Archive for the ‘political rants’ Category

A New Suit By Farmers Against the DEA Illustrates Why The War on Drugs Should Not Include a War on Hemp

June 25, 2007


 My dear friend Natalie sent me this article it’s interesting so I thought I would share it.



A New Suit By Farmers Against the DEA Illustrates Why The War on Drugs Should Not Include a War on Hemp

Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2007

Yesterday, two farmers filed suit in the federal district court of North Dakota. They are seeking a declaratory judgment against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that would allow them to cultivate hemp, a profitable crop with many legal uses.

The DEA, however, is likely to strongly defend the suit. After all, ever since its very inception, the DEA has feared that if it allows “industrial” hemp to be produced, the result will be to seriously undermine its war on drugs, including marijuana. As I will explain, its position has led to a bizarre and, some argue, utterly irrational situation: It makes little sense for the War on Drugs to also include a War on Hemp.

A case decided last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit illustrates some of this irrationality, but doesn’t give the full picture. In this column, I’ll provide a chronology of the DEA’s war on this plant and its champions; discuss a set of legal questions that, in my view, complicates the agency’s war plans; and finally, offer a prediction of hemp’s regulatory future.

The Cannabis Conundrum: A Controlled Substance with Highly Beneficial Applications

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensation, or possession of any listed “controlled substance,” except as authorized by the CSA or the DEA. Marijuana is included, and even its medicinal use remains flatly prohibited. In 2006, the Supreme Court entertained a Commerce Clause challenge to that latter prohibition, in Gonzales v. Raich, but the challengers lost.

This unbending legal regime is a great shame, because the marijuana plant is a botanical superstar. It generates a portfolio of raw materials for products like rope and canvas (which reportedly covered the Conestoga wagons of the Nineteenth Century West), oil, paper, and cellulose.

This is no small matter today: Compared to most tree species, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has acknowledged, hemp is several times more efficient for producing paper and fiber, is much less dependent upon pesticides and herbicides than crops like cotton, and creates a seed oil high in essential fatty acids. The oil alone has countless applications. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture even ordered cannabis production during World War II in its “Hemp for Victory” program.

So if you’re looking for an “assault on reason,” a flat ban on this plant–given its multitude of beneficial uses, most of which are fossil fuel-reducing and organic in every sense–certainly fits the bill.

Column continues below ↓

Cannabis’s Early History: The 1937 Act

Of course, the issue with cannabis sativa is that some of its varieties are grown to maximize the creation of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). THC is a psychoactive compound, and, unfortunately, the THC producer is the same genus and species as the botanical wunderkind. They are just different parts of the same plant or, in some instances, different varietals. Unfortunately, throughout American history, the U.S. government has too often acted as if these two features of the plant are inseparable – and that has led to some absurd results.

The cannabis plant was among the first drugs the U.S. Government tried to eradicate in this country, beginning in 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act. The 1937 law was preceded only by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, which taxed opiates and cocaine, and, of course, the Eighteenth Amendment, imposing Prohibition.

While the 1937 law was formally a tax, it might as well have been a ban, for it made the cost of the plant prohibitively high, and thus effectively prohibited the growing of varieties and foliage to maximize THC (“pot”). Nevertheless, the growing of “hemp”–which has THC concentrations too low to move the needle–was taxed hardly at all.

A Senate Report on the bill made this point quite clear:

“The testimony before the committee showed definitely that neither the mature stalk of the hemp plant nor the fiber produced therefrom contains any drug, narcotic, or harmful property whatsoever and because of that fact the fiber and mature stalk have been exempted from the operation of the law.”

Accordingly, the Act specifically excluded “the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.” Put another way, it excludes hemp even as it sweeps in marijuana.

The Rockefeller Era and After: New Laws Continue the Hemp Exception

Fast-forward to the Rockefeller era – when the CSA and other drug laws were enacted. Notably, these laws all adopted the 1937 Act’s definition of “marihuana,” Which, again, was drafted to exclude hemp. Thus, for a time, hemp production continued unabated. But then, complications arose.

