Posts Tagged ‘genetics’

Glendon Links Religion, Legal Rights


Glendon Links Religion, Legal Rights


Posted 23 September 2011, by Amanda Serfozo, The Emory Wheel (Emory University),



Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand professor of law at Harvard University and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, discussed the relationship between modern ethics, religious leadership and legal rights at the Emory School of Law on Tuesday.

The lecture was part of a 2011-2012 series titled, “When Law and Religion Meet,” a symposium featuring scholars with an interest in the fields of both law and theology. Emory Law will host speakers who will comment on topics such as genetic cloning, Islamic family law and marriage throughout the year.

Glendon has served many diplomatic and theological roles, most notably as the head of the Vatican delegation to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the Bush Administration. She was also the first woman to be named president of the Pope’s committee of social scientists and Catholic researchers.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has maintained a stronghold that religion is a private affair; that individual standing alone cannot maintain conditions for free practice,” Glendon noted during her opening remarks. “Freedom of religion needs free speech and supporting entities like a free press and free enterprise in order to thrive.”

At the spring meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, where the Pope met with leading Catholic thinkers, Glendon learned about the status of religion worldwide. Glendon noted that acceptance of all religions at the social and governmental levels is critical to a healthy, democratic society.

“To ignore the social makeup of religion is to ignore the implications for our own form of government, as they are undoubtedly tied,” she noted. “If there is government cooperation, there is religious cooperation.”

In her lecture, Glendon discussed how the U.S. government decides the ways in which religion is financed and how the Catholic church supports its religious freedoms.

“We are lucky to be in the United States,” she acknowledged. “No one is killing us for our beliefs.”

Glendon explained her work at the Becket Fund, a legal enterprise that works to represent those who have been restricted for practicing their beliefs, and its ongoing attempts to allow for open religious practices across every denomination.

She also answered questions from an audience comprised primarily of theology students and religious leaders from the Atlanta community, often agreeing with their proposals for creating a more tolerant state. Glendon inquired whether American education systems should teach about the commonalities of religion rather than the differences of each.

“Americans love individuality over equality, but we are proud of unity in diversity,” she said. “I agree with you, that we should be relating rather than marginalizing.”

Defining terms such as “moral ecology,” or the idea that religion is a source of social division and “profound paradox,” Glendon said a long-standing religious elitism among social groups is trickling down to the masses. She also noted that the political costs of neglecting religion could mean lesser forms of compassion, community involvement and declines in service-oriented action.

Ultimately, she advocated for the free expression of every religion and government tolerance for all.

“There can be a pluralism of various forms of religious freedom,” she said. “Guarantees regarding freedom of and from religion, only work in a society of tolerance. There is no prohibition or requirement to practice a religion, and this is not a denigration or advance of either.”

Religious leaders, according to Glendon, also serve an important function in democracies with a tolerant philosophy, particularly when it comes to working where government is legally confined.

“This is where our true responsibility lies,” she said. “What hangs in the balance is whether religion could help to hold together individual freedom and our American community.”

Glendon gave her discussion in memory of Western legal scholar and long-time Emory Law faculty Harold J. Berman. The Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion sponsored the event.

— Contact Amanda Serfozo.



Amanda Serfozo

Pagan Cultural Diversity … because I am a Goddess too.

Pagan Cultural Diversity … because I am a Goddess too.


Posted22 September 2011, by Crystal Blanton, Daughters of Eve,


I recently read a post in The Wild Hunt about the AFA (Asatru Folk Assembly) members that were “outed” by a reporter at the National Policy Institute National Conference. While there is plenty of information currently on the internet giving details about this particular incident, I don’t think there is anyone speaking directly about how these types of occurrences translate to those of us minorities reading the comments of others inside of our community. If you want the particulars, I say read the Wild Hunt blog for direction on where to find them. That is not my focus….

I was directed to this particular post yesterday. In reading through this post I initially had to take a moment to center myself and then think again about what this means to me. It means a lot and nothing at all, simultaneously.

I have no judgment about the Asatru path and do not think that a few people of any organization can represent the whole of the organization. My judgments started to appear when I began reading the post of people who were responding to the information that The Wild Hunt provided. I read comments that ranged from comparing the AFA to native Americans, references about Blacks having the “high crime rates” and even references to superior race. One comment in particular referenced the deconstruction of the white race and “doing it for our little black, brown and yellow brothers and sisters!”.

I think it is important for any story to outline the back story before proceeding and that is my intention here. Regardless of whether or not the AFA has a leaning towards white pride tactics or not, the harm done to the Pagan community and our minority Pagans is clear with these statements.

Let’s be really clear; I am a Black Woman who is a Wiccan High Priestess. I am no ones “little black, brown or yellow sister”. Regardless of your thoughts on race, have some respect or at least pretend to. We walk a spiritual walk on this land and take for granted the very power that we have and the power that we borrow from others. How often people forget that we are all traced back to East Africa where the Mitochondrial Eve originated. Migration and genetic mutations helped to create races of people that we can now use to separate from one another.

I do not understand how we arrived at the concept that European Heritage meant Caucasion or White instead of those who are from a particular geographic area. Technically I have European Ancestry inside of me that connects to the “nettlers” in Europe… and thus my maiden name. I probably have numerous ancestors that are “whiter” than those who are pushing a white separatist agenda; that would probably be pretty upsetting to reveal. Can I not worship my family traditions with those of my ancestry, even with my Black face? Are we playing the “who was here first” game of spirituality? How could we possibly decipher who’s connections to a piece of land are more valid than the others?

My heritage cannot be defined by the labels that people would like to put on me. The walk of a Black person is far more complex than any set of characteristics or a geographic area. I know that I have been a Priestess all my life, through space and time, all the way back to the originator of all women. I know that my Black face is a reflection of hers and it is unsettling to see people disrespect that so freely, without a real understanding of how they are also disrespecting themselves and their own lineage. In Luisah Teish’s poem Multicolored Mama it says “I will not wear your narrow racial jackets, As the blood of many Nations runs sweetly through my veins”.

You don’t have to call me a Nigger to be a racist. You don’t have to be exclusive to practice prejudice. You can make statement that promote a tone of non-acceptance, elude to privileges or superiority, hide behind statements of “pride” and it is still racism. It is painful, hurtful and causes harm to all of those around. You can devalue other races and act as if it is not racist, but it is. You can act as if racism is not prevalent in society today or that it is not a factor, but it is.

It is exhausting hearing statements that refer to the “unfairness” of Blacks and Hispanics celebrating their pride, as if this is not addressing the social and societal disparity that exists. One of the comments on the blog so elegantly stated, “Every day is European heritage day. In fact, tons of people are proud of being varying types of European all the time, taking great pride in it without any fear. A huge part of our cultural knowledge and educational curriculum is Europe-centric by default, even if it’s increasingly in the past.”

