Category Archives: Environment

Storm forecasting; Weather Underground vs. National Weather Service 

I’ve noticed that Weather Underground tends to overlook storms in Seattle WA.  On the other hand, NWS predictions are careful to highlight storms, projecting conditions as bad or worse than the weather we actually get.  The Friday / Saturday October 14-15 storm got typical coverage from these services.  Compare the Friday morning predictions:


Weather Underground predicted winds of 27 to 30 MPH.  But NWS predicted gusts of 41 and 55 MPH, highlighting risky weather and providing a special statement about it.  What really happened:


Gusts under 40, closer to the Weather Underground forecast.  Still, there was a fair amount of damage.  If you had relied on Weather Underground, you might have gotten a nasty surprise.

My conclusion; I’d rather prepare for something bad that doesn’t happen (or anyway isn’t that bad) than be blindsided.  I’ll enjoy Weather Underground’s cool chart when the weather is mild.  But when it gets feisty I’m jumping over to NWS.

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Stop this evil GMO-hiding bill

Introduction

The House of Representatives is considering a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas.  It’s called H.R. 1599, “Safe And Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.”  The bill concerns selling and labeling food products that contain GMOs (genetically-engineered organisms).  Opponents of GMOs have dubbed the bill the “Mother Of All Monsanto Protection Acts.”  Certainly the original title of the bill has a bad odor.

What to do

If you agree that this bill is evil, fight it.  Organic Bytes tells how.

What’s wrong with GMO foods?

Even if the food itself were safe, there is still plenty wrong with the use of GMOs in food.

  1. Genetic engineering “edits” DNA; it’s like patching software.  It can have unforeseen consequences (bugs).  The possible scope of a bug in our food supply is disturbing.
  2. Farmers who use patented GMO seeds are prohibited from saving the seed of their crops and replanting it.  They have no alternative to the monopolistic seed company, which thus gains control over the nation’s food supply.
  3. GMOs are designed mainly by pesticide companies like Monsanto to resist pesticides.  They enable farmers to drench their crops in poison that kills everything but the crop plant.  Does all that poison just “go away?”  Or are we eating it?
  4. Weeds are already evolving immunity to pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup; so an “arms race” with nature has begun.  Where will it lead?  How much more poison will we eat?

Most damming to me is that the producers want to conceal that their food contains GMOs, They assert that there is no safety issue; so a GMO label would only alarm and confuse people.  “We know what’s best for you.”  And it isn’t even the government saying this; it’s Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association.

What opponents say

Organic Bytes says: In addition to preempting states’ rights to label GMOs, the latest iteration of H.R. 1599 will wipe out all state and local laws that regulate the growing of GMO crops—laws like the one passed in May 2014, Jackson County, Ore.—and weaken federal oversight of GMO crops and foods.

What supporters say

At the time I wrote this blog, Monsanto had no information about H.R. 1599 on its website. Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.18.52 PM

What I think

My conclusion: it does preempt states’ rights to require labeling of GMO foods.  But I didn’t see language that wipes out state/local regulation of GMO agriculture. Other issues I have with this bill:

  • The bill makes the food-producer responsible for showing that a GMO food is as safe as comparable non-GMO food
  • Under the bill, the FDA won’t test GMO foods; it will merely evaluate statements that producers make about their products
  • New GMO food products can be hidden from the public until they hit the marketplace and can’t be stopped.
  • No state can prohibit or restrict the “sale, distribution or marketing” of GMOs intended for food, or GMO food. 
  • Food labels can’t claim that GMO-free food is safer than GMO food.  (What about the First Amendment?)
  • The bill hides much by referring to and changing existing law, even to the level of manipulating punctuation in sentences that aren’t included in the bill.  On the basis of its obfuscation alone, this bill deserves to go down.

I’m not saying anything here that I haven’t read in the bill.

