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Friday, November 16, 2012

Does Sugar Kill? How the Sugar Industry Hid the Toxic Truth

For decades, the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill?

This article first appeared in Mother Jones Magazine. Get your magazine  subscription here. 
ON A BRISK SPRING Tuesday in 1976, a pair of executives from the Sugar Association stepped up to the podium of a Chicago ballroom to accept the Oscar of the public relations world, the Silver Anvil award for excellence in "the forging of public opinion." The trade group had recently pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in PR history. For nearly a decade, the sugar industry had been buffeted by crisis after crisis as the media and the public soured on sugar and scientists began to view it as a likely cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been called out by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had launched a review of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead. As John "JW" Tatem Jr. and Jack O'Connell Jr., the Sugar Association's president and director of public relations, posed that day with their trophies, their smiles only hinted at the coup they'd just pulled off.
Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes. With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands, the association recruited a stable of medical and nutritional professionals to allay the public's fears, brought snack and beverage companies into the fold, and bankrolled scientific papers that contributed to a "highly supportive" FDA ruling, which, the Silver Anvil application boasted, made it "unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years."
The story of sugar, as Tatem told it, was one of a harmless product under attack by "opportunists dedicated to exploiting the consuming public." Over the subsequent decades, it would be transformed from what the New York Times in 1977 had deemed "a villain in disguise" into a nutrient so seemingly innocuous that even the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association approved it as part of a healthy diet. Research on the suspected links between sugar and chronic disease largely ground to a halt by the late 1980s, and scientists came to view such pursuits as a career dead end. So effective were the Sugar Association's efforts that, to this day, no consensus exists about sugar's potential dangers. The industry's PR campaign corresponded roughly with a significant rise in Americans' consumption of "caloric sweeteners," including table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This increase was accompanied, in turn, by a surge in the chronic diseases increasingly linked to sugar. Since 1970, obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled, while the incidence of diabetes has more than tripled. (The chart below uses sugar "availability" numbers rather than the USDA's speculative new consumption figures.)

Precisely how did the sugar industry engineer its turnaround? The answer is found in more than 1,500 pages of internal memos, letters, and company board reports we discovered buried in the archives of now-defunct sugar companies as well as in the recently released papers of deceased researchers and consultants who played key roles in the industry's strategy. They show how Big Sugar used Big Tobacco-style tactics to ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products. Compared to the tobacco companies, which knew for a fact that their wares were deadly and spent billions of dollars trying to cover up that reality, the sugar industry had a relatively easy task. With the jury still out on sugar's health effects, producers simply needed to make sure that the uncertainty lingered. But the goal was the same: to safeguard sales by creating a body of evidence companies could deploy to counter any unfavorable research.
This decades-long effort to stack the scientific deck is why, today, the USDA's dietary guidelines only speak of sugar in vague generalities. ("Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.") It's why the FDA insists that sugar is "generally recognized as safe" despite considerable evidence suggesting otherwise. It's why some scientists' urgent calls for regulation of sugary products have been dead on arrival, and it's why—absent any federal leadership—New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg felt compelled to propose a ban on oversized sugary drinks that passed in September.
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars. Robert Lustig, a leading authority on pediatric obesity at the University of California-San Francisco (whose arguments Gary explored in a 2011 New York Times Magazine cover story), made this case last February in the prestigious journal Nature. In an article titled "The Toxic Truth About Sugar," Lustig and two colleagues observed that sucrose and HFCS are addictive in much the same way as cigarettes and alcohol, and that overconsumption of them is driving worldwide epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes (the type associated with obesity). Sugar-related diseases are costing America around $150 billion a year, the authors estimated, so federal health officials need to step up and consider regulating the stuff.

The Sugar Association dusted off what has become its stock response: The Lustig paper, it said, "lacks the scientific evidence or consensus" to support its claims, and its authors were irresponsible not to point out that the full body of science "is inconclusive at best." This inconclusiveness, of course, is precisely what the Sugar Association has worked so assiduously to maintain. "In confronting our critics,"Tatem explained to his board of directors back in 1976, "we try never to lose sight of the fact that no confirmed scientific evidence links sugar to the death-dealing diseases. This crucial point is the lifeblood of the association."

THE SUGAR ASSOCIATION'S earliest incarnation dates back to 1943, when growers and refiners created the Sugar Research Foundation to counter World War II sugar-rationing propaganda—"How Much Sugar Do You Need? None!" declared one government pamphlet. In 1947, producers rechristened their group the Sugar Association and launched a new PR division, Sugar Information Inc., which before long was touting sugar as a "sensible new approach to weight control." In 1968, in the hope of enlisting foreign sugar companies to help defray costs, the Sugar Association spun off its research division as the International Sugar Research Foundation. "Misconceptions concerning the causes of tooth decay, diabetes, and heart problems exist on a worldwide basis," explained a 1969 ISRF recruiting brochure.
As early as 1962, internal Sugar Association memos had acknowledged the potential links between sugar and chronic diseases, but at the time sugar executives had a more pressing problem: Weight-conscious Americans were switching in droves to diet sodas—particularly Diet Rite and Tab—sweetened with cyclamate and saccharin. From 1963 through 1968, diet soda's share of the soft-drink market shot from 4 percent to 15 percent. "A dollar's worth of sugar," ISRF vice president and research director John Hickson warned in an internal review, "could be replaced with a dime's worth" of sugar alternatives. "If anyone can undersell you nine cents out of 10," Hickson told the New York Times in 1969, "you'd better find some brickbat you can throw at him."

