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January 29, 2016

GMO News Summary, January 29th, 2016

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*The court decision refusing the EPA’s request that it temporarily rescind Enlist Duo’s registration is going to get its own post. For the moment I’ll point out that even if you don’t think the courts are corrupted beyond redemption, here we have proof that the law itself certainly is. If it’s true that the law is so calcified and maladaptive that it can’t react when a toxicity situation arises which is so dire that even the EPA wants to slow down and take another look, then that’s proof of a terminally busted system of law. We have to get it straight, in addition to all its de jure evils, this system does not work.
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*The fighters of Argentina continue to stand tall blocking Monsanto’s poison factory.
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*Here’s more on the attempt to partially repeal Oregon’s preemption law which was passed to crush the groundswell of county-level democracy action. One good paragraph concisely describes why it’s impossible for the state government of Oregon to make assertive agricultural policy which would be just, rational, or practical.
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So currently, although there are seven distinct geographical agricultural sectors in Oregon, each with different agricultural emphases, (for example, apples in Hood River, alfalfa in the Klamath Basin, brassica seed in the Willamette Valley), none of these sectors now have the right, either democratically or through a court of law, to address their own particular agricultural concerns, even regarding weed seeds. Can you see which way the wind is blowing?

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Imagine how much less possible it is for the federal government to be legitimate or rational in asserting itself over hundreds of distinct foodsheds and watersheds? When we ponder those who claim to care about food and agriculture but who still believe in federal power over these, only “better”, it sure looks like their level of knowledge and policy position is similar to Monsanto’s, only from a superficially different angle. What does this mean where it comes to NGOs and GM labeling advocates who want things like a preemptive FDA labeling standard or the “Food Safety Modernization Act”? (How’s that for an Orwellian name?) They’re just as ignorant as Monsanto and often as arrogant, only from a superficially different point of view. That’s one reason I don’t trust them to ever really draw a line in the sand and say “no further.” (For example the party line seems to be, “support preemption only if the FDA policy is at least as strong as Vermont’s”. I don’t believe they’ll hold to that, and since such an FDA policy is impossible anyway, because that’s not what the FDA does or wants to do, what’s the point of saying such a thing, other than to buy time for further triangulation?) Their underlying logic is basically the same as that of the corporations. Also in the clear fact that democracy in itself is no principle for them and has no value to them at all.
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A federal labeling law is the worst possible “solution”, since it’s guaranteed to be a preemptive sham, meant to lead in the wrong direction and waste time and resources we don’t have to waste. As the history proves, preemption never works the way so many people seem to want to hope and believe. The only point of it is to force the lowest standards. Otherwise why would any “stakeholder” want it? Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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*Dueling Monsanto lawsuits, one as plaintiff, two new ones (two more of many) as defendant. Monsanto is suing California trying to prevent the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) from listing glyphosate on the list of carcinogens. This would impose some labeling requirements and restrictions on its use. Monsanto’s complaint is just a bunch of whining with no substance whatsoever. I’ll be writing more about this lawsuit separately.
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Meanwhile the city of Seattle has filed the latest lawsuit trying to force Monsanto to pay for a cleanup of the PCBs still ubiquitous in sediments of the city’s drainage system and the Duwamish River. Monsanto lied for decades about PCBs although it knew of their toxicity at least since 1937. A major reason for the corporate reshuffling Monsanto undertook in order to dump its industrial chemical division Solutia in 2002 was to try to unload its PCB liability. This hasn’t worked so far, though the penalties aren’t even in the same galaxy with what the company, its executives, its technicians and its salesmen deserve. And the Nuremburg-actionable lies continue still to this day. Just as the CEO of Solutia continued to lie for years, so Monsanto lies today:
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“PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products. If improper disposal or other improper uses allowed for necessary clean up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs.”

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This is a direct Nuremburg lie. Monsanto has known since the 1930s that PCBs as such are extremely toxic. They cause cancer, birth defects, and horrible skin and organ symptoms. Over the 1950s-60s Monsanto accumulated very detailed knowledge and sought systematically to cover it up. See Marie-Monique Robin’s The World According to Monsanto for a detailed history of this and many of Monsanto’s other crimes against humanity. Monsanto adhered to this stonewalling strategy for decades. So it was Monsanto which lied to its customers and encouraged these third parties to incorporate the PCB product without warning them of what it knew about the danger.