As the Pagan community continues to have an influx of people practicing the ways of the Gods, we will continue to see more diversity in the faces around the circle. Everyone has the right to be prideful and I actually encourage that but let’s not pretend that it is the same thing. Pride does not separate you from others and is not intended to rate importance. Pride is a true understanding of those parts of yourself that you acknowledge, value, honor and respect. Pride allows you to show that same respect to other people regardless of the texture of their hair or the hue of their skin. Pride equals self love and in turn, the ability to extend love to others. Hate is just hate and is not directly related.

Moments like this are revealing in many ways. They show why minority Pagans are less apt to come to the forefront and join community, why there is so much fear and why venues like Daughters of Eve are so damn important. We show a balance, a face of Paganism that looks different and yet looks exactly the same… all at the same time.

I hate reading hate, especially internally within the Pagan community, but I know that this reality is something that we must face in order to heal and open the doors to understanding.

Multicolored Momma
Originally printed in Jambalaya by Luisha Teish

My sweet coffee skin
Hold secrets in its shade,
Whispers silent warning
To a black and white world

Do not box me in
In your narrow racial jackets,
Too tight to move in,
Too thin to wear.

My brown pores bleed
With the sweat of many nations,
Generations of colors
Ooze down my arm.

My Bantu behind
Plays the drums of dancing griots,
Telling stories with my sway
Singing songs with each step.

My high Choctaw cheekbones
Love the Mississippi Delta.
Remembers Running Cloud’s daughter
And the Red Man gone.

My breast angle ‘round
Like the dark gypsy wenches.
Crescent moons touch my belly
Silver slithers on my throat.

My almond eyes sparkle
To the sound of Eastern jingles
Glass chimes dress my eyelids
Tinkling bells kiss my brow.

My dirty red hair
Speaks of crazy Cajun cousins,
Talks of faire Creole ladies
And their dark Spanish men.

My Tibetan thighs open
And the Red Sea splits.
My soft lips part
Between Dahomey and Brazil.

My sweet coffee skin
Holds secrets in its shade,
Whispers silent warnings
To a black and white world.

I will not wear
Your narrow racial jackets
As the blood of many nations
Runs sweetly thru my veins.


Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition


Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition


Posted 20 September 2011, by Staff, Ghana News Agency (GNA),



Abokobi (GAR), Sept. 20, GNA – Women farmers in Abokobi in the Ga East District of the Greater Accra Region on Tuesday organised a traditional food exhibition in an effort to drum home the need to patronise local foods and promote women in farming.

The exhibition was organised by Rural Women Farmers Association in collaboration with Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), an NGO.

It was on the theme: “Women! We are the Solution for Food Security in Ghana”.

Foods on display included yekeyeke, abolo, mpotompoto, kpoikpoi, tugbani, banku with okro stew, fufu with variety of soups, akyeke and bankye akakro.

The exhibition was organised as part of the three-year Pan-African campaign targeted at five West African countries, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Ghana, to build a first mass rural women farmers movement managed by rural women farmers.

The campaign is aimed at educating women on the importance of traditional foods and their nutritional values.

Addressing the women, Madam Fatima Addy, Southern Sector Coordinator of RUWAG, noted that the association was formed to serve as a platform for rural women farmers to share knowledge and experiences on traditional farming practices.

“We seek to educate our members on the need to adopt safe and sound farming practices devoid of chemicals which are harmful to the human body.”

She explained that the association also served as a platform to educate members on the values of indigenous seeds and food recipes that had high nutritional value but getting extinct due to neglect.

Mr Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, said the campaign was to promote good practice and knowledge that had been known and handed down for generations in Africa.

He said those good practices and knowledge had sustained food sovereignty on the continent, to influence decision makers and promote better governance and value family agricultural production.

Mr Guri noted that the campaign would also build the organisational and individual capacities of selected rural women associations and their leaders, build awareness and empower rural women to engage in decision making processes in on-going local, regional and global campaigns.

The women would organise, mobilise and sustain an Africa-wide action oriented network for information sharing and advocacy.

“The impact of this campaign will be to ensure that the Rural Women Association have the skills to improve, promote and share their traditional agricultural knowledge and ensure that this rich knowledge is not lost and indeed promoted as an alternative to the Green Revolution Methods,” he added.

Mr Wilberforce Laate, Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD, expressed dissatisfaction about the deplorable manner in which vegetables and other crops were cultivated.

He bemoaned instances where vegetables were forced to become ripe and ready for the market before their time by the use of chemicals which were injurious to human health.

Mr Laate expressed his dissatisfaction about the use of genetically modified crops as seeds of such crops could not be replanted after harvest due to the application of chemicals.

He urged farmers to use manure for their crops instead of fertilizer because it was cheaper and devoid of chemicals.




Opinion: Animals with Human Material


Opinion: Animals with Human Material

Careful oversight is required to ensure that chimeras and transgenic animals continue to serve as powerful biomedical research tools.


Posted 21 September 2011, by Martin Bobrow, The Scientist,



Mouse: Wikimedia Commons, Rama, DNA:

Research involving the integration of human DNA, cells, or tissues into animals has been undertaken since the 1960s. Transgenic animals (with one or more human genes in their makeup) and chimeras (with some human cells or tissues amongst their own animal tissues) are now important biomedical research approaches. They are used in studies where it is morally or practically impossible to conduct the experiments in humans, and where alternative approaches, such as computer simulations or cell cultures, are not adequately representative of the system being studied. Such approaches are used to determine the function of human genes by expressing the relevant DNA segment in an animal and observing its effect, or to test, develop, and produce therapies for disease, among other applications.

Chimeric mice, for example, are used to study human liver diseases such as hepatitis, and to test antiviral drugs. The mice are made by introducing human hepatocytes into the animals’ livers, which can be comprised of up to 95 percent human cells and so are a more accurate model of human liver function than a normal mouse liver. Similarly, mice with “humanised” immune systems are being used to make antibody treatments for human cancer.

Non-rodent species are also used. Transgenic goats carrying a human gene, for example, are used to produce a human protein now licensed for use during surgery in patients whose blood otherwise fails to clot correctly. Although these animals have some specific human chemicals and cellular functions, they usually do not outwardly resemble humans in any way—the mice still look like ordinary mice; and the goats, to the naked eye, are goats. Many thousands of such “animals containing human material” have been created without major regulatory or ethical concern.

Despite this history, research using such animals has received very little public recognition—or even discussion. Instead, film-makers and novelists have found it an easy subject to dramatise and distort, and have portrayed scientists undertaking seemingly bizarre enterprises to create part-human, part-animal beings. (Some even go so far as to endow apes with enough human capabilities to take over the planet.)

To encourage a more informed debate, the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences recently organized an expert working group study, which I chaired. Our aim was to consider the research use of animals containing human material from scientific, ethical, social, and safety perspectives, and to make recommendations for the future regulation of this research. We addressed difficult questions (such as the extent to which human cells might be substituted into rodent or primate brains, to study therapies for conditions such as stroke) and considered where the line should be drawn to best fulfil ethical, social, and scientific interests, and how effective regulation might be achieved.

