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A study by Clinical Epigenetics, a peer-reviewed journal that focuses largely on diseases, has found that the rise in autism in the United States could be linked to the industrial food system, specifically the prevalence of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the American diet. The study, published yesterday online, explores how mineral deficiencies could impact how the human body rids itself of common toxic chemicals like mercury and pesticides. The report comes just after a different report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documented a startling rise in autism in the United States.

It's been 15 years since genetically engineered biocrops and biofoods were first introduced into Canada without public debate. Today, over half of Canada’s corn and soy is genetically engineered(GE). The majority of canola grown in Canada is GE. The vast majority of GE biocrops are in used in processed food as ingredients such as corn starch, soy lecithin and canola oil. There is no law requiring the labelling of GE ingredients.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have approved over 50 varieties of 12 GE biocrops and biofoods under the category of "Plants with Novel Traits" and "Novel Foods". Of those that are GE biocrops, the seeds are engineered to produce crops which are either insect resistant or herbicide tolerant. Many now carry both traits.

GE BioCrops Globally
2011: GM biocrops (predominately biocorn, biosoy, and biocotton) are confined to a handful of countries with highly industrialized, export-oriented agricultural sectors. Nearly 90% of the area planted with GE biocrops in 2010 were located in five countries in North and South America, and 78% are sown in the US, Argentina and Brazil. The United States plants 45% of the world’s GE crops.

GE BioCrops in Europe
2011: The only GE biocrop currently cultivated in the EU is Monsanto's insect resistant (Bt) corn (MON810). In 2010, GE biocorn was grown in the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Romania, and Slovakia on a cultivation surface of about 82 000 hectares equaling a 13% decrease compared to 2009.

Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg have all banned the use and sale of the MON 810 GE corn due to concerns about its long term effects.

Most of us would be surprised to learn that the majority of sweeteners used in processed food comes from corn, not sugar cane or beets. Developed in the 1970s, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has the same sweetness and taste as an equal amount of sucrose from cane or beet sugar but it's considerably cheaper to make than sugar. Processed in one of 16 chemical plants located throughout the US Corn Belt, in vats of murky fermenting liquid, fungus and genetically engineered chemicals the end product is piped into tanker trucks ready to be delivered to major food processors across the nation.

So who gets the benefits? Large scale food manufacturers. Cheaper and more convenient to use than natural sweeteners the cost savings turns into massive profits. But doctors and independent scientists are telling anyone who is listening that GE HFCS is linked to serious illness in both adults and children.

HFCS In Surprising Places

Try this. Go to the head of one of the interior aisles at the grocery store and look at the products. Seven out of 10 items will have some form of HFCS. Products include: dry roasted peanuts; bread - almost every brand including “whole grain”; yogurt; peanut butter; most snack foods including crackers; mayonnaise; soft drinks and fruit juices; and tragically infant formula.

So read the label carefully and don't be fooled by the word 'natural' . If the label reads corn syrup, cornstarch, or HFCS consider alternatives. Until we know more, it is simply better to make a conscious choice and stay away from it as much as possible. There is too much growing evidence not to be concerned.

The consumption of HFCS increased 1000% from 1970 to 1990 according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004. And we continue to swallow it by the mouthful.

A single 12-ounce can of soda or sweetened juice has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of GE HFCS. GE HFCS helps prevent freezer burn, so frozen food manufacturers use it. It makes bread brown and keeps loaves soft so commercial bakers use it. The synthetic sweetener is a favorite ingredient in many health foods like energy bars. It is in beer, cough syrup, chocolate, peanut butter, baking ingredients and breakfast foods. Grain-based alcohols use itg. A low-fat, fruit-flavored yogurt can have ten teaspoons of fructose-based sweetener in one serving. GE HFCS can even be found in the majority of commercially available nondairy baby formulas

There is nothing natural about corn syrup. The medical profession is exploring the link of high fructose corn syrup to obesity, diabetes and even some cancers. High fructose corn syrup is made from GMO corn, using genetically altered chemicals in the processing. Until we know more, it is simply better to make a conscious choice and stay away from it.

Read the label. High fructose corn syrup is hidden by food and beverage manufacturers under many names. Look for chicory, inulin, iso glucose, glucose-fructose syrup, and fruit fructose as indicators that high fructose corn syrup resides in that food.