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Finally, in California Brenda and James Huerta are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer through chronic long-term exposures to Roundup spraying while they lived on a commercial sod farm in the state’s Riverside County. Here the law is geared to protect the seller and the sprayer. Even if the US and California state governments recognized glyphosate as carcinogenic (as we just mentioned Monsanto is currently suing to prevent the state from recognizing it as such, while the US EPA denies it), it would generally be considered impossible to ascribe a particular case of cancer to the product. And if all else failed, Monsanto would try to claim the sprayer didn’t adhere to the label requirements for application. Farmer scapegoating is standard wherever straight lies and denial don’t work.
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These are reasons why the abolitionist position must be to impose strict liability on all manufacturers, sellers, and users of a poisonous product for all harms which come from it. In a legal sense they’re all part of one big conspiracy to promote cancer, and since it is usually not feasible to identify the “particular” culprit in a given case, all must be held equally responsible. I propose the same standard for pesticide drift effects, for any campaign against 2,4-D and dicamba GMOs. Strict liability first as a philosophical and polemical plank, wherever possible as a demand for legal reform, and always as the Nuremburg standard which must be imposed once we the people take back the power.
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So we have dueling lawsuits. Monsanto sues California for saying glyphosate causes cancer, citizens are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer, Seattle files the latest of many lawsuits because Monsanto systematically sickened and murdered people with PCBs and to this day systematically lies about it. The EPA, FDA, and USDA say Monsanto is a good, honest citizen. Who do you trust about Roundup?
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*More data on glyphosate residues in urine, as monitored over 15 years by Germany’s federal environmental agency. The levels are lower than EFSA “tolerance” limits, which means little. Regulators mechanically raise these legal levels in accord with how much poison the manufacturer expects to sell. In itself this is a strong indicator of the regulators’ poison-maximizing ideology. The procedure has zero scientific content and exists at all only as a political farce, to make it look like the regulator is “protecting” us. Scientifically, like all pesticides glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor which means it causes cancer and birth defects at ultra-low doses, and there is no safe level. The German agency also warned that formulations are far more toxic than glyphosate by itself. In other words, bad as this is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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*Here’s one thing that won’t wait for labeling to be gotten right over however many years that would take. If we don’t want to see the monarch butterfly go extinct within our lifetimes, we have to abolish glyphosate NOW. Anything else is just empty talk.
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There’s a new petition to the world’s most pro-Monsanto, pro-Roundup government, calling for better action for the monarch. Seems far-fetched, but it’s possible if there were enough of a groundswell on everything from monarchs to cancer, the system might be forced to sacrifice Roundup as long as it thought it could preserve the rest of the poison regime. But this will require a full-scale social movement toward this goal. (The goal of abolishing glyphosate must be part of the broader goal of abolishing poison-based agriculture, but we can also choose particular campaigns for special focus.) Things like petitions not rooted in a movement grounding will be blown off like the air they are. The prognosis is clear. Unless glyphosate is completely banned, it’ll be the end of the monarch. Americans are going to have to choose once and for all. What’ll it be, the monarch or Monsanto? You can’t have both.
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*Gilles-Eric Seralini has performed another of his thorough and damning analyses of GMO trial data. This time he analyzed the trial data and the subsequent veterinary records from the 1997-2002 dairy cow feeding trial in Germany with silage from Syngenta’s Bt176 maize. This was one of the ominous incidents in GMO history. The animals became badly ill, many died, the records were analyzed by Syngenta and the German government, and farmer Gottfried Glöckner sued the company. Although Syngenta has always denied the GMO had anything to do with the epidemic, it paid off Glöckner and pulled Bt176 from the market. Now Seralini, assisted by Glöckner, has analyzed all the records and concluded that Bt176 “provoked long-term toxic effects on mammals”. There are many anecdotal reports of similar epidemics stemming from diets with a heavy Bt crop proportion, among farm workers in South Africa and livestock in India.