The CSA and other laws of the 1960s and ’70s had to cope with the synthetic production of C21 H30 O2 (THC). THC and THC-containing products were thus added to “Schedule I” of prohibited drugs, first by a regulation from the DEA’s predecessor, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and then via the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (CDAPCA).

Meanwhile, “marihuana” (with that same original statutory definition from the 1937 Act) remained on the same list, as well – notwithstanding the obvious fact that it was the original source of THC. Thus, like the CSA, the CDAPCA while prohibiting cannabis sativa, retained the original, broad exception for hemp fiber, “stalks,” “seeds,” and any “manufacture” therefrom.

The Advent of the DEA – and the Start of the War on Hemp

Then came the DEA – and the first offensives in what would become the war on hemp.

It turns out that what Congress thought was “definite” in 1937 is actually a little complicated: The whole cannabis plant contains THC: it occurs in at least trace levels throughout the organism. Thus, even if the THC in hemp seed oil is so low that it cannot possibly induce psychotropic effects, technically, the person who ingests hemp seed oil is still ingesting THC – which Schedule I prohibited. Moreover, the DEA is fond of arguing, to get to the “mature” stage where its productivity is realized, hemp must first sprout through a high-THC (pot) phase – and in that phase, the DEA suggests, it could be poached or simply sold.

During the same era, the pharmaceutical industry found several applications for THC. It developed and marketed a synthetic form under the name Marinol to control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and stimulate appetite in AIDS patients. (Marinol was rescheduled in 1999 and placed in Schedule III of the CSA, where it may be used by prescription.)

Several inquiries from the public in the late 1990s alerted DEA to the fact that some interpreted the drug laws to exempt “hemp” as such. DEA then tried to “clarify” the CSA, CDAPCA, and its regulations with an “interpretive” rule and a follow-up “legislative” rule asserting that the “THC” entry on Schedule I included both natural and synthetic THC alike. The upshot was that, while the DEA would allow imported, nonedible hemp products to remain in commerce, all edible hemp was prohibited, as was all domestic cultivation of cannabis sativa, even if it was intended for “industrial” uses.

Yet, in a series of administrative law twists and turns, the Ninth Circuit eventually invalidated those rules. The result was to leave the CSA and CDAPCA as the only laws in effect on the matter.

Today’s DEA’s View: It’s the THC Stupid!

In the wake of those cases, Justice Department and DEA lawyers maintain that the CDAPCA prohibits everything containing THC–whether synthetic or organic–including all parts of the cannabis plant. However, it’s highly debatable whether that’s true: The federal courts of appeal have divided over the question whether all parts of the cannabis plant are Schedule I controlled substances.

Unfortunately, despite the legal ambiguity, the DEA has dug in its heels, acting as if the law were clear, and as if every use of cannabis were created equal.

One case decided in 2006 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, United States v. White Plume, is especially unfortunate.

The case arose because in 1998, the Oglala Sioux Tribe amended its tribal law to allow cultivation of “industrial hemp” on tribal lands, and some of its members did so. Rather than prosecute, the government twice destroyed the crop, and then sought a declaratory judgment against White Plume.

The district court obliged, as did the Eighth Circuit, which deferred to the DEA’s construction of the drug laws and held that all THC-containing articles – including cannabis plants – are Schedule I-prohibited.

What accounts for a decision that prohibited a Native American tribe from growing and selling hemp for harmless industrial purposes? The short answer is that courts are generally inclined to defer to agencies’ interpretations of the statutes they are charged with enforcing – in this case, the CDAPCA and CSA.

However, the suit filed yesterday in North Dakota may showcase the consequences of the agency’s rigidity on this point. Given such a short growing season, competitors in Canada who are making money on the crop in our globalized agricultural economy, and so many possibilities for this plant, DEA should have to answer for its interpretation of the law in this respect, at least: Isn’t there some other kind of trouble we can borrow?

