News regarding the dangers of GMOs and biotech, and the advantages of organic sustainable agriculture.
Largest Settlement in Pharma History: Bayer-Monsanto Agrees to $10B Settlement With Victims Poisoned by Roundup Weedkiller
Bayer will dole out between $10.1 billion and $10.9 billion—the single largest settlement in pharma history—to put an end to thousands of lawsuits tied to its acquisition of Monsanto and glyphosate-based Roundup. The $10 billion settlement will be apportioned to four leading plaintiffs’ law firms, who will in turn distribute the money to nearly 100,000 clients who were stricken with cancer after prolonged use of the toxic weedkiller. The German company acquired the St. Louis-based agrochemical giant Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, and inherited liability in thousands of lawsuits filed by people who claim exposure to Roundup and its main ingredient glyphosate was the cause of their cancer.
A Virginia lawyer who helped represent the first Roundup cancer plaintiff to take Monsanto to trial pleaded guilty on Friday to trying to extort $200 million from a chemical compound supplier to Monsanto. Timothy Litzenburg, 38, admitted to a scheme in which he and another lawyer threatened to inflict substantial “financial and reputational harm” on the supplier unless that company paid the two attorneys $200 million disguised as a “consulting agreement.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Litzenburg allegedly told the company that if they paid the money, he was willing to “take a dive” during a deposition, intentionally undermining the prospects for future plaintiffs to try to sue. Litzenburg claimed to be representing roughly 1,000 clients suing Monsanto over Roundup cancer causation allegations at the time of his arrest last year.
Last week (April, 2020), we published a report on the state of America's hospital system in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, and I wrote then: "The so-called Coronavirus pandemic crisis is very quickly taking a back seat to more serious crises in the U.S. right now, and perhaps none more critical than the closure of hospitals and emergency rooms, along with doctors and nurses being laid off, which is happening all across the country." The other crisis facing the U.S. right now that may soon dwarf the Coronavirus "crisis" is the nation's looming meat shortage. The nation now faces meat shortages, America's primary source of protein, as processing plants across the country have shut down or reduced operations. 80% of the U.S. meat processing plants are owned by only 4 companies. Some grocery stores have already begun to limit meat purchases in advance of the expected shortages. At recent White House Coronavirus Task Force Press briefings, the nation has heard President Trump boast about how he had brokered a trade deal with China back in January of 2020, that includes China buying $12.5 billion of American agricultural products. Trump has been highlighting this as a great deal for American farmers. So which agricultural products did China choose to increase in purchase and export to China after Trump negotiated the trade deal between the two countries back in January? Pork seems to be at the head of the list. China has had major pork supply problems since last year (2019), due to an outbreak of "African swine fever." Some estimates claim that about two-thirds of China’s swine herd has been lost to the disease. So being forced by President Trump into purchasing agricultural products as part of his trade deal, it is no surprise that pork is at the top of the list of exports China wanted. U.S. livestock reports for last week (last week of April, 2020) show a five-week high in U.S. pork exports to China. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported export sales of U.S. pork in the week ended April 23 at 50,300 tonnes, a three-week high. China was the top buyer, booking 35,138 tonnes, while actual pork shipments to China totaled 20,683 tonnes, the most in five weeks." As U.S. pork sales soar due to the growing export market to China, U.S. customers are having an increasingly difficult time finding pork in their grocery stores, which may soon be bare of any pork products at all. One has to wonder who got the better end of this trade deal with China?