By then, the sugar industry had doled out more than $600,000 (about $4 million today) to study every conceivable harmful effect of cyclamate sweeteners, which are still sold around the world under names like Sugar Twin and Sucaryl. In 1969, the FDA banned cyclamates in the United States based on a study suggesting they could cause bladder cancer in rats. Not long after, Hickson left the ISRF to work for the Cigar Research Council. He was described in a confidential tobacco industry memo as a "supreme scientific politician who had been successful in condemning cyclamates, on behalf of the [sugar industry], on somewhat shaky evidence." It later emerged that the evidence suggesting that cyclamates caused cancer in rodents was not relevant to humans, but by then the case was officially closed. In 1977, saccharin, too, was nearly banned on the basis of animal results that would turn out to be meaningless in people.
Meanwhile, researchers had been reporting that blood lipids—cholesterol and triglycerides in particular—were a risk factor in heart disease. Some people had high cholesterol but normal triglycerides, prompting health experts to recommend that they avoid animal fats. Other people were deemed "carbohydrate sensitive," with normal cholesterol but markedly increased triglyceride levels. In these individuals, even moderate sugar consumption could cause a spike in triglycerides. John Yudkin, the United Kingdom's leading nutritionist, wasmaking headlines with claims that sugar, not fat, was the primary cause of heart disease.
In 1967, the Sugar Association's research division began considering "the rising tide of implications of sucrose in atherosclerosis." Before long, according to a confidential 1970 review of industry-funded studies, the newly formed ISRF was spending 10 percent of its research budget on the link between diet and heart disease. Hickson, the ISRF's vice president, urged his member corporations to keep the results of the review under wraps. Of particular concern was the work of a University of Pennsylvania researcher on "sucrose sensitivity," which sugar executives feared was "likely to reveal evidence of harmful effects." One ISRF consultant recommended that sugar companies get to the truth of the matter by sponsoring a full-on study. In what would become a pattern, the ISRF opted not to follow his advice. Another ISRF-sponsored study, by biochemist Walter Pover of the University of Birmingham, in England, had uncovered a possible mechanism to explain how sugar raises triglyceride levels. Pover believed he was on the verge of demonstrating this mechanism "conclusively" and that 18 more weeks of work would nail it down. But instead of providing the funds, the ISRF nixed the project, assessing its value as "nil."

The industry followed a similar strategy when it came to diabetes. By 1973, links between sugar, diabetes, and heart disease were sufficiently troubling that Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota convened a hearing of his Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs to address the issue. An international panel of experts—including Yudkin and Walter Mertz, head of the Human Nutrition Institute at the Department of Agriculture—testified that variations in sugar consumption were the best explanation for the differences in diabetes rates between populations, and that research by the USDA and others supported the notion that eating too much sugar promotes dramatic population-wide increases in the disease. One panelist, South African diabetes specialist George Campbell, suggested that anything more than 70 pounds per person per year—about half of what is sold in America today—would spark epidemics.
In the face of such hostile news from independent scientists, the ISRF hosted its own conference the following March, focusing exclusively on the work of researchers who were skeptical of a sugar/diabetes connection. "All those present agreed that a large amount of research is still necessary before a firm conclusion can be arrived at," according to aconference review published in a prominent diabetes journal. In 1975, the foundation reconvened in Montreal to discuss research priorities with its consulting scientists. Sales were sinking, Tatem reminded the gathered sugar execs, and a major factor was "the impact of consumer advocates who link sugar consumption with certain diseases."
Following the Montreal conference, the ISRF disseminated a memo quoting Errol Marliss, a University of Toronto diabetes specialist, recommending that the industry pursue "well-designed research programs" to establish sugar's role in the course of diabetes and other diseases. "Such research programs might produce an answer that sucrose is bad in certain individuals," he warned. But the studies "should be undertaken in a sufficiently comprehensive way as to produce results. A gesture rather than full support is unlikely to produce the sought-after answers."

A gesture, however, is what the industry would offer. Rather than approve a serious investigation of the purported links between sucrose and disease, American sugar companiesquit supporting the ISRF's research projects. Instead, via the Sugar Association proper, they would spend roughly $655,000 between 1975 and 1980 on 17 studies designed, as internal documents put it, "to maintain research as a main prop of the industry's defense." Each proposal was vetted by a panel of industry-friendly scientists and a second committee staffed by representatives from sugar companies and "contributing research members" such as Coca-Cola, Hershey's, General Mills, and Nabisco. Most of the cash was awarded to researchers whose studies seemed explicitly designed to exonerate sugar. One even proposed to explore whether sugar could be shown to boost serotonin levels in rats' brains, and thus "prove of therapeutic value, as in the relief of depression," an internal document noted.
At best, the studies seemed a token effort. Harvard Medical School professor Ron Arky, for example, received money from the Sugar Association to determine whether sucrose has a different effect on blood sugar and other diabetes indicators if eaten alongside complex carbohydrates like pectin and psyllium. The project went nowhere, Arky told us recently. But the Sugar Association "didn't care."
In short, rather than do definitive research to learn the truth about its product, good or bad, the association stuck to a PR scheme designed to "establish with the broadest possible audience—virtually everyone is a consumer—the safety of sugar as a food." One of its first acts was to establish a Food & Nutrition Advisory Council consisting of a half-dozen physicians and two dentists willing to defend sugar's place in a healthy diet, and set aside roughly $60,000 per year (more than $220,000 today) to cover its cost.
Working to the industry's recruiting advantage was the rising notion that cholesterol and dietary fat—especially saturated fat—were the likely causes of heart disease. (Tatem even suggested, in a letter to the Times Magazine, that some "sugar critics" were motivated merely by wanting "to keep the heat off saturated fats.") This was the brainchild of nutritionist Ancel Keys, whose University of Minnesota laboratory had received financial support from the sugar industry as early as 1944. From the 1950s through the 1980s, Keys remained the most outspoken proponent of the fat hypothesis, often clashing publicly with Yudkin, the most vocal supporter of the sugar hypothesis—the two men "shared a good deal of loathing," recalled one of Yudkin's colleagues.
So when the Sugar Association needed a heart disease expert for its Food & Nutrition Advisory Council, it approached Francisco Grande, one of Keys' closest colleagues. Another panelist was University of Oregon nutritionist William Connor, the leading purveyor of the notion that it is dietary cholesterol that causes heart disease. As its top diabetes expert, the industry recruitedEdwin Bierman of the University of Washington, who believed that diabetics need not pay strict attention to their sugar intake so long as they maintained a healthy weight by burning off the calories they consumed. Bierman also professed an apparently unconditional faith that it was dietary fat (and being fat) that caused heart disease, with sugar having no meaningful effect.
It is hard to overestimate Bierman's role in shifting the diabetes conversation away from sugar. It was primarily Bierman who convinced the American Diabetes Association to liberalize the amount of carbohydrates (including sugar) it recommended in the diets of diabetics, and focus more on urging diabetics to lower their fat intake, since diabetics are particularly likely to die from heart disease. Bierman also presented industry-funded studies when he coauthored a section on potential causes for a National Commission on Diabetes report in 1976; the document influences the federal diabetes research agenda to this day. Some researchers, he acknowledged, had "argued eloquently" that consumption of refined carbohydrates (such as sugar) is a precipitating factor in diabetes. But then Bierman cited five studies—two of them bankrolled by the ISRF—that were "inconsistent" with that hypothesis. "A review of all available laboratory and epidemiologic evidence," he concluded, "suggests that the most important dietary factor in increasing the risk of diabetes is total calorie intake, irrespective of source."