An important aspect of our work was to understand which areas of this research might evoke public concern in the United Kingdom, over and above any concerns some people might have generally about the use of animals in medical research. Our public dialogue, involving participants from across the country, and other evidence highlighted three areas that warranted particularly careful consideration: the substitution of an animal’s brain cells with human cells to a degree which might lead to human-like cognitive capacity in the animal; research involving human–derived reproductive cells in an animal, especially where there is a possibility of fertilisation; and the creation of animals that resemble humans in important aspects of their outward appearance or behavior.

We recommended that these areas of research should be subject to careful oversight by a national expert advisory body. Scientific techniques are advancing rapidly, and will undoubtedly bring new means of developing animals which are, in specific aspects, ever more similar to our species. This will increasingly help us to learn more about human and animal biology, as well as to develop new diagnostics and treatments. We also concluded that a small number of experiments should not for now be undertaken, at least until there is greater understanding of their likely outcomes. Potentially controversial science proceeds best in an open environment, and to make the most of this research, we need to avoid the public distrust that can result from surprise at unexpected scientific developments. An informed and supportive public voice can also act as a mediator to counter the influence wielded by vocal minorities opposed to all animal research.

Our recommendations were intended primarily for the UK research system, but science is an international endeavour, and we hope that our report will encourage other countries to consider these issues, and catalyse the development of international standards and guidelines. We hope that by beginning this debate openly now, future decisions about research using animals containing human material can be made by experts who are fully informed both by scientific possibility and by public opinion. Both must be grounded in scientific fact, not science fiction.

For more information or to downloads the report visit

Professor Martin Bobrow is an Emeritus professor of medical genetics at the University of Cambridge and chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences Working group on “Animals containing human material.”


Related Articles

Top 7 in Genomics & Genetics By Sabrina RichardsA snapshot of the most highly ranked articles in genomics, genetics and related areas, from Faculty of 1000

Neurotransmitter-Regulated Immunity By Rachel NuwerNerve signals control T cell responses, helping to explain inflammation and stroke.

Mouse Genomes Catalogued By Sabrina Richards

Researchers have sequenced the genomes of 17 different mouse strains, boosting research into the genetic basis of phenotypic variation, disease, and evolution.




More GM crops in Puerto Rico: Why We Should Worry

More GM crops in Puerto Rico: Why We Should Worry


Posted 20 September 2011, by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero, ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento (Agencia Latinomericana de Información),


The US-based Monsanto company, the world’s biggest seed company and undisputed world leader in agricultural biotechnology, announced in June 2011 that it would increase its activities in Puerto Rico. Specifically, the corporation is investing $4.3 million in the construction of a 20,000-square foot laboratory for corn and cotton seed development in the southern municipality of Juana Diaz. These will be genetically modified (GM) seeds, no doubt, since Monsanto spends the bulk of its research and development budget on this technology. The announcement was made in Washington DC during the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual conference. Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation executive director Jose Perez-Riera and agriculture secretary Javier Rivera-Aquino were in the convention in a celebration mood with Juan Santiago, Monsanto’s chief of operations in Puerto Rico, while he was making the announcement.

Pioneer Hi Bred, Monsanto’s leading competitor in the GM seed business, is not far behind. That same month it inaugurated in the municipality of Salinas, several miles east of Juana Diaz, a 22,000-square foot seed laboratory. Pioneer, which has been in Puerto Rico since 1989, has been a subsidiary of multinational corporation Dupont since 1999. The Dupont-Pioneer corporate giant was the world’s largest seed company until 2005, when Monsanto surpassed it by purchasing Mexico’s Seminis seed company for $1.4 billion.

Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño attended the Pioneer laboratory’s festive inauguration and heaped praise on the agricultural biotechnology corporations that operate in the island. “Puerto Rico is an ideal place for bioagricultural research,” Fortuño said during the inauguration. “The island boasts a regulatory framework aligned with the U.S., an efficient transportation system, a longer growing season suitable for planting crops year-round, novel economic incentives, and a highly-educated workforce.”.

What’s wrong with all this? GM products are the subject of a worldwide heated controversy, whose participants include doctors and scientists as well as peasant movements, international organizations and political leaders, and has led to arrests, violent repression and persecution against scientists that have dared to contradict the official discourse on biotechnology. Since the 1990’s this debate has produced numerous books, television and newspaper reports, documentaries (both short and of full-length), scientific symposia, contentious international negotiations, and even protest marches and civil disobedience.

When we say genetically modified we mean an organism whose genetic code, or genome, has had foreign genes inserted into it through genetic engineering. The process of genetic engineering tears down cell barriers in order to make genetic combinations that would have never happened in nature, and it’s used in food and agriculture since the 1990’s. There are actually tens of millions of hectares of farmland planted with GM crops in the world, the great majority of them in only four countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Almost all these GM crops are soy and corn. The rest are mostly cotton and canola.

These GM crops do not yield more than their conventional non-GM counterparts, they are not more nutritional, and do not use less toxic agrochemicals. The majority were altered to be immune to a herbicide called Roundup, a product of Monsanto, and they are thus known as Roundup Ready. The rest produce their own pesticide, and are known as Bt crops. This soy and corn are used to make, among other things, flour, starch, cooking oil, high fructose corn syrup, biofuels and feed for the farm animals that give us meat, eggs and dairy.


A safe herbicide?

It goes without saying that foodstuffs derived from Roundup Ready crops can have substantial traces of Roundup. So, how safe is this herbicide for human consumption?

In June 2011 an international group of scientists and researchers, organized as Earth Open Source, published a report titled “Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?”. The document says that as early as the 1980’s Monsanto knew that glyphosate, active ingredient of Roundup, caused birth defects in laboratory animals; that the German government had this information at least since 1998; and, to quote from the report’s press release:

“The German government has known about these findings since at least the 1990s, when as the ‘rapporteur’ member state (of the European Union) for glyphosate, it reviewed industry’s studies for the EU approval of the herbicide. The European Commission has known since at least 2002, when it signed off on glyphosate’s approval. But this information was not made public. On the contrary, regulators have consistently misled the public about glyphosate’s safety. As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, told the Commission there was “no evidence of ‘teratogenicity’ (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate.” (Parentheses in original)

In 2010 a prestigious scientific journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology, published a peer-reviewed study, written by Argentine embryologist Andres Carrasco, leading researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) and director of the molecular embryology laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires, which determined that glyphosate is extremely toxic for amphibian embryos in doses much lower than those used in agriculturural sprayings, as much as 1,540 times lower. And Argentina has over 20 million hectares (over half of the country’s farmland) planted with Roundup Ready soy, which receive over 200 million liters of glyphosate a year!

