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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Use these five natural supplements to detox your body of toxic GMO foods

 Natural News.com


Use these five natural supplements to detox your body of toxic GMO foods

Sunday, August 18, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: GMOs, detoxification, dietary fiber


 (NaturalNews) If you eat out at restaurants, purchase non-organic or processed foods from the grocery store, or even take vitamin supplements that have not been consciously crafted with quality ingredients, chances are you are routinely ingesting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without even knowing it. And unless you take the time to regularly detoxify these unnatural poisons, they may be building up inside your body and triggering alterations in your natural gene expression, which could eventually lead to chronic illness and even death.

This is why it is vitally important to regularly cleanse and detoxify your body of transgenic materials that may be damaging the natural flora balance in your gut, as well as poisoning your blood, causing gastrointestinal upset, and triggering neurological damage, among other conditions. Here are five natural supplements you can use to help detoxify your body of harmful GMOs, and ultimately restore a healthy balance to your mind and body.

1) Psyllium husk. Known for its incredible colon-cleansing effects, psyllium husk is a favorite when it comes to cleansing protocols that involve flushing the intestines and restoring healthy digestive function. Since GMOs have been shown to directly alter the bacterial balance within the gut, psyllium husk is a powerful remedy to help rid the gut of these transgenic invaders, which will in turn allow beneficial bacteria to regain their rightful place as regulators of the digestive system.

Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, indigestion, and other persistent digestive disorders typically experience dramatic relief by supplementing with psyllium husk. When ingested along with copious amounts of water, psyllium husk expands into a gelatin-like mass that basically scrubs the intestines clean of toxic buildup. This same colonic action can also help rid the digestive system of accumulated transgenic materials as well. (http://www.naturalnews.com)

2) Organic sulfur/MSM. When it comes to ensuring that the liver is operating at its full detoxification capacity, there is perhaps no nutrient more powerful than organic sulfur, which is also known as methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). A critical component in detoxification, energy production, cell oxygenation, and immune capacity, organic sulfur has gained "near miracle" status among many health professionals who now recognize how a lack of this vital nutrient can encourage toxic buildup within the body. (http://www.naturalnews.com/026797_sulfur_organic.html)

Organic sulfur used to be present throughout the food supply before the days of GMOs, petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and other "modern" agricultural interventions -- but today, it is severely lacking throughout the food supply. Supplementing with organic, lignan-based sulfur crystals will help repair your malfunctioning cells, restore healthy oxygen transport, and ultimately facilitate a systemic detoxification process that will encourage the elimination of GMO remnants from your system.

3) Probiotics. Since GMOs tend to alter bacterial balance within the gut, supplementing with probiotics and probiotic-rich foods -- these include things like raw sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha tea, authentic miso soup, fermented vegetables, yogurt, and blue-green micro-algae -- is absolutely vital for protecting your body against the harmful effects of GMO exposure. In conjunction with the other cleansing protocols mentioned here, supplementing with high-quality probiotics will help ensure that your digestive tract remains free of toxins. (http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/probiotic-foods/)

4) Cascara sagrada/sacred bark. One of the most powerful known colon-cleansing herbs, cascara sagrada, which also goes by the names of sacred bark, California buckthorn, and rhamnus purshiana, has long been used by ancient cultures to cleanse the bowel and eliminate toxins. Cascara sagrada is rich in a compound known as anthraquinone that instigates the contraction of intestinal walls, which in turn promotes healthy bowel activity. (http://www.colonhealthmagazine.com)

Cascara sagrada also contains compounds that promote the strengthening of the muscles in the intestinal lining, which are necessary for healthy and regular elimination of waste and toxins. This, combined with its laxative effect, makes cascara sagrada one of the most effective colon cleansing herbs known to man, and one that will help keep your system protected against GMO damage.

5) Wild burdock root. A powerful blood-cleansing agent, wild burdock root is relatively easy to obtain, and simple to take. An aggressive diuretic, wild burdock root is strong enough to rid the body of even hard-to-reach toxins, including GMOs residues and associated pesticide and herbicide chemicals. Burdock root also helps cleanse parasites, heavy metals, bacteria, and other toxins from the blood, and is often used to treat chronic bacterial and viral infections such as Lyme disease. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027521_burdock_root_blood.html)

Especially when used in conjunction with other powerful cleansing herbs such as dandelion root, red clover blossom, aloe vera, cayenne, and garlic clove, burdock root is powerful enough to cleanse not only your blood supply, but also your liver, your skin, and your digestive tract of many harmful toxins, including GMOs.

