of our ancestors… Living in modern society, without a sense of history, it has been easy for folks to forget that black people were first and foremost a people of the land, farmers.”[1]

Some who are still farmers are carrying on the fight for economic and civil rights for land-based African-American people, a fight which dates back to the days of slavery. Probably the most impressive contemporary example of such organizing has been the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. An outgrowth of the civil rights movement, it formed in 1967 when 22 cooperatives met at Atlanta University. The federation has used collective action ever since to support Black and other small farmers and rural communities. Today, their members include over 100 coops in 16 states across the South.

A fast-growing movement is African-Americans reclaiming their connection to their urban land and their food, as part of food justice and food sovereignty movements. People’s Grocery and Mo’ Better Food in Oakland, Growing Power, Rooted in Community, Detroit Black community Food Security Network, and many others are organizing with farmers and connecting African-American growers and consumers. Many of these, such as the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, are working forcommunities of color to have democratic control over their own food systems. Their work includes youth programs and urban gardening in areas where access to healthy, affordable food is limited, as is the case in many low-income and people of color neighborhoods.

These groups are also raising awareness of the ways that African-American communities, and communities of color in general, have been sidelined within the food movement itself. Inclusion and participation of people of color has come slowly and late. Often, African-American neighborhoods are targeted as ‘intervention’ areas by outside organizations that - though well-meaning - are neither led by nor accountable to the community and its most urgent needs and goals. The prevailing white culture of the food movement as a whole creates barriers: the typical image of farmers presented often reflects a white archetype and the types of food solutions presented are not always culturally relevant or practical.

A critical element of many African-American groups’ work thus involves nation-wide education and organizing on structural racism as it impacts health, farming, food, and land. Among other elements, these organizations are committed to knocking down barriers to food production and food access. Some have joined the world-wide movement for food sovereignty, in their own communities and through the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, so that citizen control over food and agriculture can exist across global economic systems.

Ultimately, we all eat, and we are all implicated. Achieving racial justice in the food system is not the sole burden of African-Americans organizing but will take multiracial alliances of people raising awareness of systemic disparities, and working together to end them.

Source
Photo

I want to add many Latino & low-income communities have started community farms as well. It’s a huge step toward autonomy, mutual aid & collectivism in these areas where healthy food isn’t readily available or it’s very expensive.

I recently began working with a women’s collective & migrant farm workers to develop a community farm in south El Paso near the Texas/Mexico border. I would really encourage people with the time & resources to start organizing a community farm because food justice is a human right’s issue!

mochente

cultureofresistance:

bethyhealer:

Each year, Americans consume about 5,250 tons of aspartame in total. 86 percent of this aspartame (4,500 tons) is from the consumption of diet sodas. Diet soda is the largest dietary source of aspartame  in the U.S.

Scary. I drink obscene amounts of diet soda -I literally feel addicted. If you’re like me and this really scares you, some studies have indicated that eating plenty of leafy greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, other vegetables (because of the Indole-3-carbinols) and vitamin D supplements (or alternatively, healthy levels of sun-exposure) may help reduce the incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A higher intake of flavonoids (in citrus like grapefruit, teas like green-tea, dark chocolate and dark wine), dietary components with several anti cancer activities, may be associated with lower non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk.

Live to fight another day and take care of yourself to the extent you can. 

Source

Study: More than 100 million Americans drinking ‘Toxic Trash’ water

February 28, 2013

Watchdog organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at 2011 water quality tests for over 200 municipal water systems that affect 100 million people in 43 states. 

In their analysis published Wednesday, the group documents that all the systems had water polluted with chemicals called trihalomethanes—chemicals caused when chlorine, used as a disinfectant, mingles with rotting organic matter such as farm runoff or sewage.

While the EPA refers to these trihalomethanes as “disinfection byproducts,” EWG says they are “toxic trash.”

Trihalomethanes have been linked to a range of health problems including bladder cancer, colon and rectal cancer, birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage.

While only the municipal water system of Davenport, Iowa showed levels that exceeded the upper legal limit the EPA established in 1998 of 80 parts per billion of trihalomethanes in drinking water, EWG points to multiple studies showing an increased risk of bladder cancer caused by much lower levels of trihalomethanes.

“New science makes a compelling case for stronger regulations and a stricter legal limit,” said Renee Sharp, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the analysis.

Further, EWG’s analysis notes that the levels of this “toxic trash” recorded are for annual averages, but there are likely contamination spikes, something of particular danger for pregnant women.

“Many people are likely exposed to far higher concentrations of trihalomethanes than anyone really knows,” stated Sharp.  “For most water systems, trihalomethane contamination fluctuates from month to month, sometimes rising well beyond the legal limit set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.”

The problem with trihalomethanes arises because water treatment facilities are forced to deal with contaminants to begin with, so EWG says improvements, which are ultimately less costly, must be made to have cleaner source water.

Among EWG’s recommendations:

  • Congress should reform farm policies to provide more funds to programs designed to keep agricultural pollutants such as manure, fertilizer, pesticides and soil out of tap water.     
  • Congress should renew the “conservation compliance” provisions of the 1985 farm bill by tying wetland and soil protection requirements to crop insurance programs, by requiring farm businesses that receive subsidies to update their conservation plans and by strengthening the government’s enforcement tools.
  • Congress must allocate significant money to help repair and upgrade the nation’s water infrastructure.     
  • Source water protection programs should be significantly expanded, including efforts to prevent or reduce pollution of source waters and to conserve land in buffer zones around public water supplies. Financial support for these projects is crucial.