Summary

I decided to find out what this is all about by summarizing the text of the bill as listed in congress.gov on 7/7/15.  Disclaimer; I am not a lawyer.  I’ve translated the bill to plain English, which can be more understandable but less precise.  If you want to know exactly what something I wrote means, please refer to the original text.

Format key:

  • …  (Elipses) : These show where I’m skipping details that seem to be of less interest.
  • Green text: Highlights parts that say whether or when the other parts are in effect.
  • Red text: Highlights parts of concern to consumers.

A bill

This bill changes the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regarding foods that contain GMOs and labeling of natural foods.

Section 1; Short title …

Section 2: Table of contents …

Section 3: Ensuring safety of food supply

This bill isn’t meant to change how the Food and Drug Administration ensures the safety of food.

Title I: food involving GMOs

Section 101: Definitions

Bioengineered organism: A plant “modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques” where the modification couldn’t be achieved thru breeding.

Section 102: Mandatory pre-market biotechnology notification

Nobody can sell a GMO for use in food unless the developer has given notice, per Section 424 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (which follows).

Section 424: Giving notice re: GMOs

a. Nobody can sell a GMO for use in food unless:

1. They’ve given premarket notification, and the Secretary hasn’t objected; or

2. The Secretary evaluates the product per the FDA’s voluntary consultation process used before this act was passed and tells the developer all safety questions are resolved.

b. Exceptions:

1.  The developer is just testing

2.  The GMO is just being used to produce the food (it’s not an ingredient)

c. Premarket technology notice (PTN)

1.  The developer must give the Secretary 210 days’ notice before starting to sell the GMO.

A.  The notice has to show how the developer determined that the GMO food is as safe for humans/animals as comparable non-GMO foods

B.  The notice has to state whether any other federal agency is reviewing the GMO.

2.  The developer can talk informally to the Secretary about the GMO before giving notice.

d.  Response to a premarket technology notice

1.  Preliminary resopnse: 30 days after getting the notice, the Secretary replies that it’s complete and has been filed; or says what’s wrong with it.  The Secretary can only delay the Substantive Response (which follows) if he/she needs more information to evaluate the PTN. 2. Substantive response: 180 days after the Preliminary Response, the Secretary tells the developer that he/she has no objection to the method the developer explained in his PTN to determine that the GMO food is as safe as a comparable non-GMO food.  Or, the Secretary tells the developer that the measures the PTN describes don’t justify the developer’s conclusion about safety.  In this case, the Secretary must say how he/she decided that the described measures are inadequate.  3.  If the Secretary hasn’t yet responded to a PTN, the developer can withdraw it without prejudice. 4.  If the Secretary doesn’t give a Substantive Response to a PTN 180 days after the Preliminary Response, the developer can start selling the GMO food.

e.  Labeling

The Secretary can require that a GMO food label disclose its difference from comparable non-GMO food if:

  • The Secretary finds a “material difference” between the GMO food and comparable GMO-free food.  Containing GMOs is not a material difference.
  • The Secretary find that disclosing the difference is necessary to protect health and safety; or to prevent the label from being false and misleading

f.  Public disclosure

The FDA needn’t make a PTN public until the Secretary gives a Substantive Response to it (which he/she doesn’t have to do).

g.  Definitions …

Material difference: The GMO food is so different that its usual name doesn’t describe it.  Or its nutritional properties differ.  Or it contains an allergen consumers wouldn’t expect, given the food’s usual name.

c: Applicability

This bill takes effect 30 days after its enacted, whether or not the FDA is ready. (No reference to the date it’s signed by the President or allowed to pass unsigned.)

d.  Pending submissions

Any submission to the current Voluntary Consultation Program that’s pending on the date this bill is passed automatically becomes a PTN.  The Secretary will handle these PTNs “expeditiously.”

e.  Preemption

(This section of the bill conceals much by referencing and changing the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, thus avoiding including important information in the bill.) No state can prohibit or restrict the “sale, distribution or marketing” of GMOs intended for food, or GMO food. 

