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Has the U.S. Become a Third World Country?

Yes says Dr. Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, author of the book ‘The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy.’
So if Dr. Temin is right, how do we reverse our decline? Dr. Temin has ideas for us there as well. Jim

“America divided – this concept increasingly graces political discourse in the U.S., pitting left against right, conservative thought against the liberal agenda. But for decades, Americans have been rearranging along another divide, one just as stark if not far more significant – a chasm once bridged by a flourishing middle class…

“In his new book, ‘The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy,’ Temin paints a bleak picture where one country has a bounty of resources and power, and the other toils day after day with minimal access to the long-coveted American dream.

“In his view, the United States is shifting toward an economic and political makeup more similar to developing nations than the wealthy, economically stable nation it has long been…

“Temin applied W. Arthur Lewis’s economic model – designed to understand the workings of developing countries – to the United States in an effort to document how inequality has grown in America.

“The parallels are unsettling. As noted by the Institute for New Economic Thinking:
‘In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check’…

“The antidote, as prescribed by Temin, is likely a tough sell in today’s political climate.

“Expanding education, updating infrastructure, forgiving mortgage and student loan debt, and overall working to boost social mobility for all Americans are bound to be seen as too liberal by many policy makers.”

https://theintellectualist.co/study-mit-economist-u-s-regressed-third-world-nation-citizens/

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Critique of Amazon Buyout of Whole Foods

So far, much of the analysis of the Amazon buyout of WFM comes across as superficial fodder from tech-enamored pundits and absent a food- or farm-centric perspective.
Therefore, this thoughtful piece from food-community author Dr. Wayne Roberts and posted in ‘Medium’ is a breath of fresh air and definitely worth a read. Jim

“The Bezosification of food will have a long tail, and it will mostly be bad for all important things food-related.

“Not just bad for farmers, workers and the same old/same old bricks and mortar crowd we’re used to seeing left to eat the disruption dust. This will be bad for health, the environment and cities — and even more important, for the fundamentals of food as a major definer of the human experience.

“So let’s look at Bezosification not as a retail disruption story, but as a food story — one which accelerates the decline of people-centered food systems, not just traditional bricks and mortar retailers…

“Farmers, together with fishers, are the people who feed us. Farmers in countries that will be most impacted by Bezosification are well into their 50s, because neither their kids nor any other grouping see a way of making a viable career or life out of working the land. This is the problem staring anyone concerned with overall food security in the face…

“A deal that is bad for farmers and farming deserves to be seen as a deal that starts off by violating the public interest and human needs. Perhaps worth a pause for reflection before going headlong down a path of disruption?…

“The Amazon takeover of Whole Foods is a blip in that overall pattern of monopolization — with all due recognition of Amazon’s power, it is only a blip in the overall picture quickly summarized in this report. But an important blp, because it ramps up the speed by which tools will be adopted to intensify the impacts of monopolization — particularly the impact of squeezing farmers one more time to lower their prices below their costs of production and to devote their production to outsized wholesalers…

“Anything that increases the power of Amazon reduces the power of working people to shape their own, or the world’s, future…

“Nothing like insisting that businesses pay the real costs of the way they do business to throw a real disruptive curve to those who just want to externalize their true costs.”

https://medium.com/@wayneroberts/why-amazon-should-not-be-allowed-to-take-over-the-whole-food-industry-2524e792671

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Combo of Farm Toxins Hurting Bees

It’s looking like neonicitinoid systemic insecticides – along with other insecticides – are joined in their bad tidings for bees by fungicides, which were widely imagined to be free of impacts upon bees.
Scientists’ technique was to feed pollen taken from sprayed areas and feed that pollen to healthy bees. The healthy bees then experienced health decline.
The clear conclusion? Conventional ag’s toxins are not good for bees, as well as people and the environment. Jim

“Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

“When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.”

https://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/

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Monsanto Propaganda Machine At Work

