Used for eons, researchers study how red yeast rice prevents CVD

(Natural News) Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese food commonly used for lowering cholesterol. It is also believed to help prevent cardiovascular disease. A review published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines confirmed that red yeast rice and its products could be used as a healthy functional food for the prevention and treatment…

Ear acupuncture found to aid substance abuse treatments

(Natural News) Substance abuse is a serious problem in both the U.S. and other parts of the world. Based on estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 22 million Americans suffer from either a drug or alcohol problem. Among them, at least 95 percent of these people do not know that…

Google buries Mercola in their latest search engine update, Part 2 of 2

For the first part of this two-part article, see yesterday’s post, “Google buries Mercola in their latest search engine update,’ Part 1 of 2.” In Part 1, I discussed the effects Google’s June 2019 broad core algorithm update and updated quality rater guidelines is having on traffic to this site.

As mentioned in Part 1, Google’s “quality raters” are now manually lowering the ranking of undesirable content and buries even expert views if they’re deemed “harmful” to the public.

Google raters use Wikipedia for ‘expertise’ and ‘trustworthiness’

One of the primary sources Google’s quality raters are instructed to use when assessing the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of an author or website is Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia.” Excerpts from my Wikipedia page read:1

“Joseph Michael Mercola (born 1954) is an alternative medicine proponent, osteopathic physician, and Web entrepreneur, who markets a variety of controversial dietary supplements and medical devices through his website, …

Mercola criticizes many aspects of standard medical practice, such as vaccination and what he views as overuse of prescription drugs and surgery to treat diseases.

On his website, Mercola and colleagues advocate a number of unproven alternative health notions including homeopathy, and anti-vaccine positions … Mercola’s medical claims have been criticized by business, regulatory, medical, and scientific communities.”

RationalWiki, the stated purpose of which is to analyze and refute “pseudoscience and the anti-science movement” presents me as:2

“[A] member of the right-wing quack outfit Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Mercola advocates and provides a forum for many classic crank medical ideas, such as vaccine hysteria and the belief that modern (sorry, “allopathic”) medicine kills more people than it helps. His website is a veritable spring of pseudoscience, quackery, and logical fallacies. He is also a promoter of the idea of an AMA/Big Pharma/FDA conspiracy.”

It comes as no surprise then that is listed as one of the biggest losers in Google’s June 2019 core algorithm update.3 Since its implementation, Google traffic to my site has dropped by approximately 99%, as no pages will now appear in search results using keywords only.

To have any chance of finding my articles using Google search, you have to add “” to your search term (example: “ heart disease” or “ Type 2 diabetes”). Even skipping the “.com” will minimize relevant search results.

Wikipedia isn’t what it pretends to be

While Wikipedia started out as a great idea, and has become a primary source of information for many, all is not as it seems in Wiki Land. In the 2016 Full Measure article4 “The Dark Side of Wikipedia,” investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson exposed the fact that Wikipedia is censoring information and crafting narratives to benefit certain groups:

“The promise of accurate, neutral articles and privacy for contributors is often just a mirage, according to two insiders. They say they’ve been left battle-scarred after troubling personal encounters with the world’s most popular encyclopedia. It’s billed as ‘the encyclopedia anyone can edit.’ But for many, it’s the opposite.”

While Google’s censoring of content is a more recent phenomenon, Wikipedia has been censoring information and blocking editors since the beginning. According to Greg Kohs, one of the insiders interviewed by Attkisson, about 1,000 users are blocked from the platform on any given day.5 Attkisson writes:

“When Kohs ran afoul of Wikipedia, he was drawn into an unseen cyberworld. One where he says volunteer editors dole out punishment and retaliation, privacy is violated and special interests control information.”

As reported by Attkisson, Wikipedia is often edited by people with a very specific agenda, and anyone who tries to clarify or clear up inaccuracies on the site is simply blocked. The reality is a far cry from Wikipedia’s public promise, which is to provide readers with unbiased information.