Will Congress change the agency’s mind about hemp, or will the courts? The prospect of either happening seems bleak, and that underscores how perverse our drug laws have become. In a time when it is so important to be “green,” hemp is one of the “greenest” things around.


Ban Dragnet Fishing

February 18, 2007

This news is a bit old but since the Liberal government in BC said this would be the golden decaded of environmentalism I thought I would put this out here.

It’s a step in the right direction, too bad Canada won’t sign up for the ban. I guess Gordo won’t be supporting it either.

The United Nations called for a ban on all dragnet fishing. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has thus far ignored this pleas to protect the ocean floors, despite scientific evidence that show that coral and other bottom dwelling organisms provide the basis for the existence of life in the ocean.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s government has said no to wind and solar energy, instead pushing forward plans to build two massive coal burning furnaces and associated open pit mines. Despite the PR spin put on this issue, scientists conclude that coal burning furnaces to generate electrically is the single dirtiest (in terms of pollutants such as NOx, SOx, mercury, etc.) and highest generator of CO2 of any form of power generation. Source

Friday November 17, 11:21 AM

Int’l fish conservation bodies ban ocean bottom dragnet fishing

(Kyodo) _ Two international fisheries-resources conversation bodies have decided to provisionally ban dragnet fishing in deep ocean waters surrounding Antarctica and in the northwestern Atlantic, Japanese officials said.The bans were imposed in light of scientists’ warnings that bottom trawling has disrupted oceanic ecosystems, according to the officials who are familiar with recent discussions at the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

In 2004, over 1,100 scientists from 70 countries, including Japan, called for a provisional ban on bottom trawling.

Bottom trawling refers to a method of fishing involving boats pulling large nets at a depth of 500 meters to 2,000 meters. Most dragnet fishermen, including those from European nations, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, have been using this method in recent years.

Members of both the CCAMLR and NAFO agreed unanimously to impose the bans, which come into force with immediate effect, the officials said. The CCAMLR comprises 24 countries and organizations, and NAFO 13 countries and regions.

The bans cover nearly the entire area of the Antarctic Sea as well as four areas in the northwestern Atlantic, including one surrounding an undersea mountain off Canada’s Newfoundland, they said.


In addition, the two bodies decided to prohibit catches of sharks and some other fish to protect stocks from depletion, they said.

It is rare for an international body in charge of conserving maritime resources to produce an agreement of this sort concerning fishing activities in open seas.

The decisions indicate that the international community is putting greater emphasis on efforts to conserve maritime resources.

The member states of the United Nations, whose plenary session is currently under way, are also deliberating on proposals to regulate deep-sea trawling.

Encouraged by the two multilateral bodies’ decisions, the U.N. session may come up with even more stringent regulatory steps, the officials said.

The CCAMLR, which wrapped up its latest session in Australia on Nov. 3, decided to impose the ban on bottom trawling around Antarctica for the period to 2009.

The body also decided to ask its Scientific Committee to conduct an investigation into the matter with an eye to having the panel deliberate in 2009 on whether to extend the ban, they said.

NAFO decided at its September meeting in Canada to provisionally ban commercial fishing in the areas surrounding four undersea mountains in the northwestern Atlantic, the officials said.

NAFO members will hold talks on whether to continue the ban at a meeting slated for 2010 after members conduct research on the effects of fishing on the state of living creatures in the areas surrounding the undersea mountains, they said. The effects of bottom trawling will also be examined.

An official at Japan’s Fisheries Agency said the Japanese government has endorsed the recent decisions by the two international bodies as they called for only provisional bans.

But the official cautioned, “We are opposed to banning trawling without having scientific grounds.”

Here is some more info about our oceans,
COLD WATER CORAL it’s the fourth story down from the top.