Carey Gillam reports. Pariah Monsanto has now been exposed deploying its dishonest propaganda machine in the court of public opinion in a sophisticated attempt to whitewash its deadly yet very profitable glyphosate-based herbicide.
The strategy has been to generate outrage over supposed and concocted flaws in the scientific process which led glyphosate’s jaw-dropping listing as a “probable human carcinogen.”
That cited ‘independent scientist’? Turns out he’s actually on the Monsanto payroll. ‘Court document’ citations? Turns out they were NOT public court documents after all, but instead were cherry-picked tidbits fed to the ‘accommodating’ reporter. ‘Accomodating reporter’ Kelland? Turns out she herself has undisclosed ties to Monsanto.
This latest serial episode reminds us – yet once again – to NEVER, ever believe anything coming from Monsanto. Jim

“A widely circulated story published June 14 in the global news outlet Reuters (for which I formerly worked) laid out what appeared to be a scandalous story of hidden information and a secretive scientist, “exclusive” revelations that the story said could have altered a critical 2015 classification that associated Monsanto’s Roundup to cancer and triggered waves of lawsuits against Monsanto…

“Authored by Reuters’ reporter Kate Kelland, who has a history of cozy relations with a group partly funded by agrichemical company interests, the piece accused a top epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute of failing to share “important” scientific data with other scientists as they all worked together assessing the herbicide glyphosate for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). That group reviewed a wide body of research on glyphosate and determined in March of 2015 that the pesticide should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. Had the group known of this missing data, it’s conclusion could have been different, according to Reuters.

.. “The story was particularly timely given glyphosate and Roundup are at the center of mass litigation in the United States and under scrutiny by U.S. and European regulators. After the IARC classification, Monsanto was sued by more than 1,000 people in the United States who claim they or their loved ones got non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) from exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup and the company and the cases could start going to trial next year. Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world and brings in billions of dollars a year for Monsanto. The company insists the IARC classification is meritless and the chemical is proven safe by decades of research…

“And finally, in an odd exclusion, the story fails to disclose that Kelland herself has at least tangential ties to Monsanto and friends. Kelland has helped promote an organization called the Science Media Centre, a group whose aim is to connect certain scientists such as Tarone with journalists like Kelland, and which gets its largest block of funding from corporations that include the agrichemical industry. Current and past funders include Monsanto, Monsanto’s proposed merger partner Bayer AG, DuPont and agrichemical industry lobbyist CropLife International. Kelland appears in a promotional video for SMC touting the group and authored an essay applauding the SMC that appeared in a SMC promotional report. ”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/594449eae4b0940f84fe2e57

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Expert Calls ‘Gene Editing’ a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Over a year ago U.S. Director of national intelligence James Clapper issued his annual worldwide threat assessment.
That official assessment indicted the new breathlessly-PR-heralded form of genetic engineering (GE) known as ‘Gene Editing’ as a jaw-dropping WMD.
In terms of hubris, has Gene Editing become Biotech’s finest hour? Jim

“Genome editing is a weapon of mass destruction.

“That’s according to James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, who on Tuesday, in the annual worldwide threat assessment report of the U.S. intelligence community, added gene editing to a list of threats posed by ‘weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.’

“Gene editing refers to several novel ways to alter the DNA inside living cells. The most popular method, CRISPR, has been revolutionizing scientific research, leading to novel animals and crops, and is likely to power a new generation of gene treatments for serious diseases (see ‘Everything You Need to Know About CRISPR’s Monster Year’).

“It is gene editing’s relative ease of use that worries the U.S. intelligence community, according to the assessment. “Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this dual-use technology, its deliberate or unintentional misuse might lead to far-reaching economic and national security implications,” the report said.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600774/top-us-intelligence-official-calls-gene-editing-a-wmd-threat/

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Monsanto Exposed Once Again

To gain an understanding of Monsanto by studying its history leads to the comprehension it represents a serious threat not only to our families – and the environment – but also to undermining the foundation of our democratic institutions.
This hard-hitting, no nonsense article from Australia penetrates the fake Monsanto facade and reveals its inner darkness. Jim

“Monsanto, one of the world’s biggest pesticide and seed corporations and leading developer of genetically modified crop varieties, had a stock market value of US$66 billion in 2014. It has gained this position by a combination of deceit, threat, litigation, destruction of evidence, falsified data, bribery, takeovers and cultivation of regulatory bodies.

“Its rise and torrid controversies cover a long period starting with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, chemicals used as insulators for electrical transformers) in the 1940s and moving on to dioxin (a contaminant of Agent Orange used to defoliate Vietnam), glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, a hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production), and genetic modified organisms (GMOs).

