Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monsanto the Evil Empire


     Recently Monsanto was voted the most evil corporation of the year in a survey taken by NaturalNews. They won by a huge margin over the second place Federal Reserve which serves the massively corrupt global banking cartel. Monsanto is the pioneer of agricultural biotechnology and produces genetically engineered seeds that tolerate their herbicide "Roudup".  In the past Monsanto has been responsible for producing Saccharin (causes cancer), Polystyrene (generates the most total hazardous waste), Atom bomb and nuclear weapons (plutonium purification and production), Petroleum-Based Fertilizer (kill beneficial soil micro-organisms, sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements), Roundup (Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death), Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal) (94 health issues caused by aspartame), Bovine Growth Hormone (causes cancer in humans), "Agent Orange" (a herbicide defoliant used in Vietnam from 1961-1971 responsible for an estimated 400,000 people killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects), PCBs (a now banned organic pollutant found to cause cancer and other side effects in all animals including humans), Dioxins (produced in the creation of artificial plant growth hormones and known to cause cancer and birth defects) and DDT (a pesticide banned worldwide in 1972 for health effects like cancer and birth defects on wildlife and humans), Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs and Terminator Seeds (forces farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year).  Monsanto is the producer of the Roundup (glyphosate) brand of herbicides and is the leading producer of genetically engineered seed (Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Sorghum, Soybeans, Sugarbeets and Wheat). Among their seeds is the genetically modified corn seed created to kill all insects that eat it.  The seed contains Bacill Thuringiensis which has been proven to weaken the immune system of bees (Beekeepers' Library).  Monsanto has acquired patents to coat their seeds with neonicotinoid pesticides (Planting Pesticides) known to be fatal to bees and banned in many countries (Insecticides and Bees).  Due to cross pollination it may now be impossible to eliminate Monsanto's genetically engineered, toxic franken-crops. Genetically modified foods have been banned in many European countries.  The health repercussions of genetically modified foods to humans, bees and all wildlife is potentially scary.  The largest producer of genetically engineered seed is Monsanto.  75% to 80% of the processed food you consume every day has GMOs inside, and residues of Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide outside. In addition fresh fruit and vegetables like genetically engineered sweet corn is already being sold in your grocery store. 
     The worldwide production of seeds is now monopolized by a few agrochemical corporations.  Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta now control over half the worldwide distribution of seeds.  Monsanto has established cross-licensing agreements for its transgenic patents with every single other company in the mix, while Dow has agreements with all except for Bayer. And Syngenta has agreements with Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont, while BASF has agreements with Dow and Monsanto.  Monsanto has purchased over 50 seed companies since l996 (Monsanto Seed Companies).  Some misconceptions of genetic modification and agrochemical use are that they are necessary to feed the world's growing population.  In a recent U.S.D.A report (U.S.D.A. Report) researchers stated "Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and "in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties."  GM seeds do however increase the profits of Monsanto as the higher priced seeds are patented and can not be saved and are resistant to the herbicide Roundup (produced by Monsanto) which has led to a substantial increase in the use of Roundup.

This video describes the process of genetic modification


       
      "There's nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it -- it's strategic. It's more powerful than bombs. It's more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the "revolving door". One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company's vice president for public policy.  Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto's long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence."



Former Monsanto employees currently hold positions in US government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Supreme Court. These include:
Michael A. Friedman, MD, was Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Medical and Public Policy for Pharmacia, and later served as an FDA deputy commissioner.[222][223]
Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before she was a vice president at Monsanto from 1995 to 2000. In 2001, Fisher became the deputy administrator of the EPA.[114]
Michael R. Taylor was an assistant to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner before he left to work for a law firm, one client of which was Monsanto. Taylor then became deputy commissioner of the FDA from 1991 to 1994, during which time the FDA approved rBST.[114] Anti-GM activists accused him of conflict of interest but a Federal investigation cleared him. Taylor was later re-appointed to the FDA in August 2009 by President Barack Obama.[224][225]
United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the 2001 Supreme Court decision J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.[226] which found that "newly developed plant breeds are patentable under the general utility patent laws of the United States."[114][226][227]
Public officials with indirect connections or who worked for Monsanto after leaving public office include:
Mickey Kantor served on Monsanto's board after serving in government as a trade representative.[114]
William D. Ruckelshaus served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, was subsequently acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then Deputy Attorney General of the United States. From 1983 to 1985, he returned as EPA administrator. After leaving government he joined the Board of Directors of Monsanto; he is currently retired from that board.[228]
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was chairman and chief executive officer of G. D. Searle & Company, which Monsanto purchased in 1985. Rumsfeld's stock and options in Searle were $12 million USD at the time of the transaction.