Source

Peru’s Congress approves 10-year GMO banNovember 13, 2012
Peru’s Congress announced Friday it overwhelmingly approved a 10-year moratorium on imports of genetically modified organisms in order to safeguard the country’s biodiversity.
The measure bars GMOs — including seeds, livestock, and fish — from being imported for cultivation or to be raised locally.
Exceptions include the use of GMO products for research purposes in a closed environment, but those will be closely monitored, the legislature’s official news service said.
The bill, approved late Thursday, now goes to President Ollanta Humala to be signed into law. Humala, who has been in power since late July, has repeatedly said he opposes GM programs.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, Peru is one of the world’s leading exporters of organic food, including coffee and cocoa, with $3 billion a year in revenues and 40,000 certified producers.
Congress approved a similar 10-year moratorium in June, but outgoing president Alan Garcia, who was seen as being favorable to GM, did not ratify the ban.
There was friction over GM in the previous government’s ministries of agriculture and environment.
The head of Peru’s Consumer Agency, Jaime Delgado, said the moratorium is long enough to learn from scientific studies that will emerge on the effects of GMO products.
The country’s leading group representing farmers and ranchers, the National Agrarian Convention, said that by this measure Peru “defends its biodiversity, its agriculture, its gastronomy and its health.”
Source
Meanwhile in the US, GMO labeling alone has not even been enacted at the national, state or local levels. 

Peru’s Congress approves 10-year GMO ban
November 13, 2012

Peru’s Congress announced Friday it overwhelmingly approved a 10-year moratorium on imports of genetically modified organisms in order to safeguard the country’s biodiversity.

The measure bars GMOs — including seeds, livestock, and fish — from being imported for cultivation or to be raised locally.

Exceptions include the use of GMO products for research purposes in a closed environment, but those will be closely monitored, the legislature’s official news service said.

The bill, approved late Thursday, now goes to President Ollanta Humala to be signed into law. Humala, who has been in power since late July, has repeatedly said he opposes GM programs.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, Peru is one of the world’s leading exporters of organic food, including coffee and cocoa, with $3 billion a year in revenues and 40,000 certified producers.

Congress approved a similar 10-year moratorium in June, but outgoing president Alan Garcia, who was seen as being favorable to GM, did not ratify the ban.

There was friction over GM in the previous government’s ministries of agriculture and environment.

The head of Peru’s Consumer Agency, Jaime Delgado, said the moratorium is long enough to learn from scientific studies that will emerge on the effects of GMO products.

The country’s leading group representing farmers and ranchers, the National Agrarian Convention, said that by this measure Peru “defends its biodiversity, its agriculture, its gastronomy and its health.”

Source

Meanwhile in the US, GMO labeling alone has not even been enacted at the national, state or local levels. 

Monsanto spends millions to keep public in the dark & silence dissent
October 12, 2012
An intense advertising blitz, funded by Monsanto Co and others, has eroded support for a California ballot proposal that would require U.S. food makers to disclose when their products contain genetically modified organisms.
If California voters approve the measure on November 6, it would be the first time U.S. food makers have to label products that contain GMOs, or ingredients whose DNA has been manipulated by scientists.
The United States does not require safety testing for GM ingredients before they go to market. Industry says the products are safe, but there is a fiery debate raging around the science.
Dozens of countries already have GM food labeling requirements, with the European Union imposing mandatory labeling in 1997. Since then, GM products and crops have virtually disappeared from that market.
For more than a week, an opposition group funded by Monsanto, PepsiCo Inc and others has dominated television and radio air time with ads portraying the labeling proposal as an arbitrary set of new rules that will spawn frivolous lawsuits and boost food prices, positions disputed by supporters of the proposed new measures.
Experts say the real risk is that food companies may be more likely to stop using GMOs, than to label them.
That could disrupt U.S. food production because ingredients like GM corn, soybeans and canola have for years been staples in virtually every type of packaged food, from soup and tofu to breakfast cereals and chips.
Support for the GMO labeling proposal has plummeted to 48.3 percent from 66.9 percent two weeks ago, according to an online survey of 830 likely California voters conducted for the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy by M4 Strategies.
At the same time, the proportion of respondents likely to vote “no” on the measure - known as Proposition 37 - jumped to 40.2 percent from 22.3 percent two weeks ago, according to the survey results released on Thursday.
"Clearly the ‘No’ side has more money and the advertising is having an effect," Michael Shires, a Pepperdine professor who oversees the survey, told Reuters.
Funding for the effort to defeat the “Right to Know” ballot is led by chemical giants Monsanto and DuPont, each of which owns businesses that are the world’s top sellers of genetically modified seeds.
Monsanto has contributed just over $7 million to fight the proposal, while DuPont has kicked in about $5 million. In all, the “No on 37” camp raised a total of $34.6 million, according to filings with the California Secretary of State.
"Yes on 37" supporters, led by the Organic Consumers Association and Joseph Mercola, a natural health information provider, have donated $5.5 million.
"When there’s an initiative that’s going to affect an industry that can rally resources, they’ve usually been able to stop it," said Shires. "It still could go either way."
ADVERTISING WAR
Supporters of the new labeling measures on Thursday accused the “No on 37” group of “pounding Californians with lies and deception”, but the group says it is simply underscoring flaws in the labeling proposal.
The “No on 37” group recently had to pull an ad that identified its star, Henry Miller, as a Stanford University doctor rather than as a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank on the university’s campus. The group corrected the affiliation after Stanford complained.
Supporters of the ballot initiative, including food and environmental activists as well as organic growers, say consumers have the right to know what’s in the food they eat.
Because foods made with GMOs are not labeled, it is impossible to trace any food allergies or other ill effects suffered by humans or animals, they say.
Drafters of Proposition 37 say they excluded certain foods from the labeling rules to make them simpler and less burdensome for businesses. Exemptions include restaurant food as well as milk and meat from animals that eat GM feed.
California is the top milk-producing state in nation and its restaurant industry has annual sales of about $58 billion. It is not a significant producer of GM crops.
Opponents of the bill have seized on the exclusions. Their ads question why a frozen pizza (sold in a supermarket) would be labeled, while delivery pizza (from a restaurant) would not.
Source
It seems like everyday I read about some new thing that Monstanto is doing that they definitely shouldn’t be doing. 