“Its key aim in dealing with health and environmental issues is to protect sales and profits and the company image. The latter has been a monumental failure, making Monsanto potentially the most hated corporation in the world…

“As a result, the regulators have by and large facilitated Monsanto’s interests. A former EPA manager, William Sanjour, said: ‘Unfortunately the EPA is more concerned with protecting the interests of companies than with defending the public interest’…

“The extent to which Monsanto uses bribery is not known. One example that was revealed was the $700,000 paid to Indonesian officials between 1997 and 2002 to facilitate the introduction of GM cotton to that country. The US Department of Justice fined Monsanto $1.5 million for this bribery…

“Monsanto has been caught falsifying studies on PCB; 2,4,5-T; and dioxin. It also concealed dioxin levels in Agent Orange (the defoliant used in the Vietnam War) to maintain that lucrative market. Adverse data were destroyed or withheld…

“In the criminal trial in 2002 over the poisoning of residents in Anniston, Mississippi, by the Monsanto PCB factory, a US judge said Monsanto’s conduct was ‘so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society’…

“In 2013, the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld a ruling fining Monsanto $93 million for poisoning the town of Nitro with Agent Orange chemicals.

“Monsanto’s strategy in getting control of the world’s food system has so far been successful, relying on government support, effective advertising, intimidation and litigation.

But public opposition is mounting. Huge numbers of people around the world took part in the March Against Monsanto in 2015. The organic industry in the US is booming because this is the only way consumers can choose non-GM foods. Farmers are starting to reject GM seeds. However, there is a long way to go before Monsanto falls.”

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/how-monsanto-seeks-agricultural-domination

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Monsanto Playing Loose & Fast

The current tsunami of lawsuits against Monsanto over glyphosate’s deadly attributes are serving to refocus scrutiny on Monsanto’s past interaction with the EPA. Jim

“It’s been 34 years since Monsanto Co. presented U.S. regulators with a seemingly routine study analyzing the effects the company’s best-selling herbicide might have on rodents. Now, that study is once again under the microscope, emerging as a potentially pivotal piece of evidence in litigation brought by hundreds of people who claim Monsanto’s weed killer gave them cancer.

“This week tissue slides from long-dead mice in that long-ago research study are being scrutinized by fresh eyes as an expert pathologist employed by lawyers for cancer victims looks for evidence the lawyers hope will help prove a cover-up of the dangers of the weed killer called glyphosate.

“Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup products, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and is applied broadly in the production of more than 100 food crops, including wheat, corn and soy, as well as on residential lawns, golf courses and school yards.

“Residues have been detected in food and human urine, and many scientists around the world have warned that exposure through diet as well as through application can potentially lead to health problems. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen in 2015 based on a review of scientific literature, triggering the wave of lawsuits against Monsanto, and pushing California regulators to announce they would add glyphosate to a list of known carcinogens…

“A February 1984 memo from Environmental Protection Agency toxicologist William Dykstra stated the findings definitively: ‘Review of the mouse oncogenicity study indicates that glyphosate is oncogenic, producing renal tubule adenomas, a rare tumor, in a dose-related manner.’ Researchers found these increased incidences of the kidney tumors in mice exposed to glyphosate worrisome because while adenomas are generally benign, they have the potential to become malignant, and even in noncancerous stages they have the potential to be harmful to other organs. Monsanto discounted the findings, arguing that the tumors were ‘unrelated to treatment’ and showing false positives, and the company provided additional data to try to convince the EPA to discount the tumors…

“Monsanto fought the plaintiffs’ request to view the mouse tissue slides, calling it a ‘fishing expedition,’ but was overruled by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria who is overseeing the roughly 60 combined lawsuits under his purvey. Monsanto has confirmed that roughly 900 additional plaintiffs have cases pending in other jurisdictions. All make similar claims – that Monsanto manipulated the science, regulators and the public in ways that hid or minimized the danger posed by its herbicide.”