Interesting Article on Organic Foods

February 14, 2007

I was listening to the CBC a while back and the Arthor of this book was chatting about some of these issues.

OCTOBER 16, 2006



The Organic Myth
Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market



Next time you’re in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we’ve come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.

So it may come as a surprise that Stonyfield’s organic farm is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stonyfield still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirshberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. “It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house,” he says. “But once you’re in organic, you have to source globally.”


Hirshberg’s dilemma is that of the entire organic food business. Just as mainstream consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients. There simply aren’t enough organic cows in the U.S., never mind the organic grain to feed them, to go around. Nor are there sufficient organic strawberries, sugar, or apple pulp — some of the other ingredients that go into the world’s best-selling organic yogurt.

Slide Show >>

Now companies from Wal-Mart (WMT ) to General Mills (GIS ) to Kellogg (K ) are wading into the organic game, attracted by fat margins that old-fashioned food purveyors can only dream of. What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits. Hirshberg himself is under the gun because he has sold an 85% stake in Stonyfield to the French food giant Groupe Danone. To retain management control, he has to keep Stonyfield growing at double-digit rates. Yet faced with a supply crunch, he has drastically cut the percentage of organic products in his line. He also has scaled back annual sales growth, from almost 40% to 20%. “They’re all mad at me,” he says.

As food companies scramble to find enough organically grown ingredients, they are inevitably forsaking the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic lifestyle. For some companies, it means keeping thousands of organic cows on industrial-scale feedlots. For others, the scarcity of organic ingredients means looking as far afield as China, Sierra Leone, and Brazil — places where standards may be hard to enforce, workers’ wages and living conditions are a worry, and, say critics, increased farmland sometimes comes at a cost to the environment.

Everyone agrees on the basic definition of organic: food grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals. Four years ago, under pressure from critics fretting that the term “organic” was being misused, the U.S. Agriculture Dept. issued rules. To be certified as organic, companies must eschew most pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, and radiation. But for purists, the philosophy also requires farmers to treat their people and livestock with respect and, ideally, to sell small batches of what they produce locally so as to avoid burning fossil fuels to transport them. The USDA rules don’t fully address these concerns.

Hence the organic paradox: The movement’s adherents have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but success has imperiled their ideals. It simply isn’t clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale. For Hirshberg, who set out to “change the way Kraft (KFT ), Monsanto (MON ), and everybody else does business,” the movement is shedding its innocence. “Organic is growing up.”

Certainly, life has changed since 1983, when Hirshberg teamed up with a back-to-the-land advocate named Samuel Kaymen to sell small batches of full-fat plain organic yogurt. Kaymen had founded Stonyfield Farm to feed his six kids and, as he puts it, “escape the dominant culture.” Hirshberg, then 29, had been devoted to the environment for years, stung by memories of technicolor dyes streaming downriver from his father’s New Hampshire shoe factories. He wrote a book on how to build water-pumping windmills and, between 1979 and 1983, ran the New Alchemy Institute, an alternative-living research center on Cape Cod. He was a believer.

But producing yogurt amid the rudimentary conditions of the original Stonyfield Farm was a recipe for nightmares, not nirvana. Meg, an organic farmer who married Hirshberg in 1986, remembers the farm as cold and crowded, with a road so perilous that suppliers often refused to come up. “I call it the bad old days,” she says. Adds her mother, Doris Cadoux, who propped up the business for years: “Every time Gary would come to me for money, Meg would call to say ‘Mama, don’t do it.”‘

Farming without insecticides, fertilizers, and other aids is tough. Laborers often weed the fields by hand. Farmers control pests with everything from sticky flypaper to aphid-munching ladybugs. Manure and soil fertility must be carefully managed. Sick animals may take longer to get well without a quick hit of antibiotics, although they’re likely to be healthier in the first place. Moreover, the yield per acre or per animal often goes down, at least initially. Estimates for the decline from switching to organic corn range up to 20%.