Section 403a: State requirements

(I’m having trouble understanding changes to Section 403a (national uniform nutrition labeling.  A disturbing amount of text in the Act regarding states’ rights seems to have been removed.)

 Section 103: Labeling of whether food is bioengineered

Add to Section 343, “Misbranded Food;” a label is “misbranded” if it states that the product is (or is not) bioengineered in violation of Section 425 (which follows).

Section 425: Labeling of whether food is bioengineered

If a label says the product is GMO-free, its ingredients must be monitored to make sure it didn’t  come from GMO seeds; that it’s isolated from GMOs throughout its production; and that people who work with it keep it isolated.  But if GMOs get into the food by accident, a GMO-free label is still okay. A label can’t say or imply that GMO-free food is safer than GMO food. It’s okay to label dairy products and eggs “GMO-free” even if the animals were given GMO food or drugs, if the Secretary authorized the use of the GMO food/drugs.   It’s okay to label a food GMO-free if GMOs were involved in processing it (but are not ingredients). … The Secretary can’t require that labels disclose that food contains GMOs simply because it contains GMOs.  … It’s okay for a producer to disclose that a food contains GMOs on the label and elsewhere, if he wants to.A state can’t require the labeling of GMO food in interstate commerce.

Title II: Natural foods

Section 201: Labeling of natural foods

A producer can’t label a food as “Natural” unless it conforms to FDA natural food regulations.  But the Natural label is okay while the FDA is changing its regulations, if it qualifies under the existing ones. 

Section 202: Regulations

Natural food regulations should be different for human vs. animal food.  The Secretary must issue proposed natural food regulations 12 months after this bill is passed, and final regulations 24 months after it’s passed. 

Title III: Non-GMO food certification

Section 291a: National Non-GMO food certification program

The secretary will create a non-GMO food certification program.  “Certifying Agents” will do the certifying; they can be anybody the Secretary appoints, including private parties. …

Section 291b: National standards for labeling non-GMO food

(This section mirrors earlier text regarding labeling.)

Good-bye, ramps to nowhere; Seattle, July 2014

On a warm July evening, Pat and I rented a canoe at the U of W Boathouse. The outing strengthened our interest in getting sea kayaks again. A canoe is top-heavy and hard to steer, and the wind pushes it around. But paddling one is still worth doing.

15 ducksWe paddled south across the Ship Canal into the lagoons at the north end of the Arboretum.  (Click on any picture to enlarge it.)  Here a mostly-disused network of freeway ramps sprawls across the wetlands. Its removal is scheduled to begin this summer as part of a bridge replacement project. So we thought this might be our last chance to appreciate the ramps. We’ve strolled and paddled under these ramps many times and grumbled about the concrete intrusion into the placid waters. But the stately pillars and curves and their reflections make the place unique. It’s also a monument to civic activism; in the 1960s the community opposed the construction of a freeway that was to begin here and managed to block it. An artist commemorated the event by wrapping some pillars in mirror-like metal. It’s been proposed that a pair of pillars be preserved. I think it would look nice, but I read that the idea was disapproved by whoever is in authority.

"Commemorative" pillars wrapped in mirror foil.

“Commemorative” pillars wrapped in mirror foil.

While I concentrated on the ramps, Pat concentrated on the lily-pad blossoms and wildlife. She pointed out a beaver house, two herons and a turtle. And of course there were lots of ducks. We saw a new mother duck sleeping on a log with tiny ducklings nestled around her. Another shepherded a fleet of ducklings to the edge of a field of lily-pads; the ducklings were so small and light that they would walk on the lily-pad leaves. Yet another led her two older ducklings toward our canoe, teaching them to beg.

We circled a little cattail island where a heron guardedly observed us. We entered a narrow channel through overhanging trees full of bird-calls (and a few monkey-calls which we supplied) to the cattail marsh at the west end of the Highway 520 bridge. 12 reflections

On our way back, we got out at a footpath landing on Foster Island. We had a snack, sitting on the landing with our feet in the boat, watching traffic glide past on nearby ramps.