The point man on the industry's food and nutrition panel wasFrederick Stare, founder and chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Stare and his department had a long history of ties to Big Sugar. An ISRF internal research review credited the sugar industry with funding some 30 papers in his department from 1952 through 1956 alone. In 1960, the department broke ground on a new $5 million building funded largely by private donations, including a $1 million gift from General Foods, the maker of Kool-Aid and Tang.
By the early 1970s, Stare ranked among the industry's most reliable advocates, testifying in Congress about the wholesomeness of sugar even as his department kept raking in funding from sugar producers and food and beverage giants such as Carnation, Coca-Cola, Gerber, Kellogg, and Oscar Mayer. His name also appears in tobacco documents, which show that he procured industry funding for a study aimed at exonerating cigarettes as a cause of heart disease.
The first act of the Food & Nutrition Advisory Council was to compile "Sugar in the Diet of Man," an 88-page white paper edited by Stare and published in 1975 to "organize existing scientific facts concerning sugar." It was a compilation of historical evidence and arguments that sugar companies could use to counter the claims of Yudkin, Stare's Harvard colleague Jean Mayer, and other researchers whom Tatem called "enemies of sugar." The document was sent to reporters—the Sugar Association circulated 25,000 copies—along with a press release headlined "Scientists dispel sugar fears." The report neglected to mention that it was funded by the sugar industry, but internal documents confirm that it was.

The Sugar Association also relied on Stare to take its message to the people: "Place Dr. Stare on the AM America Show" and "Do a 3 ½ minute interview with Dr. Stare for 200 radio stations," note the association's meeting minutes. Using Stare as a proxy, internal documents explained, would help the association "make friends with the networks" and "keep the sugar industry in the background." By the time Stare's copious conflicts of interest were finally revealed—in "Professors on the Take," a 1976 exposé by the Center for Science in the Public Interest—Big Sugar no longer needed his assistance. The industry could turn to an FDA document to continue where he'd left off.
While Stare and his colleagues had been drafting "Sugar in the Diet of Man," the FDA was launching its first review of whether sugar was, in the official jargon, generally recognized as safe (GRAS), part of a series of food-additive reviews the Nixon administration had requested of the agency. The FDA subcontracted the task to the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, which created an 11-member committee to vet hundreds of food additives from acacia to zinc sulfate. While the mission of the GRAS committee was to conduct unbiased reviews of the existing science for each additive, it was led by biochemist George W. Irving Jr., who had previously served two years as chairman of the scientific advisory board of the International Sugar Research Foundation. Industry documents show that another committee member, Samuel Fomon, had received sugar-industry funding for three of the five years prior to the sugar review.
The FDA's instructions were clear: To label a substance as a potential health hazard, there had to be "credible evidence of, or reasonable grounds to suspect, adverse biological effects"—which certainly existed for sugar at the time. But the GRAS committee's review would depend heavily on "Sugar in the Diet of Man" and other work by its authors. In the section on heart disease, committee members cited 14 studies whose results were "conflicting," but 6 of those bore industry fingerprints, including Francisco Grande's chapter from "Sugar in the Diet of Man" and 5 others that came from Grande's lab or were otherwise funded by the sugar industry.

The diabetes chapter of the review acknowledged studies suggesting that "long term consumption of sucrose can result in a functional change in the capacity to metabolize carbohydrates and thus lead to diabetes mellitus," but it went on to cite five reports contradicting that notion. All had industry ties, and three were authored by Ed Bierman, including his chapter in "Sugar in the Diet of Man."
In January 1976, the GRAS committee published its preliminary conclusions, noting that while sugar probably contributed to tooth decay, it was not a "hazard to the public." The draft review dismissed the diabetes link as "circumstantial" and called the connection to cardiovascular disease "less than clear," with fat playing a greater role. The only cautionary note, besides cavities, was that all bets were off if sugar consumption were to increase significantly. The committee then thanked the Sugar Association for contributing "information and data." (Tatem would later remark that while he was "proud of the credit line...we would probably be better off without it.")
The committee's perspective was shared by many researchers, but certainly not all. For a public hearing on the draft review, scientists from the USDA's Carbohydrate Nutrition Laboratory submitted what they considered "abundant evidence that sucrose is one of the dietary factors responsible for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease." As they later explainedin the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, some portion of the public—perhaps 15 million Americans at that time—clearly could not tolerate a diet rich in sugar and other carbohydrates. Sugar consumption, they said, should come down by "a minimum of 60 percent," and the government should launch a national campaign "to inform the populace of the hazards of excessive sugar consumption." But the committee stood by its conclusions in the final version of its report presented to the FDA in October 1976.

For the sugar industry, the report was gospel. The findings "should be memorized" by the staff of every company associated with the sugar industry, Tatem told his membership. "In the long run," he said, the document "cannot be sidetracked, and you may be sure we will push its exposure to all corners of the country."
The association promptly produced an ad for newspapers and magazines exclaiming "Sugar is Safe!" It "does not cause death-dealing diseases," the ad declared, and "there is no substantiated scientific evidence indicating that sugar causes diabetes, heart disease or any other malady...The next time you hear a promoter attacking sugar, beware the ripoff. Remember he can't substantiate his charges. Ask yourself what he's promoting or what he is seeking to cover up. If you get a chance, ask him about the GRAS Review Report. Odds are you won't get an answer. Nothing stings a nutritional liar like scientific facts."