     Here is a video that describes how Monsanto silences scientific dissent through the positioning of former employees in influential occupations.  "In this case that a former Monsanto scientist finds himself in charge of a specially-created post at the very journal that published two landmark studies questioning the safety of that company's products should surprise no one who is aware of the Monsanto revolving door. This door is responsible for literally dozens of Monsanto officials, lobbyists and consultants finding themselves in positions of authority in the government bodies that are supposedly there to regulate the company and its actions."


    
       The people of Hawaii are fighting Monsanto in a case "Genetic Engineering Chemical Warfare".




     Monsanto has long been trying to establish control over the seeds of the plants that produce food for the world. They have patented a number of genetically altered food crops, which can only be grown with proper license, and the seeds for which must be purchased anew each year.  Alas, genetically engineered (GE) crops cannot be contained. And rather than being found guilty of contaminating farmers' property, Monsanto has successfully sued hundreds of unsuspecting farmers for patent infringement when unlicensed GE crops were found growing in their fields. Many farmers have subsequently, quite literally, lost their farms.  Percy Schmeiser of Saskatchewan, Canada, is but one of Monsanto's victims, but contrary to so many others, he refused to quietly tolerate the injustice. In a classic case of David versus Goliath, Schmeiser fought back against one of the most powerful corporations in the world.



     This 2011 article from Counterpunch a political newsletter describes how Monsanto (along with the other agro-chemical giants) through economic and political influence  have persuaded the "organic elite" along with the major food distributors to accept genetically engineered crops despite the potential contamination to organic farms and ranches.  Monsanto and others involved in the production of genetically modified food have spent $35 million towards defeating California Proposition 37 which would mandate the disclosure or labelling of all genetically modified foods. “The No on 37 Campaign knows that basic facts do not support their argument for denying consumers the right to know what’s in our food , so they are resorting to a $35 million campaign of misrepresentations, misleading statements, and outright lies,” said Stacy Malkan, California Right to Know spokesperson.  “Prop. 37 comes down to a question of who is more credible, the leading health and consumer advocates, faith based groups, working families and millions of everyday Californians -- or the same small group of financially motivated special interests and political operatives who told us Agent Orange, DDT and cigarettes were safe?”


The truth about Prop 37

  • Just a simple label—like in 61 other countries, indicating if our food has been genetically engineered
  • Put on the ballot by a million Californians just like you
  • Enables us to make an informed choice about what foods are right for our families
  • Supported by consumers, farmers, nurses, doctors and a broad Coalition 


     It is very simple.  We have the right to know what is in our food and how it was created.  Monsanto and others involved in the production of our food say we do not have that right.  In Europe labelling of GMO (genetically modified organisms) products has been mandatory since 1997 and any GMO food products exported to Europe must be labelled disclosing that they are genetically modified.
     Vote Yes on Proposition 37.  Go to The Right to Know to find out more about proposition 37 and how important it is to you and your children.



     
   

  
     In an attempt to combat it's negative environmental image Monsanto recently bought the company Beeologics which produces biological pest and disease controls for bees.  I wonder, is it possible? Genetically Modified Bees?
Monsanto Franken-Bee
Postscript: The $35 million dollars Monsanto spent on advertisement to defeat Proposition 37 was well spent as they achieved a narrow victory enabling them to continue hiding the true nature of the food they produce. Ultimately the joke is on them.  By monopolizing the food market worldwide and selling dangerous genetically modified foods they will eventually kill all of their customers.  The Devil has just finished building a new wing in Hell called Monsantoland for former employees.