Sources for this article include:


Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/041664_GMOs_detoxification_dietary_fiber.html#ixzz2cLRI7MPD

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Psychology of Distrusting G.M.O.s


August 8, 2013

The Psychology of Distrusting G.M.O.s


Last week, the author Michael Pollan expressed his concern over a piece in the New York Times,A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA,” by Amy Harmon, about the potential use of genetic engineering to save oranges from certain disease-causing bacteria. “2 many industry talking pts,” he tweeted. His outburst was symptomatic of a wider suspicion of introducing genetically modified organisms into the food supply: Europeans refer to G.M.O.s as “frankenfood”; American companies, like Kashi, are censured for marketing products as “natural” when they contain genetically modified ingredients; and a fleet of cars, topped with giant, fish-shaped cartoon renditions of corn and tomatoes, is parading across the country to protest what it calls “fishy food.”

Psychologists have long observed that there is a continuum in what we perceive as natural or unnatural. As the psychologist Robert Sternberg wrote in 1982, the natural is what we find more familiar, while what we consider unnatural tends to be more novel—perceptually and experientially unfamiliar—and complex, meaning that more cognitive effort is required to understand it. The natural is seen as inherently positive; the unnatural is not. And anything that involves human manipulation is considered highly unnatural—like, say, G.M.O.s, even though genetically modified food already lines the shelves at grocery stores. As Michael Specter put it, “The history of agriculture is the history of humans breeding seeds and animals to produce traits we want in our crops and livestock.”

In a 2013 study, a group of Cornell University researchers found that how a food is labelled affects our perception of how it tastes, what its nutritional value is, and our willingness to pay for it. A hundred and fifteen shoppers at a local Ithaca mall were given three different food pairs. One item in each pair was labelled “organic” while the other was labelled “regular.” (In reality, the two items were identical, and both were organically produced.) The shoppers were then asked to rate the taste and the nutritional value of the products, as well as to guess at calorie counts and say how much they’d be willing to pay for each item. The researchers found that people's calorie estimates for the organic foods were consistently lower: an organic cookie, for example, was seen as approximately twenty-four per cent less caloric than a regular one. They thought the organic food tasted less artificial and was more nutritious over-all. They were also willing to pay somewhere between sixteen and twenty-three per cent more for the organic items. They were, essentially, experiencing something known as the halo effect, a phenomenon whereby one positive attribute of a person or thing colors other, unrelated characteristics in a positive light.

G.M.O.s, in contrast, suffer from a reverse halo effect, whereby one negative-seeming attribute (unnaturalness, in this case) skews over-all perception. In a 2005 study conducted at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, researchers found that the more unnatural a genetically modified product seemed, the less likely it would be to gain acceptance. A hundred and forty-four University of Maastricht undergraduates were asked to visualize seven products, including butter, tomatoes, and fish fingers, and rate them on naturalness, health, and necessity. They were then asked to imagine genetically modified versions of the same products and respond to three questions: how morally justified it was to eat the food, how much they trusted it, and how natural they perceived it to be. As expected, the scientists found that the less natural a food product seemed, the less likely the participants were to trust or eat it. There was, however, an interesting caveat: if an original, non-modified product was made to seem less natural or more processed to begin with, people became far more likely to trust and accept the genetically modified equivalent.

The negative halo of G.M.O.s doesn’t just affect how we feel toward them; it also impacts how we evaluate their attending risks and benefits. As early as 1979, the psychologist Paul Slovic, who has been studying our perceptions of risk since the nineteen-fifties, pointed out that, when it comes to new, unknown technologies, data always loses out to emotion. For instance, people judge the risks of radiation from nuclear power plants to be much higher than those from medical X-rays—a conclusion that is not backed up by the data and is at odds with the advice of most risk experts—simply because nuclear power plants seem more foreign and inspire greater dread. What’s more, when we’re in a state of heightened emotion, we don’t weigh risks and benefits equally—risks take on an outsized impact and benefits begin to pale in comparison.

Once an initial opinion is formed, Slovic continues, it is very difficult to shift it with new evidence: the exact same piece of information—say, additional data on the effects of G.M.O.s on a natural ecosystem—can be interpreted in opposing ways, depending on your starting point. The public reaction to a study about the effects of genetically modified cotton on the environment bears out Slovic’s logic. After comparing environmental effects of non-modified to transgenic cotton, the researchers concluded that, while both types of crops had equally negative effects on arthropod populations, the G.M. cotton in fact had a higher end yield per each use of pesticide. When the results were reported, however, opponents of G.M.O.s tended to focus on the negative impact of the genetically modified crop, while failing to note the relevant comparisons. They concluded that genetic modification hurts the natural environment.