In August 2010 Argentina held its First National Encounter of Medics of Fumigated Towns, in which participating scientists, researchers, and academics wrote an open letter to agribusiness trade associations, from which we quote:

“The cancers and other severe illnesses are detected with more frequency now. As well as miscarriages, disruptions of fertility and the birth of children with birth malformations, which we find in very elevated rates. And respiratory, endocrine, hematological, neurological and psychic ailments are, also now, much more frequent in the systematically fumigated populations. Fumigated because they share the same geographic space as the agroindustrial and genetically engineered crops that you yourselves exploit.

… We, the doctors and other members of the health teams, the researchers, scientists and academics that analyze this problem, are certain that the increasing health ailments in the inhabitants of the fumigated towns are caused by the fumigations that you yourselves carry out.”

The Grupo de Reflexion Rural (GRR), an Argentine NGO that is critical of GM crops and industrial agriculture, has been documenting these horrors for years:

“Some time ago, the (GRR) took on the task of collecting information about the impacts of glyphosate on diverse Argentine populations: among other places, in the Ituzaingo neighborhood in Cordoba; Las Petacas, in Santa Fe; in San Lorenzo, also in Santa Fe; and Los Toldos in Buenos Aires. In each of these populations dramatic situations were detected. And precisely in the Ituzaingo neighborhood… over two hundred cancer cases in a population of hardly 5,000 inhabitants, as well as deformations among the newborn. Ituzaingo is a population surrounded by soy fields that are systematically fumigated. The spray from these fumigations arrives at the doors of the houses.”

In 2008 Chemical Research in Toxicology published a study by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French specialist in molecular biology and professor at the University of Caen, which indicates that Roundup is lethal to human cells. According to Seralini’s research, doses far below those used on soy crops cause cell death in a few hours. “Even in doses diluted one thousand times, Roundup herbicide stimulates the deaths of human embryonic cells, which could cause deformations, miscarriages, hormonal, genital and reproductive problems, as well as different types of cancer”, Seralini told Argentine newspaper Pagina 12.

In 2005 Seralini had already confirmed that Roundup provokes toxic effects in human placental cells and embryos even in very low doses, in a study published by Environmental Health Perspectives. The herbicide kills a great proportion of these cells after only 18 hours of exposure in concentrations lower than those of agricultural use.

“He also emphasized that in solutions of between 10 thousand and 100 thousand times more diluted than in the commercial product it no longer killed cells, but it blocked their production of sex hormones, which could provoke in fetuses difficulties in the development of bones and of the reproductive system. He alerted about the possibility that the herbicide could be an endocrine disruptor, and called for new studies.”

Seralini’s study in Chemical Research in Toxicology focused on human umbilical cord, embryo and placental cells. The cells died in the 24 hours of exposure to the Roundup varieties. “A cell action mechanism was studied with four different Roundup formulations (Express, Bioforce or Extra, Gran Tavaraux, and Grand Tavaraux Plus). The results show that the four Roundup herbicides, and the pure glyphosate, cause cell death. Confirmed by the morphology of the cells after the treatment it is determined that, even in the lowest of concentrations, it causes important cell death”, says the publication.


Genetically engineered pesticide

Biotechnology companies assure us that the toxin secreted by Bt crops is harmless to human beings and that it dissolves in the human digestive system. Today we know both statements are wrong.

Bt toxin was found in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as in non-pregnant women, by doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec. Specifically, the study determined that the toxin was present in 93% of 30 pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of 80% of the fetuses, and in 67% of 39 non-pregnant women. The study has been accepted for publication in Reproductive Toxicology, a peer-reviewed journal.

Research funded by the Italian government published in 2008 found that laboratory rats fed with Monsanto’s Bt corn had abnormally high IgE and IgG antibodies, something that is typically associated with allergies and infections. They also had elevated levels of interleukins, which is associated to various diseases in humans, from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis to multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s. The animals also had abnormally high levels of T gamma delta cells, which is what happens in cases of asthma, childhood food allergies, and juvenile arthritis.

The insecticide produced by the tissues of Bt plants is the genetically engineered version of a natural toxin produced by Bacillus thuringiensis, a very common soil bacterium. Natural Bt has been used as pesticide in organic agriculture for decades. Biotech companies assure that this pesticide in its natural form is safe and that therefore its GM variant must be safe too. But today we know that natural Bt can have adverse effects if it is not used correctly.

According to scientific peer-reviewed studies (Vazquez et al), lab rats fed with natural Bt toxin suffered tissue damage and developed immune responses as severe as those caused by cholera toxin, and even started having adverse reactions to foods that previously had caused them no trouble.

Adverse reactions in humans have alse been documented:

In 1999 Environmental Health Perspectives published a study authored by I. L. Bernstein et al, which found that farm workers have developed immune system reactions when exposed to natural Bt.

In March 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Panel warned that published studies on animals and humans suggest that Bt proteins can cause allergies. The EPA ignored the panel, and it also ignored a 1993 Washington State Health Department report and a study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 1990 which documented that hundreds of people in the states of Washington and Oregon had allergy symptoms after Bt sprayings to eradicate the gypsy moth.

In India there are thousands of farm workers that have symptoms similar to the aforementioned cases reported in the USA- what these Indian farm workers all have in common is that they work with Bt cotton plants. “According to reports and records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as numerous investigative reports and case studies, workers are struggling with constant itching and rashes; some take antihistamines every day in order to go to work.”, according to researcher Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of “Seeds of Deception”.

We quote Smith again:

“When they allow livestock to graze on the Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died. Numerous others got sick. I visited one village where for seven to eight years they allowed their buffalo to graze on natural cotton plants without incident. But on January 3rd, 2008, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for the first time. After just one day’s exposure, all died. The village also lost 26 goats and sheep. One small study in Andhra Pradesh reported that all six sheep that grazed on Bt cotton plants died within a month, while the three controls fed natural cotton plants showed no adverse symptoms.”

Information on the hazards of Bt crops is not new. On May 22 2005, England’s The Independent reported the existence of a secret Monsanto report about Mon 863, one of their Bt corn varieties. According to the 1,139-page report, rats fed with this corn for 13 weeks had unusually high counts of white blood cells and lymphocytes, which increase in cases of cancer, poisoning or infection; low levels of reticulocytes, which can indicate anemia; loss of kidney weight, which can indicate blood pressure problems; liver necrosis; high blood sugar; and other adverse symptoms. Monsanto spokespeople assured that the company would make the report public, but did not do so willingly, invoking “confidentiality”, and at first only published an 11-page summary. It was not until a German court ordered its disclosure months later that the full text became public.

It is important to point out that this important information about Mon 863 is public not because of Monsanto’s good faith but because someone, most probably an employee with access to the company’s confidential documents took the risk of taking it to the press. If it were not for this anonymous hero, this Wikileaks of biotechnology, today we would be blissfully ignorant of the effects of this genetically engineered corn. We must ask then, Can there be other harmful GM foods that the biotech industry is feeding us knowing full well that they can cause harm to people?

