MECFS Assist
By Ronnie Cummins

It has been a year since the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) joined with, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), and Consumers for Dental Choice to form a new non-profit coalition, Health Liberty.

Over the past 12 months this alliance has proven to be a brilliant merging of talent, networks, resources and passion around consumer rights and protection.

Each of us in this coalition brings the knowledge gleaned from years of research on health and environmental issues, combined with strong track records of activism and successful campaigning for consumers' right to know what the potential risks are – to their health and to their communities – of food and other products they buy. 

And each of us is committed to fighting on behalf of consumers everywhere for the right to make an informed choice about whether or not to avoid those risks. When it comes to genetically engineered foods, the risks to your health come from multiple angles. The genetic alteration itself can cause significant problems in animals and humans consuming the food, but the potential hazards of the chemicals sprayed in large quantities on such crops are just as great...

Genetically Engineered Foods: The Right to Know

With the help of our new coalition partners, and many other concerned organizations and individuals, the OCA has focused this past year on what we believe is the most critical threat to the health of consumers and our planet: genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also referred to as genetically engineered (GE) seeds and food.

With little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements, or scientific protocol, bio-engineers since the 1990s have been creating hundreds of new genetically engineered "Frankenfoods" and crops. The research is done with little concern for the human and environmental hazards and the negative socioeconomic impacts on the world's several billion farmers and rural villagers.

Since the advent of GMO testing, the OCA has relentlessly gone to bat against the biotech and agribusiness industries, Food Inc., and the FDA and the USDA, in an effort to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of these genetically modified organisms.

Over the years, we have fought the battle on numerous fronts, using every tactic in the book. Our latest and potentially most successful strategy has been to fight for consumers' basic right to know what is in their food – and to take that battle directly to voters, through citizens' initiatives.

This two-pronged strategy – demanding the basic right to know through the use of direct democracy tools - is our best chance at winning the fight against genetically engineered foods.

We believe that once food manufacturers are required to label any and all genetically modified ingredients in their food products – which will finally give consumers the ability to choose whether or not to buy those products – consumers will stop buying them, and manufacturers will stop making them.

That strategy has been successful in Europe and more than 20 other countries that require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Consumers in those countries have spoken clearly: We don't want those products. And manufacturers have responded by reformulating their products to be GMO-free.

Using Direct Democracy to Force GMO Labeling

The notion that consumers have the right to know about genetically engineered foods has gathered steam, culminating this year in an unprecedented number of state – and one federal – campaigns to require GMO labeling.  The OCA has supported individual legislative efforts this past year in Washington State, Vermont, Hawaii, and Connecticut.

In all, 18 states tried and failed to pass popular GMO labeling legislation this year, watching cowardly Governors and state legislatures back down under the weight of massive lobbying efforts on the part of Big Biotech and in some states, threats of lawsuits from Monsanto.

But now we are on the verge of what we believe will be our first major victory – a citizens' ballot initiative in California that, if passed, will mark the single biggest victory in the GMO right to know battle, and will finally change the direction of food and farming in our country. Forever.

On May 2, campaign volunteers representing a broad and unprecedented health, environmental, and consumer coalition, spearheaded by the Organic Consumers Association,, Food Democracy Now LabelGMOs, Natural News, and scores of other groups, filed ballot petition papers signed by almost a million California registered voters to place a Citizens Initiative on the Ballot in November 2012 that will require labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, and ban the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as "natural."

This battle has not yet been won – we are stepping up efforts to educate California's voters on the dangers of genetically engineered foods, mobilize them to spread the word, and get out the vote.

To fund the campaign OCA, the Organic Consumers Fund (our grassroots lobbying ally),, and our allies have been forced to raise over $4 million dollars thus far, with another $4-6 million needed before November, to counter the anticipated $50 million dollar war chest of Monsanto, the biotech industry, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The good news is that although we may be outspent 10 to one, polls show that 80-90 percent of California voters support labeling of genetically engineered foods. In other words we are confident that we can win.

Scientists Warn about the Potential Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods

An increasing number of scientists are warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude, inexact, and unpredictable—and therefore inherently dangerous. Yet, pro-biotech governments and regulatory agencies maintain that genetically engineered foods and crops are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, and therefore require neither labeling nor pre–market safety-testing.