THE SUGAR ASSOCIATION WOULD SOON get its chance to put the committee's sugar review to the test. In 1977, McGovern's select committee—the one that had held the 1973 hearings on sugar and diabetes—blindsided the industry with a report titled "Dietary Goals for the United States," recommending that Americans lower their sugar intake by 40 percent(PDF). The association "hammered away" at the McGovern report using the GRAS review "as our scientific Bible," Tatem told sugar executives.
McGovern held fast, but Big Sugar would prevail in the end. In 1980, when the USDA first published its own set of dietary guidelines, it relied heavily on a review written for the American Society of Clinical Nutrition by none other than Bierman, who used the GRAS committee's findings to bolster his own. "Contrary to widespread opinion, too much sugar does not seem to cause diabetes," the USDA guidelines concluded. They went on to counsel that people should "avoid too much sugar," without bothering to explain what that meant.
In 1982, the FDA once again took up the GRAS committee's conclusion that sugar was safe, proposing to make it official. The announcement resulted in a swarm of public criticism, prompting the agency to reopen its case. Four years later, an agency task force concluded, again leaning on industry-sponsored studies, that "there is no conclusive evidence...that demonstrates a hazard to the general public when sugars are consumed at the levels that are now current." (Walter Glinsmann, the task force's lead administrator, would later become aconsultant to the Corn Refiners Association, which represents producers of high-fructose corn syrup.)
The USDA, meanwhile, had updated its own dietary guidelines. With Fred Stare now on the advisory committee, the 1985 guidelines retained the previous edition's vague recommendation to "avoid too much" sugar but stated unambiguously that "too much sugar in your diet does not cause diabetes." At the time, the USDA's own Carbohydrate Nutrition Laboratory was still generating evidence to the contrary and supporting the notion that "even low sucrose intake" might be contributing to heart disease in 10 percent of Americans.
By the early 1990s, the USDA's research into sugar's health effects had ceased, and the FDA's take on sugar had become conventional wisdom, influencing a generation's worth of key publications on diet and health. Reports from the surgeon general and the National Academy of Sciences repeated the mantra that the evidence linking sugar to chronic disease was inconclusive, and then went on to equate "inconclusive" with "nonexistent." They also ignored a crucial caveat: The FDA reviewers had deemed added sugars—those in excess of what occurs naturally in our diets—safe at "current" 1986 consumption levels. But the FDA's consumption estimate was 43 percent lower than that of its sister agency, the USDA. By 1999, the average American would be eating more than double the amount the FDA had deemed safe­—although we have cut back by 13 percent since then.

ASKED TO COMMENT ON SOME of the documents described in this article, a Sugar Association spokeswoman responded that they are "at this point historical in nature and do not necessarily reflect the current mission or function" of the association. But it is clear enough that the industry still operates behind the scenes to make sure regulators never officially set a limit on the amount of sugar Americans can safely consume. The authors of the 2010 USDA dietary guidelines, for instance, cited two scientific reviews as evidence that sugary drinks don't make adults fat. The first was written by Sigrid Gibson, a nutrition consultant whose clients included the Sugar Bureau (England's version of the Sugar Association) and the World Sugar Research Organization (formerly the ISRF). The second review was authored by Carrie Ruxton, who served as research manager of the Sugar Bureau from 1995 to 2000.
The Sugar Association has also worked its connections to assure that the government panels making dietary recommendations—the USDA's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, for instance—include researchers sympathetic to its position. One internal newsletter boasted in 2003 that for the USDA panel, the association had "worked diligently to achieve the nomination of another expert wholly through third-party endorsements."

In the few instances when governmental authorities have sought to reduce people's sugar consumption, the industry has attacked openly. In 2003, after an expert panel convened by the World Health Organization recommended that no more than 10 percent of all calories in people's diets should come from added sugars—nearly 40 percent less than the USDA's estimate for the average American—current Sugar Association president Andrew Briscoe wrote the WHO's director general warning that the association would "exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature" of the report and urge "congressional appropriators to challenge future funding" for the WHO. Larry Craig (R-Idaho, sugar beets) and John Breaux (D-La., sugarcane), then co-chairs of the Senate Sweetener Caucus, wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, urging his "prompt and favorable attention" to prevent the report from becoming official WHO policy. (Craig had received more than $36,000 in sugar industry contributions in the previous election cycle.) Thompson's people responded with a 28-page letter detailing "where the US Government's policy recommendations and interpretation of the science differ" with the WHO report. Not surprisingly, the organization left its experts' recommendation on sugar intake out of itsofficial dietary strategy.
In recent years the scientific tide has begun to turn against sugar. Despite the industry's best efforts, researchers and public health authorities have come to accept that the primary risk factor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes is a condition called metabolic syndrome, which now affects more than 75 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of abnormalities—some of which Yudkin and others associated with sugar almost 50 years ago—including weight gain, increased insulin levels, and elevated triglycerides. It also has been linked tocancer and Alzheimer's disease. "Scientists have now established causation," Lustig said recently. "Sugar causes metabolic syndrome."

Newer studies from the University of California-Davis have even reported that LDL cholesterol, the classic risk factor for heart disease, can be raised significantly in just two weeksby drinking sugary beverages at a rate well within the upper range of what Americans consume—four 12-ounce glasses a day of beverages like soda, Snapple, or Red Bull. The result is a new wave of researchers coming out publicly against Big Sugar.
During the battle over the 2005 USDA guidelines, an internal Sugar Association newsletter described its strategy toward anyone who had the temerity to link sugar consumption with chronic disease and premature death: "Any disparagement of sugar," it read, "will be met with forceful, strategic public comments and the supporting science." But since the latest science is anything but supportive of the industry, what happens next?
"At present," Lustig ventures, "they have absolutely no reason to alter any of their practices. The science is in—the medical and economic problems with excessive sugar consumption are clear. But the industry is going to fight tooth and nail to prevent that science from translating into public policy."
Like the tobacco industry before it, the sugar industry may be facing the inexorable exposure of its product as a killer—science will ultimately settle the matter one way or the other—but as Big Tobacco learned a long time ago, even the inexorable can be held up for a very long time.

Gary Taubes, author of the 2011 best-seller Why We Get Fat, has written for Discover, Science, and the New York Times Magazine. He is currently writing a book about sugar.
Cristin Kearns Couzens took a two-year break from her career in dental health administration to pursue independent research on the sugar industry.

Monday, October 8, 2012

If America Only Knew How Much Arsenic Ends Up on the Average Dinner Plate


Our government is perversely protecting the industries that release the killer chemical into society.

Photo Credit: Zurijeta/ Shutterstock

The American right wing loves to hate Big Government, but does size matter? Perhaps the problem is not Big Government, but Dumb Government, Inefficient Government or even Corrupt, Sold-Out, or Inept Government. The recent bombshell Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, dropped – that rice contains dangerous levels of arsenic – illustrates how good, effective government can save lives by keeping deadly toxins out of the food supply whereas our federal bureaucracy (aided, abetted and cajoled by industry) has instead let us down.

Arsenic “is considered the number one environmental chemical of concern for human health effects both in the U.S. and worldwide,” according to information published by Darmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program. It can be divided into two categories: organic and inorganic. While organic arsenic is itself a probable human carcinogen, inorganic arsenic is a definite human carcinogen that is linked to liver, lung, kidney, bladder, and skin cancer as well as “increased risk of vascular and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, reproductive and developmental disorders, low birth weights in babies, neurological and cognitive problems, immunodeficiencies, metabolic disorders, and a growing list of other serious outcomes.”