Slovic argues that three things stand in the way of a logical, analytical risk assessment of new technologies: our level of dread, our degree of familiarity (or lack thereof), and the number of people we believe the technology will affect. G.M.O.s are at the extreme of that scale, high in dread and possible impact, while being low in familiarity: though an estimated eighty per cent of packaged food in the U.S. contains G.M.O.s, only thirty-five per cent of the population thinks G.M.O.s are safe, according to one recent estimate, and only a quarter say they understand what genetic engineering of food actually entails.

It doesn’t help, either, that people tend to mistrust many of the sources of G.M.O. data. In addition to perceptions of risk, one of the single greatest elements that effects our acceptance of new technologies is trust. If we don’t trust a source implicitly, the quality of its information will make no difference in our evaluation; if we lack confidence in the entity doing the presenting our minds will discredit and discount it so quickly, we may as well not have seen it at all. And we tend not to trust the large corporations who tend to produce G.M.O.s.

Does that mean that G.M.O.s will always be subject to emotionally driven instead of data-driven assessments? Not necessarily. Time is on the side of increased rationality: the longer that genetic-modification technologies are in use, the more likely we are to begin to incorporate them into our sense of the familiar. As children are born into a world where genetic modification is more widespread, they may even begin to see it as more natural—and hence, be able to judge its impact with greater objectivity.

While the creep of familiarity might slowly breed acceptance, a more powerful driver is sheer need: in the 2005 Maastricht study, the experimenters discovered that if a product was perceived as more necessary—butter, for instance, as opposed to fish fingers—people were more willing to accept genetically modified alternatives. Necessity, it seems, can trump naturalness. This is true even for the people producing genetically modified food: the orange growers in Harmon’s were resistant to the idea of G.M. oranges, until they were confronted by the possibility of having no oranges left to grow. How much do you need that morning glass of orange juice?

Maria Konnikova is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.” She has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University.
Photograph by Mark Elias/Bloomberg/Getty.

B Vitamins Slow Alzheimer's and Grey Matter Loss

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The Dangers of Tylenol: Is it Time for the FDA to Remove it From the Market?

The Dangers of Tylenol: Is it Time to for the FDA to Remove it From the Market?


Most people consider acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) as being an extremely safe pain reliever for both children and adults. The reality is that it can be extremely dangerous and causes significant side effects. Each year acetaminophen causes over 100,000 calls to poison control centers; 50,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths from liver failure. In addition, regular use of acetaminophen is linked to a higher likelihood of asthma, infertility, and hearing loss (especially in men under 50 years of age).

The FDA has done a poor job alerting the public to the dangers of acetaminophen. In my opinion, it is a drug that serves no real medical purpose in the 21st century. Its use should be curtailed or even eliminated entirely.

Background Data

Acetaminophen is the only remaining member of the class of drugs known as "aniline analgesics" that is still on the market. The rest were discontinued long ago. Acetaminophen only blocks the feelings of pain and reduces fever, it exerts no significant anti-inflammatory action.

Acetaminophen is very hard on the liver and is known to reduce the liver's store of the important detoxifying aid and antioxidant glutathione. When acetaminophen is combined with alcoholic drinks or other compounds toxic to the liver including other medications, its negative effects on the liver are multiplied. It should definitely not be used in anyone with impaired liver function.

Acetaminophen is often the drug of choice in children to relieve fever. However, use for fever in the first year of life is associated with an increase in the incidence of asthma and other allergic symptoms later in childhood. Asthma appears to be another disease process that is influenced greatly by antioxidant mechanisms. Acetaminophen severely depletes glutathione levels not only in the liver, but presumably other tissues as well and should definitely not be used in people with asthma.

New Data

On August 1, 2013 the FDA released a notification on acetaminophen that it is now associated with rare, but severe and sometimes fatal skin reactions even at recommended dosages.

These skin reactions, known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), and acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP) are associated with reddening of the skin, rash, blisters, and detachment of the upper surface of the skin. These reactions can occur at any time while acetaminophen is being taken – they can happen the first time it is used or after long-term use. Other drugs used to treat fever and pain/body aches (e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen) also carry the risk of causing serious skin reactions, which is already described in the warnings section of their drug labels.