This Brave New World of Frankenfoods is frightening. Today, nearly 80 percent of all processed foods containing corn, soy, or canola oil contain unlabeled genetically altered ingredients. This, despite a long list of potential health hazards, including:
  • Toxins  and poisons: GE products clearly have the potential to be toxic and a threat to human health. In 1989, a GE brand of  L-tryptophan, a common dietary supplement, killed 37 Americans. More than 5,000 others were permanently disabled or afflicted with a potentially fatal and painful blood disorder, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS), before it was recalled by the FDA.
  • Increased cancer risks: In 1994, the FDA approved the sale of Monsanto's controversial recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). This genetically engineered hormone is injected into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk. Scientists have warned that significantly higher levels (400-500 percent or more) of a potent chemical hormone, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (igf-1), in the milk and dairy products of rBGH injected cows, could pose serious hazards such as human breast, prostate, and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that humans with elevated levels of igf-1 in their bodies are much more likely to get cancer. 
  • Food allergies: The alarming rise in childhood allergies in the past two decades has been linked by scientists to the arrival of genetically engineered foods in the 1990s. In 1996, a major GE food disaster was narrowly averted when Nebraska researchers learned that a Brazil nut gene spliced into soybeans could induce potentially fatal allergies in people sensitive to Brazil nuts. Animal tests of these Brazil nut-spliced soybeans had turned up negative. People with food allergies whose symptoms can range from mild unpleasantness to sudden death, may likely be harmed by exposure to foreign proteins spliced into common food products. Since humans have never before eaten most of the foreign proteins now being gene-spliced into foods, stringent pre-market safety-testing (including long-term animal feeding and volunteer human feeding studies) is necessary in order to prevent a future public health disaster.
  • Antibiotic resistance: When gene engineers splice a foreign gene into a plant or microbe, they often link it to another gene, called an antibiotic resistance marker gene (arm), that helps determine if the first gene was successfully spliced into the host organism. Some researchers warn that these arm genes might unexpectedly recombine with disease-causing bacteria or microbes in the environment or in the guts of animals or people who eat genetically engineered food. These new combinations may be contributing to the growing public health danger of antibiotic resistance—of infections that cannot be cured with traditional antibiotics, for example new strains of salmonella, e-coli, campylobacter, and enterococci
  • Damage to food quality and nutrition: A 1999 study by Dr. Marc Lappe published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that concentrations of the beneficial  phytoestrogen compounds thought to protect against heart disease and cancer were lower in GE soybeans than in traditional strains. These and other studies, including Dr. Pusztai's, indicate that GE food will likely result in foods lower in quality and nutrition. For example, the milk from cows injected with rBGH contains higher levels of pus, bacteria, and fat.
GE Crops and Farming Techniques Threaten the Planet

From the decimation of the planet's critical honeybee and monarch butterfly populations, to the creation of superweeds and superinsects, to the depletion of valuable nutrient-rich farming soil, genetic engineering poses a dangerous, and potentially irreversible threat, to planet Earth.