Organic farmers say they can ultimately exceed the yields of conventional rivals through smarter soil management. But some believe organic farming, if it is to stay true to its principles, would require vastly more land and resources than is currently being used. Asks Alex Avery, a research director at the Hudson Institute think tank: “How much Bambi habitat do you want to plow down?”

For a sense of why Big Business and organics often don’t mix, it helps to visit Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm. The duo have been producing organic yogurt in northeastern Vermont since 1975. Their 45 milking cows are raised from birth and have names like Peaches and Moonlight. All of the food for the cows — and most of what the Lazors eat, too — comes from the farm, and Anne keeps their charges healthy with a mix of homeopathic medicines and nutritional supplements. Butterworks produces a tiny 9,000 quarts of yogurt a week, and no one can pressure them to make more. Says Jack: “I’d be happiest to sell everything within 10 miles of here.”

But the Lazors also embody an ideal that’s almost impossible for other food producers to fulfill. For one thing, they have enough land to let their modest-sized herd graze for food. Many of the country’s 9 million-plus dairy cows (of which fewer than 150,000 are organic) are on farms that will never have access to that kind of pasture. After all, a cow can only walk so far when it has to come back to be milked two or three times a day.

When consumers shell out premiums of 50% or more to buy organic, they are voting for the Butterworks ethic. They believe humans should be prudent custodians not only of their own health but also of the land and animals that share it. They prefer food produced through fair wages and family farms, not poor workers and agribusiness. They are responding to tales of caged chickens and confined cows that never touch a blade of grass; talk of men losing fertility and girls becoming women at age nine because of extra hormones in food. They read about pesticides seeping into the food supply and genetically modified crops creeping across the landscape.

For Big Food, consumers’ love affair with everything organic has seemed like a gift from the gods. Food is generally a commoditized, sluggish business, especially in basic supermarket staples. Sales of organic groceries, on the other hand, have been surging by up to 20% in recent years. Organic milk is so profitable — with wholesale prices more than double that of conventional milk — that Lyle “Spud” Edwards of Westfield, Vt., was able to halve his herd, to 25 cows, this summer and still make a living, despite a 15% drop in yields since switching to organic four years ago. “There’s a lot more paperwork, but it’s worth it,” says Edwards, who supplies milk to Stonyfield.

The food industry got a boost four years ago when the USDA issued its organic standards. The “USDA Organic” label now appears on scores of products, from chicken breasts to breakfast cereal. And you know a tipping point is at hand when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enters the game. The retailer pledged this year to become a center of affordable “organics for everyone” and has started by doubling its organic offerings at 374 stores nationwide. “Everyone wants a piece of the pie,” says George L. Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the country’s largest organic farm co- operative. “Kraft and Wal-Mart are part of the community now, and we have to get used to it.”

The corporate giants have turned a fringe food category into a $14 billion business. They have brought wider distribution and marketing dollars. They have imposed better quality controls on a sector once associated with bug-infested, battered produce rotting in crates at hippie co-ops. Organic products now account for 2.5% of all grocery spending (if additive-free “natural” foods are included, the share jumps to about 10%). And demand could soar if prices come down.

But success has brought home the problems of trying to feed the masses in an industry where supplies can be volatile. Everyone from Wal-Mart to Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST ) is feeling the pinch. Earlier this year, Earthbound Farm, a California producer of organic salads, fruit, and vegetables owned by Natural Selection Foods, cut off its sliced-apple product to Costco because supply dried up — even though Earthbound looked as far afield as New Zealand. “The concept of running out of apples is foreign to these people,” says Earthbound co-founder Myra Goodman, whose company recalled bagged spinach in the wake of the recent E. coli outbreak. “When you’re sourcing conventional produce, it’s a matter of the best product at the best price.”