‘Inmates running the asylum’

Even Lawrence (Larry) Sanger, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001, bailed ship the very next year,6 saying “trolls sort of took over” the site, that “The inmates started running the asylum,”7 and that “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases.”8,9

Earlier this year, Sanger told 150Sec he and co-founder Jimmy Wales tried to “figure out how to rein in the bad actors.” He admits they were never able to devise a good strategy for that, and as a result, “Wikipedia is a broken system.”10,11 Full Measure reports:12

“In Wikipedia’s world, the ruling authorities are the hundreds of volunteer editors who’ve reached the most powerful editing status. They’re called ‘administrators,’ known only by their pseudonyms or user names. They always win the edit wars.

Sharyl: The more edits you make, the longer you’ve been making them, the more power you’re going to have? Kohs: Yes.

But what happens when powerful editors improperly control content? Kohs: You’ll have different people with a particular scientific point of view and they’ll edit and modify Wikipedia so that its articles kind of reflect that point of view …

Two trusted Wikipedia officials were exposed running businesses that covertly edited Wikipedia for PR clients. Interests for Sony, the CIA, the Vatican, Barack Obama and John McCain all reportedly have been caught secretly editing their own Wikipedia pages to their advantage.

And anonymous Wikipedia editors maintain a stranglehold on selected topics … One study found mistakes in nine out of ten Wikipedia medical entries. Millions of dollars can depend on how an idea or product is portrayed within the computer pages …

Kohs: When you read Wikipedia, you have to be aware that the people who are writing it, who don’t identify themselves, who don’t necessarily have any credentials to be writing in the subject matter that they’ve chosen to write in, are very often pushing an agenda.”

Wikipedia is controlled by special interests

Three years later, May 25, 2019, Attkisson wrote13 about her own struggles with Wikipedia. She also discussed it in a TedX talk (above) on astroturf tools. “My own battle with Wikipedia included being unable to correct provably false facts such as incorrect job history, incorrect birth place and incorrect birth date,” she writes, adding:14

What’s worse is that agenda editors related to pharmaceutical interests and the partisan blog Media Matters control my Wikipedia biographical page, making sure that slanted or false information stays on it. For example, they falsely refer to my reporting as ‘anti-vaccine,’ and imply my reporting on the topic has been discredited.

In fact, my vaccine and medical reporting has been recognized by top national journalism awards organizations, and has even been cited as a source in a peer reviewed scientific publication. However, anyone who tries to edit this factual context and footnotes onto my page finds it is quickly removed.

What persists on my page, however, are sources that are supposedly disallowed by Wikipedia’s policies. They include citations by Media Matters, with no disclosure that it’s a partisan blog.

Another entity quoted on my Wikipedia biographical page to disparage my work is the vaccine industry’s Dr. Paul Offit. But there’s no mention of the lawsuits filed15 against Offit for libel (one prompted him to apologize and correct his book), or the fact that he provided false information about his work and my reporting to the Orange County Register, which later corrected16 its article.

Obviously, these facts would normally make Offit an unreliable source, but for Wikipedia, he’s presented as if an unconflicted expert. In fact, Wikipedia doesn’t even mention that’s Offit is a vaccine industry insider who’s made millions of dollars off of vaccines …

The powerful interests that ‘watch’ and control the pages make sure Offit’s background is whitewashed and that mine is subtly tarnished. They will revert or change any edits that attempt to correct the record.”

Sanger believes the solution to the Wikipedia problem is a decentralized blockchain system where edits are approved by a community. This is how Everipedia, which Sanger joined in 2017, is run. He told 150Sec:17

“Since last July, every edit to Everipedia has had to be approved by the community of IQ token-holders. ‘IQ’ is the Everipedia token, or cryptocurrency. If someone uploads nonsense or copyrighted text, we downvote it. This already provides for a layer of editorial oversight that Wikipedia lacks.

We have barely even started to explore what will be possible when there is no centralized control of editorial policy, when editorial decisions are made according to various smart contract-driven systems, and when participation in the system is remunerated by the system itself.”

Wikipedia co-founder openly hostile against holistic medicine

As early as 2010, the Alliance for Natural Health pointed out the impossibility of finding “information that isn’t heavily biased toward conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry” on Wikipedia,18 and matters certainly have not improved in the years since. If anything, they’ve gotten much, much worse.