The endocrine system regulates every function of the body. It consists of the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, the pancreas, the ovaries and the testes, all linked to the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is like the mainframe computer of the body sending signals to glands that provide instructions for creating hormones, which are the natural chemical messengers that tell your cells what to do. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.

The endocrine system is all about hormones and glands. As the body's chemical messengers, hormones transfer information and instructions from one set of cells to another. Although many different hormones circulate throughout the bloodstream, each one affects only the cells that are genetically programmed to receive and respond to its message. Hormone levels can be influenced by factors such as stress, infection, and changes in the balance of fluid and minerals in blood.

While your nervous system uses electricity to orchestrate all sorts of things in the body, the endocrine system does even more through the wonder of chemicals.

Endocrine glands spew their hormones directly into your bloodstream. The various endocrine glands send the messenger chemicals via the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they bind to specific receptors that control cellular functions. One messenger hormone, estrogen, is secreted by the ovaries and plays a major part in the regulation of menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and fat cell activity.

Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances, primarily man-made synthetics, that interfere with the function of the endocrine system. These synthetics may be derived from petroleum or vegetable sources and are created for environmentally unfriendly industrial processes using toxic catalysts and reagents.

These chemicals mimic, block or disrupt the actions of human (and animal) hormones and, unexpectedly, do more damage at low levels of exposure than at high levels. These chemicals can also work in sinister yet subtle ways by disrupting the body's ability to produce adequate quantities of hormones or by interfering with the body's hormonal pathways.

These endocrine disruptors are affecting algae and other microscopic life, fish, whales and birds. Humans are exposed when they drink the water or eat contaminated fish.

Endocrine disruptors are stored in a body's fatty tissues and do not get flushed out with water. They accumulating over the years. It is now recognized that the dramatic increases of breast cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and thyroid cancer have been linked to exposure to environmental estrogens. In the past twenty-five years in the US, alone, thyroid cancer has increased more than 45%, with more women being affected than men, and has become the number one cancer in children under age twenty, many of whom suffered from fetal endocrine disruption exposures.

Of the 80,000 plus chemicals used in products, just a fraction were fully tested for toxicity, let alone for their hormone interference potential. Currently, toxicity tests required by the US and Canadian government do not evaluate endocrine disrupting effects.

The debate over Bill C474 has demonstrated exactly how the partnership of Canadian politics and agribusiness now work. Bill C474 called for the amendment of the federal Seeds Regulations to require that an “analysis of potential harm to export markets” be conducted before federal permission is granted for the sale of a new GM seed. The private Members Bill C-474 was introduced by Alex Atamanenko, NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for BC Southern Interior in November 2009. This bill would have been good news for farmers who needed a voice regarding GMO contamination.

On December 1, 2010, the biotech industry made strong attempts to prevent debate in the House of Commons. However, the New Democratic Party was successful in securing a five hour debate on Bill C-474 and the impacts of genetic engineering. That debate took place on February 8. Every MP who had concerns either of their own or from their constituents presented them to the House.

MP Wayne Marston for Hamilton East asserted, “GM seeds will lead to economic disaster for our farmers.” Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, explained how “GE will destroy our export market.” She reminded Canadians that our export markets do not want crops grown from GM seeds because these are considered “contaminated.” Canada’s flax exports collapsed because of GM flax seeds. Currently seven countries do not allow any food imports that contain GMO.

Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster stated that “the purity of our seeds is fundamentally important.” MPs who spoke shared grave concerns that if C-474 did not pass, the wheat and alfalfa exports will collapse just like flax. Terry Wilson, founder of the Canadian Awareness Network wrote in his blog, “We are seeing how Canadian politics work very clearly here. The multi-national corporations getting their way, and the Canadian people getting shafted.” Joe Comartin, MP for Windsor-Tecumseh stated, “If we don’t stop the four multi-nationals (Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer and Syngenta), they will own all the food production on this planet.”

Missing in Action
The vote was set for February 9, 2011. However, most members of the House of Commons Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee including Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter were not in Ottawa to vote on C-474.[img_assist|nid=1857|title= |desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=300] In a Canadian Biotechnology Action Network press release, Maureen Bostock who speaks for the National Farmers Union stated, “It’s outrageous that instead of being at the vote in Ottawa, most Agriculture Committee members are actually in Guelph listening to the President of Monsanto Canada.”