Inconsistency is a hallmark of organic food. Variations in animal diet, local conditions, and preparation make food taste different from batch to batch. But that’s anathema to a modern food giant. Heinz, for one, had a lot of trouble locating herbs and spices for its organic ketchup. “We’re a global company that has to deliver consistent standards,” says Kristen Clark, a group vice-president for marketing. The volatile supply also forced Heinz to put dried or fresh organic herbs in its organic Classico pasta sauce because it wasn’t able to find the more convenient quick-frozen variety. Even Wal-Mart, master of the modern food supply chain, is humbled by the realities of going organic. As spokesperson Gail Lavielle says: “You can’t negotiate prices in a market like that.”

While Americans may love the idea of natural food, they have come to rely on the perks of agribusiness. Since the widespread use of synthetic pesticides began, around the time of World War II, food producers have reaped remarkable gains. Apples stay red and juicy for weeks. The average harvested acre of farmland yields 200% more wheat than it did 70 years ago. Over the past two decades chickens have grown 25% bigger in less time and on less food. At the same time, the average cow produces 60% more milk, thanks to innovations in breeding, nutrition, and synthetic hormones.

It’s also worth remembering how inexpensive food is these days. Americans shell out about 10% of their disposable income on food, about half what they spent in the first part of the 20th century. Producing a budget-priced cornucopia of organic food won’t be easy.

Exhibit A: Gary Hirshberg’s quest for organic milk. Dairy producers estimate that demand for organic milk is at least twice the current available supply. To quench this thirst, the U.S. would have to more than double the number of organic cows — those that eat only organic food — to 280,000 over the next five years. That’s a challenge, since the number of dairy farms has shrunk to 60,000, from 334,000 in 1980, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. And almost half the milk produced in the U.S. comes from farms with more than 500 cows, something organic advocates rarely support.

What to do? If you’re Hirshberg, you weigh the pros and cons of importing organic milk powder from New Zealand. Stonyfield already gets strawberries from China, apple puree from Turkey, blueberries from Canada, and bananas from Ecuador. It’s the only way to keep the business growing. Besides, Hirshberg argues, supporting a family farmer in Madagascar or reducing chemical use in Costa Rica is just as important as doing the same at home.

Perhaps, but doing so risks a consumer backlash, especially when the organic food is from China. So far there is little evidence that crops from there are tainted or fraudulently labeled. Any food that bears the USDA Organic label has to be accredited by an independent certifier. But tests are few and far between. Moreover, many consumers don’t trust food from a country that continues to manufacture DDT and tolerates fakes in other industries. Similar questions are being asked about much of the developing world. Ronnie Cummins, national director of the nonprofit Organic Consumers Assn., claims organic farms may contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, although conventional farming remains the proven culprit.

Imported organics are a constant concern for food companies and supermarkets. It’s certainly on Steve Pimentel’s mind. “Someone is going to do something wrong,” says Costco’s assistant general merchandise manager. “We want to make sure it’s not us.” To avoid nasty surprises, Costco makes sure its own certifiers check that standards are met in China for the organic peanuts and produce it imports. Over at Stonyfield, Hirshberg’s sister, Nancy, who is vice-president of natural resources, was so worried about buying strawberries in northeastern China that she ordered a social audit to check worker conditions. “If I didn’t have to buy from there,” she says, “I wouldn’t.”

For many companies, the preferred option is staying home and adopting the industrial scale of agribusiness. Naturally, giant factory farms make purists recoil. Is an organic label appropriate for eggs produced in sheds housing more than 100,000 hens that rarely see the light of day? Can a chicken that’s debeaked or allowed minimal access to the outdoors be deemed organic? Would consumers be willing to pay twice as much for organic milk if they thought the cows producing it spent most of their outdoor lives in confined dirt lots?

Absolutely not, say critics such as Mark Kastel, director of the Organic Integrity Project at the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group promoting small family farms. “Organic consumers think they’re supporting a different kind of ethic,” says Kastel, who last spring released a high-profile report card labeling 11 producers as ethically challenged.