Monsanto spends millions to keep public in the dark & silence dissent

October 12, 2012

An intense advertising blitz, funded by Monsanto Co and others, has eroded support for a California ballot proposal that would require U.S. food makers to disclose when their products contain genetically modified organisms.

If California voters approve the measure on November 6, it would be the first time U.S. food makers have to label products that contain GMOs, or ingredients whose DNA has been manipulated by scientists.

The United States does not require safety testing for GM ingredients before they go to market. Industry says the products are safe, but there is a fiery debate raging around the science.

Dozens of countries already have GM food labeling requirements, with the European Union imposing mandatory labeling in 1997. Since then, GM products and crops have virtually disappeared from that market.

For more than a week, an opposition group funded by Monsanto, PepsiCo Inc and others has dominated television and radio air time with ads portraying the labeling proposal as an arbitrary set of new rules that will spawn frivolous lawsuits and boost food prices, positions disputed by supporters of the proposed new measures.

Experts say the real risk is that food companies may be more likely to stop using GMOs, than to label them.

That could disrupt U.S. food production because ingredients like GM corn, soybeans and canola have for years been staples in virtually every type of packaged food, from soup and tofu to breakfast cereals and chips.

Support for the GMO labeling proposal has plummeted to 48.3 percent from 66.9 percent two weeks ago, according to an online survey of 830 likely California voters conducted for the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy by M4 Strategies.

At the same time, the proportion of respondents likely to vote “no” on the measure - known as Proposition 37 - jumped to 40.2 percent from 22.3 percent two weeks ago, according to the survey results released on Thursday.

"Clearly the ‘No’ side has more money and the advertising is having an effect," Michael Shires, a Pepperdine professor who oversees the survey, told Reuters.

Funding for the effort to defeat the “Right to Know” ballot is led by chemical giants Monsanto and DuPont, each of which owns businesses that are the world’s top sellers of genetically modified seeds.

Monsanto has contributed just over $7 million to fight the proposal, while DuPont has kicked in about $5 million. In all, the “No on 37” camp raised a total of $34.6 million, according to filings with the California Secretary of State.

"Yes on 37" supporters, led by the Organic Consumers Association and Joseph Mercola, a natural health information provider, have donated $5.5 million.

"When there’s an initiative that’s going to affect an industry that can rally resources, they’ve usually been able to stop it," said Shires. "It still could go either way."

ADVERTISING WAR

Supporters of the new labeling measures on Thursday accused the “No on 37” group of “pounding Californians with lies and deception”, but the group says it is simply underscoring flaws in the labeling proposal.

The “No on 37” group recently had to pull an ad that identified its star, Henry Miller, as a Stanford University doctor rather than as a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank on the university’s campus. The group corrected the affiliation after Stanford complained.

Supporters of the ballot initiative, including food and environmental activists as well as organic growers, say consumers have the right to know what’s in the food they eat.

Because foods made with GMOs are not labeled, it is impossible to trace any food allergies or other ill effects suffered by humans or animals, they say.

Drafters of Proposition 37 say they excluded certain foods from the labeling rules to make them simpler and less burdensome for businesses. Exemptions include restaurant food as well as milk and meat from animals that eat GM feed.

California is the top milk-producing state in nation and its restaurant industry has annual sales of about $58 billion. It is not a significant producer of GM crops.

Opponents of the bill have seized on the exclusions. Their ads question why a frozen pizza (sold in a supermarket) would be labeled, while delivery pizza (from a restaurant) would not.

Source

It seems like everyday I read about some new thing that Monstanto is doing that they definitely shouldn’t be doing. 

Monsanto has EU in its pocket, ignores study connecting GMOs to cancer
October 4, 2012
The European Food Safety Authority has rejected a controversial study by French scientists linking GM corn to cancer. Many in Europe are already calling for stricter controls on GMOs, as farmers weigh the lucrative crops against health concerns.
In September, French scientists from the University of Caen released a study claiming that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a corn seed variety made tolerant to amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup weed-killer – or given water mixed with the product at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet.
The study elicited calls for stricter controls on already unpopular genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. France had already issued a temporary ban on another Monsanto corn seed (MON810) in May due to a similar study.
However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed the study lacked enough specific information on Friday, and asked the scientists who conducted it to provide more details on their testing methods. The move adds to the constant back and forth in the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The "design, reporting and analysis of the study … are inadequate," the EFSA said in its review, concluding that it could not "regard the authors’ conclusions as scientifically sound."
The EFSA took issue with the type of rat used in the study, specifically the albino Sprague-Dawley strain of rat. Sprague-Dawley rats have a tendency to develop cancers naturally over the course of their two-year life span, which was also the duration of the study.
"This means the observed frequency of tumors is influenced by the natural incidence of tumors typical of this strain, regardless of any treatment. This is neither taken into account nor discussed by the authors," the EFSA said.
Gilles-Eric Seralini, the French researcher who conducted the study with his colleagues and published the results in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in London was incredulous at the EFSA’s decision, and stated that he would not release any more information to the EFSA unless it provided justification for its conclusion.
"It is absolutely scandalous that [the EFSA] keeps secret the information on which they based their evaluation [of NK603],” he said. 
"In any event, we will not give them anything. We will put the information in the public domain when they do," Seralini said in an AFP report.
Please pass the GMO?
The French study caused waves of alarm across Europe, and even prompted a ban on the NK603 corn in Russia. A group of Russian scientists who oppose GMOs are hoping to conduct their own rat experiment, set to begin in March of 2013. They expect that their year-long experiment will show whether the controversial cultivation process has effects as dangerous as the French study claims. 
In an effort to conduct their study as publicly as possible, Russian researchers from the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS) came up with the idea of web cameras installed in cages with the test rats, which will broadcast all stages of the experiment online. The unique reality show will be available on the internet 24/7 worldwide.
“This is a unique experiment,” project author Elena Sharoykina told RT. “There hasn’t been anything like it before – open, public research by opponents and supporters of GMO.”
Many GM crops are banned or controversial throughout Europe. France has strict regulations of GM crops, while GMOs are completely banned in Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg, Hungary, and the UK over health concerns. GM crops are altered to be resistant to pesticides, a development which has caused an increase in the use of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.
Still, the crops are attractive to farmers, Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union, told RT. For example, the Monsanto GMO NK603 corn in question has been modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s “Roundup” weed-killer, making the product easier and cheaper to grow with delivering better yields. 
“The seed may be more expensive, but the development is significantly cheaper,” he said, stating that European GMO farmers find a 20 per cent increase in profit combined with a highly-marketable, top-quality product.
Study versus study
The EFSA’s criticism of the French study echoed that of numerous other experts across Europe that refuted the results. But as more and more studies emerge on both sides of the issue, the harder it becomes to identity where fact meets fiction.
Zlochevsky told RT that “There is no reliable proof of the ills of GMO; so far there have only been attempts to prove it.”
Monsanto’s study published in 2002 on corn strain NK603 concluded that “NK603 is as safe and nutritious as conventional corn currently being marketed,” and the specific proteins in the corn genetically altered to make the corn pesticide resistant “are not toxic to non-target organisms, including humans, animals and beneficial insects.”
But a study published recently in the UK by a genetic engineer from London’s King’s College of Medicine signaled that GM foods pose a more serious threat than advocates of research would have the public believe.
“GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides and can help solve world hunger,” said Dr. Michael Antoniou, author of the report, which claims that research into GM crops is incomplete and tests on the effect of their consumption are not comprehensive enough. 
Regulatory industries worldwide rely on companies selling GM products rather than independent testing, stipulates the paper.
Source

