Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Rules for a Young Lady" from The Journal of Health, 1829

Compiled by James J. Gormley
In the research for my health freedom book, I came upon these pearls of what would have passed for wisdom in the politically incorrect, feminism-deficient year of 1829. It totally cracked me up, political incorrectness by today's standards aside!

What's with the obsession with custard? And wine or a cordial for breakfast? Huh?

“Rules for a Young Lady.

Let her to go to bed at ten o’clock---nine, if she pleases. She must not grumble, or be disheartened […]

Her breakfast should be something more substantial than a cup of slops, whether denominated tea or coffee, and a thin slice of bread and butter. She should take a soft boiled egg or two, a little cold meat, a draught of milk or a cup or two of pure chocolate.

She should not lounge all day by the fire, reading novels, nor indulge herself in thinking of the perfidy of false swains or the despair of a pining damsel; but bustle about---walk or ride in the open air, rub the furniture, or make puddings---and when she feels hungry eat a custard in place of the fashionable morning treat of a slice of pound cake and a glass of wine or cordial.

In place of three of four cups of strong tea for supper she may eat a custard---a bowl or bread of milk---or similar articles, and in a few hours afterwards let her retire to bed.

At other periods of the day which are not occupied by business or exercise, let her read---no sickly love tales---but good humoured and instructive works---calculated, while they keep the mind unincumbered with heavy thoughts, to augment its store of ideas, and to guard it against the injury which will ever result from false perceptions of mankind and of the concerns of life.”

The Journal of Health, 1829

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Right to No --- GMOs Must Go

By James J. Gormley

Her chariot is an empty hazelnut [ . . .] 
And in this state she gallops night by night [ . . .] 
o'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees  
--- Mercutio, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4

Not that lawyers only think of (or dream about) fees, however it is worth noting that when Californians vote this November 6th on the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Foods Act (aka the GE Foods Mandatory Labeling Initiative), they will not only, fortunately, be taking an historic stand for consumer rights but also, unfortunately, throwing down a wild card on the table, one that could potentially open up the floodgates to private actions (lawsuits) against makers of all manner of raw and processed foods, food supplements and packaged goods, in short: 60 to 80 percent of products on store shelves in The Golden State.

In the case of non-processed foods, the words ‘Genetically Engineered” will appear on the front of the package; in the case of processed foods with a variety of ingredients, the words “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” will appear on the front or back of the package. I wish the term “Produced with Genetically Modified Organism [GMO] Ingredient Technology,” or something similar, had been chosen instead.

Natural Genetic “Engineering” … and Frankenfoods
Why? Because as early as 8,000 B.C. farmers had already domesticated many wild food-plant species, with growers having selectively bred thousands of different strains, each with its own hereditary genetic material, or “germ plasm.”

While our ancestral farmers did not understand hybridization, and could not engage in mutation breeding (exposing plants to chemicals or radiation to create beneficial mutations) or utilize genetically modified organism (GMO) technology, clearly plant husbandry was an early version of genetic engineering: farmers using what they knew about a plant to select for specific desirable traits to develop improved varieties.

Examples of crops that are the product of traditional hybridization techniques include grapefruit (which was a cross of two different citrus fruits) and maize (a plant that was domesticated in Mexico 10,000 years ago that produced very tiny cobs).  

Animals have not been immune to human-made genetic crossing as well, and centuries of domestication and breeding for specific traits. In this example, we of course have mules (a horse and donkey cross) and anywhere from 150 to 600 breeds of domesticated dogs all bred to bring out certain characteristics.

This is of course far different from producing a hybrid plant that could never have existed in nature, especially using genes from one species (even an alien species, like fish) to create changes in another species. 

For example, in 1991 a company genetically engineered a tomato with a gene from the arctic flounder in order to convey a trait of cold-storage resistance to the tomato. 