This has been an extremely brief summary of health risks caused by the GM products that companies like Monsanto and Dupont are developing in Puerto Rican farmlands. For more information, please see the bilingual blog of the Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety (, a small collective founded in 2004 to alert the citizenry about the implications of GM crops and products.


A Spanish language version of this article was published in 80 Grados, a Puerto Rican online publication (


– Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, investigative journalist, environmental educator, and director of the Project on Biosafety. He is a Research Associate of the Institute for Social Ecology and a Fellow of the Oakland Institute, and has published over 1,000 articles over the last 20 years in the most diverse outlets, including Counterpunch, Inter Press Service, Corporate Watch, Alternet, Grist, Z Magazine, CIP Americas Policy Program, Food First, Earth Island Journal, and many more. His bilingual blog on all things progressive and ecological is updated almost daily ( His Twitter ID is carmeloruiz.

Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety, September 12 2011



Dario Aranda interviews Seralini.

Earth Open Source. Roundup and Birth Defects.

Inter News Service. El Vocero.

Kevin Mead. Caribbean Business.

Jeffrey Smith.


Bt crops


GMO’s in Puerto Rico (mostly in Spanish)



Plant RNAs Found in Mammals

Plant RNAs Found in Mammals

MicroRNAs from plants accumulate in mammalian blood and tissues, where they can regulate gene expression.


Posted 20 September 2011, by Cristina Luiggi, The Scientist,


MicroRNAs from common plant crops such as rice and cabbage can be found in the blood and tissues of humans and other plant-eating mammals, according to a study published today in Cell Research. One microRNA in particular, MIR168a, which is highly enriched in rice, was found to inhibit a protein that helps removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the blood, suggesting that microRNAs can influence gene expression across kingdoms.

“This is a very exciting piece of work that suggests that the food we eat may directly regulate gene expression in our bodies,” said Clay Marsh, Director of the Center for Personalized Health Care at the Ohio State University College of Medicine who researches microRNA expression in human blood but who was not involved in the study.

MicroRNAs are, as the name implies, very short RNA sequences (approximately 22 nucleotides in length) discovered in the early 1990s. They are known to modulate gene expression by binding to mRNA, often resulting in inhibition. With the recent discovery that microRNAs circulate the blood by hitching a ride in small membrane-encased particles known as microvesicles (see our July 2011 feature on microvesicles, “Exosome Explosion”), there has been a surge of interest in microRNAs as a novel class of biomarkers for a variety of diseases.

Chen-Yu Zhang, a molecular biologist at Nanjing University in China, was studying the role of circulating microRNAs in health and disease when he discovered that microRNAs are present in other bodily fluids such as milk. This gave him the “crazy idea” that exogenous microRNAs, such as those ingested through the consumption of milk, could also be found circulating in the serum of mammals, he recalled.

To test his hypothesis, Zhang and his team of researchers sequenced the blood microRNAs of 31 healthy Chinese subjects and searched for the presence of plant microRNAs. Because plant microRNAs are structurally different from those of mammals, they react differently to oxidizing agents, and the researchers were able to differentiate the two by treating them with sodium periodate, which oxidizes mammal but not plant microRNAs.

To their surprise, they found about 40 types of plant microRNAs circulating in the subjects’ blood—some of which were found in concentrations that were comparable to major endogenous human microRNAs.

The plant microRNAs with the highest concentrations were MIR156a and MIR168a, both of which are known to be enriched in rice and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. Furthermore, the researchers detected the two microRNAs in the blood, lungs, small intestine, and livers of mice, in variable concentrations that significantly increased after the mice were fed raw rice (although cooked rice was also shown to contain intact MIR168a).

Next, the researchers scoured sequence databases for putative target genes of MIR156a and MIR168a and found that MIR168a shared sequence complementarity with approximately 50 mammalian genes. The most highly conserved of these sequences across the animal kingdom was the exon 4 of the low-density lipoprotein receptor adapter protein 1 gene (LDLRAP1).

LDLRAP1 is highly expressed in the liver, where it interacts with the low-density lipoprotein receptor to help remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), aka “bad” cholesterol, from the blood.

The researchers hypothesized that MIR168a could be taken up by the epithelial cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, packaged into microvesicles, and secreted into the blood stream, where they can make their way to target organs. Once in the liver, MIR168a binds to LDLRAP1 mRNA, reducing the protein levels and ultimately impairing the removal of LDL from the blood.

To test this hypothesis in vitro, the researchers transfected synthetic MIR168a into a human epithelial cell line and collected the secreted microvesicles. When they added these microvesicles to a liver cell line called HepG2, they found that while it did not change the levels of LDLRAP1 mRNA, it did decrease the levels of the actual LDLRAP1 protein.

Likewise, the LDLRAP1 protein level decreased in the livers of live mice 3 to 7 days after eating fresh rice or being injected with synthetic MIR168a—significantly increasing LDL in the blood. When the researchers injected the mice with an RNA sequence that bound to and neutralized MIR168a, the protein and LDL levels returned to normal.

“This microRNA inhibits this protein and increased the plasma LDL levels,” Zhang said. With higher levels of circulating cholesterol, “it can possibly increase the risk of metabolic syndrome,” he added. But more importantly, this research points to a “new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diseases,” based on the enhancement or inhibition of exogenous microRNAs.

Although the team has still a long way to go in elucidating the mechanisms by which plant microRNAs can regulate gene expression in humans, these initial results promise to increase the understanding of how specific ingredients in food can mediate health and disease, Marsh said.

Indeed, Zhang suspects that this is just one example of many. With time, “I’m confident other people will find more exogenous plant microRNAs that can pass through the GI tract and also have effects on the host physiology,” Zhang said.

L. Zhang, et. al., “Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA,” Cell Research, doi:10.1038/cr.2011.158, 2011.


Related Articles

Lighting Up Ovarian Cancer By Cristina LuiggiA new technique that makes ovarian cancer cells glow white allow surgeons to better visualize the tumors they aim to remove.
Mammoth Blood in the ER? By Rachel NuwerA 35,000-year old woolly mammoth blood protein may aid in contemporary medical procedures.

1918 Flu Spread Before Peak By Tia Ghose

The 1918 influenza was circulating silently before it began killing millions of people in just a year and a half.


The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities


Posted 14 September 2011, by Frances Moore Lappé, The Nation,



Editor’s Note: Frances Moore Lappé’s essay below kicks off our forum on the food movement. Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan have contributed replies.

For years I’ve been asked, “Since you wrote Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, have things gotten better or worse?” Hoping I don’t sound glib, my response is always the same: “Both.”

As food growers, sellers and eaters, we’re moving in two directions at once.

The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years.

That’s one current. It’s antidemocratic and deadly.

There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.