Still, even back then, ANH gave several examples of the blatant censorship of holistic medicine. As just one example, the president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine was prevented from posting positive information about antiaging derived from the academy’s own research.

From where I stand, it seems Sanger’s co-founding partner, Wales, is part of the problem. Wales is openly hostile against holistic medicine, and in 2014 rejected a petition to bring in more positive discussion of holistic medicine on Wikipedia. As reported by Business Insider:19

“The petition, which has nearly 8,000 supporters, calls for people to stop donating to Wikipedia in response to what it called ‘biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong’ information about holistic approaches to healing.”

Wales’ response:20

“No, you have to be kidding me … Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals — that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.”

Google funds Wikipedia

Considering Wikipedia’s history of bias and its incredibly effective blocking of opposing views, no matter how factual, it’s not surprising that Wikipedia is Google’s chosen arbiter of expertise and credibility. It also means the whole “quality rating” system Google has set up is rotten from the ground up, as its quality raters are instructed to base their quality decisions on an already biased source.

As reported by Tech Crunch,21 in January 2019, Google donated $2 million to Wikimedia Endowment, Wikipedia’s parent organization, and another $1.1 million to the Wikimedia Foundation. Together, Wikipedia and Google are also working on Project Tiger, which will expand Wikipedia’s content into more languages. In a blog post, Google president Jacquelline Fuller wrote:22

“While efforts to empower editors will help them continue to add more information and knowledge to the web, we also aim to support the long-term health of the Wikimedia projects so they are available for generations to come.”

In other words, biased Wikipedia editors will receive even more support, and with the backing and injections of funding from Google, Wikipedia will be in an excellent position to further the stranglehold on natural health in years to come.

Antitrust complaints ignored

As mentioned in part 1, Google is the largest monopoly in the world. Yet while the European Union successfully raised antitrust charges against Google, resulting in a $2.7 billion fine — and this despite the revolving door between Google and EU policy advisers23 — the U.S. has continued to look the other way.

The Federal Trade Commission investigation that took place during the Obama administration, for example, resulted in no formal action whatsoever.24 One possible reason for this, Music Technology Policy25 suggested back in 2016, could be because Google managed to install one of its former lawyers in the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, thereby protecting the company’s interests.

The revolving door swings both ways, of course. In 2007, Google paid Makan Delrahim — a lawyer and current deputy assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division — $100,00026 to lobby for the approval of its acquisition of DoubleClick, which was under antitrust review.27,28 Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also pointed out that Delrahim lobbied on behalf of Apple in 2006 and 2007.

As reported by The New York Times29 and The Verge,30 Delrahim “is now facing pressure to recuse himself if the Justice Department pursues an investigation …” A study31 by Public Citizen published May 23, 2019, found a whopping 59% of FTC officials entered into financial relationships with technology companies after leaving the agency.

All of this brings us to the issue of monopolization and the corruption that inevitably follows.32 It is very clear that there is no company operating in breach of antitrust rules as blatantly as Google. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this adage certainly fits when describing Google. As reported by The Washington Post in 2017:33

“Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point … The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent …

Once you reach a pinnacle of power, you start to believe that any threats to your authority are themselves villainous and that you are entitled to shut down dissent. As Lord Acton famously said, ‘Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.’ Those with too much power cannot help but be evil.

Google, the company dedicated to free expression, has chosen to silence opposition, apparently without any sense of irony … [I]n recent years, Google has become greedy about owning not just search capacities, video and maps, but also the shape of public discourse.”

Google recruits law professors to defend its corporate views

To help sway public opinion and policy, Google has also recruited law professors to back up and promote its views. According to a 2017 Campaign for Accountability report,34 Google has paid academics in both the U.S. and Europe millions of dollars to influence public opinion and policymakers alike.35,36

This includes funding research papers “that appear to support the technology company’s business interests and defend against regulatory challenges such as antitrust and anti-piracy.” Some of these academics have not declared the source of their funding, even though payments have reached as high as $400,000.37 As noted by The Times:38

On one occasion Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, cited a Google-funded author in written answers to Congress to back his claim that his company was not a monopoly — without mentioning that it had paid for the paper …”

‘Tech giants amass lobbying army’

Power can be assessed by looking at lobbying expenditures and Google is leading the pack when it comes to corporate spending on lobbying — efforts primarily aimed at eliminating competitors and gaining power over others. Google also appears to take full advantage of its power over organizations that it helps fund, which is one reason to be suspicious of its donations to Wikipedia.