Monsanto has EU in its pocket, ignores study connecting GMOs to cancer

October 4, 2012

The European Food Safety Authority has rejected a controversial study by French scientists linking GM corn to cancer. Many in Europe are already calling for stricter controls on GMOs, as farmers weigh the lucrative crops against health concerns.

In September, French scientists from the University of Caen released a study claiming that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a corn seed variety made tolerant to amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup weed-killer – or given water mixed with the product at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet.

The study elicited calls for stricter controls on already unpopular genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. France had already issued a temporary ban on another Monsanto corn seed (MON810) in May due to a similar study.

However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed the study lacked enough specific information on Friday, and asked the scientists who conducted it to provide more details on their testing methods. The move adds to the constant back and forth in the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The "design, reporting and analysis of the study … are inadequate," the EFSA said in its review, concluding that it could not "regard the authors’ conclusions as scientifically sound."

The EFSA took issue with the type of rat used in the study, specifically the albino Sprague-Dawley strain of rat. Sprague-Dawley rats have a tendency to develop cancers naturally over the course of their two-year life span, which was also the duration of the study.

"This means the observed frequency of tumors is influenced by the natural incidence of tumors typical of this strain, regardless of any treatment. This is neither taken into account nor discussed by the authors," the EFSA said.

Gilles-Eric Seralini, the French researcher who conducted the study with his colleagues and published the results in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in London was incredulous at the EFSA’s decision, and stated that he would not release any more information to the EFSA unless it provided justification for its conclusion.

"It is absolutely scandalous that [the EFSA] keeps secret the information on which they based their evaluation [of NK603],” he said. 

"In any event, we will not give them anything. We will put the information in the public domain when they do," Seralini said in an AFP report.

Please pass the GMO?

The French study caused waves of alarm across Europe, and even prompted a ban on the NK603 corn in Russia. A group of Russian scientists who oppose GMOs are hoping to conduct their own rat experiment, set to begin in March of 2013. They expect that their year-long experiment will show whether the controversial cultivation process has effects as dangerous as the French study claims. 

In an effort to conduct their study as publicly as possible, Russian researchers from the National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS) came up with the idea of web cameras installed in cages with the test rats, which will broadcast all stages of the experiment online. The unique reality show will be available on the internet 24/7 worldwide.

“This is a unique experiment,” project author Elena Sharoykina told RT. “There hasn’t been anything like it before – open, public research by opponents and supporters of GMO.”

Many GM crops are banned or controversial throughout Europe. France has strict regulations of GM crops, while GMOs are completely banned in Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg, Hungary, and the UK over health concerns. GM crops are altered to be resistant to pesticides, a development which has caused an increase in the use of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and birth defects.

Still, the crops are attractive to farmers, Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union, told RT. For example, the Monsanto GMO NK603 corn in question has been modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s “Roundup” weed-killer, making the product easier and cheaper to grow with delivering better yields. 

“The seed may be more expensive, but the development is significantly cheaper,” he said, stating that European GMO farmers find a 20 per cent increase in profit combined with a highly-marketable, top-quality product.

Study versus study

The EFSA’s criticism of the French study echoed that of numerous other experts across Europe that refuted the results. But as more and more studies emerge on both sides of the issue, the harder it becomes to identity where fact meets fiction.

Zlochevsky told RT that “There is no reliable proof of the ills of GMO; so far there have only been attempts to prove it.”

Monsanto’s study published in 2002 on corn strain NK603 concluded that “NK603 is as safe and nutritious as conventional corn currently being marketed,” and the specific proteins in the corn genetically altered to make the corn pesticide resistant “are not toxic to non-target organisms, including humans, animals and beneficial insects.”

But a study published recently in the UK by a genetic engineer from London’s King’s College of Medicine signaled that GM foods pose a more serious threat than advocates of research would have the public believe.

“GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides and can help solve world hunger,” said Dr. Michael Antoniou, author of the report, which claims that research into GM crops is incomplete and tests on the effect of their consumption are not comprehensive enough. 

Regulatory industries worldwide rely on companies selling GM products rather than independent testing, stipulates the paper.