Among the dangers of GE crops, are:
  • Increased Pesticide Residues: Contrary to biotech industry propaganda, recent studies have found that US farmers growing GE crops are using just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farmers and in some cases more. The "benefits" of these herbicide-resistant crops are that farmers can spray as much of a particular herbicide on their crops as they want-killing the weeds without damaging their crop. Scientists estimate that herbicide-resistant crops planted around the globe will triple the amount of toxic broad-spectrum herbicides used in agriculture. These broad-spectrum herbicides are designed to literally kill everything green. 
  • Damage to Beneficial Insects and Soil Fertility: In 1999, Cornell University researchers made a startling discovery. They found that pollen from genetically engineered bt corn was poisonous to Monarch butterflies. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that GE crops are adversely affecting a number of beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings, as well as beneficial soil microorganisms, bees, and possibly birds.
  • Creation of GE "Superweeds" and "Superpests": Genetically engineering crops to be herbicide-resistant or to produce their own pesticide presents dangerous problems. Pests and weeds will inevitably emerge that are pesticide or herbicide-resistant, which means that stronger, more toxic chemicals will be needed to get rid of the pests. Herbicide resistant "superweeds" are already emerging. GE crops such as rapeseed (canola) have spread their herbicide-resistance traits to related weeds such as wild mustard plants. Lab and field tests also indicate that common plant pests such as cotton bollworms, living under constant pressure from GE crops, are evolving into "superpests" completely immune to bt sprays and other environmentally sustainable bio-pesticides.
    This will present a serious danger for organic and sustainable farmers whose biological pest management practices will be unable to cope with increasing numbers of superpests and superweeds. 
  • Genetic Pollution:  "Genetic pollution" and collateral damage from GE field crops already have begun to wreak environmental havoc. Wind, rain, birds, bees, and insect pollinators have begun carrying genetically-altered pollen into adjoining fields, polluting the DNA of crops of organic and non-GE farmers. An organic farm in Texas has been contaminated with genetic drift from GE crops grown on a nearby farm.  Because they are alive, gene-altered crops are inherently more unpredictable than chemical pollutants-they can reproduce, migrate, and mutate. Once released, it is virtually impossible to recall GE organisms back to the laboratory or the field. 
  • Genetic "Bio-Invasion": By virtue of their "superior" genes, some GE plants and animals will inevitably run amok, overpowering wild species in the same way that exotic species, such as kudzu vine and Dutch elm disease have created problems when introduced in North America. What will happen to wild fish and marine species, for example, when scientists release into the environment carp, salmon, and trout that are twice as large, and eat twice as much food, as their wild counterparts?
Most Commonly Used Herbicide Found to be Carcinogenic

As if the health hazards of genetically altered food crops weren't bad enough, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has also been deemed a major health hazard both to the environment, and to animal and human health. It is toxic to human cells, and according to a French research team, it is also carcinogenic. The team has studied the herbicide extensively, and published at least five articles on glysphosate's potential for wide-ranging environmental and human harm. Their research shows that glyphosate:

Causes cell cycle dysregulation, which is a hallmark of tumor cells and human cancers
  • Inhibits DNA synthesis in certain parts of the cell cycle—the process by which cells reproduce that underlies the growth and development of all living organisms
  • Impedes the hatchings of sea urchins. (Sea urchins were used because they constitute an appropriate model for the identification of undesirable cellular and molecular targets of pollutants.) The delay was found to be dose dependent on the concentration of Roundup. The surfactant polyoxyethylene amine (POEA), another major component of Roundup, was also found to be highly toxic to the embryos when tested alone, and could therefore be a contributing factor
It doesn't matter that the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health recently published "research" to the contraryii, the French team says―the world needs to know the truth about who did that "safety-finding" research. It was funded by none other than Monsanto itself! Is it any wonder they came to the conclusion that:

"[T]he available literature shows no solid evidence linking glyphosate exposure to adverse developmental or reproductive effects at environmentally realistic exposure concentrations."

The new Monsanto-funded safety research actually used the French team's original research to debunk the evidence that Roundup could have human or environmental safety issues. And that didn't sit well with the French team, which was so angered they wrote a detailed response to Monsanto's article, accusing the researchers of minimalizing the French group's work and publishing misleading information.  

What Lies Ahead: The Food Fight of Our Lives

Monsanto and Food Inc.'s stranglehold over the nation's food and farming system is being challenged in a food fight that will largely determine the future of American agriculture. Genetically engineered foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards.

After 20 years of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered (GE) foods to animals and humans, a critical mass of food and health activists have decided it's time to move beyond small skirmishes and losing battles and go on the offensive.

It's time to move the food fight over labeling GE food from the unfavorable terrain of Washington DC and Capital Hill, where Monsanto and Food Inc. exercise near-dictatorial control, to California, the heartland of organic food and farming and anti-GMO sentiment, where 90 percent of the body politic, according to recent polls, support GMO labeling.

Monsanto and their allies understand the threat that truth-in-labeling poses for the future of genetically engineered foods. As soon as genetically engineered foods start to be labeled in the US. millions of consumers will start to read these labels and react. They'll complain to grocery store managers and companies, they'll talk to their family and friends. They'll start switching to foods that are organic or at least GMO-free. Once enough consumers start complaining about GE foods and food ingredients; stores will eventually stop selling them; and farmers will stop planting them.