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The action needed is not, however, “more testing” as Seralini calls for. He’s a scientist so of course that’s his first thought. But in fact this new evidence adds to what’s already conclusive proof – Bt-expressing GMOs don’t work and are dangerous to human, animal, and environmental health. They must be abolished, not tested over and over again forever. Every time I see the “more testing” call I wonder how much evidence would finally satisfy people. There’s far more than enough to satisfy anyone without a strong investment in the poison system itself, if that evidence is propagated competently and relentlessly and in the context of the affirmative Food Sovereignty idea. On the other hand, without this work even a hundred times as much evidence would be of little use.
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*Meanwhile the state government of Idaho is acknowledging a pesticide crisis. Here they let potato farmers apply methyl bromide, which of course suffused the soil. The poison then became part of the tissue of a subsequent alfalfa crop whose poisoned hay caused “deformities and sickness” in cattle which fed upon it. “Additionally, test samples of wheat, barley, potatoes, alfalfa, tomato, corn and straw grown on other treated fields also showed some level of bromide.” The state agriculture department told the legislature that the soil needs an emergency cleanup, of course asking for taxpayer money to be provided for the necessary research and work. To the great injury of the poisoning of our food and soil they now add the insult of expecting the people, not the criminals, to pay to clean it up.
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If GMOs tolerant of 2,4-D and dicamba are deployed on a large scale, the result will be this same quarantine of the soil and destruction of vast swaths of crops from the toxic drift. The whole thing, everywhere, sums to one vast moral insult. This insult shall never be made whole until we the people apply all moral force necessary to abolish these poisons.
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.*The Indian state of Karnataka is yet again having to prepare a farmer bailout after yet another Bt cotton disaster. This time the target pest, the pink bollowrm, simply feasted as if the two Bt toxins and neonics weren’t even there. Karnataka will yet again have to decide whether and how to demand the seed companies pay farmer compensation. Karnataka is one of the states most severely devastated by the suicide epidemic among Indian small cotton farmers. The state really ought to launch a transformation program away from commodity production and toward organic production, as fellow state Sikkim is proving can be done on a large scale.
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Another Bt cotton blunder may soon be history, as Burkina Faso’s farmers and seed dealers are abandoning the product. The country’s experience with Bt cotton has paralleled that of other countries, including the crop’s poor performance under anything but optimal conditions. Burkina Faso also experienced low-quality lint production even when the overall boll yield was good. This problem, which has also been seen in India, seems to be related to pleiotropic effects from Monsanto’s breeding its Bt cultivar into the pirated regional Burknabe variety. Here’s the latest proof of how imprecise and unpredictable genetic engineering is. It’s always a crapshoot. Monsanto is implicitly admitting this as it’s now frantically “backcrossing its Bt varieties into a new local cultivar.” But farmers seem to be fed up with the whole Bt cotton concept, as have been all non-rich farmers who ever tried to work with it. It’s a shoddy product, in addition to its health dangers.
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Food sovereignty and civil society campaigners are confident that Burkina Faso’s rejection of Bt cotton will help steel African resolve to resist this and other GMOs. The struggle continues in Kenya as farmer and civil society groups oppose proposals to lift the government’s moratorium on cultivation and importation of GMO products. In recent weeks the government has indicated it will soon approve cultivation of Bt maize, but missed a scheduled press conference. For more on the truth of the corporate-driven food insecurity in Africa which GMOs promise to make much worse, see here.
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*Canadian environmental groups Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society are suing the government to overturn a 2013 ruling which threatens to allow the grow-out of GM salmon under conditions exceeding those allowed by Canadian environmental law.
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*Much ado about the temporary retraction of a paper by Italian researchers documenting transgenic DNA fragments persisting in the tissues of animals fed GM feed. The retraction is on grounds of what the retracting journal calls an “honest error” involving the reuse of some images which had appeared in an earlier paper by the same researchers. The study’s basic findings remain intact. In a sign of how desperate the pro-GMO activists are, they whooped it up as if this technicality constituted some kind of evidence in their favor. The GMWatch piece does a good job detailing the hypocrisy and double standards of the GMO lobby and corporate media. In fact even if this particular study’s substantive finding were in doubt, it would be just be one drop retracted from a lake of evidence. GMWatch adds:
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Several years ago we at GMWatch were reprimanded by a government scientist (who was emphatically not anti-GMO) for our naive belief that we still had to ‘prove’ that GM DNA was detectable in the tissues of animals that ate GM feed. This fact, the scientist pointed out, was “not controversial and we have known it for a long time”. The only controversial aspect was whether such GM DNA had any biological effect on animals that was different from the effects of non-GM DNA.