Sunday, January 22, 2012

Something in the Air


     Although a singular cause of Colony collapse disorder has not been found most feel a significant contributing factor is the extensive use of pesticides.  Bees have a weak immune system and subsequently are very susceptible to the effects of environmental toxins.  Those most vulnerable to the effects of pesticides in the human population are the very young, the very old and those with a weakened immune system.  This movie from the National Film Board of Canada documents the dangers of pesticides used by potato farmers in Prince Edward Island to the human population.  More than 30% of Canada's potatoes are grown in P.E.I.



     As a child growing up in the 60's I spent time in the summer on a family farm in New Brunswick.  Like most farms of that era it was a diverse farm with a variety of crops and dairy production.  My mother lived through the depression on that farm and said she didn't feel the effects of the depression because they were self sufficient. In the 70's was a movement towards low cost foods which resulted in expanding farm size and monoculture farming. Our family farm became a large pig farm.
    This film is not meant to vilify the potato farmers of P.E.I. but to illustrate the reality of the present day industrial farming techniques.  Unless you buy organic you are consuming pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.


     The pests are constantly adapting to the pesticides so new stronger chemicals must be constantly developed like the neonicotinoids (Pesticides and Bees).


     What can you do to help the human and bee population from the effects of these toxins?  Go natural.  Don't use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and reduce or eliminate the use of toxins in your home (cleaners, cosmetics, paints, plastics...).


     A good rule of thumb is to buy local and buy organic.  Support your local organic farmer and beekeeper.  



Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Beekeepers


     "The Beekeepers" is an experimental documentary film by Richard Robinson. Coal miners used canaries to test the quality of air in the mines.  When the canaries died the miners stayed home.  The bees are our "Canary in the Coal Mine" and the coal mine is planet earth.  The bees are dying!  Each year one third of the world's bee population is dying (Colony Collapse Disorder).  Imagine how we would react if this were any other species.  Like the coal miners, when the bees die where should we go? Go to Culture Unplugged to watch  " The Beekeepers " .

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Parasitic Honey bee Fly

Parasitic fly penetrating the body of a honey bee. 
     Apocephalus borealis, a parasitic fly was recently discovered by John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University to parasitize the bodies of honey bees.  This fly was previously known to parasitize bumble bees and paper wasps but not honey bees.  To this point it is a localized phenomena as it has only been found in the San Francisco area (77% of sites tested) and commercial hives in California's Central Valley and South Dakota.  
     This phorid fly lays eggs in the bee's abdomen and several days later the affected bee leaves the hive disoriented, often at night and may fly towards a light source.  Within a short period of time the bee dies and as many as 13 fly larvae crawl out of the bee's neck.  The parasite affects mostly foraging bees and may be a carrier of several diseases like deformed wing virus and Nosema ceranae (found in parasitized bees).  The nocturnal abandonment behavior of the affected bees may be a behavior manipulation by the parasite similar to that found in parasitized fire ants and gypsy moths.  The host behavior manipulation may be an adaptive evolutionary strategy for the benefit of the parasitic larvae.  The possible desire being for the larvae to leave the bee's body in safety away from the hive.  It may also be that the affected bee leaves the hive, knowing it is affected and dying, to save the hive.  The selfless, altruistic behavior of bees in defense of their hive has been well documented.  
     As stated before this phenomena is very localized and should be treated as such (no immediate cause for alarm).  Of the hives studied in the San Francisco area only 5-15% of the hive was affected.  Not enough to decimate the hive as the varroa mite will do.  Of greater concern may be the viruses carried by the parasitic fly.  Hopefully, Apocephalus borealis is not as mobile as the varroa mite.  The immediate concern would be for the massive California agricultural industry. Affected hives mean reduced pollination which means diminished agricultural production.