Some Americans see the food movement as “nice” but peripheral—a middle-class preoccupation with farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthy school lunches. But no, I’ll argue here. It is at heart revolutionary, with some of the world’s poorest people in the lead, from Florida farmworkers to Indian villagers. It has the potential to transform not just the way we eat but the way we understand our world, including ourselves. And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.

The Work

In a farmworker camp in Ohio, a young mother sat on her bed. She was dying of cancer, but with no bitterness she asked me a simple question: “We provide people food—why don’t they respect our work?” That was 1984. She had no protection from pesticides, or even the right to safe drinking water in the field.

Twenty-five years later, in Immokalee, Florida, I walked through a grungy, sweltering 300-foot trailer, home to eight tomato pickers, but what struck me most was a sense of possibility in the workers themselves.

They are among the 4,000 mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, formed in 1993—more than two decades after Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers’ victorious five-year grape strike and national boycott. In the 1990s, CIW’s struggle over five years, including a 230-mile walk and hunger strike, achieved the first industrywide pay increase in twenty years. Still, it only brought real wages back to pre-1980 levels. So in 2001, CIW launched its Campaign for Fair Food. Dogged organizing forced four huge fast-food companies—McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Subway—to agree to pay a penny more per pound and adhere to a code of conduct protecting workers. Four large food-service providers, including Sodexo, were also brought on board. Beginning this fall, CIW will start implementing these changes at 90 percent of Florida tomato farms—improving the lives of 30,000 tomato pickers. Now the campaign is focused on supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s, Stop & Shop and Giant.

The Land

In Brazil, almost 400,000 farmworker families have not only found their voices but gained access to land, joining the roughly half-billion small farms worldwide that produce 70 percent of the world’s food.

Elsewhere, calls for more equitable access to land in recent decades have generally gone nowhere—despite evidence that smallholders are typically more productive and better resource guardians than big operators.

So what happened in Brazil?

With the end of dictatorship in 1984 came the birth of arguably the largest social movement in the hemisphere: the Landless Workers Movement, known by its Portuguese acronym MST. Less than 4 percent of Brazil’s landowners control about half the land, often gained illegally. MST’s goal is land reform, and in 1988 Brazil’s new Constitution gave the movement legal grounding: Article 5 states that “property shall fulfill its social function,” and Article 184 affirms the government’s power to “expropriate…for purposes of agrarian reform, rural property” that fails to meet this requirement. Well-organized occupations of unused land, under the cover of night, had been MST’s early tactic; after 1988 the same approach helped compel the government to uphold the Constitution.

Because of the courage of these landless workers, a million people are building new lives on roughly 35 million acres, creating several thousand farming communities with schools serving 150,000 kids, along with hundreds of cooperative and other enterprises.

Nevertheless, MST co-founder João Pedro Stédile said early this year that the global financial crisis has led “international capitalists” to try to “protect their funds” by investing in Brazilian “land and energy projects”—driving renewed land concentration.

And in the United States? The largest 9 percent of farms produce more than 60 percent of output. But small farmers still control more than half our farmland, and the growing market for healthy fresh food has helped smallholders grow: their numbers went up by 18,467 between 2002 and 2007. To support them, last winter the Community Food Security Coalition held community “listening sessions,” attended by 700 people, to sharpen citizen goals for the 2012 farm bill.

The Seed

Just as dramatic is the struggle for the seed. More than 1,000 independent seed companies were swallowed up by multinationals in the past four decades, so today just three—Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta—control about half the proprietary seed market worldwide.

Fueling the consolidation were three Supreme Court rulings since 1980—including one in 2002, with an opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas—making it possible to patent life forms, including seeds. And in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration released its policy on genetically modified organisms, claiming that “the agency is not aware of any information showing that [GMO] foods…differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”

The government’s green light fueled the rapid spread of GMOs and monopolies—so now most US corn and soybeans are GMO, with genes patented largely by one company: Monsanto. The FDA position helped make GMOs’ spread so invisible that most Americans still don’t believe they’ve ever eaten them—even though the grocery industry says they could be in 75 percent of processed food.

Even fewer Americans are aware that in 1999 attorney Steven Druker reported that in 40,000 pages of FDA files secured via a lawsuit, he found “memorandum after memorandum contain[ing] warnings about the unique hazards of genetically engineered food,” including the possibility that they could contain “unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergens.”

Yet at the same time, public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries and in the European Union they’ve helped pass mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it.

In Europe, the anti-GMO tipping point came in 1999. Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, expects that the same shift will happen here, as more Americans than ever actively oppose GMOs. This year the “non-GMO” label is the third-fastest-growing new health claim on food packaging. Smith is also encouraged that milk products produced with the genetically modified drug rBGH “have been kicked out of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Yoplait, Dannon, and most American dairies.”

Around the world, millions are saying no to seed patenting as well. In homes and village seed banks, small farmers and gardeners are saving, sharing and protecting tens of thousands of seed varieties.

In the United States, the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, estimates that since 1975 members have shared roughly a million samples of rare garden seeds.

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh—known as the pesticide capital of the world—a women-led village movement, the Deccan Development Society, puts seed-saving at the heart of its work. After the crushing failure of GMO cotton and ill health linked to pesticides, the movement has helped 125 villages convert to more nutritious, traditional crop mixes, feeding 50,000 people.

On a larger scale, Vandana Shiva’s organization, Navdanya, has helped to free 500,000 farmers from chemical dependency and to save indigenous seeds—the group’s learning and research center protects 3,000 varieties of rice, plus other crops.

In all these ways and more, the global food movement challenges a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solution to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called “industrial agriculture,” but a better description might be “productivist,” because it fixates on production, or “reductivist,” because it narrows our focus to a single element.

Its near obsession with the yield of a monoculture is anti-ecological. It not only pollutes, diminishes and disrupts nature; it misses ecology’s first lesson: relationships. Productivism isolates agriculture from its relational context—from its culture.

In 2008 a singular report helped crack the productivist frame. This report, “The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (known simply as IAASTD), explained that solutions to poverty, hunger and the climate crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping to balance the carbon cycle. Painstakingly developed over four years by 400 experts, the report has gained the support of more than fifty-nine governments, and even productivist strongholds like the World Bank.

IAASTD furthers an emerging understanding that agriculture can serve life only if it is regarded as a culture of healthy relationships, both in the field—among soil organisms, insects, animals, plants, water, sun—and in the human communities it supports: a vision lived by many indigenous people and captured in 1981 by Wendell Berry in The Gift of Good Land and twenty years later by Jules Pretty in Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature.

Across cultures, the global food movement is furthering agri-culture by uniting diverse actors and fostering democratic relationships. A leader is La Via Campesina, founded in 1993 when small farmers and rural laborers gathered from four continents in Belgium. Its goal is “food sovereignty”—a term carefully chosen to situate “those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations,” says the declaration closing the group’s 2007 global gathering in Nyeleni, Mali. La Via Campesina connects 150 local and national organizations, and 200 million small farmers, in seventy countries. In 2009 it was included among civil society players on the UN Committee on Food Security.