The Bill was shot down. All Conservative MPs voted against C-474, and out of the 58 Liberals who voted, 40 voted against the bill. Members of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois voted in favour of the bill and amendments. The multi-national bio-tech corporations got their way.

But the fight is not over yet. In a February 10 press release by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Coordinator Lucy Sharratt stated, “The Bill was voted down but a real debate about the impacts and future of genetic engineering has now started. Canadians defied the tremendous power of the biotech lobby by pushing the Bill further than any other on this issue.”

The scientific evidence piling up against Roundup, the best-selling weed killer for home and farm use, is starting to sound a bit sci-fi. The latest damaging evidence against this potent herbicide, once widely believed to be safe, comes from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which is now detecting glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in streams, the air, and even rain.

There are many factors to consider when purchasing that seemingly innocuous water packaged in plastic - not the least of which is how we, as consumers, are being manipulated by big business - yet again. As consumers increasingly swear off the calories in sugary drinks, the bottled water industry, dominated by four large multinational corporations: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Danone, are offsetting the loss in sales of calorie loaded soft drinks and replacing it with a new and very profitable revenue stream - bottled water. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the sale of bottled water is the fastest-growing beverage sector in the world. Globally, an estimated $100 billion US are spent every year on bottled water.

Price Gouging
These corporations establish water extraction plants in communities worldwide taking millions of liters a day from regional aquifers or municipal water utilities. Then it's sold back to the public at extraordinary profits. The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that bottled water is between 240 and 10,000 times more expensive than tap water. In short, the bottled water you have sitting on your desk or in your backpack probably comes from a public water source and these large corporations pay virtually nothing for it.

We could re-fill our own water containers over 50 times with tap water for less than one tenth of a cent. Yet when we purchase a branded bottle of water, liter for liter, we pay more for it than we do for gasoline.

Plastic Bottles
Bottled water produces excessive waste and is a major contributor to global warming. It takes about 18 litres of water to produce 1 kg of plastic for water bottles. Plastic bottles also require massive amounts of fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases when manufactured and transported to fill sites and then to retail locations. They also release highly toxic chemicals and contaminates into the air when they are manufactured and again when they are burned or buried.

And while it's true single-serving bottles are in demand for recycling - they are reused for making fibre - the truth is too few plastic bottles are recycled. Recycling rates for plastic bottles has been in steady decline since 1995, despite the explosion in plastic-bottle use. Plastic water bottles are becoming the fastest-growing form of municipal solid waste in the U.S. and Canada.

Not only has the industry promoted the shift from glass to plastic containers, and failed to live up to the promises about using more recycled materials in their containers, they actively oppose legislation aimed at improving recycling rates for plastic bottles.

Even more disturbing is the concern and confusion about chemicals that leach from certain plastics when the bottles heat up. The longer the plastic bottle sits on the shelf the more chemicals it leaks into the water prompting Health Canada to recommend that bottled water have a shelf-life of one year.

The Water
The International Bottled Water Association says that bottled water is superior to tap water. The Big-4 bottled water companies imply their 'proprietary' treatment processes are the justification for the higher cost of their products. However, the industry's treatment processes do not guarantee that bottled water is safer than tap water; in fact, a number of studies have demonstrated that bottled water is often less safe than tap water. Consider that one treatment process uses bromate, which is a carcinogen.When Coca-Cola launched its Dasani product in the UK in March 2004, it had to withdraw nearly half a million bottles due to bromate contamination.

Lax Regulations
In the U.S., bottled water companies are not required by law to disclose the source and geographical location of their water takings on their labels. In Canada they are, but only if taken from underground water. Where groundwater regulations do exist, they differ, often dramatically from state-to-state and from province-to-province. As a result of the lax regulatory environment, bottled water labels are often very misleading.

Scientific studies have yet to indicate that bottled water is healthier for you than tap water. Municipal water, however, is more stringently tested. In Canada , local water supplies are inspected every day, whereas bottled-water plants are inspected at three-year intervals.