The FDA's solution is that they will now require that a warning be added to the labels of prescription drug products containing acetaminophen to address the risk of serious skin reactions. FDA will also request that manufacturers of OTC acetaminophen drug products to add a warning about serious skin reactions to the product labels.


It just might be time to pull the plug on acetaminophen. Can you imagine if the side effects and risks associated with acetaminophen were associated with a dietary supplement? It would be yanked from the market immediately. The FDA needs to quit following a double standard and instead look after the public's best interest not only by calling for more warnings on labels, but also by pulling from the market outdated, potentially dangerous drugs especially those available over-the-counter.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Friday, August 9, 2013

5 Foods You May Not Know Are Genetically Modified


Leaving aside the question of whether they're good or bad for a moment, what exactly are GMOs, and which foods are they in?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Carlos Amarillo

The following article first appeared in Mother Jones. Click here to subscribe. 

By now, you've likely heard about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the controversy over whether they're the answer to world hunger or the devil incarnate. But for right now, let's leave aside that debate and turn to a more basic question: When you go to the supermarket, do you know which foods are most likely to be—or contain ingredients that are—genetically engineered? A handy FAQ:

So what exactly are genetically modified organisms? 

GMOs are plants or animals that have undergone a process wherein scientists alter their genes with DNA from different species of living organisms, bacteria, or viruses to get desired traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of pesticides.

But haven't farmers been selectively breeding crops to get larger harvests for centuries? How is this any different?

Over at Grist,Nathanael Johnson has a great answer to this question—but in a nutshell: Yes, farmers throughout history have been raising their plants to achieve certain desired traits such as improved taste, yield, or disease resistance. But this kind of breeding still relies on the natural reproductive processes of the organisms, where as genetic engineering involves the addition of foreign genes that would not occur in nature.

Am I eating GMOs?

Probably. Since several common ingredients like corn starch and soy protein are predominantly derived from genetically modified crops, it's pretty hard to avoid GM foods altogether. In fact, GMOs are present in 60 to 70 percent of foods on US supermarket shelves, according to Bill Freese at the Center for Food Safety; the vast majority of processed foods contain GMOs. One major exception is fresh fruits and veggies. The only GM produce you're likely to find is the Hawaiian papaya, a small amount of zucchini and squash, and some sweet corn. No meat, fish, and poultry products approved for direct human consumption are bioengineered at this point, though most of the feed for livestock and fish is derived from GM corn, alfalfa, and other biotech grains. Only organic varieties of these animal products are guaranteed GMO-free feed.

So what are some examples of food that are genetically modified?

1. Papayas: In the 1990s, Hawaiian papaya trees were plagued by the ringspot virus which decimated nearly half the crop in the state. In 1998, scientists developed a transgenic fruit called Rainbow papaya, which is resistant to the virus. Now 77 percent of the crop grown in Hawaii is genetically engineered (GE).

2. Milk: RGBH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, is a GE variation on a naturally occurring hormone injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. It is banned for milk destined for human consumption in the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Many milk brands that are rGBH-free label their milk as such, but as much as 40 percent of our dairy products, including ice cream and cheese, contains the hormone.

3. Corn on the cob: While 90 percent of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, most of that crop is used for animal feed or ethanol and much of the rest ends up in processed foods. Sweet corn—the stuff that you steam or grill on the barbecue and eat on the cob—was GMO-free until last year when Monsanto rolled out its first GE harvest of sweet corn. While consumers successfully petitioned Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to not carry the variety, Walmart has begun stocking the shelves with it without any label.

4. Squash and zucchini: While the majority of squashes on the market are not GE, approximately 25,000 acres of crookneck, straightneck, and zucchinis have beenbioengineered to be virus resistant.

5. "All natural" foods: Be wary of this label if you're trying to avoid GE foods. Right now there is no strict definition of what constitutes a natural food. This could be changing soon as federal court judges recently requested the Food and Drug Administration to determine whether the term can be used to describe foods containing GMOs to help resolve pending class action suits against General Mills, Campbell Soup Co., and the tortilla manufacturer Gruma Corp.

Are there any foods I've heard might be genetically modified—but actually aren't?

1. Potatoes: In 1995, Monsanto introduced genetically modified potatoes for human consumption, but after pressure from consumers, McDonald's and several other major fast food chains told their French fry suppliers to stop growing GE potatoes. The crop has since been removed from the market.