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I think it’s time for the whole movement to be more confident about what’s been proven beyond any doubt and go from there, rather than imply we’re willing to keep running in place forever needing “more study”, as if we ourselves weren’t 100% confident in the existing evidence. Endless calls for “more data” are a classic sign of the Peter Principle in action.

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January 4, 2016

The Regular “Regulation” of Agricultural Poisons At the US EPA

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Always start with the consciousness: For the corporate state system and its religious believers, the project of poison-based agriculture must go forward. Nothing may ever be allowed seriously to hinder this. This Poisoner campaign is at the core of all corporate profit, corporate/government power, and techno-cultism.
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Although under legal pressure EPA temporarily withdrew approval of Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide formulation, we mustn’t expect this to be more than a temporary delay. Dow expects to ship the poison for the 2016 season. A more typical indicator of EPA’s relationship with Dow and Enlist was its active collusion with Dow in falsifying data in order to suppress Dow’s own trial results finding health dangers from Enlist. EPA “scientists” changed the agency’s rules for data analysis midstream in order to invalidate Dow’s own data showing that 2,4-D (one of the two main poisons contained in Enlist Duo, the other being glyphosate) causes kidney damage in rats. As the Environmental Working Group pointed out, EPA ”contradicted standard scientific practice” in order to set an alleged “no observed adverse effect level” (NOAEL) dose at a level which the company’s own tests showed to cause toxic effects in rats, including kidney lesions, thyroid damage, and reproductive organ changes. This puts the NOAEL concept in an even blacker light. The concept is already bogus in principle in the case of endocrine disruptors, including almost all pesticides. And now we see how, even where toxic effects are found at an inconveniently low dosage, EPA and other regulators will simply change the rules in the middle of the game. This puts in perspective the sanctimonious claims of regulators that in order to be considered in regulatory assessments, scientific work must adhere punctiliously to certain officially designated rules (which never have anything to do with scientific quality but do always favor big corporate labs). As we see, for the regulators such adherence is only for real scientists, never for the corporations or for themselves. For themselves and their corporate clients the only rule is Do What Thou Wilt.
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The EPA did this in order to give itself a pretext to approve the product. The regulator’s job is always to approve the product and claim it to be safe, no matter what. Therefore EPA destroyed the scientific evidence and then lied about it. This is nothing new, but is part of the standard EPA pattern of conduct going back to the 1970s.
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Here we have a case study in how the corporate science paradigm and the regulator template work together.
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I’ve described and applied the template many times, to regulators, pseudo-scientists (the post just linked), system NGOs, etc. Here’s a quick description again.
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1. The corporate prerogative and corporate tasks, profiteering and any other imperatives, are normative. The regulator must always seek to assist the corporations and boost their power.
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2. Given the framework of (1), the regulator may sometimes seek to ameliorate the worst abuses, perhaps even hinder or ban isolated, ad hoc products. Or, more commonly these days, the regulator only pretends to do this. Often, as in the case of EPA and EFSA with glyphosate, or the USDA with GMO approvals, it doesn’t even pretend. Either way, nothing the regulator does must hinder the overall corporate imperative or any significant corporate project. Therefore the pesticide and GMO genres, as well as particular blockbuster products like Roundup, must go forward no matter what.
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3. Whatever the regulator did or didn’t do, it now bestows its imprimatur of “safety” and any other necessary endorsement upon the product. It engages in taxpayer-funded PR and educational campaigns on behalf of the corporate product. Most of all, it tells the people, implicitly and where necessary explicitly, that they shouldn’t have any concerns, shouldn’t even think about the product, and most of all shouldn’t bother with educating themselves, let alone questioning the official imprimatur. As is typical of bureaucratic ideology, the regulator mindset is anti-democratic in the extreme. This is part of why regulators are so comfortable with fraudulent “secret science” and want to keep as much information from the public as possible. This is on ideological principle, as well as having more mundane corruption origins.