And in the urban North, how is the food movement enhancing agri-culture?

For sure, more and more Americans are getting their hands in the dirt—motivated increasingly by a desire to cut “food miles” and greenhouse gases. Roughly a third of American households (41 million) garden, up 14 percent in 2009 alone. As neighbors join neighbors, community gardens are blooming. From only a handful in 1970, there are 18,000 community gardens today. In Britain community gardens are in such demand—with 100,000 Brits on waiting lists for a plot—that the mayor of London promised 2,012 new ones by 2012.

And in 2009 the Slow Food movement, with 100,000 members in 153 countries, created 300 “eat-ins”—shared meals in public space—to launch its US “Time for Lunch” campaign, with a goal of delicious healthy school meals for the 31 million kids eating them every day.

An Economics of Agri-Culture

Agri-culture’s unity of healthy farming ecology and social ecology transforms the market itself: from the anonymous, amoral selling and buying within a market structured to concentrate power to a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

In 1965 British Oxfam created the first fair-trade organization, called Helping-by-Selling, in response to calls from poor countries for “trade, not aid.” Today more than 800 products are fair-trade certified, directly benefiting 6 million people. Last year the US fair-trade market passed $1.5 billion.

The Real Food Challenge, launched by young people in 2007, is working to jump-start a US swing to “real food”—defined as that respecting “human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.” Student teams are mobilizing to persuade campus decision-makers to commit themselves to making a minimum of
20 percent of their college or university food “real” by 2020. With more than 350 schools already on board, the Challenge founders have set an ambitious goal: to shift $1 billion to real food purchases in ten years.

Farmers’ markets, the direct exchange between farmer and eater, are also creating a fairer agri-culture. So rare before the mid-’90s that the USDA didn’t even bother to track them, more than 7,000 farmers’ markets dot the country in 2011, a more than fourfold increase in seventeen years.

Other democratic economic models are also gaining ground:

In 1985 an irrepressible Massachusetts farmer named Robyn Van En helped create the first US Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which eaters are no longer just purchasers but partners, helping to shoulder the farmer’s risk by prepaying for a share of the harvest before the planting season. On weekends, “my” CSA—Waltham Fields, near Boston—is alive as families pick and chat, and kids learn how to spot the yummiest strawberries. Now there are 2,500 CSAs across the country, while more than 12,500 farms informally use this prepay, partnership approach.

The cooperative model is spreading too, replacing one dollar, one vote—the corporate form—with one person, one vote. In the 1970s, US food cooperatives took off. Today there are 160 nationwide, and co-op veteran Annie Hoy in Ashland, Oregon, sees a new upsurge. Thirty-nine have just opened, or are “on their way right now,” she told me.

Funky storefronts of the 1970s, famous for limp organic carrots, have morphed into mouthwatering community hubs. Beginning as a food-buying club of fifteen families in 1953, Seattle’s PCC Natural Markets has nine stores and almost 46,000 members, making it the largest US food cooperative. Its sales more than doubled in a decade.

Producer co-ops have also made huge gains. In 1988 a handful of worried farmers, watching profits flow to middlemen, not to them, launched the Organic Valley Family of Farms. Today Organic Valley’s more than 1,600 farmer owners span thirty-two states, generating sales of more than $500 million in 2008.

The Rules

The global food system reflects societies’ rules—often uncodified—that determine who eats and how our earth fares. In the United States, rules increasingly reflect our nation’s slide into “privately held government.” But in rule-setting, too, energy is hardly unidirectional.

In 1999, on the streets of Seattle, 65,000 environmentalists, labor and other activists made history, blunting the antidemocratic agenda of the World Trade Organization. In 2008 more citizens than ever engaged in shaping the farm bill, resulting in rules encouraging organic production. The movement has also established 100 “food policy councils”—new local-to-state, multi-stakeholder coordinating bodies. And this year, eighty-three plaintiffs joined the Public Patent Foundation in suing Monsanto, challenging its GMO seeds’ “usefulness” (required for patenting) as well as the company’s right to patent seeds to begin with.

Even small changes in the rules can create huge possibilities. Consider, for example, the ripples from a 2009 Brazilian law requiring at least 30 percent of school meals to consist of food from local family farms.

Rules governing rights are the human community’s foundational guarantees to one another—and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave access to food that status. Since then, nearly two dozen nations have planted the right to food in their constitutions. If you wonder whether it matters, note that when Brazil undertook a multifaceted “zero hunger” campaign, framing food as a right, the country slashed its infant death rate by about a third in seven years.

Food Power: Only Connect

This rising global food movement taps universal human sensibilities—expressed in Hindu farmers in India saving seeds, Muslim farmers in Niger turning back the desert and Christian farmers in the United States practicing biblically inspired Creation Care. In these movements lies the revolutionary power of the food movement: its capacity to upend a life-destroying belief system that has brought us power-concentrating corporatism.

Corporatism, after all, depends on our belief in the fairy tale that market “magic” (Ronald Reagan’s unforgettable term) works on its own without us.

Food can break that spell. For the food movement’s power is that it can shift our sense of self: from passive, disconnected consumers in a magical market to active, richly connected co-producers in societies we are creating—as share owners in a CSA farm or purchasers of fair-trade products or actors in public life shaping the next farm bill.

The food movement’s power is connection itself. Corporatism distances us from one another, from the earth—and even from our own bodies, tricking them to crave that which destroys them—while the food movement celebrates our reconnection. Years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, CSA farmer Barb Perkins told me about her most rewarding moments: “Like in town yesterday,” she said, “I saw this little kid, wide-eyed, grab his mom’s arm and point at me. ‘Mommy,’ he said. ‘Look. There’s our farmer!’”

At its best, this movement encourages us to “think like an ecosystem,” enabling us to see a place for ourselves connected to all others, for in ecological systems “there are no parts, only participants,” German physicist Hans Peter Duerr reminds us. With an “eco-mind” we can see through the productivist fixation that inexorably concentrates power, generating scarcity for some, no matter how much we produce. We’re freed from the premise of lack and the fear it feeds. Aligning food and farming with nature’s genius, we realize there’s more than enough for all.

As the food movement stirs, as well as meets, deep human needs for connection, power and fairness, let’s shed any notion that it’s simply “nice” and seize its true potential to break the spell of our disempowerment.

Nation Contributors Reply:
Raj Patel, “Why Hunger Is Still With Us
Vandana Shiva, “Resisting the Corporate Theft of Seeds
Eric Schlosser, “It’s Not Just About Food
Michael Pollan, “How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System


About the Author

Frances Moore Lappé
Frances Moore Lappé just released EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want (Nation Books)…

Also by The Author

The article offers a discussion about world hunger and wealth distribution. It is argued that calls for the end of hunger fail to challenge the systems that prevent solutions. Hunger has grown 43 percent in five years in the United States. More hungry people live in India than in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Hunger is caused by an economic system that is driven by the rule: highest return to existing wealth. Because of this system, economic inequality is worsening in most of the world.