2. Seedless watermelon:While it would seem plausible that a fruit that produces no seeds has been bioengineered, the seedless watermelon is a hybrid of two separate breeds. It has been nicknamed the "mule of the watermelon world."

3. Salmon: Currently no meat, fish, or egg products are genetically engineered, though a company called Aqua Bounty has an application in with the FDA to approve its GE salmon.

4. Soy milk: While 93 percent of soy grown in the United States is genetically engineered, most major brands of soy milk are GMO-free. Silk, the best-selling soy milk brand in the country, joined the Non-GMO Project in 2010. Many popular tofu brands in the United States also sell GMO-free tofu products.*

5. Rice: A staple food for nearly half the world's population, there are currently no varieties of GM rice approved for human consumption. However, that could soon change. A genetically modified variety called golden rice being developed in the Philippines has been altered to include beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. Backers are lauding it as a way to alleviate nutrient deficiency for the populations in developing countries.

How about organic foods? 

Since the late '90s, USDA organic standards have prohibited any genetically modified ingredients. Originally, the agency tried to include GE foods under the organic umbrella, but it backed down in 2002 after a massive public outcry to save organic standards.

How long have I been eating GE food?

Scientists conducted the first GE food trials the late 1980s, and in 1994, a biotech company called Calgene released the first GMO approved for human consumption: the "Flavr Savr tomato," designed to stay ripe on the vine longer without getting squishy. The product, which Monsanto eventually picked up, flopped, but it paved the way for others: Biotech companies have made billions since with GE corn, soy bean, cotton, and canola.

Aren't food companies required to let me know whether their products contain GMOs?

Not in the United States. Sixty-four developing and developed countries require GMO food labeling, according to Freese at the Center for Food Safety. You may have heard about the recent string of "Right to Know" bills in state assemblies across the country. The bills are aimed to require food companies to label any products that contain genetically modified organisms. Connecticut and Maine recently passed laws that would require food manufacturers to reveal GE ingredients on product packaging, but those laws won't go into effect until other states adopt similar measures. Americans overwhelmingly support such laws, with poll after poll showing that over 90 percent of respondents support mandatory labeling. Biotech companies and the food industry say that such labeling would be expensive and pointless since genetically engineered foods have been declared safe for human consumption.

So if the food is safe, what's all the fuss about them?

First off, not everyone agrees that GMOs are safe to eat, especially over the long term. The European Union remains decidedly skeptical, with very few approved GE crops grown on the continent and mandatory labeling in place for products that contain GMOs. Some scientists fear that GMOs could cause allergies in humans. Others point to the environmental consequences of the farming of GE crops.

How do GMOs affect the environment?

One word: Pesticides. Hundreds of millions of extra pounds of pesticides. The six biggest producers of GE seeds—Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont)—are also the biggest producers of chemical herbicides and insecticides. Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, for example, are genetically engineered to be immune to herbicide so that farmers can destroy weeds without killing their cash crops. But the process has spawned Roundup resistant weeds, leading farmers to apply greater and greater doses of the chemical or even resort to more toxic methods to battle back the superweeds.

Where can I learn more about GMOs? 

Mother Jones' Tom Philpott writes critically about GMOs often. In this 2011 Scientific American piece, Brendan Borrell lays out the pro-GMO case very well. Grist's Nathanael Johnson has written several posts that clarify the basic science behind GE crops, and a New York Times Room for Debate from 2009 offers a pretty good synopsis of the controversy. Food policy wonks might enjoy perusing the Food and Agriculture Organization's page on biotechnology in agriculture; if you're looking for a more entertaining way to educate yourself, a documentary called GMO OMG opens in select theaters this fall.

Clarification: Previously this story stated most tofu sold in the United States is GMO-free. While the top-selling US tofu brand Nasoya and many other major manufacturers in the US have items verified by the Non-GMO Project, this doesn't necessarily encompass all tofu products.

Unbelievable Ways Companies Are Trying to Keep You From Seeing Where Your Meat Comes From


The modern meat industry has some good reasons to fear the public finding out that Old MacDonald's farm isn't so happy these days.


Amy Meyer wanted to see for herself where her food was coming from. But in the state of Utah, she discovered, that was against the law.

On February 8, Meyer drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and took a look from the side of the road. She gasped as she peered through the barbed wire fence and saw what appeared to be a sick cow being treated like rubble as it was carried in a tractor. So she did what many people would do in this day and age. She got out her smartphone to begin recording.