 

 

 

99 map

The Arboretum lagoons are near the east end of the Ship Canal, underneath Highway 520. The U of W Boathouse is directly north of them, on the north side of the canal.

More pictures …

The bees of war

I was startled, and to be honest, rather pleased last week when someone told me they’d seen a news article posted in Facebook that said Russia has threatened war over the mass extinction of bees caused by Monsanto.  Maybe, if our politicians won’t listen to the people, our recent enemy can get their attention!

So I started looking for information about this national security crisis.  I soon found a very impressive web page featuring the story.  It looked like a newspaper, so the story must be true.  In fact, the further down the Google results list I went, the more often I found the very same story.  Woohoo, this is really happening!

But then I noticed that any news source that employed professional journalists omitted the story about the coming war with Russia over bees.  So much for the Fourth Estate safeguarding democracy.  Even Russia Television carried only a boring version of the Putin/Kerry encounter, claiming that they merely discussed the Syrian civil war.  I had no idea that the megacorporation/Illuminati/world government conspiracy could even silence a news outlet of the onetime “Evil Empire.”  Clearly, Monsanto will stop at nothing; and we should be very afraid.

And then I started to find web pages written by fascist liberal conservative corporate lackey honeycombRoundup addicts who cast doubt on Putin’s dreadful bee-timatum.  Reddit members ridiculed the alert, despite the outcry by some courageous defenders of truth that Einstein warned us this very thing would happen.  There was some uncertainty over whether Einstein said this or some other equally-impressive scientific guy did.  Maybe it was Stephen Hawking, or Stephen King.  The main thing is that we were warned, we didn’t pay any attention, and now we’re going to suffer.  I’m watching for Einstein to post a reply and clear up this technicality, if those GMO-snorting trolls haven’t gotten to him as well.

Next I discovered that some black-hearted disinformator had gotten Snopes to further sully its reputation by posting that the whole thing is a hoax.  Feeling the weight of impending doom, I knew what I had to do; go straight to the source.  A close reading of the story determines that its author is Sorcha Faal, a Russian scientist.  She’s a Russian (which is the next best thing to being a Vulcan), a scientist (like the heroine of Crystal Skull) and a woman.  Women are smart.  And, boy, this one must be hot.  I could not believe the trash talk that’s going around about this bee-saving heroine.  Just one example; Rational Wiki claims that some blogger made her up to pep up his cooked news.

Not only that, but the Rational Wiki page I cited above was created on May 23, 2011, two years before the fateful Putin/Kerry encounter.  It turns out that Sorcha Faal wrote a lot of stories before she revealed we’re about to have a war.  And I’m sure that every one of those stories is as crucial as this one and is absolutely true.  So, all of the bloggers and other news sources had access to this disinformation about the noble Sorcha Faal in plenty of time to check their stories!

Nonetheless, many web posts about the Bee War, even the ones updated a week after Snopes’ May 29, 2013 pronouncement–and even those updated up to the moment I’m writing this (June 6, 2013)–are sticking to their guns.  For example, the Thom Hartmann Program, Mail Online, Godlike Productions, Survivalist Daily and Free-Haven are just a few of the web sites that are standing by Sorcha Faal and ignoring the foolish bleating of the stubbornly ignorant.  The vast majority of bloggers agree that, thanks to Monsanto’s bee-genocide, we’re practically nuclear toast already.

As for our so-called news media, they’ve just ignored the whole thing.  Does nuclear war mean nothing to them?  True, because they’re all owned by the Illuminati; or by Monsanto, which amounts to the same thing.  What’s the point of boycotting Monsanto, or suing them over the escaped GMO test wheat in Oregon, or passing laws to make food producers label products containing GMOs, when the news media is/are ignoring the real crisis?

Well, I say fine — we don’t need them anyway!  Because we have social media now.