While the fish tomato thankfully never made it to the produce aisle, other cross-species combos have. A gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria was inserted into corn to combat a corn-eating worm; today, 63 percent of the U.S. corn crop uses this Franken-seed.

The use of genetically engineered bacteria to create nutraceutical compounds has had a disastrous track record. Case in point: in 1989 over 1,500 people became very sick and nearly 40 died as a result of ingesting contaminated L-tryptophan that had been made by a foreign pharmaceutical company using genetically engineered bacteria. 

This is a perfect example of the grave concerns over 90 percent of Americans have regarding GMOs and why they want products with GMOs to be labeled as such.

Europe Has Taken A Hard Line Against GMOs; the U.S. Government Is a Huge GMO Advocate

The European Union (EU) took a more aggressive approach, at least initially, with a six-year moratorium on gene-altered products than ran from 1998 to 2004. Sadly, the U.S., Canada and Argentina challenged it in court and, in 2006, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the EU ban was illegal.

At the time, Eric Gall of Greenpeace told that "All this verdict proves is that the WTO is unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues, as it puts trade interests above all others. Its only effect has been to reinforce the determination of EU countries to resist bullying by pro-GE governments and to say no to GE crops and food."

Case in point: After the May 2006 WTO ruling, American exports of rice to Europe were stopped when a majority of the U.S. crop was confirmed to be contaminated with unapproved engineered genes.

In the interim, in April 2004 Hugo Chavez had announced a total ban on genetically modified (GM) seeds in Venezuela and, in January 2005, the Hungarian government had issued a ban on the importation and planting of GM maize seeds, which was subsequently upheld by the EU .

Which brings us back to December 18 of 2006, when the EU’s environment ministers officially rejected the WTO’s ruling, specifically the proposal to force Austria to lift its bans on GM foods and crops. National bans have also been issued in Bulgaria, France, Germany and Ireland.

All in all, according to journalist Jeremy Stahl in the June 14, 2012 edition of, public opinion in the EU has for years been adamantly against GMOs. “European policymakers have responded to their constituents rather than their scientists, and only two GM crops have been approved for farming in EU states, while 90 have been permitted by the FDA for use in the United States.”

That being said, the tide may be turning in the other direction in Europe just as the U.S. (California most prominently) is shifting back to where the EU was. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected the French ban on GM corn. While the EU Commission is deciding how to enforce the ruling, EU’s health commission has said that it “could now ask France to lift the ban,” wrote Stahl.

Will GMO Labeling Help or Confuse Consumers?
Peggy Lemaux, Ph.D., a cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley who manages a website on biotechnology told Eliza Barclay of National Public Radio (NPR) in a May 14, 2012, interview, that the GE label may “scare less savvy consumers away from affordable, healthful foods.”

The July 5th issue of trade magazine, Retail Leader, noted the concerns of opponents to the California initiative who ask readers to “consider how costs could increase and small businesses could be hurt if the mandate encouraged frivolous lawsuits against companies that didn’t carry a GMO label but were sued nonetheless.”

As I noted in my April 3rd, 2012 commentary, the last time there was a mandatory labeling initiative in California was 1986, when “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act” (aka Proposition 65, or Prop 65) was passed into law via a direct voter initiative.

Another Gravy Train for Lawyers and Their Straw Man Plaintiffs?
Prop 65, a well-intended yet disastrously misguided law that should instead be called the “Private Attorney Enrichment Via Straw Man Plaintiffs Act,” has done little to protect consumers but has done much to hurt businesses operating in or selling into California, including dietary supplement companies.

Courtesy Robert Huffstutter
In addition to providing a disgraceful “gravy train” for unscrupulous consumers and avaricious attorneys, it does nothing to truly help consumers as its labeling requirements make it seem that virtually every product a consumer sees, walks on, sits on, wears, consumes or somehow comes in contact with is carcinogenic. It becomes the state government version of a student with bad study habits who yellow-highlights 99 percent of the text in a chapter as a test preparation, which of course is the same as not highlighting anything.