Beyond Bottled Water - Water Privatization
So what's really fueling the bottled water culture? Marketing techniques undoubtedly evoke feelings of a safer and cleaner alternative to tap water. But why are the bottled water corporations wanting to change the way people think about tap water? By undermining confidence in public water experts speculate that privatization of municipal water supplies is the long term goal.

Privatization is a generic term used to convey many forms of restructuring water service. The most common type of water privatization is also the most controversial. Governments enter into a legally-enforceable agreement with a foreign multinational corporation. The foreign multinational is then responsible for water service provision. Unbelievably, the corporation determines how water is provided, to whom, its quality, and its price.

Couldn't happened in North America? More than half of the American water utilities are already privately owned. Privatization is slowly getting off the ground in Ontario, where private companies serve 500,000 people, approximately 4.5 per cent of the provincial population. There is also some scattered private participation in Alberta and British Columbia, and privatization is being considered by two of the larger Maritime cities. Seems fresh water is the new oil.

Power Of One
Nobody is asking anyone to stop drinking water. But there is a better way than polluting the environment and your body with chemicals just because you want a drink of H2O.

The movement against bottled water has gained considerable momentum with American celebrity chefs including Alice Waters and Mario Batali banning the bottle at their restaurants. In Canada , delegates to the United Church of Canada's general council voted to discourage the purchase of bottled water within its churches. The motion called on church members to advocate against the "privatization of water" and to support healthy local supplies of water.

Stop Purchasing Bottled Water
As consumers we can make a direct impact on our environment, our personal health and our right to drink readily available, affordable clean water. If you don't like the taste of tap water either boil it or let it sit out for several hours before refrigerating it. Then pour the water into a tempered container that doesn't leach chemicals. The cost to your wallet is practically nothing. The cost to the environment and your health - priceless.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world. The study was published by a team of entomologists at the University of Illinois.The team outlines their research and findings in a paper they've had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The report states that commercial aviaries began feeding honeybees high-fructose corn syrup back in the 70′s after research was conducted that indicated that doing so was safe. Since that time, new pesticides and transgenic BT crops have been developed and put into use. Over time it appears the honeybees’ immunity response to such compounds may have become compromised.

Researchers indicate that when honeybees eat high fructose corn syrup instead of honey they are not being exposed to certain chemicals that help boost their immune system and allow them to fight off toxins, specifically those found in pesticides.

The enzyme P-coumaric is found in pollen walls. P-coumaric naturally detoxifies the honeybees and allows them to fight off pesticides meant for other insects.

This news comes days after the European Union announced that they would be initiating a ban on the pesticide group, Neonicotinoids. The EU commission may now put into effect a two year restriction on neonicotinoids found in pesticides. In Canada, government scientists have found evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides were linked to mass bee deaths during the spring corn planting in Ontario and Quebec in 2012, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency confirmed in a report and have initiatiated a re-evaluation. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected petitions to halt the use of the world’s most widely used insecticide citing the petition failed to make a case for imminent harm.

Canadian government sciA number of studies have linked this group of pesticides to bee colony collapse disorder. The US and Canada continues to endorse it's use.

Plastic is big business. According to the Canadian government, the Canadian plastics industry accounts for an estimated $46.9 billion in shipments of plastic products. Worldwide, in 2002 factories churned out a whopping 5 trillion plastic bags ranging from large trash bags to the light give-away model we all use.

Plastic associations globally are scrambling, trying hard to convince consumers they will lose a helpful lifestyle aid if we stop using plastic bags. But their arguments ring hollow. The consequences on our planet, our wildlife and ourselves far outweighs the convenience.

While the implications of plastic infiltrating our world are only beginning to be understood, effects are already being felt in the economy, the environment and in our bodies. Production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas - both non-renewable resources. Californians Against Waste reports the US uses 4.3 million tons of plastic bags and wrappers per year amounting to the equivalent of 48 million barrels of oil.

Plastic manufacturers argue that recycling should be the focus. Recycling is important. But it falls far short of solving the issues surrounding plastic bags. Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. One to three percent of plastic bags are recycled. Many of the bags collected for recycling get shipped to third world countries like India and China where they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws producing the Darth Vader of toxic chemicals - dioxins.