In short: you don’t want this in your food.

“When you're talking about a carcinogen [like arsenic], there is no safe level,” Consumers Union’s senior scientist Michael Hansen explains. Instead of eliminating all risk, one looks at carcinogens in terms of levels of risk. For example, Consumers Union provides a table explaining how much rice one can eat to achieve a 1 in 1,000 lifetime risk of cancer. The federal government does not limit the amount of arsenic allowed in food, so Consumers Union based its standard on the EPA’s initial recommendation for arsenic limits in drinking water (five parts per billion).

In fact, the drinking water standard – which is now set at 10 parts per billion (ppb) – is a fine place to begin the story of how government, industry and arsenic fit together. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, but the U.S. has increased the amount of arsenic in our environment and our farmland over the past century by using 1.6 million tons of it in agricultural and industrial uses. About half of that amount has been used since the mid-1960s.

Once in the environment, arsenic – a chemical element and a heavy metal – does not break down and go away as do some toxins. Once so much arsenic was sprayed on farms, it was in the environment for good – and it could find its way into our food and water. U.S. limits on arsenic in drinking water were set at 50 ppb in 1942, before arsenic was classified as a carcinogen. But a 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences showed that this level failed to protect Americans from an unacceptably high risk of cancer.

The EPA then proposed lowering the limit for arsenic from 50 ppb to just 5 ppb in 2000. Industry complained, and the Clinton-era EPA settled upon lowering the limit to just 10 ppb instead. Once George W. Bush took office, he initially attempted to block the change, thus keeping the World War II-era limit of 50 ppb. By November 2001, the Bush administration gave in to allowing the 10 ppb limit to go forward. Even still, Sen. Barbara Boxer noted that this 10 ppb limit would allow three times as much cancer risk as the EPA’s usual goal.

Arsenic in food deserves some special concern, and yet there are no regulations limiting it. In addition to arsenic used in industry that finds its way onto farms, there is arsenic used in agriculture that the farmers themselves bring to their farms, a practice almost dating back to the Civil War.

Long before the days of DDT, the first synthetic pesticides were arsenicals. An arsenical paint pigment called Paris green was first used against Colorado potato beetles in 1867. Even then, arsenic’s deadly toxicity was well known – Will Allen tells in his book, The War on Bugs, how farmers lost cattle after they ate potato plants treated with Paris green. Other arsenic pesticides, London purple and lead arsenic, soon followed Paris green onto the market. By the 1930s, “well over a hundred million people in the United States suffered from mild to severe arsenic and lead poisoning,” writes Allen.

Yet the end of arsenic as a favored pesticide did not come from government – it came from nature and from the chemical companies. As pests evolved resistance to arsenical pesticides and as chemical companies supplanted arsenicals with newer products, arsenicals fell out of favor. Only then did the government begin canceling some of the registrations of arsenical pesticides.

And yet, even after arsenicals were displaced by other pesticides for most uses, half of the arsenic used in the U.S. has been in the last half century. Recent uses of arsenic fall into two categories: livestock drugs and pesticides.

Until recently, the arsenical livestock drugs roxarsone, nitarsone, carbarsone and arsanilic acid were all used in chickens, turkeys and swine. Roxarsone was widely used for disease prevention, weight gain, feed efficiency and improved pigmentation in chickens from 1944 until it was voluntarily removed from the market by Pfizer in 2011 following the revelation that chickens fed roxarsone had inorganic arsenic in their livers. The latter three are all still legal, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Once used in chickens, the arsenic in roxarsone remained in the chickens’ litter, which consists of bedding, droppings, feathers, and dropped feed. Poultry litter, in turn, served as fertilizer on farms and – believe it or not – cattle feed. And, as it turns out, the top rice-producing state in the U.S., Arkansas, is in second place behind Georgia for broiler production. (Of the six rice-producing states, all rank among the nation’s top broiler producers, with Mississippi and Texas among the top five, and California and Missouri among the top 10.)

As pesticides, many arsenicals were phased out over the years, but some uses remain. In 2006, the EPA attempted to essentially ban the remaining uses of organic arsenicals, because "following application, these pesticides convert over time to a more toxic form in soil, inorganic arsenic, and potentially contaminate drinking water through soil runoff." Following outcry from industry, EPA backed away from its initial decision.

All organic arsenicals except one herbicide, monosodium methanearsonate (MSMA), were banned as of 2009. After that time, MSMA could still be used on sod farms, golf courses and highway rights of way until the end of 2013. After that, only one remaining us of any organic arsenical would be permitted: MSMA on cotton.

As luck would have it, the six rice-growing states are among the top cotton-growing states: Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas top the list, with California, Louisiana and Missouri each growing significant cotton acreage as well. Rice is so susceptible to taking up arsenic because it is often grown in fields flooded with water. In fact, a 2008 study found that growers can reduce the amount of total and inorganic arsenic in rice by growing it under “aerobic” (not flooded) conditions. And yet the same states that grow rice are also the cotton-growing states where MSMA is still used.

So why does the EPA still allow MSMA on cotton if arsenicals are so bad that they are banned on absolutely everything else? Two words: Palmer amaranth. Despite years of warnings, biotech and chemical companies and cotton growers have created the perfect weed. Palmer amaranth has evolved resistance to both ALS inhibitor herbicides and to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and one plant can produce half a million seeds.

Weeds commonly evolve resistance to ALS inhibitors, much more so than for any other class of herbicides. But resistance to glyphosate was almost unheard of before Monsanto first introduced its Roundup Ready genetically engineered crops to the market in 1996. Glyphosate use shot up, giving weeds the evolutionary force needed to develop resistance. Nowhere was this truer than on fields that rotated between two Roundup Ready crops, soybeans and cotton.
Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth first turned up in GE soybeans and cotton in Georgia in 2005 and before long it was documented across the U.S. including in the rice-growing states of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, and California. In some case, resistance to both types of herbicides was found in the same Palmer amaranth plant. The weed has caused growers to turn to more toxic herbicides, hand-weeding, and even entirely abandoning their fields.

One last direct outlet for arsenic into agricultural lands comes from sewage sludge. Under current EPA regulations, sewage sludge containing 41 parts per million – 41,000 parts per billion – total arsenic can be applied to agricultural land and even sold to consumers for home garden and lawn use. (Full disclosure: I recently worked on the Center for Media & Democracy’s sewage sludge campaign, which opposed the use of sewage sludge in agriculture.) Under existing law, farmers can apply sewage sludge containing up to 41 kilograms of arsenic per hectare of land.