Kastel’s report card included Horizon Organic Dairy, the No. 1 organic milk brand in the U.S., and Aurora Organic Dairy, which makes private-label products for the likes of Costco and Safeway Inc. Both dairies deny they are ethically challenged. But the two do operate massive corporate farms. Horizon has 8,000 cows in the Idaho desert. There, the animals consume such feed as corn, barley, hay, and soybeans, as well as some grass from pastureland. The company is currently reconfiguring its facility to allow more grazing opportunities. And none of this breaks USDA rules. The agency simply says animals must have “access to pasture.” How much is not spelled out. “It doesn’t say [livestock] have to be out there, happy and feeding, 18 hours a day,” says Barbara C. Robinson, who oversees the USDA’s National Organic Program.

But what gets people like Kastel fuming is the fact that big dairy farms produce tons of pollution in the form of manure and methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide — gases blamed for warming the planet. Referring to Horizon’s Idaho farm, he adds: “This area is in perpetual drought. You need to pump water constantly to grow pasture. That’s not organic.”

Aurora and Horizon argue their operations are true to the organic spirit and that big farms help bring organic food to the masses. Joe E. Scalzo, president and CEO of Horizon’s owner, WhiteWave, which is owned by Dean Foods Co., says: “You need the 12-cow farms in Vermont — and the 4,000 milking cows in Idaho.” Adds Clark Driftmier, a spokesman for Aurora, which manages 8,400 dairy cows on two farms in Colorado and Texas: “We’re in a contentious period with organics right now.”

At the USDA, Robinson is grappling with the same imponderables. In her mind the controversy is more about scale than animal treatment. “The real issue is a fear of large corporations,” she says. Robinson expects the USDA to tighten pasture rules in the coming months in hopes of moving closer to the spirit of the organic philosophy. “As programs go,” she says, “this is just a toddler. New issues keep coming up.”

Few people seem more hemmed in by the contradictions than Gary Hirshberg. Perhaps more than anyone, he has acted as the industry’s philosopher king, lobbying governments, proselytizing consumers, helping farmers switch to organic, and giving 10% of profits to environmental causes. Yet he sold most of Stonyfield Farm to a $17 billion French corporation.

He did so partly to let his original investors cash out, partly to bring organic food to the masses. But inevitably, as Stonyfield has morphed from local outfit to national brand, some of the original tenets have fallen by the wayside. Once Danone bought a stake, Stonyfield founder Samuel Kaymen moved on. “I never felt comfortable with the scale or dealing with people so far away,” he recalls, although he says Hirshberg has so far managed to uphold the company’s original principles.

The hard part may be continuing to do so with Danone looking over his shoulder. Hirshberg retains board control but says his “autonomy and independence and employment are contingent on delivering minimum growth and profitability.” Danone Chairman and CEO Franck Riboud expresses admiration for the man he considers to be Danone’s organic guru, but adds: “Gary respects that I have to answer to shareholders.”

The compromises that Hirshberg is willing to make say a lot about where the organic business is headed. “Our kids don’t have time for us to sit on our high horses and say we’re not going to do this because it’s not ecologically perfect,” says Hirshberg. “The only way to influence the powerful forces in this industry is to become a powerful force.” And he’s willing to do that, even if it means playing by a new set of rules.

Me & Politics

February 12, 2007

I have to confess I have a very week spot for Marx I don’t feel that his praises have been sung enough. Also it saddens me that the word communism actually scares people.

However there are other political interests I have especially as far as parties. The Green Party is who I voted for in the last Federal Election

I voted for them because I felt that they would do a lot more for Canada and the world because of their strong environmental policies. Worse case scenario, why shouldn’t they be able to have their turn screwing this country over? Could they do worse then the Liberal or Conservatives? I don’t think so.

Libertarianism this is a fairly new political idea to me. I think what draws me to it, is the protection of the individual (opposite of Marx’s I know!) But in so many ways I see the government interfering with our personal freedoms. One example of this is that I want to change my first name legally but now in Canada to do that I have to submit finger prints!