One ray of hope sustains me.  That is that, when the missiles start to fly, even though many if not most of us will come to a sudden fiery end, a few bees will quite likely survive to start the world anew.

What you can do about Monsanto and GMOs in food

Learn about Monsanto and GMOs

MAM rally

March Against Monsanto Seattle rally, 5/25/13.

What is wrong with this company?  And how does its business model amount to an assault on our food supply, agriculture and the environment? 

A lot of information is available online; just Google it, or try the links below.  It’s good to be informed, but take it easy and don’t get bogged down and discouraged from doing anything.  Also, as you read about this topic you may feel a growing sense of depression and helplessness.  Truly, we should have stopped these guys ten years ago.  Don’t give in to it; Monsanto’s poisoned future doesn’t have to turn real.  Get in touch with other activists and take positive action to recharge.

Ten Things That Monsanto Does Not Want You To Know, by the Organic Consumers Association.  This short but incendiary list will give you the energy to learn and do more.

Wikipedia on Monsanto.  To me the most interesting parts of this article are Monsanto’s history, instances of false advertising, and its lobbying and coercion of governments.  Keep in mind that anybody can update Wikipedia, including supporters of Monsanto and Monsanto’s own employees.  So this is probably as evenhanded an account as you’ll find.

HowStuffWorks on Monsanto.  This collection of articles and news stories brings up more things Monsanto doesn’t want you to know.

Comparison of GMO vs. non-GMO Corn in NaturalNews.  If you aren’t afraid of eating a few customized genes, how about formaldehyde?

Monsanto about itself.  What’s missing from their corporate web site is more educational than what’s included.  Try their search engine.

Watch the news for related legislation

Watch the news for legislation related to Monsanto, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), GE (genetically engineered) foods, and food labeling.  Google News automatically finds news stories for topics that you specify.  Click the gearwheel icon in the top right corner to personalize your Google News.  Once you set this up, all you have to do is glance over one web page to see what’s going on.  Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.23.31 PM

You can also do a one-time search for stories, using the search box at the top of the page.

For upcoming votes, contact your congressperson with your input.

Check how your congresspersons voted

 For votes already taken, in the news story, find a description of the legislation and the date of the vote.

Clipped from rt.com/usa .

Clipped from rt.com/usa .

For a Senate action, check recent floor activity.  Set the date of the vote on this page; then click the Roll call votes link.  The site displays a table of votes taken on that day.  Find the vote you’re interested in by description, and click the vote number link in the left margin.Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.44.55 PMThe site shows a report of the vote.  At the bottom is a list of senators by name and how they voted.Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.49.26 PMAt this point the genetically engineered horse is out of the barn!  But you can still make a note of votes you don’t like for your reference next election.

Boycott Monsanto products

You won’t find many Monsanto products at the mall or grocery store.  However, here is a list of Monsanto seed and weed-control brands.

Another widely-posted list entitled “Monsanto Comapnies – Do Not Buy” is false, as detailed by Snopes.  The companies in the list aren’t owned by Monsanto.  They might be incorporating Monsanto ingredients, or ingredients produced by farmers or other companies using Monsanto seeds or chemicals, into their products.  But there’s no way to know that; the list’s creator and information sources are unknown.

Boycott companies that oppose labeling foods with GMOs

Here we’re on solid ground.  These companies had to go on record when they donated to the campaign to defeat Proposition 37 in California in 2012.  See their product logos in this poster by Cornucopia.org.  Caution; even with a high speed broadband connection, it took me about a minute to download the file.  Your patience will be rewarded with a shock; many of these products are shelved in your natural and organic grocery storeScreen Shot 2013-05-27 at 3.42.51 AMThe poster also shows products offered by companies that donated to the campaign to support the initiative.  They deserve your support.

Stay in touch

On Facebook; March Against Monsanto, Food and Water Watch.  Also Monsanto Boycott.  Google for more organizations, but be wary of panicky bloggers and conspiracy-mongers who probably mean well but are just spreading confusion.   Rely on news sources that employ real journalists.