With Meat Shortages Looming Renewed Calls to Repeal Federal Ban on Sale of Meat from Custom Slaughterhouses
In the last week, the media headlines have included concerns about possible meat shortages. Livestock farmers and ranchers across the country are verging on bankruptcy – while consumers are facing increasing prices and empty shelves in the groceries. Texas state officials are reportedly advising Texas ranchers how to depopulate and dispose of their beef, while at the same time beef is still being imported into the U.S. from other countries. With hundreds of millions of livestock and poultry in this country, why are we having these problems? COVID-19 is not the reason for the problems, it’s just the straw that is breaking the camel’s back in our deeply flawed food system. Four companies control processing of over 80% of the country’s beef, and four companies control processing of two-thirds of the country’s pork. The consolidation has led to most meat being processed at massive plants where as many as 400 cattle are slaughtered an hour. Workers in these facilities labor under very difficult and often unsafe conditions – and that’s before you add in the issue of a highly contagious disease. Yet the government regulations are designed for these massive, industrial-scale facilities, making it difficult or sometimes even impossible for small-scale facilities to comply. And federal law requires that “state inspected” facilities use the exact same USDA standards, leaving no flexibility for states to develop standards better suited to small operators. So we have a shortage of small-scale processors in this country, and small-scale livestock farmers have few places they can take their animals for processing. In some areas of the country, the nearest USDA or equivalent state facility may be several hours’ drive away or more. There are alternatives, known as “custom slaughterhouses,” which legally operate in many states. But the meat from them can only be provided back to – and consumed by the family of – the person who owned the animal when it entered the slaughterhouse. A consumer who is not able to pay for and store hundreds of pounds of meat in one order is unable to access the meat from a custom slaughterhouse. And a farmer who wants to sell his or her beef, lamb, goat, or pork to consumers at a local farmers’ market or other local outlet cannot use a custom slaughterhouse. The PRIME Act, H.R. 2859/ S.1620, addresses this problem and can help with both the short-term crisis and the long-term change we need in our food system. TAKE ACTION TO SUPPORT THIS IMPORTANT BILL.
As Food Supply Chains Fail, Small Businesses Step Up to Fill in the Gaps – Time to Restructure the Nation’s Food Security?
Earlier this month (April, 2020) we reported about the shortages of meats at supermarkets, and how this reflected not a shortage of meat in the U.S., but the failures of our supply chains when a nationwide crisis hits, such as the Coronavirus scare has done. We discussed how allowing local communities to directly access meat from farmers and ranchers in their own counties and states was the solution to food security issues in our nation's meat supplies. The publication Civil Eats has done an excellent job of reporting on these kinds of problems that are systemic within our nation's food supply chains. In another excellent investigative report on flour shortages that many are starting to see around the country, Amy Halloran has written an excellent article titled: "Flour Shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue: A grain and flour expert enthusiast says the local flour revolution is tastier, healthier, and has created more robust markets." Again, as we saw with the meat market, there is currently no shortage of flour in our nation. The issue is the frail supply chain. In yet another excellent article published by Civil Eats, Jodi Helmer wrote a report titled: "Restaurants Are Transforming into Grocery Stores to Survive the Pandemic: Selling sought-after eggs, flour, and toilet paper directly to consumers has provided an ‘emergency transfusion’ for restaurants." In our article about Wyoming's Food Freedom Act and the nation's meat supply issues, we mentioned how the closing of restaurants and other venues that serve food, such as sporting and entertainment events, was what was putting a strain on the meat market supplies. With the entire nation confined to their homes and unable to visit restaurants and other venues where food is served, this in turn created a huge demand for more food at grocery stores, while bulk food distributors were left with an excess of inventory that was not packaged properly for retail sales. Helmer's article documents how some restaurants have dealt with this situation while solving two problems at once: providing more business for their restaurant so they could stay in business, and providing much needed items to their consumers that they could not find in their local grocery stores, such as eggs, flour, and toilet paper. What is the answer to the food security issue facing our nation?
Is Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act with Farm to Consumer Direct Sales a Model for Food Security for the Rest of the U.S.?