According to a June 5, 2019, article39 in The New York Times, “[F]our of the biggest technology companies are amassing an army of lobbyists as they prepare for what could be an epic fight over their futures.” The four companies in question are Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Combined, these four tech giants spent $55 million on lobbying in 2018 — double what they spent in 2016. The New York Times continues:40

“As they have tracked increasing public and political discontent with their size, power, handling of user data and role in elections, the four companies have intensified their efforts to lure lobbyists with strong connections to the White House, the regulatory agencies, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Of the 238 people registered to lobby for the four companies in the first three months of this year … about 75 percent formerly served in the government or on political campaigns … Many worked in offices or for officials who could have a hand in deciding the course of the new governmental scrutiny.

The influence campaigns encompass a broad range of activities, including calls on members of Congress, advertising, funding of think-tank research and efforts to get the attention of President Trump …”

Earlier this week, the threat of government action became more real, driving down their stock prices. The House Judiciary Committee announced a broad antitrust investigation into big tech.

And the two top federal antitrust agencies agreed to divide oversight over Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google as they explore whether the companies have abused their market power to harm competition and consumers …

The industry’s troubles mean big paydays for the lawyers, political operatives and public relations experts hired to ward off regulations, investigations and lawsuits that could curtail the companies’ huge profits.”

Going forward, the DOJ will be investigating Google and Apple — conveniently, the two companies that antitrust department head Delrahim lobbied for in the past — while the Federal Trade Commission will have jurisdiction over Amazon and Facebook.

Google — An integral part of the national security state?

Google could potentially also garner some protection or aid from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). According to an Aljazeera report41 published in 2014, emails reveal a cozy relationship between Google and the NSA, with coordination occurring at the highest levels.

Two years later, in March 2016, Wired reported42 the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet and former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, had been chosen by the Pentagon to chair its new Defense Innovation Advisory Board. According to a Pentagon press release:43

“The board will seek to advise the department on areas that are deeply familiar to Silicon Valley companies, such as rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis in business decision making, the use of mobile and cloud applications, and organizational information sharing.”

Google is not what it seems

In his article,44 “Google is not what it seems,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also details “the special relationship between Google, Hillary Clinton and the State Department.” I recommend reading through this detailed and comprehensive analysis for your own edification. The article is an extract from his book, “When Google Met Wikileaks.” He writes in part:

“Google is ‘different.’ Google is ‘visionary.’ Google is ‘the future.’ Google is ‘more than just a company.’ Google ‘gives back to the community.’ Google is ‘a force for good’ … The company’s reputation is seemingly unassailable. Google’s colorful, playful logo is imprinted on human retinas just under six billion times each day, 2.1 trillion times a year — an opportunity for respondent conditioning enjoyed by no other company in history.

Caught red-handed … making petabytes of personal data available to the US intelligence community through the PRISM program, Google nevertheless continues to coast on the goodwill generated by its ‘don’t be evil’ doublespeak …

Even anti-surveillance campaigners cannot help themselves, at once condemning government spying but trying to alter Google’s invasive surveillance practices using appeasement strategies. Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has.

Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity.

Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community. In 2003 the US National Security Agency (NSA) had already started systematically violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) under its director General Michael Hayden.

These were the days of the ‘Total Information Awareness’ program. Before PRISM was ever dreamed of … the NSA was already aiming to ‘collect it all, sniff it all, know it all, process it all, exploit it all.’

During the same period, Google — whose publicly declared corporate mission is to collect and ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ — was accepting NSA money to the tune of $2 million to provide the agency with search tools for its rapidly accreting hoard of stolen knowledge.”