And lawsuits for GMO labeling are a very real prospect, indeed. 

While the organizers of the California initiative point to the fact that the lawsuit will not authorize the awarding of Prop 65-like “bounty hunter fees” to lawyers who bring suits, which is true, what is not brought out is that (1) anyone can sue to enforce the new statute, (2) they can be awarded their attorney fees and costs of bringing suit, and (3) they don’t have to prove anything---such as facts, damage or loss---or to even win the case as such for the Court to award them fees.

In a legal analysis of the initiative by James C. Cooper, JD, Ph.D., entitled “Proposition 65 and the Proposed California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Foods Act: A Comparison of Litigation Incentives,” Cooper wrote: “The adoption of Label GMO likely would result in private lawsuits to enforce its provisions.” 

In an interview with The Gormley Files, when asked as to how widespread the “private lawsuit business will be,” Cooper said: “As I note in my paper, because there is a private right of action, we can expect private suits, however there are reasons to believe that the GMO ballot initiative will not yield the levels of abusive litigation associated with Prop 65.”  We shall see.

Will Labeling Stop the Virulent Spread of GMOs?
And while it is hoped that GMO labeling will allow consumers to vote with their pocketbooks and that they will choose the few remaining products over the 70 to 95 percent of products contaminated with GMOs, we don’t know this for certain, regardless of whatever poll numbers suggest.

As California consumers make those choices over the coming years, growers and countries will continue to abandon old, land-race crops in favor of GE, single-variety monocultures, thus setting the stage for the entire world’s complete, and utter, destruction, as a single disease, or only a few of them, could then wipe out the planet’s food supply before we could stop it.

Deforestation in the Pacific Northwest
Clear-cutting across virgin lands annihilates natural vegetation, bringing on what is called natural erosion. 

It is predicted that by the year 2050, 25 percent of the world’s 250,000 plant species will disappear due to deforestation, the shift to genetically uniform crops, over-grazing, water control projects and urbanization.

In April 1991, plant geneticist Jack Harlan (1917-1998) warned: “The diversity of our genetic resources stands between us and starvation on a scale we cannot imagine.” 

To prevent worldwide disaster scenarios such as this, groups are tracking down the wild relatives of modern crops in habitats believed to favor their survival, then preserving their germ plasm in a global network of seed banks (or gene banks)---such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault---and protected natural sites. 

However, better oversight and controls need to be devoted to these efforts, as not only have many seed banks fallen into decay but the funding for these efforts appears to have been, thus far, subverted by the same company that rules the GMO roost.

The Way Forward?
Assuming the ballot initiative passes, only time will tell as to who will truly benefit and who will truly lose, especially as similar initiatives are on the hopper in several other states and the Federal government.

But the bigger question is this: Why don’t we push for a full ban of GMOs?
It’s no accident that only 5 percent of food in Europe contains GM traces, which is thanks to a “zero tolerance” policy that the EU has had.

For Europe, moving to zero would be a lot easier than for us, however a staged approach to eliminating GMOs for U.S. agriculture and the food industry might just work, similar to the milestones associated with vehicle emission requirements (e.g., hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide) staged for five milestone years, including those coming up in 2017 and 2025.

Perhaps modest incentives and tax breaks can be offered to GM seed makers if they agree to phase out the development and sale of GM seeds and GM-seed-specific pesticides and help farmers in remediation efforts to restore their crops to non-patented, non-GM varieties, and agree to cease the persecution of farmers for using traditional, seed-saving practices that have been part of agriculture for 10,000 years. Certainly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would need to phase out its GE/GM development mission, as well.

All of this will take a great deal of political will driven by consumer grassroots’ demand, but it can be done, as we have seen in Europe. 

A world free of GM plants and crops may well be the ultimate answer. Not just the “The Right to Know,” but the “Right to No.” 

As in no GMOs.
The Gormley Files - Blogged