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Landmark Report: Organic Superior & Ag Toxins Far Worse than Previously Believed

A just released landmark study by the European Parliament validates the high value or organic food. At the same time, the study cautions citizens that the effect of pesticides on ‘conventional’ food are far worse than previously believed.
Also, remember, the “uncertainties” about the superiority of organic food – to a great extent – have been the effect of the unmasked self-serving Monsanto propaganda campaign which has targeted organic food (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/monsanto-fingerprints-fou_b…). Jim

“Consumers should consider going organic because pesticides on foods are far more dangerous than was thought, causing damage to the human brain, a major study suggests.

“The research, published by the European Parliament, warns of the ‘very high costs’ of current levels of exposure to pesticides – especially for children and pregnant women.

“It could result in new limits on pesticide levels or changes to labeling of foodstuffs, under EU laws which require the UK to review its policies by next year.

“The landmark study suggests that the damage caused by pesticides across the EU amounts to at least £125bn a year, based on the loss of lifetime income from such damage.

“The report warns of increasing evidence that residues from insecticides are damaging the brain, and reducing the IQ of the population. And it raises concerns that the chemicals could also cause cancer and damage to the reproductive system.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/02/organic-foods-backed-landmark-report-warning-pesticides-far/

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Modern Potato Progress in Rwanda

Andean (“Irish”) potatoes are an important food staple in parts of Rwanda. But lack of good seed has historically made local potato production shaky at best.
Modern techniques of multiplying disease-free seed potatoes radically increase yields and contributes to food and farm security . Many of these techniques are in alignment with organic production practices as we demonstrate by growing our organic Certified Seed Potatoes on Wood Prairie Family Farm (www.woodprairie.organic).
Note in the photo the aphid-excluding netting which envelopes the 0.6-acre (quarter-hectare) disease-free ‘minituber’ production facility. Aphids are the primary vector which transmits yield-killing potato virus.
The Rwanda seed potato project is pioneering and has proven successful but is not without challenges – such as participating farmers challenged to self-finance their succeeding seed potato crop since it takes them 8 months to get paid for the previous crop. Jim & Megan

“His greenhouse has capacity to generate some 60,000 potato minitubers which are grown on over one-hectare [2.47 acres] land to produce over 12 tonnes [26,400 pounds] of seeds given to farmers for cultivation to get Irish potatoes for consumption…

“But, Nzabarinda pointed out that seed production and multiplication cycle takes about 40 months (three years) to yield…

“He told The New Times that besides producing for the market, Irish potato constitutes the main ingredient in the region (Musanze) residents’ daily diet…

“‘Farmers have been importing seeds from neighbouring countries, but such seeds turned out to be diseased and therefore made farmers encounter losses. The seeds produced from greenhouses are free from disease because they are under a controlled environment and protected against extraneous pathogenic agents,’ he said…

“In January, 2017, the head of RAB’s Northern Province Zone, Jean Claude Izamuhaye, had told The New Times that the production capacity of the Musanze-based potato laboratory was increased tenfold from 80,000 plantlets to 800,000 per season, which will generate about 21,510 tonnes of Irish potato seeds to be distributed to farmers.

“He added that in September 2017, certified seeds to farmers are projected to reach 25 percent, while they are expected to be 75 percent by 2020.”

http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/213679/

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Low Prices Prompt Severa Farm Crisis

National Farmers Union historian Tom Giessel reminds us that farmers have seen hard times before and lessons from the past can help today.
We are longtime members of NFU and Jim has served on the Advisory Board of local chapter ‘New England Farmers Union.’ Jim & Megan

“Commodity prices, as a percentage of parity, are at an all-time low. No, this is not the first farm crisis, but the debt spiral is spinning faster than a Kansas tornado. Yes, there are economic models that can produce grain, livestock, fruits, vegetables and milk at a very low economic cost. But can those prices support a family, a rural economy or a community? No. We are in the throes of an economic system which exploits, extracts and steals not only the wealth of the land, but the dignity of the human being…

“Now, as in the past, the question before us is, ‘How do we right the ship?’ At its core, the answer is the same as it was in 1906 when James West, the president of the Indiahoma Farmers Union said, ‘Let the words be: Agitate, Organize, Educate and Cooperate.’ The core belief in the power of organization has served as a touchstone throughout Farmers Union’s history.

https://nfu.org/2017/05/31/farmers-union-agitate-organize-educate-and-cooperate/