As you can see, between them, the USDA, FDA and EPA have allowed pesticides, pharmaceuticals and practices that led to the toxic load of arsenic Consumers Union found in rice. The EPA regulated pesticides, the FDA regulated drugs, and the USDA worked with farmers in many aspects of agriculture and gave the green light to Roundup Ready crops. It was no secret that arsenic was going into farms and fields where our food is grown, and yet the question of where the arsenic went was mostly ignored. The FDA recently released its own tests, confirming Consumers’ Union’s findings. As their data shows, even organic rice contains arsenic. (Organic farmers cannot use arsenical pesticides, but they can use manure from chickens fed roxarsone and other arsenical drugs.)

So is the government to blame for this massive oversight and public health risk? Michael Hansen doesn’t think so. “The issue in the larger context isn't so much that it's bad government,” he says. “If you put it in the proper context, it's not only the gutting of the regulatory agency but also the control by industry and outside forces. I think there are definitely people within the agency who would like to take action on a number of things but they can't because of the reaction by industry… The power of industry is so strong, you can't expect the government to take action when they are trashed left and right.”

Consumers Union recently sent and published three letters, one to the EPA, one to the FDA and one to the USDA, asking them to rectify all of the problems named in this article so that no more arsenic finds its way into U.S. farms and so that standards are set for how much arsenic is allowed into our food supply. They also commend Congress for introducing the R.I.C.E. Act (Reducing Food-Based Inorganic and Organic Compounds Exposure Act) and they advocate its speedy passage (which is not likely in the current politically charged environment).

When citizens reflect on the size of their government, surely most would agree that it ought to be “big” enough to keep arsenic out of the food supply. But the comedy of errors between three different agencies that allowed so much arsenic onto our farms and then our dinner tables is exactly the sort of disaster that causes voters to throw up their hands and wish the government would go away altogether. Yet, if Hansen is correct, the incompetence shown in this case was not a matter of bureaucratic ineptness but one of industry’s capture over the agencies charged with regulating it. Voters going to the polls need to recognize the problem. Instead of voting for candidates who vow to get government out of our lives we should be voting for leaders willing to take a stand against undue corporate influence.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why Your Health Is Bigger Than Your Body

Why Your Health Is Bigger Than Your Body

New findings explain how politics, economics, and ecology can help or hurt our bodies.

Feet photo by Julie Urban
Talking with Dr. Ted Schettler is probably unlike any conversation you have had with your physician. Raise the topic of breast cancer or diabetes or dementia, and Schettler starts talking about income disparities, industrial farming, and campaign finance reform.

The Harvard-educated physician, frustrated by the limitations of science in combating disease, believes that finding answers to the most persistent medical challenges of our time—conditions that now threaten to overwhelm our health care system—depends on understanding the human body as a system nested within a series of other, larger systems: one’s family and community, environment, culture, and socioeconomic class, all of which affect each other.

It is a complex, even daunting view—where does one begin when trying to solve problems this way?

63 Cover

Schettler is an exceedingly logical thinker, and his vision for a more evolved kind of health care came from the down-to-earth experience of helping to clean clam flats along the St. George River in Maine during the 1980s. “I was living and practicing on the coast there, and working with a local organization to clean up the river because we had these rich clam flats that had been closed for years because of periodic spikes of E. coli. If anyone ate the clams they would get very sick.”

Meanwhile, paper mills were dumping dioxins into other rivers nearby, and Schettler learned that fish from those rivers sometimes had even higher chemical levels than fish caught in urban harbors. But factory bosses claimed that regulating waste from the pulp mills would cost community jobs, which prompted dozens of young factory workers to protest. Schettler, despite being steeped in traditional medicine, was unable to ignore these interrelationships: a degraded natural environment, a precarious local economy, and perennially sick people. “These things—the effect of the environment on peoples’ health—were never discussed at the medical conferences,” he said. “So it caused in me a major re-examination.”

Schettler went back to school, earned a master’s degree in public health, and began applying a scientist’s rigor to his wide-ranging pool of interests. Since then, he has researched connections between poverty, iron deficiency, and lead poisoning; insecticide use, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease; income disparities and asthma.

He calls this new approach to medicine “the ecological paradigm of health.”

“It sounds like tree-huggers or something,” Schettler said in an interview. “But I mean ‘ecological’ in the sense that there are these multiple systems, one within the other—a family within a community, within a society, within a culture—and that’s the way ecologists tend to talk about ecosystems. It’s accepting up front that humans do not stand apart from the environment. We’re a major species, along with the mosquitoes and fish and trees and bacteria. And there are all of these wonderful interrelationships.”

Our Health and Ecosystem Health


Currently getting over a case of Lyme disease, Schettler notes that the condition wasn’t even on the radar three decades ago. Likewise, West Nile Virus. And dengue fever, first identified in the late 18th century, has soared since the 1960s, now infecting up to 100 million people worldwide each year.

“Can there be any doubt that human health is enormously dependent on ecological systems that we are having a major influence on?” Schettler says. “It’s all one world. Our tendency to describe the natural world as something without humans is part of the problem.”

When economic inequality gets this wide it has an adverse effect on people’s health.

Such a holistic approach to human health is often received as heresy within traditional medicine, but Schettler is hardly a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. He has testified before the U.S. Senate about links between Parkinson’s and pesticide use. He has been interviewed on public radio and co-authored two oft-quoted books, Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment and In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development. Both explore Schettler’s belief about the environmental underpinnings of a host of disorders, from learning disabilities to cancer. And both lay out the limitations of Western medicine in coming up with clear causes and effective treatment.

Breast cancer is a prime example. Dissatisfied with research into the origins of the disease, Schettler began to wonder whether chemicals found in cancerous breast tissue actually encouraged tumor growth. He found that a girl’s exposure to DDT before the age of 14 corresponded to a greatly increased risk for breast cancer later in life. “If we’re looking only at adults, we’re missing this important window of susceptibility,” Schettler says. “But in medicine we weren’t going there. We were responding only to the illness. I was interested in its origins.”

Food is another favorite “wedge issue,” a way of examining diseases like diabetes in relation to agricultural policies. Schettler, noting America’s current epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, began examining not only blood sugar levels in children but also the neighborhoods in which they lived. He found that many did not have a single market selling fruits and vegetables.

That led his musings a step further, to inquiry into the agricultural policies guiding food into stores. Which flowed naturally into an examination of conditions for agricultural workers who, it turned out, had high rates of cancer.