For this, Meyer was arrested and prosecuted under Utah's new "ag-gag" law.

It turns out that similar laws are now in place not just in Utah, but also in Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri. And many other states are considering similar legislation.

The goal of these laws, it would appear, is to keep consumers from seeing where modern meat really comes from. Considering that 94 percent of the American public believes that animals raised for food should be free from abuse and cruelty, the modern meat industry has some good reasons to fear the public finding out that Old MacDonald's farm isn't so happy these days.

Charges against Meyer were subsequently dropped, but Utah's law is still on the books. And now Amy Meyer is joining with award-winning author Will Potter and a team of organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging her state's controversial law in the courts.

Soon thereafter, in Kansas on June 28th, a photographer working for a publication not generally seen as promoting a radical agenda, National Geographic, was arrested and briefly jailed after taking aerial pictures of a feedlot for a series on food issues to be published some time next year.

George Steinmetz has taken award-winning photos in many dangerous situations, including a series depicting post-Gaddafi Libya. But it was his photographs of U.S. feedlots, taken from a paraglider in an area with hundreds of thousands of cattle, that got him put behind bars.

Kansas has its own "ag-gag bill," called the "Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act." This law makes it illegal to "enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or by any other means."

Apparently, the feedlot executives may have considered paragliding to be a form of illegal entry, and they wanted Steinmetz to feel the force of the law. Industry officials said they believe his actions represent a "food security issue."

Steinmetz had also parked and taken off from private property, so "trespassing" is central to the charge he now faces. But do you really think he'd have been arrested for parking there had he merely stopped to read a book?

The spread of ag-gag bills is alarming for many reasons. Aside from exposing specific incidents of animal abuse, undercover videos have also drawn attention to industry practices such as housing chickens in cramped battery cages that hasten the sickening of birds and the spread of salmonella.

Elizabeth Holmes, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, comments: "The reason these are public health issues, and not just animal rights issues, is that those unsanitary conditions provide breeding grounds (for disease)."

Holmes has a point. Keeping animals alive in wretched conditions requires the use of massive amounts of pharmaceutical drugs. Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals, not people. The antibiotic overuse that allows meat producers to keep animals in filth and misery is spawning drug-resistant superbugs.

Earlier this year, an Environmental Working Group study found antibiotic resistant "super bugs" on 81 percent of the ground turkey and 55 percent of the ground beef in America's supermarkets.

With antibiotic resistant bacteria costing us more than $55 billion and killing tens of thousands of people each year, you could even argue that today's factory farms have become a form of biological weapons factory.

But don't we have meat inspectors who monitor animal treatment? Isn't it their job to insure that the laws against excessive animal cruelty to animals, however weak they may be, are enforced? Aren't they being paid to look out for the public interest?

Unfortunately, thanks to the weight of agribusiness interests, even USDA meat inspectors don't always feel free to protect animals or public health.

After 29 years as a USDA meat inspector, Jim Schrier was recently stationed at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility in Iowa where he reported clear humane handling violations to his supervisor. That's what he was supposed to do -- report the violations to his superior in the chain of command. But when Schrier presented his concerns, the supervisor reportedly became very angry, and a week later required Jim to work at another facility 120 miles away. Then the USDA reassigned Jim permanently to a plant in another state.

In what looks an awful lot like a form of whistleblower retaliation, after 29 years of service, Schrier must now choose between his job, and his family.

When Jim's wife, Tammy, launched a petition on change.org exposing this story and calling for Jim Schrier to get his old job back, some of the first signers were other employees who had worked at the same plant and who corroborated Schrier's findings. Instead of being punished, they said, he should be rewarded and the whole plant should be inspected.

The significance of all this is huge. The first amendment to the United States constitution states: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." There are serious questions about whether ag-gag bills, and retaliation against whistleblowers like Jim Schrier, are even constitutional. But whatever the courts decide, we are already paying a terrible price for the climate of repression they institutionalize.

Shutting up people like Amy Meyer, George Steinmetz, and Jim Schrier makes it hard for any of us to know where our food comes from. Shutting them up also allows the meat industry to get away with treating animals terribly, and with jeopardizing public health by breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. But there's more.

Tyrants of all stripes thrive in the darkness. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate."

If journalists and whistleblowers aren't allowed to speak the truth, we're going to have an awfully hard time retaining any semblance of a functioning democracy.

This story first appeared on the Huffington Post.

Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of the Food Revolution, and serves as CEO and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. Find out more and sign up for free here.