Parasitic larvae leaving the neck of a dead honey bee. 
     I believe the problems of the honey bee today (Colony Collapse Disorder) are directly related to the problems of our environment.  The two cannot be separated. You cannot have a healthy bee population and an unhealthy earth.  Recently a single grain of pollen taken from an agricultural area of France was found to contain more than 50 different types of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Scientists have discovered that these toxins, along with industrial and household toxins remain in our environment for many years (much longer than they thought). The accumulation factor has dire consequences for the honey bee's relatively weak immune system.  The honey bee has one third the number of genes involved in it's immune system than that of a fruit fly.  As such it is a good indicator species (canary in the coal mine) for the health of our environment.  The weakening effects of these environmental toxins amplifies the effects of otherwise manageable pathogens and pests.  The answer, simple, a clean earth and hygienically bred bees. 
     This news video describes the effects of the parasitic honey bee fly.    


   

     Please visit operationbee.com/actnow/banpesticides and sign the petition to the United Nations to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which are toxic to bees (strathconabeekeepers.blogspot.com/2011/10/insecticides-and-bees).




Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination


     Louie Swartzberg has been a cinematographer for over thirty years and is recognized as a pioneer of high-end time-lapse cinematography.  As an award winning artist he has created breath taking imagery which stirs the heart and forces one to be more appreciative of the beauty all around us.  In a time where the media bombards us with constant negativity it is refreshingly uplifting to experience some of Louie Swartzberg's art.  
     In this ted.com presentation Louie talks about his movie "Wings of Life" the hidden beauty of pollination.  According to Louie "beauty and seduction are nature's tool for survival because we will protect what we fall in love with".  



     In this film, "Gratitude" Louie reminds us of how precious each and every day is. Most of us, myself included, at times take for granted the amazing gift of life we have received and how amazingly lucky we are to be here and experience it.  I may watch this occasionally to remind myself of just how wondrous each day is.  "Respond to each day as if it were the first day of your life and the very last day".

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beeutiful - Bee Photography

Bee on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea Asteraceae) which blooms for us in late summer.
     Zachery Huang, a biologist who has been studying bees for over two decades is an amazing photographer whose stunning photos can be seen at beetography.com.  These are a few of his photos.  I think bees are not only biologically amazing but beautiful as well, particularly when photographed on a colourful flower blossom.

 Borage (Borago officinalis) also known as starflower is a slightly invasive herb (volunteer) which in our garden can bloom from spring to fall and is a bee favourite. 
Goldenrod (Solidago), considered invasive is a favourite of bees and blooms in late summer and  fall.  I have discovered that bees love invasive plants like goldenrod, mint, blackberry, fennel, lemon balm and black locust. 
     Zachery has made available some of his best photos for your desktop wall paper at beetography.com/Honey-Bees/Wall-Papers-Free/746084_m2dRrQ#266110048_NXto8.  Some other good bee photography sites are thehoneygatherers.com/html/index and beedreams.com.  This year I bought my first cheap digital camera and began taking photos of our bees.  I have found that photography and in particular macro insect and flower photography forces you to slow down and look more closely at your environment.  This is a good thing when you live in the hustle and bustle of a big city.  My photos pale in comparison but Zachery's photos give me a goal to aspire to.  Here are a few of my photos of bees and plants bees love.
The common asian aster which blooms in a mass of small flowers for us from August through October  is a bee favourite.
Pink phlox, (native to North America) possibly Phlox paniculata David.
Japanese anemone blooms from late summer through the fall.  In most areas food for bees is readily available in spring and  summer so it is important to provide a food source for the bees in the early spring and autumn when there is less available food sources.   
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), native to the americas and a bee favourite.

One of my girls enjoying a sunflower
One of our bees and a stranger to the left enjoying a rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan)  which is native to North America.


Western bumble bee (Bombos occidentalis) harvesting pollen from a Japanese Anemone.

     The photographs of Eric Tourneret, an amazing French photographer can be seen at his website (http://thehoneygatherers.com/html/index_en.html).  Through his photos he tries to reveal the relationship between bees and different human cultures ( Honey hunters of Nepal).


     Obviously when shooting bees macro settings for those close-up shots are a must.   Here are some macro photography tips from professional photographer Layne Kennedy of Ultimate Photo Guide (ultimatephotoguide.com).  Ultimate Photo Guide is a good site for learning about all aspects of photography.  


High magnification macro photography by Thomas Shahan.

Insect Macro Photography
     For more examples of bee and plant photography go to the Bee Plant pages of this website.
   


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