Source

Monsanto’s top 7 lies about GMO labeling & Prop.37August 25, 2012
Due to the near future voting on November 6, 2012 for California’s Proposition 37, there has been a lot of heat going back and forth concerning GMO foods. Up until now, 10′s of million of dollars have been funneled into the opposing side of the bill, with biotechnology giant Monsanto dishing out a whopping $4.2 million alone. Monsanto has even recently published a page on their site titled ”Taking a Stand: Proposition 37, The California Labeling Proposal,” where the GMO giant attempts to logically explain why it is against GMO labeling. Needless to say, the post reeks of false and misleading statements, and oftentimes downright deception. Here are the top 7 lies Monsanto wants you to believe regarding GMO labeling and Prop 37.
1. The bill ”would require a warning label on food products.”
GMO foods will not require a warning label (although they ought to!) Actually, foods made with GMOs would say ”partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering,” – not a warning label, but a clear warning sign to those of us who want to avoid GMOs. The whole idea of the GMO labeling bill is to make consumers aware of what they are consuming, not to bash GMOs on every label. We have a right to know.
2. ”The safety and benefits of these ingredients are well established.”
This may be the most comical statements of all. While no long-term studies portray the dangers or benefits of GMOs, countless studies using a ‘shorter’ time interval show not only how GMOs are a danger to humans, but also the environment and the biosphere. One study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences shows that GMO corn and other GM food is indeed contributing to the obesity epidemic and causing organ disruption.
Through the mass genetic modification of nature via GMO crops, animals, biopesticides, and the mutated insects that are created as a result, mega biotechnology corporations are threatening the overall genetic integrity of the environment as well as all of humankind. This is just one reason that GMO crops are continuously banned around the world in nations such as France, Peru, Hungary, and Poland.

3. “FDA says that such labeling would be inherently misleading to consumers.”
While the FDA may think that labeling GMO foods would be misleading, in reality the exact opposite is true. Most consumers are in the dark when it comes to GMOs residing in their purchased foods. Foods being sold that contain hidden GMOs is much more misleading than letting the consumer be aware.
The FDA may call it ‘misleading’ since ‘GMOs are safe,’ but research shows that this is far from the truth.
4. “The American Medical Association just re-affirmed that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”
Although true, the American Medical Association also recently called for mandatory premarket safety studies for GMOs – a decision virtually polar opposite of the above quote. It seems that the AMA is being inconsistent no matter which view is taken. Here is a quote from Consumers Union recently noted in its reaction to AMA’s announcement:
“The AMA’s stance on mandatory labeling isn’t consistent with its support for mandatory pre-market safety assessments. If unexpected adverse health effects, such as an allergic reaction, happen as a result of GE, then labeling could perhaps be the only way to determine that the GE process was linked to the adverse health effect.”
5. ”…the main proponents of Proposition 37 are special interest groups and individuals opposed to food biotechnology who are not necessarily engaged in the production of our nation’s food supply.”
Not engaged int he production of our nation’s food supply? Countless farmers, food producers, and consumers who are engaging with their hard-earned dollar support Proposition 37. In fact, many farmers have taken legal action against Monsanto in the past for widespread genetic contamination.
Here is a growing list of endorsements for the GMO labeling bill.
6. ”The California proposal would serve the purposes of a few special interest groups at the expense of the majority of consumers.”
Monsanto says “at the expense of the majority of consumers.” Maybe the biotech giant isn’t away that GMO labeling is so desired that the pro-labeling side has a 3-to-1 advantage, based on recent polls. The majority of consumers actually want GMO foods to be labeled. It is no secret that government organizations such as theFDA and USDA are in bed with Monsanto, but this is a decision for the people – not any government organizations.
It has also been revealed that Monsanto has control of virtually all U.S. diplomats, and the company has even used its massive influence to force other nations to accept their genetically modified crops through economic threats and political pressure.
7. ”Consumers have broad food choices today, but could be denied these choices if Prop 37 prevails.”
There is absolutely no reason to think that because of Proposition 37, food choices would become more limited. Actually, the bill would add value to the purchase by consumers, as no one would need to ‘eat in the dark’ and unknowingly consume GMOs.
SourcePhoto

Monsanto’s top 7 lies about GMO labeling & Prop.37
August 25, 2012

Due to the near future voting on November 6, 2012 for California’s Proposition 37, there has been a lot of heat going back and forth concerning GMO foods. Up until now, 10′s of million of dollars have been funneled into the opposing side of the bill, with biotechnology giant Monsanto dishing out a whopping $4.2 million alone. Monsanto has even recently published a page on their site titled ”Taking a Stand: Proposition 37, The California Labeling Proposal,” where the GMO giant attempts to logically explain why it is against GMO labeling. Needless to say, the post reeks of false and misleading statements, and oftentimes downright deception. Here are the top 7 lies Monsanto wants you to believe regarding GMO labeling and Prop 37.

1. The bill ”would require a warning label on food products.”

GMO foods will not require a warning label (although they ought to!) Actually, foods made with GMOs would say ”partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering,” – not a warning label, but a clear warning sign to those of us who want to avoid GMOs. The whole idea of the GMO labeling bill is to make consumers aware of what they are consuming, not to bash GMOs on every label. We have a right to know.

2. ”The safety and benefits of these ingredients are well established.”

This may be the most comical statements of all. While no long-term studies portray the dangers or benefits of GMOs, countless studies using a ‘shorter’ time interval show not only how GMOs are a danger to humans, but also the environment and the biosphere. One study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences shows that GMO corn and other GM food is indeed contributing to the obesity epidemic and causing organ disruption.

Through the mass genetic modification of nature via GMO crops, animals, biopesticides, and the mutated insects that are created as a result, mega biotechnology corporations are threatening the overall genetic integrity of the environment as well as all of humankind. This is just one reason that GMO crops are continuously banned around the world in nations such as France, Peru, Hungary, and Poland.

3. “FDA says that such labeling would be inherently misleading to consumers.”

While the FDA may think that labeling GMO foods would be misleading, in reality the exact opposite is true. Most consumers are in the dark when it comes to GMOs residing in their purchased foods. Foods being sold that contain hidden GMOs is much more misleading than letting the consumer be aware.