Assange also points out what he calls a “crucial detail” in the media’s reporting on the email correspondence between Schmidt, Google co-founder Sergei Brin and NSA chief general Keith Alexander:

“‘Your insights as a key member of the Defense Industrial Base,’ Alexander wrote to Brin, ‘are valuable to ensure ESF’s [Enduring Security Framework program] efforts have measurable impact’ …

The Department of Homeland Security defines the Defense Industrial Base as ‘the worldwide industrial complex that enables research and development, as well as design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts, to meet U.S. military requirements’ [emphasis added].

The Defense Industrial Base provides ‘products and services that are essential to mobilize, deploy, and sustain military operations.’ Does it include regular commercial services purchased by the US military?

No. The definition specifically excludes the purchase of regular commercial services. Whatever makes Google a ‘key member of the Defense Industrial Base,’ it is not recruitment campaigns pushed out through Google AdWords or soldiers checking their Gmail …

Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower. As Google’s search and internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population … and racing to extend internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people.

Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history. If the future of the internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world … for whom the internet embodies the promise of an alternative to US cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.”

Decentralization is key — And it’s coming

Just as Sanger realized a decentralized system is the best way to create a new, more bias-resilient version of Wikipedia,45 others have realized a decentralized web is the answer to Google’s monopoly, growing censorship and rapidly deteriorating privacy online.

A June 3, 2019 article46 on presents the ideas of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf and Brewster Kahle — three early web inventors — who are actively trying to devise ways to “protect and rebuild the open nature of the web.”

Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, had originally envisioned it as an open source space. Realizing how private corporations have locked it down, he’s now working on another, decentralized, internet solution.47 As reported by

“‘We demonstrated that the web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done,’ Berners-Lee told Vanity Fair. The web has ‘ended up producing — [through] no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform — a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.’

So, they’re out to fix it, working on what they call the Dweb. The ‘d’ in Dweb stands for distributed. In distributed systems, no one entity has control over the participation of any other entity. Berners-Lee is building a platform called Solid, designed to give people control over their own data.

Other global projects also have the goal of taking take back the public web. Mastodon is decentralized Twitter. Peertube is a decentralized alternative to YouTube. This July 18 – 21, web activists plan to convene at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco …

Last year’s Dweb gathering convened more than 900 developers, activists, artists, researchers, lawyers, and students. Kahle opened the gathering by reminding attendees that the web used to be a place where everyone could play.

‘Today, I no longer feel like a player, I feel like I’m being played. Let’s build a decentralized web, let’s build a system we can depend on, a system that doesn’t feel creepy’ he said …”

Boycott Google and support decentralized initiatives

Why does Google and its allies fear and feel the need to censor the information we provide? I believe the Wikipedia page created about me and held hostage by my detractors offer strong hints at the parties that would like to shut me up by shutting me down.

In the end, it’s going to come down to a battle between those wanting to concentrate power against those trying to decentralize it. If we work together to boycott them, Google will crumble under its own colossal weight.

Boycott Google by avoiding any and all Google products:

? Stop using Google search engines. Alternatives include DuckDuckGo49 and Startpage50

? Uninstall Google Chrome and use the Opera browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices.51 From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Chrome and offers a free VPN service (virtual private network) to further preserve your privacy

? If you have a Gmail account, close it and open an account with a non-Google affiliated email service such as ProtonMail,52 and encrypted email service based in Switzerland

? Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives53

? If you’re a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts

Sign the “Don’t be evil” petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly

How to find articles moving forward

As mentioned in part 1 and at the beginning of this article, you can no longer get any of my articles using keyword searches only in a Google-based search engine. You can also see the impact over the years in the graph below.

google graph

To find my articles, you have to add “” to your search term (example: “ heart disease” or “ Type 2 diabetes”). Even skipping the “.com” will minimize your search results. So, moving forward, here are a few suggestions for how to stay connected:

  • Become a subscriber to my newsletter and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is the easiest and safest way to make sure you’ll stay up to date on important health and environmental issues.
  • If you have any friends or relatives who are seriously interested in their health, share important articles with them and encourage them subscribe to our newsletter.
  • Nearly all major search engines except Yahoo! and Bing use Google as their primary engines, so if you use them, be sure to type in your search query. This way, you will still find our deeply buried content. Remember, relevant articles will NOT show when you’re using a keyword search alone anymore.
  • Use the internal search engine when searching for articles on my site.