If you are willing to volunteer or donate money to this campaign visit the Organic Consumers Fund website or call the OCA office at 218-226-4164. It's time to stand up to Monsanto and win the Food Fight of our lives. Please join us!

About the Author

Ronnie Cummins is the founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association. He has been a writer and activist since the 1960s, with massive expertise in human rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, consumer, labor, environmental, and sustainable agricultural areas.  He is the author of several published articles, a children's book series called Children of the World, and Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers.

About the Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots 501(c)3 public interest organization promoting health, justice, and sustainability. It prides itself as the only organization in the United States focused on promoting the views and interests of the country's estimated 76 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

The OCA participates in the important issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability, and other key topics. The Organic Consumers Fund, a 501(c)4, is the OCA's grassroots action and lobbying arm.


Multiple Chemical Sensitivity caused by hypersensitivity of the brain

Written by Matthew Hogg BSc (Hons)   

Thursday, 19 April 2012 11:54

New research into multiple chemical sensitivity shows that the brains of sufferers respond more easily and more strongly to stimuli than those of healthy individuals, supporting the 'central sensitization' theory as an explanation for the illness.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a
chronic condition in which those affected experience an array of non-specific symptoms including headaches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, and a general feeling of being unwell, when exposed to minute amounts of chemical triggers such as synthetic fragrances and industrial pollution.

The few scientists and physicians who have been actively investigating this disabling and increasingly common condition over the past few decades have long suspected that an initial sensitization of the brain might result in neurons subsequently firing when exposed to levels of stimuli that would normally be ignored. This would translate into someone affected by MCS having an unusually high level of brain activity when exposed to triggering chemicals and experiencing a host of neurologically-based symptoms such as those mentioned previously.
Now, investigators from The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, have shown this is indeed the case by comparing MCS patients to healthy volunteers using a comprehensive set of measures, referred to inclusively as quantitative sensory testing (QST), to assess brain sensitivity and activity. 

The study involved 15 MCS patients without any comorbid overlapping condition (e.g. fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome) and 15 healthy individuals matched for factors such as sex and age.

The researchers used injections of capsaicin as a stimulatory challenge in order to study the responses of all participants, both those who suffered from MCS and those who didn't. Capsaicin is a chemical found in chili peppers that is an irritant and is responsible for the sensations of burning, and even pain, experienced when spicy foods are consumed.

Other stimuli such as pressure and heat were also used to measure pain thresholds in all participants.
It was found that MCS patients experienced a significantly greater degree of pain as a result of the capsaicin challenge compared to their healthy counterparts.
Several other measures were also consistently higher in the MCS patients although no difference in pain thresholds for pressure or heat were found.
The investigators concluded that: "Increased capsaicin-induced secondary punctate hyperalgesia was demonstrated in MCS patients without comorbid, overlapping disorders, suggesting facilitated central sensitization in MCS."
Essentially what they are saying here is that MCS patients' brains are more active than those of healthy individuals when exposed to external stimuli. Their study therefore validates MCS as a genuine physical illness and points to hypersensitivity of the brain to chemicals as the major mechanism behind symptoms experienced. 

Source: Tran MT Arendt-Nielsen L Kupers R Elberling J (2012) Multiple chemical sensitivity: On the scent of central sensitization International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
NASA, along with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), conducted a classic study on the benefits of plants on indoor air.

NASA reported that houseplants were able to reduce up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. They recommended using 15 to 18 'good-sized' houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers for an 1800 square-foot house.

And not just any house plants will do. Here's a list of the top 10 anti-pollutant plants rated best by The New…

  1. The Feston Rose plant
  2. Devil's Ivy
  3. Phalaenopsis
  4. English Ivy
  5. Parlor Ivy
  6. African Violets
  7. Christmas Cactus
  8. Yellow Goddess
  9. Garlic Vine
  10. Peace Lily

NASA, at the Stennis Space Center, also constructed what they called a BioHome, which incorporated bioregenerative technology with the ultimate goal of providing a life support system for permanent human habitation in space. Inside the BioHome structure are common houseplants, which NASA says act as living air purifiers to absorb as much chemical pollutants as possible from synthetic materials in the living area.

If houseplants are capable of cleansing the air in the BioHome, imagine what they could do in your home!