Earlier this week (April, 2020), U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, appeared at the White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference to explain why the country is facing some food shortages, such as meats, in grocery stores, even though there is plenty of food in the country. The problem is the commodity-based food distribution system, which is experiencing bottle necks right now due to restaurants and other food establishments being shut down across the country due to the coronavirus restrictions. A significant portion of commodity-based food sales is processed, packaged, and distributed for businesses, and not for consumers who purchase food in stores and supermarkets. So with the decline in food sales to businesses, there has also been a corresponding demand for food in grocery stores from consumers who would normally be eating more at restaurants, schools, ball parks, and work places. There are a lot of businesses that get a piece of the pie that is our food system here in the U.S., controlling the flow of food from the farm to the consumer. When everything is going well, it is like a high-speed train going from one destination to another. And most of the food you see in your grocery store, or eat at institutions, is heavily subsidized by taxpayers as well, keeping food cheap, and not representing the true cost to produce that food. But when a crisis hits the nation, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, it just takes one section of the train to derail and cause the entire system to start failing, and potentially to completely derail. And the effects we are seeing today as a result of the nationwide lock downs, are really a small problem in the grand scheme of things when it comes to food distribution in this country. Just think of what the effects could potentially look like if, for example, transportation was disrupted due to energy disruptions, or communication was disrupted due to electrical grid issues, or telecommunication issues. This is mild in comparison to what might happen, for example, if the country found itself in a real war, and not a "war" on a virus, where an enemy could bring down the power grid, disrupt the Internet, etc. This should be a wake up call that our nation's food distribution system is incredibly vulnerable. Wyoming's Food Freedom Act, allowing local consumers to purchase food directly from farms in their community, might be a model that needs to now be put in place at the national level.
The Bill Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest charitable foundation in the world, with a trust endowment valued at $48 billion and yearly grant payments in excess of $5 billion annually. In addition to being one of the largest contributors to the World Health Organization (WHO), with heavy involvement in global public health, the Gates Foundation is deeply involved in agricultural development. It's a noble cause but one that's being carried out using an agenda that supports agrochemicals, patented seeds and corporate control — interests that undermine regenerative, sustainable, small-scale farming. In a report by Global Justice Now, the excessive global influence held by the Gates Foundation is illustrated, starting with the $2 billion the foundation has spent on agriculture, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. "It is the world's fifth largest donor to agriculture, spending $389 million in 2013; only Germany, Japan, Norway and the U.S. have larger bilateral aid programs to agriculture," the report noted, and, "With funding comes in influence." Indeed, in February 2012, when the Gates Foundation announced a $200 million donation to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Gates talked of the importance of brining "agricultural science and technology to poor farmers." These are buzzwords that imply genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and biotechnology, which are heavily favored by the Gates Foundation.
A California shareholder of Bayer AG on Friday filed a lawsuit against the companies’ top executives claiming they breached their duty of “prudence” and “loyalty” to the company and investors by buying Monsanto Co. in 2018, an acquisition the suit claims has “inflicted billions of dollars of damages” on the company. Plaintiff Rebecca R. Haussmann, trustee of the Konstantin S. Haussmann Trust, is the sole named plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in New York County Supreme Court. The named defendants include Bayer CEO Werner Baumann, who orchestrated the $63 billion Monsanto purchase, and Bayer Chairman Werner Wenning, who announced last month he was stepping down from the company earlier than planned. The suit claims that Wenning’s decision came after Bayer improperly obtained a copy of the then-draft shareholder lawsuit “through corporate espionage.” The lawsuit also claims that Bayer’s recent announcement of an audit of its acquisition actions is “bogus” and “part of the ongoing cover-up and intended to create a legal barrier to this case to protect Defendants from their accountability…”
Thousands of farmers from multiple states are expected to join mass tort litigation pending in federal court over claims that weed-killing products developed by the former Monsanto Co. and other chemical companies are destroying and contaminating crops, including organic production, a group of lawyers and farmers said on Wednesday. The number of farmers seeking legal representation to file suit against Monsanto and BASF has surged over the last week and a half after a staggering $265 million jury award to a Missouri peach farmer who alleged the two companies were to blame for the loss of his livelihood, according to Joseph Peiffer of the Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane law firm. Peiffer said more than 2,000 farmers are likely to become plaintiffs.
A jury awarded $265 million in punitive damages against Bayer and BASF to a southeastern Missouri peach farmer who argued that weedkiller dicamba that had drifted onto his orchards from other farms had severely damaged his trees. The punitive damages awarded to farmer Bill Bader came a day after the jury awarded him $15 million in actual damages, agreeing with his argument that dicamba had drifted over from other farms and severely damaged Bader Farms, which is one of the largest peach farms in Missouri. Bader's attorneys argued that his trees likely wouldn't survive the dicamba exposure. The owners of Bader Farms alleged the companies conspired to create an “ecological disaster” that would induce farmers to buy dicamba-tolerant seeds.