Organic food has a plastic problem

The No. 1 reason why people choose to purchase organic products instead of conventional is to avoid pesticides and other chemicals not allowed in organics.1 Indeed, just by often or always eating organic, you may have significantly lower levels of pesticide residues in your body compared to someone who rarely does so.2

The benefits of not using chemical pesticides can’t be overstated, especially as such chemicals are leading environmental pollutants. Worldwide, an estimated 7.7 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year, and that number is steadily increasing,3,4 even as related problems, like herbicide resistance and widespread water pollution, rise.

Still, farming without chemical pesticides isn’t necessarily easy. “The hardest part about organic [farming] is weed control,” Larry Tse, farm manager at Dig Inn Farm in New York, told NPR.5 As such, many use a barrier method instead, laying down row upon row of plastic sheeting to keep weeds in check. While this doesn’t pose the risks inherent to chemicals, it’s not without controversy and environmental risks of its own.

Plastic weed control used by organic farmers is a source of pollution

Black plastic, sometimes referred to as plastic mulch, is a primary method of weed control for many organic farmers, particularly for tomato, pepper and melon plants. Many grass and perennial weeds are unable to penetrate the plastic, which also prevents sunlight from hitting the ground and stimulating the growth of weeds.

Holes are added that allow the desired plants to flourish, while weeds are kept to a minimum. As an added benefit, the plastic warms the soil, which can speed up plant growth and harvest.

There are irrigation benefits, too, as drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to roots of the plants, acting as a much more efficient form of watering than sprinklers, can easily be used underneath the plastic sheeting. Meanwhile, the plastic sheeting also helps to minimize soil erosion.6

However, there is one glaring problem: What becomes of all that plastic when the growing season ends? Unfortunately, most of it ends up in landfills. This represents a massive amount of plastic waste, as it’s not unusual for large organic farms to spread plastic over thousands of acres. While some have had success with recycling programs, they didn’t last long, leaving landfills as the primary landing point for the plastic.7

Why biodegradable plastic isn’t the answer

It would seem like using biodegradable plastic, which would simply break down over the course of the growing season and become integrated back into the soil, would be an environmentally friendly solution, but biodegradable plastic isn’t allowed under organic rules, because it typically contains petroleum-based materials.

It’s unknown what effects massive amounts of plastic breaking down over agricultural lands would have, but if adverse effects being observed from plastic pollution in marine environments are any indication, the outcome doesn’t look good.

Not surprisingly, representatives from agrochemical giants like BASF, which produces one biodegradable plastic mulch called Ecovio, are regular attendees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) meetings, hoping to gain approval.

At least one study has shown that biodegradable plastics not only biodegrade in the environment, but also that “Carbon from each monomer unit of PBAT [poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate)] was used by soil microorganisms, including filamentous fungi, to gain energy and to form biomass.”8

Research from the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture also revealed that biodegradable mulches did not appear to have major implications on soil health, noting, “soil properties, soil health indicators and soil functions were affected more by site and time than by the mulch treatments.”9

The study evaluated the effects of four biodegradable plastic mulches on soil health at two sites growing pie pumpkins. That being said, some differences were noted, although they weren’t consistent among the biodegradable plastic mulches or the two sites. According to the study:

“[W]e did observe significant effects of some of the mulch treatments on six soil properties (aggregate stability, infiltration, soil pH, electrical conductivity, nitrate-N, and exchangeable potassium), four soil health indicators (hydraulic, biological, fertility, and salinity & sodicity), and one soil function (nutrient cycling).”

The study was only two years, which means it may have been too soon to know what effects plastic breakdown products could have on the environment, and ultimately the impacts of biodegradable plastic mulches on soil health remain completely unknown.