Now I’m no criminal and don’t like being treated like one either so I guess I won’t be changing my name legally. Why should I, a law abiding citizen have my fingerprints on file with the government? That is a gross invasion of my privacy.


Libertarians do not look at government as a sacrosanct body that cannot be questioned, but simply as the agency which has a monopoly on the legal use of force. Libertarians therefore address themselves to one basic question: What is the proper justification for the use of government’s coercive power?

The Libertarian answer is that government power must be used only to protect the individual from the use of force or fraud by others. source

Another thing that I believe is that you can be an entrepreneur and that’s so incredible different then that of a multi national corp. I think of multi nationals as sort of a macro dictatorship way of capitalism. For me these companies buy laws, politicians and basically buy themselves a type of totalitarian rule. Monsanto is a good company to focus on. It’s unbelievable what Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser has had to go through. His fields where contaminated with their franken seeds and now he owes them!

As you can tell politically I’m all over the place, but I think I usually fall back on my Marxist ideals and critique most things through that philosophy. I don’t think any party can fix all the problems in the world.

Everyone (I do to) thinks democracy is great but here’s a quote that can even dampen your enthusiasm for that.

What’s the definition of democracy? Two foxes and a chicken deciding on what to have for dinner.

Is it really Church versus State?

February 3, 2007

Last month in Vancouver BC a women gave birth to six babies. Unfortunately two of them died. The four that remain are in neonatal care and are stable. The family has chosen to guard their privacy they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The fact they are from this sect has seemed to guide their decision makeing process for their babies welfare.

The Doctors informed the parents that at twelve weeks gestation they could selectively reduce the number of fetuses. This procedure involves placing a lethal injection into the heart of the selected baby/babies, the parents refused this. At 16 weeks again the doctor reminded her she could abort. The doctors also gave them the choice as to whether they wanted their children resuscitated at birth. Every time these parents where faced with life and death situations they chose life, life for their children.I think the fact the doctors on three occasions at least gave them the choice to end the lives of some or all of the children really pisses me off because when these parents decided not to agree to blood transfusions because of their religious beliefs the doctors went to the ministry of social services and families and seeked a court order to apprehend the babies so that the doctors could preform this procedure.

I want to interject here that my personal belief is that the doctors should do everthing they can to save the lives of these four babies, but at the same time I see hypocrisy from them. Are they ethical giants? I don’t think so, why is their belief that the fetus is not a person out way the ethics of a religious family following the rules of their religious text? Those doctors would of willing let these babies die on several occasions if the parents will at been that. So why now, do they run to the authorities like knights on their white steeds?

From what is written about the parents I see nothing but a family fighting to save their kids. Don’t we believe in religious freedom in Canada? Don’t parents have the right to make choices for their sick kids? Can you imagine how it must feel to have a social worker making medical decisions on behalf of your babies?!

It’s so distasteful to me that on one hand they have given the parents on so many occasions the option of letting these kids die, but when they refuse a medical treatment contrary to religious beliefs they are seen as unfit. And the doctors are seen has the heroes. Well I don’t think they are heroes at all in this case, how do you decide to flip flop on wanting to let the parents making life and death situations to not letting them? Where is that line drawn in the sand?

This is not church veruses state I think it’s doctors not having their own ethics in order and trying to play God and using the government system to get what they want when it suits them.

I think too (don’t quote me) that Jehovah’s Witness can receive plasma which is a part of the blood. I really feel sad for this family having to go through all of this. I feel that they are doing everything in their power to help these babies and I also respect that they believe in afterlife in which they want to safe guard their children for.

I know for myself I would have no problems giving my children blood transfusions if they need it. And I’m glad that if these children needed this blood to survive they got it. It’s just that there is a lot of hypocrisy going on in this case and it’s burned me up. Here is a link to the story.