Focuses on the status of ownership of Industry in Sweden as of February 1983. Name of the trade union which is lobbying for the passage of the ownership of industry in the hands of the workers; Type of proposal given by the workers’ organization, Social Democratic Party to industrialists in exchange of the ownership of Swedish industry; Way in which the workers would get controlling interests in Sweden’s major companies.


Kenya’s scientists urged to engage in GM debate

Kenya’s scientists urged to engage in GM debate

There has been fierce debate about allowing the import of GM maize to improve food security


Posted 16 September 2011, by Maina Waruru, SciDevNet,


[NAIROBI] Kenya’s agriculture secretary is urging researchers to join the debate on genetically modified (GM) foods — and not leave the issues to politicians.

Wilson Songa, who is also a practising scientist, said that, by keeping quiet, scientists are putting the public at risk of being misled by politicians.

There has been fierce debate at a high level about allowing the import of GM maize to improve food security, and some politicians have claimed that GM foods are harmful.

“Our research institutions have experts who can educate the public and save them from dangerous propaganda,” said Songa. With the Horn of Africa faced with severe drought and crippling food shortages, he said scientists should inform the public of alternative options.

“We [scientists] must no longer be cowed into silence as our people face starvation year in year out while politicians make wild allegations,” he said.

Songa was speaking at the fellowships awards ceremony for African Women in Agricultural Research and Development last month (18 August). He said scientists feared being seen to contradict ministers and policymakers.

Shaukat Abdulrazak, head of the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), told SciDev.Net that scientific bodies such as the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) and the National Biosafety Authority must educate the public, but stressed that this should be about the drawbacks of GM crops as well as their benefits.

“Scientists have a responsibility to link science with society. They must be proactive and inform the public on the pros and cons of GM technology. They must engage politicians and provide facts and figures for them,” he said.

Abdulrazak said that although scientists have been commenting on GM organisms (GMOs), it has been mainly within their ‘comfort zone’ — classrooms and conferences. “When scientists engage in public debate there is a suspicion that they are interested in politics,” he said.

He said that Kenyans are yet to have confidence in the ability of their scientific institutions to deal with the pressure from abroad to introduce GM foods.

But Shem Wandiga, managing trustee at the Centre for Science and Technology Innovations in Kenya, which is associated with UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), said that rather than fearing to enter the GM debate, scientists are avoiding “unnecessary controversy”.

Wandiga said that the civilised approach would be for governments and policymakers to seek the opinion of scientists, which would then be given in a “sober manner”.

“But when politicians shoot from the hip like they have been doing in this case, then we do not want to get sucked into the mess.

“It is not that Kenya lacks scientists that can give advice but when there are vested interests, like in the GM maize importation, then we do not need to get involved,” he said.



Care for the earth and care of the body


Care for the earth and care of the body


Posted 14 September 2011, by Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J. *, Catholic News Agency,



Care for God’s beloved creation presupposes a universal purpose of the earth’s goods.  Stewardship brings with it responsible freedom “to respect creation and to  promote an environmental culture that is based on respect for ethical values, the protection of life, an economy of solidarity and sustainable development.”  (Benedict XVI: “Pope Encourages Ethical Ecology,” June 7, 2007). The issues are all of the same cloth, and attending to one without the other distorts the unitary view of the earth. Environmental imposition of contraceptives, abortion, genetic manipulation of human beings, and other distortions of the ethical norms that affect the care of human beings, must be rejected.

Catholic Social Justice and the Family

Moral principles begin with the family nucleus which is oriented toward joy, life and love.  The transcendent character of men and women and their relationship with their Creator “favors an ecological respect for the environment and a respect for the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death” (Ibid).

Catholic social justice is justice according to the natural law.  It is not mercy, giving the undeserved what they do not deserve.  It accords the innocent what they deserve.  It lifts up the humble.  Catholic social justice affirms and protects the life of the individual and the family, and in a just society, ownership and property are ideals that protect the family.  Those who work deserve the fruits of their labor.  Freedom, the art of self-governing and self-control, opposes any arrangement that destroys the family.  To paraphrase St. Paul, the family is the temple of God, and God must dwell within it. This is the essence of the Church’s teaching on social justice.

The Human Body

It goes without saying that the body participates in an integrated vision of the human person.  Blessed John Paul II never ceased to remind us, and particularly our youth, that the human body has a specific meaning and role to play in our redemption.  (John Paul II: “General Audience on the Theology of the Body,” (1982-84). Caring for it has assumed greater importance at a time when the body is seen as a machine to be manipulated, abused and misused in the name of self-gratification and personal freedom.  “We are temples of God,” Paul reminds us, “and God [does] dwell within” (1 Cor 3:16). To internalize the divine indwelling is to reverence all of God’s creation.

Fragrance of the Garden

A healthy garden must be watered, trimmed and kept clean. As a healthy garden scents the atmosphere with its fragrances, so the lives of those who bear fruit and exude “the odor of sanctity,” made tangible through their person.  In Catholic asceticism, “the odor of sanctity” has come to mean that fragrance proceeding from the person, clothing, or domicile of a saint during life or after death.  The phrase also refers to a reputation for goodness and righteousness.  In his classic, “The Graces of Interior Prayer,” A. Poulain writes: “Many saints have emitted agreeable odours during their lifetime or at death.  These odours were various; they resembled those of the violet or the rose, orange-blossom, cinnamon, musk, benjamin, etc” (375, starred footnote).  A beautiful scent may have the force of persuasion that convinces more than words or appearance.  Paul links holiness in Christ to the image of a fragrant aroma:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor 2:14-16).

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi compares the scent of a rose to the gospel of Christ and the Christian way of life:

Let your life speak to us even as the rose needs no speech but simply spreads its perfume. Even the blind who do not see the rose perceive its fragrance.  That is the secret of the rose.  But the Gospel that Jesus preached is much more subtle and fragrant than the Gospel of the rose.  If the rose needs no agent, much less does the Gospel of Christ need any agent (S.K. George, Gandhi and the Church,” published on Gandhi’s 75th birthday).
Despite the grim picture of our torn and unlovely world, our task is to be fruitful in the garden and make it an array of beauty for ourselves and for others in the present.  Dedicated care-givers do this every day. The Creator-Spirit who breathed and brooded over cosmos is the same Spirit who, in every age and with our cooperation produces new and beautiful fruits.

* Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY, holds degrees in philosophy (Ph.L), musicology (Ph.D.), theology (M.A.), and liturgical studies (Ph.D). She has taught at all levels of Catholic education and writes with a particular focus on a theology of beauty and the sacred arts. Her e-mail address is