The FDA may call it ‘misleading’ since ‘GMOs are safe,’ but research shows that this is far from the truth.

4. “The American Medical Association just re-affirmed that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”

Although true, the American Medical Association also recently called for mandatory premarket safety studies for GMOs – a decision virtually polar opposite of the above quote. It seems that the AMA is being inconsistent no matter which view is taken. Here is a quote from Consumers Union recently noted in its reaction to AMA’s announcement:

“The AMA’s stance on mandatory labeling isn’t consistent with its support for mandatory pre-market safety assessments. If unexpected adverse health effects, such as an allergic reaction, happen as a result of GE, then labeling could perhaps be the only way to determine that the GE process was linked to the adverse health effect.”

5. ”…the main proponents of Proposition 37 are special interest groups and individuals opposed to food biotechnology who are not necessarily engaged in the production of our nation’s food supply.”

Not engaged int he production of our nation’s food supply? Countless farmers, food producers, and consumers who are engaging with their hard-earned dollar support Proposition 37. In fact, many farmers have taken legal action against Monsanto in the past for widespread genetic contamination.

Here is a growing list of endorsements for the GMO labeling bill.

6. ”The California proposal would serve the purposes of a few special interest groups at the expense of the majority of consumers.”

Monsanto says “at the expense of the majority of consumers.” Maybe the biotech giant isn’t away that GMO labeling is so desired that the pro-labeling side has a 3-to-1 advantage, based on recent polls. The majority of consumers actually want GMO foods to be labeled. It is no secret that government organizations such as theFDA and USDA are in bed with Monsanto, but this is a decision for the people – not any government organizations.

It has also been revealed that Monsanto has control of virtually all U.S. diplomats, and the company has even used its massive influence to force other nations to accept their genetically modified crops through economic threats and political pressure.

7. ”Consumers have broad food choices today, but could be denied these choices if Prop 37 prevails.”

There is absolutely no reason to think that because of Proposition 37, food choices would become more limited. Actually, the bill would add value to the purchase by consumers, as no one would need to ‘eat in the dark’ and unknowingly consume GMOs.

Source
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Latinos, blacks more likely to suffer health disparities due to wealth inequalityAugust 24, 2012
A recent study found that health disparities among Latino, black and white children -– but when adjusted for socioeconomic factors, differences had more to do with class than race.
Researchers interviewed more than 5,000 fifth graders in Los Angeles, Houston and Birmingham, Ala. They measured 16 health behaviors and outcomes including use of tobacco and alcohol, exercise habits, helmet use and obesity.
Black children (20 percent) were more likely than Latino children (11 percent) and whites (5 percent) to have witnessed a gun threat or injury.
Latinos were 15 percent and blacks 12 percent more likely than whites to be obese.
Latinos and blacks got less exercise and had poorer physical and psychological health.
However, when adjusted for income and education of children’s families, differences significantly shrunk.
Most of the disparities between Latinos and whites disappeared and the rest were reduced after adjusting for socioeconomic status.
Where a child went to school played a big role in what researchers found. Even within the same neighborhood, schools played a significant role.
The report said:
The child’s school was the most important mediator of disparities between black children and white children for 11 of 16 measures, whereas socioeconomic status was the largest mediator of disparities between Latino children and white children for 10 measures.
But, in the end, what does it really mean to “adjust?” The fact remains that children of color are growing up with poor physical and psychological health.
Source
Capitalism is literally killing us.

Latinos, blacks more likely to suffer health disparities due to wealth inequality
August 24, 2012

A recent study found that health disparities among Latino, black and white children -– but when adjusted for socioeconomic factors, differences had more to do with class than race.

Researchers interviewed more than 5,000 fifth graders in Los Angeles, Houston and Birmingham, Ala. They measured 16 health behaviors and outcomes including use of tobacco and alcohol, exercise habits, helmet use and obesity.

Black children (20 percent) were more likely than Latino children (11 percent) and whites (5 percent) to have witnessed a gun threat or injury.

Latinos were 15 percent and blacks 12 percent more likely than whites to be obese.

Latinos and blacks got less exercise and had poorer physical and psychological health.

However, when adjusted for income and education of children’s families, differences significantly shrunk.

Most of the disparities between Latinos and whites disappeared and the rest were reduced after adjusting for socioeconomic status.

Where a child went to school played a big role in what researchers found. Even within the same neighborhood, schools played a significant role.

The report said:

The child’s school was the most important mediator of disparities between black children and white children for 11 of 16 measures, whereas socioeconomic status was the largest mediator of disparities between Latino children and white children for 10 measures.

But, in the end, what does it really mean to “adjust?” The fact remains that children of color are growing up with poor physical and psychological health.

Source

Capitalism is literally killing us.