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So it goes: Pro-corporate ideological commitment; farcical and fraudulent “regulating”; propaganda and secrecy.
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In today’s example:
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1. EPA has always been activist toward the corporate task of maximizing poison use. It has always been willing to do whatever’s necessary toward this goal. In the late 1970s a massive scandal in lab testing broke involving IBT Laboratories, a favorite industry contractor. FDA investigators called it “the most massive scientific fraud ever committed in the United States, and perhaps the world”. Years later several executives would be convicted on criminal charges. (This is one of the purposes of corporate outsourcing to smaller contractors. But it’s the oligopolists who dictate the practices, and require the crimes.) Nazi experimenters would’ve been ashamed to work at this place, and the denizens of “Animal House” would’ve fled in horror.
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* New animals routinely substituted – often en masse – for test animals that died, without noting deaths or substitutions in lab reports
* Entire test data and lab reports for one test product copied into reports for other products
* “Magic pencil” studies substituted false data for tests never done or results implicating test products’ adverse or fatal effects
* Signatures of lab techs who had refused to sign false reports were forged by managers on the false reports
* Rats listed as dead and autopsied in one section of a report reappeared alive and breeding in another section of the same report (“Now IBT did some strange and unusual things,” Dr. Adrian Gross, who first revealed the IBT scandal, remarked, “but bringing back the dead wasn’t one of them.”)
* Substitution of unexposed control animals for test animals that died
* Substitution of dogs for rats when all the rats in one test died, then reporting them to be rats
* Wholesale concealment and falsification of cancers, testicular atrophy, death and other effects in test animals
* A laboratory that IBT scientists called “The Swamp”, with a faulty water system that drenched the entire room, cages, rodents and all, in a continuous spray of water, drowning the test animals in droves. “Dead rats and mice, technicians later told federal investigators, decomposed so rapidly in the Swamp that their bodies oozed through wire cage bottoms and lay in purple puddles on the dropping trays.”
* Massive, frequent die-offs of test animals due to staff failing to feed and water them over holidays, rodents dying from unhygienic conditions, rats dying from rat poison fed them by mistake, rodents escaping, rats and mice being shifted from one cage to another, contaminating and eating each other; frequent “search and destroy” hunts for escaped rodents, with scientists and lab techs dashing about squirting chloroform to “slow down” the escapees, often killing the test animals as well
* After Gross’s first visit to IBT in 1976 and before he could return with auditors, the company equipped its offices with paper shredders and “strip filed” huge volumes of raw data, studies and client lists, including all of its studies on 2,4-D, six other herbicides (never identified), artificial sweeteners, cyclamates and plastics components

Almost all of the products tested by IBT, including 2,4-D, glyphosate, atrazine and many of the 66 products banned on California red-legged frog habitat, are still on the market today.

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EPA worked aggressively to cover up the fraud and consulted with the corporations about how EPA would run interference with Congress and the media. As top official Fred Arnold put it to an industry convention, EPA had their backs: “The concept was to try and proceed in an orderly fashion and fill data gaps and not interfere with the ability to market pesticides.” He was referring to how EPA was going to lobby Congress to change the law to allow “conditional registration” of all the poisons which EPA had approved based on the IBT testing. (And testing at other labs; 47 of 82 audits found similar conditions at other labs contracted by the poison manufacturers.) The law required the cancellation of such fraudulent approvals. But in tandem with the poison corporations, EPA convinced Congress to allow it to extend “conditional” grace periods until industry could submit new tests.
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In other words, the proven systematic, premeditated fraudsters were going to be allowed to organize another systematic fraud. That’s always what the Fox Guarding the Henhouse means. Anyone, especially government regulators, who says that proven liars and organized criminals should be allowed to police themselves is really willfully collaborating in those massive crimes.
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Sure enough, the industry never submitted legitimate tests, and EPA never asked again for them. The shared goal of EPA and the corporations, maximizing the production, sales, and use of poisons, continued without flagging. The scandal was just a political speed bump. Just as the current embarrassment over Dow’s poison is intended to be a minor hiccup. Meanwhile, to this day EPA refuses to divulge which poisons were approved based on the fraudulent “studies” at INT and elsewhere. As per our usual rational method for dealing with those who maliciously invoke secrecy, we must assume that ALL EPA pesticide registrations during the years in question were allowed on the basis of those fraudulent studies.