Compostable Plastics
Bioplastics came out a little over 15 years ago. However, biodegradable bags are only useful in specialty applications, such as garbage bags for yard waste and green bins. Evidence shows they will most likely not decompose in the landfill, because appropriate conditions don't exist. (Currently nothing completely degrades in our modern-day landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other important elements - all necessary for the degradation process to be completed. But that's a whole other problem.) Moreover, if the bags do decompose in a landfill without good air supply, they create methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. And then let's not forget the concerns that mixing biodegradable bags into the recycling stream for regular plastic bags can render entire batches useless - opps - there goes recycling.

The Power of One
As consumers, we must acknowledge the role we play when we accept a free plastic bag every time and everywhere we shop. And while plastic shopping bags may be a small part of a bigger problem, by refusing to use plastic bags we can all do something to help change the tide of events that we are currently experiencing.

Simple Things You Can Do:
Make the commitment to change lifestyle habits which will lessen the dependency on the convenience of a plastic shopping bag. And turning to paper bags is not the answer. It takes four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic one. Fourteen million trees are cut to produce 10 billion paper grocery bags. The impact on our forests and Global Warming are too grave to continue this conspicuous consumption.

Think twice about taking a plastic bag if your purchase is small and easy to carry and tell the store clerk why.

Try to go at least one week without accumulating any new plastic bags. If every shopper took just one less bag each month, it could eliminate the waste of hundreds of millions of bags each year. (By using reuseable bags a population of 100,000 people can save up to 14,000 barrels of oil per year.)

Keep canvas bags in your home, office, and car so you always have them available when shopping.

Ask your favorite store to stop providing bags for free, or to offer a discount for not using bags.

Find out if your favorite store has a plastic bag recycling program. If not ask why.

Insist that all your family use reusable bags when shopping.

And this from our friends Skyla and Oz. When going for takeout, bring your own containers and don't forget to ask the server not to put plastic forks with the order.

Most importantly tell your politicians to stop being beholden to the plastic industry. Tell them you want action not rhetoric.

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to Goliath and that’s just what a group of small family-owned farms in Argentina are doing. These brave Argentine tobacco farmers have just filed lawsuits against the goliath Monsanto as well as other major tobacco companies like Philip Morris claiming these companies knowingly poisoned them with herbicides and pesticides subsequently causing “devastating birth defects” in their children. The birth defects cited in the 55 page complaint include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, psychomotor retardation, missing fingers and blindness.

Most of Argentina's tobacco is grown in the rural north eastern province of Misiones. The small family-owned farms sell their tobacco to many United States distributors. Philip Morris and Carolina Leaf use a tobacco brokerage company, Tabacos Norte, to buy tobacco from the farmers and sell them crop production supplies, including herbicides and pesticides.

The farmers claim the tobacco companies that buy their crops asked them to replace the native tobacco with a new type, used in Philip Morris cigarettes, which required more pesticides. They claim the defendants pushed Monsanto’s Roundup on the farmers despite a lack of protective equipment or sufficient training directly exposing them to Roundup in large concentrations assuring them that the products were safe. Monsanto’s Roundup is a herbicide with its active ingredient glyphosate has been linked to a myriad of nasty human and environmental side effects.

The claim states that the tobacco companies “wrongfully caused the parental and infant plaintiffs to be exposed to those chemicals and substances which they both knew, or should have known, would cause the infant offspring of the parental plaintiffs to be born with devastating birth defects.”

The plaintiffs also claim they lacked training and instruction on the safe disposal of unused Roundup and other pesticides which caused further exposure. Leftover Monsanto's pesticides contaminated the farmers' non-tobacco crops, water wells and streams meant for family use, exposing their families to the toxic substances, the farmer say.

The lawyer argues that the tobacco companies were ”motivated by a desire for unwarranted economic gain and profit,” with zero regard for the farmers and their infant children — many of which are now suffering from severe birth defects from Monsanto’s products. The farmers seek compensatory and punitive damages for negligence, product liability, breach of warranty, ultra hazardous activity, aiding and abetting, willful and wanton misconduct and violations of Argentine laws.

Monsanto, who is no stranger to legal trouble, is named in the suit along with Altria Group fka Philip Morris Cos., Philip Morris USA, Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Universal Corporation fka Universal Leaf Tobacco Company and others.