Groups sue Calif. Dept. of Health for failing to protect against toxic waterAugust 15, 2012
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) sued the California Department of Public Health on Aug. 14 for failing to protect millions of Californians from hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich for contaminating drinking water and sickening residents in the town of Hinkley, California.
The agency was supposed to establish a safe drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium eight years ago, but has failed in its duty to safeguard citizens from the toxin.
“Millions of Californians are drinking toxic water today due to government neglect,” said Nicholas Morales, attorney at the NRDC. “The state has not protected our drinking water supply from this carcinogen, so we’re going to the courts to put a stop to it. Clean drinking water is a precious resource, and it’s about time it’s treated as such.”
An EWG analysis of official records from the California Department of Public Health’s water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 revealed that about one-third of the more than 7,000 drinking water sources sampled were contaminated with hexavalent chromium at levels that exceed safe limits. These water sources are spread throughout 52 of 58 counties, impacting an estimated 31 million Californians.
In 2001, the California State Legislature mandated the agency adopt a standard by Jan. 1, 2004, giving it two years to do so. Eight years past its legal deadline, the agency still hasn’t made any visible progress and says it could take several more years before a final standard is completed. Filed in the California Superior Court of Alameda, NRDC and EWG’s suit contends the department’s delay is unjustified and it must rapidly proceed to finalize the standard.
“Communities all over California and the U.S. are being poisoned by this dangerous chemical,” said Erin Brockovich, an environmental and consumer advocate. “We have waited long enough and the people of California should not continue to be exposed to unsafe levels of this toxin in their tap water. The California Department of Public Health needs to do its job and adopt a strong standard for hexavalent chromium in drinking water.”
Drinking water sources in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and Riverside were found to exceed the safe limits of hexavalent chromium, according to a 2010 EWG report that tested 25 U.S. cities’ tap water for hexavalent chromium contamination.
The report also found this threat isn’t limited to California. At least 74 million Americans in thousands of communities across 42 states drink tap water polluted with “total chromium,” which includes hexavalent and other forms of the metal.
Even though hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other severe health effects, there is no national or state drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium. Therefore, water agencies don’t have to comprehensively monitor for or remove hexavalent chromium before it comes out of the tap.
“You’d think the state of California would have moved quickly to protect its citizens from this carcinogen, which, sadly, still flows from the taps of millions of residents,” Renee Sharp, a senior scientist and director of EWG’s California office said. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that at this minute countless children in California are likely drinking a glass of water laced with unsafe levels hexavalent chromium.”
Source

Groups sue Calif. Dept. of Health for failing to protect against toxic water
August 15, 2012

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) sued the California Department of Public Health on Aug. 14 for failing to protect millions of Californians from hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich for contaminating drinking water and sickening residents in the town of Hinkley, California.

The agency was supposed to establish a safe drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium eight years ago, but has failed in its duty to safeguard citizens from the toxin.

“Millions of Californians are drinking toxic water today due to government neglect,” said Nicholas Morales, attorney at the NRDC. “The state has not protected our drinking water supply from this carcinogen, so we’re going to the courts to put a stop to it. Clean drinking water is a precious resource, and it’s about time it’s treated as such.”

An EWG analysis of official records from the California Department of Public Health’s water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 revealed that about one-third of the more than 7,000 drinking water sources sampled were contaminated with hexavalent chromium at levels that exceed safe limits. These water sources are spread throughout 52 of 58 counties, impacting an estimated 31 million Californians.

In 2001, the California State Legislature mandated the agency adopt a standard by Jan. 1, 2004, giving it two years to do so. Eight years past its legal deadline, the agency still hasn’t made any visible progress and says it could take several more years before a final standard is completed. Filed in the California Superior Court of Alameda, NRDC and EWG’s suit contends the department’s delay is unjustified and it must rapidly proceed to finalize the standard.

“Communities all over California and the U.S. are being poisoned by this dangerous chemical,” said Erin Brockovich, an environmental and consumer advocate. “We have waited long enough and the people of California should not continue to be exposed to unsafe levels of this toxin in their tap water. The California Department of Public Health needs to do its job and adopt a strong standard for hexavalent chromium in drinking water.”

Drinking water sources in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and Riverside were found to exceed the safe limits of hexavalent chromium, according to a 2010 EWG report that tested 25 U.S. cities’ tap water for hexavalent chromium contamination.

The report also found this threat isn’t limited to California. At least 74 million Americans in thousands of communities across 42 states drink tap water polluted with “total chromium,” which includes hexavalent and other forms of the metal.

Even though hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other severe health effects, there is no national or state drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium. Therefore, water agencies don’t have to comprehensively monitor for or remove hexavalent chromium before it comes out of the tap.

“You’d think the state of California would have moved quickly to protect its citizens from this carcinogen, which, sadly, still flows from the taps of millions of residents,” Renee Sharp, a senior scientist and director of EWG’s California office said. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that at this minute countless children in California are likely drinking a glass of water laced with unsafe levels hexavalent chromium.”

Source

First Agent Orange cleanup to begin in VietnamAugust 8, 2012
Vo Duoc fights back tears while sharing the news that broke his heart: A few days ago he received test results confirming he and 11 family members have elevated levels of dioxin lingering in their blood.
The family lives in a two-story house near a former U.S. military base in Danang where the defoliant Agent Orange was stored during the Vietnam War, which ended nearly four decades ago. Duoc, 58, sells steel for a living and has diabetes, while his wife battles breast cancer and their daughter has remained childless after suffering repeated miscarriages. For years, Duoc thought the ailments were unrelated, but after seeing the blood tests he now suspects his family unwittingly ingested dioxin from Agent Orange-contaminated fish, vegetables and well water.
Dioxin, a persistent chemical linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, has seeped into Vietnam’s soils and watersheds, creating a lasting war legacy that remains a thorny issue between the former foes. Washington has been slow to respond, but on Thursday the U.S. for the first time will begin cleaning up dioxin from Agent Orange that was stored at the former military base, now part of Danang’s airport.
"It’s better late than never that the U.S. government is cleaning up the environment for our children," Duoc said in Danang, surrounded by family members sitting on plastic stools. "They have to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible."
The $43 million project begins as Vietnam and the U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China’s rising influence in the disputed South China Sea.
Although the countries’ economic and military ties are blossoming, progress on addressing the dioxin legacy has been slow. Washington still disputes a claim by Hanoi that between 3 million to 4 million Vietnamese were affected by toxic chemicals sprayed by U.S. planes during the war to eliminate jungle cover for guerrilla fighters, arguing that the actual number is far lower and other environmental factors are to blame for the health issues.
That position irks Vietnamese, who say the United States maintains a double standard in acknowledging the consequences of Agent Orange.
The U.S. has given billions of dollars in disability payments to American servicemen who developed illnesses associated with dioxin after exposure to the defoliant during the Vietnam War.
In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens filed suit in a U.S. court against companies that produced the chemical, but the case was dismissed and the Supreme Court declined to take it up.
Until a few years ago, Washington took a defensive position whenever Agent Orange was raised because no one had determined how much dioxin remained in Vietnam’s soil and watersheds, and the U.S. worried about potential liabilities, said Susan Hammond, director of the War Legacies Project, a U.S. nonprofit organization that mainly focuses on the Agent Orange legacy from the Vietnam War.
"There was a lot of the blame game going on, and it led nowhere," Hammond said by telephone from Vermont. "But now at least progress is being made."
Over the past five years, Congress has appropriated about $49 million for environmental remediation and about $11 million to help people living with disabilities in Vietnam regardless of cause. Experts have identified three former U.S. air bases — in Danang in central Vietnam and the southern locations of Bien Hoa and Phu Cat — as hotspots where Agent Orange was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes.
The U.S. military dumped some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.
The defoliant decimated about 5 million acres of forest — roughly the size of Massachusetts — and another 500,000 acres of crops.
The war ended on April 30, 1975, when northern Communist forces seized control of Saigon, the U.S.-backed former capital of South Vietnam. The country was then reunified under a one-party Communist government. Following years of poverty and isolation, Vietnam shook hands with the U.S. in 1995 and normalized diplomatic relations.
Since then, the relationship has flourished and the two countries have become important trading partners. Military ties have also strengthened, with Vietnam looking to the U.S. amid rising tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and is crossed by vital shipping lanes.
Although Washington remains a vocal critic of Vietnam’s human rights record, it also views the country as a key ally in its push to re-engage militarily in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. says maintaining peace and freedom of navigation in the sea is in its national interest.
The Agent Orange issue has continued to blight the U.S.-Vietnam relationship because dioxin can linger in soils and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, entering the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals. 
Source
Photo: Ho Thi Lang, left, combs Ngo Diep Uyen’s hair after her nap at a rehabilitation center in Danang, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012. The children were born with physical and mental disabilities that the center’s director said were caused by their parents’ exposure to the chemical dioxin in the defoliant Agent Orange.