In Schettler’s analysis, each of these factors—the mass production of processed food, the lack of easily accessible fruits and vegetables, the health condition of farm workers—is fused with the others: “It’s fine to give people dietary advice, and advise them to exercise—in this country we have a long history of telling people how to change their own lives,” he says. “But it’s not just a matter of an individual making a poor choice. It’s what our system has provided to them, so it needs to be changed at the systems level. Diabetes and obesity are big-ticket items with huge implications for the federal budget.”

Thinking that way, it’s no stretch for the physician to segue into a discussion of federal farm subsidies for chemically produced foods. Or, on a more personal level, to question colleagues in health care about their failure to advocate for changes to the food served in schools.

Schettler’s approach touches everyone: He asks school districts that cut physical education programs as soon as budgets get tight, “What’s the message we’re giving to kids? This is really troubling. We’re facing an obesity and diabetes epidemic that’s going to overwhelm our health care system. And if there’s one thing that we should be doing it’s stressing the importance of diet and exercise for young people.”

You might think that a physician like Schettler—unafraid of skewering sacred cows wherever he finds them—would be a lightning rod for criticism. And indeed, the American Council on Science and Health issued a sharp rebuke in 1999 after Schettler attacked a report issued by the organization (and co-authored by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop) for its stand on phthalates: “The American Council on Science and Health is disappointed, but not surprised, by activists’ continued attempts to discredit a panel of well-respected, nationally and internationally recognized scientific and medical professionals,” the statement said. “Once again, there has been an attempt to shift attention from sound science to misrepresentations and half-truths.”

Other than this, there is virtually no public criticism of Schettler’s work. And even that fracas left him singularly unperturbed.

“Some of these chemical groups might label me an ‘enviro’ but that’s about it,” he said. “Still, this is an area of great debate—whether our job is merely to identify and treat disease or whether it is also to be advocates in public policy.”
Clearly, Schettler has made his decision. “You really do get into down-and-dirty politics here. That’s where this all plays out.”

Inequality Makes Us Sick


Wherever Schettler turns his focus, drilling down to the root causes of illness inevitably means confronting social problems, foremost among them economic inequality.

Richard Wilkinson discusses inequality and the effects it can have on a country’s citizens.

Take lead poisoning: Poor diet leaves children from lower-income families more likely to suffer iron deficiencies. And an iron-deficient diet allows more lead to be absorbed in the intestinal tract, transporting more of the damaging metal to the brain and leading to increased neurological impairment among kids whose families are least able to counter those effects.

“If you just address the lead itself, without looking at diet and social circumstances, you don’t get very far,” Schettler says. “So yes, it’s important to make sure that kids aren’t being exposed to excessive amounts of lead and neurotoxins, and we need to keep doing that work. But we also need to be looking at housing, income disparities, the food system, energy production—things that are likely to have a bigger impact on a larger set of conditions and diseases.”

In short, poverty leads to increased exposure, which is exacerbated by heightened vulnerability (in this case, the iron-deficient diet) and an impaired ability to respond—“a toxic triad,” Schettler calls it.

The link between socioeconomic status and poor health is widely acknowledged. But perhaps less obvious is the finding that income disparities within a community also appear to have a deleterious effect, making one family susceptible to illnesses that another living in the same area—but at a higher income level—might escape.

As proof, Schettler cites research on asthma that found poorer kids—even when symptom-free—had higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood than youths from wealthier families in the same neighborhood. Meaning that it took fewer irritants to push the poorer children over the threshold into a full-blown attack. Once sick, they were also less resilient—that is, less able to quickly recuperate—than wealthier children, either because they lacked treatment at home or were unable to get to a doctor.

“Higher income is protective—even in the same community,” Schettler says. “That’s why it’s so concerning to see this income gap in America now. We know it’s setting the stage for adverse health outcomes for people. Is that class warfare? Well, yes. When economic inequality gets this wide it has an adverse effect on people’s health. That’s what the literature tells us. We shouldn’t shy from saying it.”

Show Me the Progress


After spending 30 years as an emergency medicine physician, Schettler now serves as science director for two organizations, the Science and Environmental Health Network and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. The latter is a partnership of some 4,000 health practitioners and scientists committed to promoting discussion of the connections between the environment and learning disorders, birth defects, infertility, childhood leukemia, endometriosis, and various cancers.

Admittedly, it’s a pretty bleak vision, this tangled web of social, medical, and political problems. And looking at it, you might expect Schettler to be wracked with hopelessness. Yet he is not.

“I actually think it’s a very important time in the world now,” he says. “There’s something here for everyone to do.”

He points to examples of significant change already underway within the health care industry itself, where the incineration of hospital waste has long been a leading source of dioxin emission. Hospital food, too—traditionally a fatty rotation of grilled cheese, burgers, French fries, and milkshakes—has been little more than “a joke,” Schettler says.

But since its founding in 1996, the international collective Health Care Without Harm has steadily been chipping away at these problems, and has now seen the closure of thousands of medical waste incinerators. It has initiated a Green Building program geared toward creating energy-efficient medical centers; and it has begun to change the way hospitals, with their enormous purchasing power, buy food to promote more locally grown and sustainable agriculture practices.

“The medical industry itself has been a great place to look at cleaning up,” says Schettler, who advises Health Care Without Harm. “Particularly as health care is almost 20 percent of the GDP.”

Even as a high school student in 1950s Ohio, the seemingly mild young man showed a talent for leadership. (“Ted’s ability to organize his pals has made him a leader in the senior class,” notes his yearbook. “His sincere, fun-loving personality will draw friends to him.”) These days, Schettler puts those skills to work before crowds of students, researchers, and policy makers. Yet nearly every conversation circles back to same question: How is anyone to make a difference when confronted with Schettler’s vision?

“I encourage people to recognize that they’re working in common cause with others,” he says. “Many people are carrying a common message, just coming at it from different angles.”

By way of example, he cites Detroit, long a metaphor for urban blight, ingrained misery and societal failure. Though there is not a single major-chain supermarket within the city limits, Schettler focuses instead on a crop of urban gardens now dotting the broken blacktop. “People are starting to grow their own food, healthy food!” he exclaims. “There are wonderful things going on.”

Claudia Rowe wrote this article for It's Your Body, the Fall 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Claudia has been an award-winning social issues journalist for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in Mother Jones, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 


It’s Your Body
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Food MythBusters Take on Big Ag's Worst Lies


For those who are tired of the ad campaigns, the trade-group public relations machines, the lobbying, the front groups and the myth-making from Big Ag and Big Food.