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EPA’s services to Dow regarding Enlist are similar to the services it has performed for Monsanto on behalf of glyphosate (I’ll begin the discussion in this post) and PCBs (a subject for future posts).
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2. The main vehicle of EPA’s pretending to be looking out for the public and environmental good is its review processes for pesticides and other chemicals. These are always completely bogus. The Dow Enlist example is just an unusually egregious one.
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Of course sometimes the regulator will feel enough political pressure to go through the motions of doing something. An example is the recent expedient, mentioned above, of temporarily suspending Enlist registration. We also have the example from earlier in 2015 of sham limitations on glyphosate use. Ostensibly intended to slow the evolution of glyphosate-resistant superweeds, this is really meant to shift more of the political onus and legal risk onto farmers. Same for the whole “refuge” concept, allegedly for slowing the evolution of insect resistance to Bt toxins. EPA never required a meaningful acreage portion for the refuge (entomologists reached a consensus that 50% was the minimum necessary to have any hope of the policy having any effect; EPA never required more than 20%) and never rigorously enforced the policy. With the advent of multiple-toxin stacked products, EPA adopted corporate demands to lower the “required” acreage to 5%. The fact is that the “refuge” idea was never meant to be more than that – an idea, a propaganda theme, for media and pro-GM activist use. Bt refuge idea is one of the best examples of sham pro-corporate “regulation”.
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The EPA’s history with glyphosate cancer assessments gives another example of the regulator pretending to be looking out for the people. Since this has been above all a propaganda effort, especially during the GMO era, I’ll discuss it below.
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3. The final step of the whitewashing template is for the regulator to affirm that the product is safe and encourage the people to go back to sleep and let their government betters do any continued monitoring necessary. (None is ever done.) EPA has already proclaimed the alleged safety of Enlist, and is now waiting for Dow to give it enough of a pretext, even the most flimsy will suffice, to reaffirm this proclamation. For a prior case study, we can compare how EPA knew since at least the early 1980s that glyphosate causes cancer. The evidence was so conclusive that, in spite of EPA’s wishing to give Monsanto the green light and doing all it could to interpret Monsanto’s own test results in the best possible light, it felt compelled to give the poison Classification C – “Suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential”.
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In terms of market share glyphosate wasn’t yet projected to become a major pesticide at this point, though Monsanto was already contemplating the idea of GMOs engineered to be tolerant of it. They worked on this idea (well, failed at it until they found some bacteria which had already done the main work for them) and by the early 1990s were preparing to bring Roundup Ready crops to market. It was time to whitewash glyphosate’s cancer record more thoroughly. EPA happily complied. With zero new evidence, not even a new round of phony tests, without further ado EPA in 1991 changed the classification to Group E, “Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” An even stronger, more politicized and fraudulent construction elsewhere in the regulation phrases this, “Evidence of non-carcinogenicity to humans.”
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This “evidence”, of course, is nothing but a political way of phrasing the real ideological position, that cancer cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the Poisoner imperative. Since, as EPA has known at least since the early 1980s, glyphosate does cause cancer in humans, EPA’s job becomes to deny this, cover it up, lie about it. Perform enough direct denial, and propagate the implicit mindset that giving farmers and consumers cancer is meaningless anyway compared to the great tasks of corporate rule and the Poisoner imperative, and in an ideological sense it does become “true” that “glyphosate does not pose a cancer risk to humans”, as EPA proclaimed again most recently in 2013. If cancer is irrelevant, it may as well not exist. This is the reality of the psychopathic mindset involved here. And this is the psychology and set of priorities which has cohered in the era of corporate rule as the corporate science paradigm. The decisions made about which lines of inquiry to pursue in the first place, the workings of day-to-day science practice, the mindset and party line of the scientific establishment, the STEM fraternity in general, the corporate media, and the cultist fanboys, all follow from the dictates of this dominant paradigm of prostituted pseudo-science. A regulator like the EPA plays a very important role in orchestrating this fraudulent science and disseminating the propaganda of it, a double nimbus of “Science” and “Good Government”. Both are Big Lies.
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