First Agent Orange cleanup to begin in Vietnam
August 8, 2012

Vo Duoc fights back tears while sharing the news that broke his heart: A few days ago he received test results confirming he and 11 family members have elevated levels of dioxin lingering in their blood.

The family lives in a two-story house near a former U.S. military base in Danang where the defoliant Agent Orange was stored during the Vietnam War, which ended nearly four decades ago. Duoc, 58, sells steel for a living and has diabetes, while his wife battles breast cancer and their daughter has remained childless after suffering repeated miscarriages. For years, Duoc thought the ailments were unrelated, but after seeing the blood tests he now suspects his family unwittingly ingested dioxin from Agent Orange-contaminated fish, vegetables and well water.

Dioxin, a persistent chemical linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, has seeped into Vietnam’s soils and watersheds, creating a lasting war legacy that remains a thorny issue between the former foes. Washington has been slow to respond, but on Thursday the U.S. for the first time will begin cleaning up dioxin from Agent Orange that was stored at the former military base, now part of Danang’s airport.

"It’s better late than never that the U.S. government is cleaning up the environment for our children," Duoc said in Danang, surrounded by family members sitting on plastic stools. "They have to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible."

The $43 million project begins as Vietnam and the U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China’s rising influence in the disputed South China Sea.

Although the countries’ economic and military ties are blossoming, progress on addressing the dioxin legacy has been slow. Washington still disputes a claim by Hanoi that between 3 million to 4 million Vietnamese were affected by toxic chemicals sprayed by U.S. planes during the war to eliminate jungle cover for guerrilla fighters, arguing that the actual number is far lower and other environmental factors are to blame for the health issues.

That position irks Vietnamese, who say the United States maintains a double standard in acknowledging the consequences of Agent Orange.

The U.S. has given billions of dollars in disability payments to American servicemen who developed illnesses associated with dioxin after exposure to the defoliant during the Vietnam War.

In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens filed suit in a U.S. court against companies that produced the chemical, but the case was dismissed and the Supreme Court declined to take it up.

Until a few years ago, Washington took a defensive position whenever Agent Orange was raised because no one had determined how much dioxin remained in Vietnam’s soil and watersheds, and the U.S. worried about potential liabilities, said Susan Hammond, director of the War Legacies Project, a U.S. nonprofit organization that mainly focuses on the Agent Orange legacy from the Vietnam War.

"There was a lot of the blame game going on, and it led nowhere," Hammond said by telephone from Vermont. "But now at least progress is being made."

Over the past five years, Congress has appropriated about $49 million for environmental remediation and about $11 million to help people living with disabilities in Vietnam regardless of cause. Experts have identified three former U.S. air bases — in Danang in central Vietnam and the southern locations of Bien Hoa and Phu Cat — as hotspots where Agent Orange was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes.

The U.S. military dumped some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

The defoliant decimated about 5 million acres of forest — roughly the size of Massachusetts — and another 500,000 acres of crops.

The war ended on April 30, 1975, when northern Communist forces seized control of Saigon, the U.S.-backed former capital of South Vietnam. The country was then reunified under a one-party Communist government. Following years of poverty and isolation, Vietnam shook hands with the U.S. in 1995 and normalized diplomatic relations.

Since then, the relationship has flourished and the two countries have become important trading partners. Military ties have also strengthened, with Vietnam looking to the U.S. amid rising tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and is crossed by vital shipping lanes.

Although Washington remains a vocal critic of Vietnam’s human rights record, it also views the country as a key ally in its push to re-engage militarily in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. says maintaining peace and freedom of navigation in the sea is in its national interest.

The Agent Orange issue has continued to blight the U.S.-Vietnam relationship because dioxin can linger in soils and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, entering the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals. 

Source

Photo: Ho Thi Lang, left, combs Ngo Diep Uyen’s hair after her nap at a rehabilitation center in Danang, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012. The children were born with physical and mental disabilities that the center’s director said were caused by their parents’ exposure to the chemical dioxin in the defoliant Agent Orange.