Photo Credit: Gunnar Pippel/ Shutterstock.com
It’s a tired old refrain you’ve probably heard before: “Industrial agriculture is the only way to feed the world.” Even if you shop at your weekly farmers market, and love your local kale and carrots, maybe you also secretly worry: Are you cursing people to more hunger around the world for your organic proclivities?

Well, folks, the research is in. Study after study is showing the opposite is true: we can onlyensure a well-fed world if we start shifting away from an agricultural system dependent on fossil fuels, mined minerals, and lots of water—all of which will only get more costly as they run out. Some of the most esteemed global institutions have documented that the best way to fight hunger—and grow food abundantly—is to go for organic and ecological production methods andget people eating whole, real food again.

So if we have scientific consensus, why don’t we have more public consciousness? You can find the answer in the marketing budgets of Big Ag. Thanks to well-funded, multi-decade communications campaigns by the very corporations profiting from chemical agriculture, many of us are still in the dark about the true costs of industrial agriculture and the true potential of sustainable agriculture.

Thanks to these efforts, we are inundated with messaging that we need their products—chemicals, fertilizer, genetically engineered seeds—to ensure the world is fed. We hear it all the time.

We hear the grain trader, ADM, is supermarket to the world—while the company’s price-fixing scandals were so outrageous they became fodder for a Matt Damon, Hollywood film.

We hear Monsanto is going to “squeeze more food from a raindrop”—that its genetically engineered crops will help farmers deal with extreme drought—even though no genetically engineered drought-tolerant seeds have been commercialized.

We hear pharmaceutical behemoth, Bayer, is "helping to feed a hungry planet" while at the same time it’s one of the biggest distributors of antibiotics to the livestock industry, leading to a public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. And it’s the maker of a toxic pesticide, now covering nearly 90 percent of all U.S. corn seeds, and a likely culprit in  colony collapse disorder—the fancy name for the disappearance of bees. It doesn’t take a PhD in agronomy to know that pollinators like bees are an essential part of being able to feed the world.
I don’t know about you, but I’m increasingly frustrated by all this spin: by the ad campaigns, the trade-group public relations machines, the lobbying, the front groups—the myth-making. And, while I don’t have $817 million (that’s what Monsanto spent on advertising in just one year), I do have some powerful allies—great food, farming and labor groups who share my frustration and want to do something about it. So together, we’re launching Food MythBusters: a one-stop shop to get your burning questions about food answered through short films, Q&As with experts and links to essential research.

Our first film takes on the myth that we need industrial agriculture to feed the world. We’re offering sneak peeks at SXSW Eco in Austin and with partners in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston and culminating with a national launch on Food Day, October 24th.

We’re inviting you – yes you – to help join us in spreading the word about the potential for sustainable food, farming and the exciting work springing to life across the country to remake our food system. This will ensure more and more of us have access to good, healthy,sustainably raised food.

Please join us by screening our first film wherever you are—on college campuses, in church basements, at CSA pickups and family rooms. We hope screenings will stimulate conversation, educate more about the real story of our food and compel people to get involved in transforming our food system—in their communities and across the country.

Visit www.foodmyths.org to see a teaser trailer and download a step-by-step toolkit for organizing a screening—it’s not too late. Or tune on October 4 at www.SXSWEco.com to watch a livecast.

Contact JGordon@StopCorporateAbuse.org if you’d like more information about how to join the many groups around the country hosting a screening on Food Day, or any day this fall.  Together, we can take back the story of our food from the marketing machine of Big Agriculture.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The top 10 breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto's GMO corn



The top 10 breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto's GMO corn

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)

By now, nearly everyone interested in healthy living is aware of the recent research linking Monsanto's GMO corn to cancer tumors and an increase risk of premature death in both men and women. News of the research is spreading like wildfire across the 'net, and support for Proposition 37 -- which seeks to label GMOs in foods -- is growing by the day.

But the media has not yet reported on the everyday foods being sold in grocery stores right now and made with Monsanto's genetically modified corn (GM corn). Which foods are most likely to contain Monsanto GM corn? To answer this question, I visited a local grocery store in Austin, Texas and purchased 10 breakfast cereals made with high levels of non-organic corn.

According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. This means corn-based cereals that use non-organic corn have a very high likelihood of containing GM corn.

The following list presents the top 10 popular breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto's genetically modified corn. For the record, none of these cereals claim to be GMO-free, nor made with organic corn. The exact GMO content of these cereals remains a mystery precisely because manufacturers of these cereals refuse to label them with their GMO content. This lack of full disclosure by the food industry underscores the urgent need for a labeling law so that consumers can make an informed decision.

Legal note: In no way are we claiming these cereals will cause cancer tumors to grow in your body or that they pose an immediate risk to your health. Those studies have not yet been done on humans. GM corn is an experimental crop with unknown long-term effects of humans. Breakfast cereals made with GM corn may turn out to pose a significant long-term risk to human health, but that has not yet been determined. This article is presented in the public interest, reflecting reasonable caution over a common food ingredient which French scientists have now convincingly linked to cancer and premature death in studies conducted on rats.

The top 10 popular breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto's GM corn

Cocoa Puffs and Corn Chex

Frosted Flakes and Honey Graham Oh's

Honey Nut Chex and Kashi Heart to Heart

Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Kellogg's Corn Pops

Kix and Barbara's Bakery Puffins Peanut Butter

Which cereals contain no GMOs? Nature's Path

There is only one brand of breakfast cereal I know of that's 100% non-GMO and 100% organic across their entire product line. That company is Nature's Path:

If you buy breakfast cereal, and you don't want to eat Monsanto's GM corn, always choose cereals from Nature's Path. This is my No. 1 most highly trusted cereal company.

Many "natural" brands that appear to be healthful and natural are actually not organic or GMO-free. For example, "Barbara's Bakery" cereals are not organic. Although they are positioned in store shelves alongside other organic cereals, they are actually made with conventional crops grown with pesticides which may include Monsanto's Roundup.

You may also notice that most of the cereals most likely to contain GM corn are children's cereals. It is the children in America who are being fed the most GMOs. This represents a highly unethical food experiment being conducted on an entire generation, and the long-term effects of human consumption of GMOs are simply not known.

What we do know is that rats fed this very same Monsanto GM corn developed shockingly large cancer tumors.

The photo released by the French research team, showing large cancer tumors growing at a strongly heightened risk in rats fed a "lifetime" of Monsanto's GM corn, is shown below. According to that study, 70% of females died premature and showed significant damage to their liver, kidneys and other organs.

Pretty crazy, huh?