A healthier alternative would be a film made from 100% plant materials — and right now this is the only type of biodegradable mulch allowed under the NOP. Unfortunately, such a solution isn’t widely available, while other natural mulches, such as straw or paper, are often too expensive or labor intensive for farmers.10

Why I’m supporting the expansion of biodynamics

The issue of plastic pollution from organic farming is one reason why I support the expansion of biodynamics, which is superior to organic. While a biodynamic farm could be certified organic, an organic farm would not automatically be classified as biodynamic, as biodynamic has stricter rules and additional requirements.

Biodynamic farming is organic by nature, but it goes even further, operating on the premise that the farm be entirely self-sustaining. In the U.S., biodynamic farms use the USDA organic standard as a foundation but have additional requirements, encompassing the principles of regenerative agriculture and more.

For instance, biodynamic farms must produce at least 50 percent of their own organic animal feed, and 100 percent of the farm must be biodynamic (on the contrary, an organic farmer may raise only one crop as organic). In addition:11

  • Crops and livestock are integrated
  • Animals are treated humanely, and all have access to the outdoors, free range forage and plenty of space to move around
  • At least 10 percent of farm acreage is set aside for biodiversity
  • The farm must uphold standards of social responsibility

One of the key differences even between organic and biodynamic farms is that organic farms may raise only one type of crop, or only crops or livestock. But biodynamic farming brings animals and plants together to form a living web of life, a self-sustaining ecosystem.

“Each biodynamic farm or garden is an integrated, whole, living organism. This organism is made up of many interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people and the spirit of the place,” the Biodynamic Association explains, adding:12

“Biodynamic farmers and gardeners work to nurture and harmonize these elements, managing them in a holistic and dynamic way to support the health and vitality of the whole. Biodynamic practitioners also endeavor to listen to the land, to sense what may want to emerge through it, and to develop and evolve their farm as a unique individuality.”

What do biodynamic farms use for weed control?

Biodynamic farms are, by nature, grass fed farms, but the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo is another tool you can use to find grass fed products. The AGA logo on a product lets you know the animals were fed a lifetime diet of 100 percent forage, were raised on pasture (not in confinement) and were not treated with hormones or antibiotics.13

In the U.S., Demeter USA is the only certifier for biodynamic farms and products. While largely unknown in the U.S., Demeter is well-recognized within Central Europe.

In Germany, 10 percent of the organic farmland is biodynamic, and there are even Demeter stores. At this time, most Demeter members are small family farms that only sell locally or regionally. As for weed control, according to the Demeter biodynamic farm standard:14

“The foundation of weed control needs to be based on strategies that emphasize prevention located within the life of the farm. When applicable, the following techniques need to be demonstrably utilized to their maximum potential before allowed weed control materials (including petroleum to run tractors) may be imported.

Understanding of weed species life cycle/ timing of planting

Adjusting fertility conditions that promote certain weed species

Shade/ crop canopy


Crop rotation

Identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species



Understanding the life cycle of a weed species is a very important tool in controlling a weed species. By knowing when a weed species is the most virulent, loss can be avoided by the timing of planting and also by breaking the life cycle of the weed.”

As for plastic mulch, in particular, biodynamic farming suggests that mulching materials should come from the farm and be chosen with care. Demeter states that imported synthetic mulch materials that restrict oxygen to the soil below should “be used with caution,” adding:15

“If synthetic mulch materials are used, they must be pulled up annually and not allowed to break down into the soil. In this case, it is preferable that the materials are durable enough to be reused annually. The materials must not inhibit the biological dynamics of the soil below.”

Supporting biodynamic agriculture

The vision of Demeter is to heal the planet through agriculture, and we can do that by transitioning farming from conventional to not only organic but ultimately to biodynamic. This is why is increasingly introducing biodynamic products. We started with Moringa powder and are releasing a full line of biodynamics under Solspring, including biodynamic vinegar, Kalamata olives, extra-virgin olive oil and more.

In addition, we’re partnering with Marci Zaroff, founder of the first organically certified textile mill in the U.S., to create biodynamic cotton for our SITO line of clothing. SITO stands for Soil, Integrity, Textile and Organic, and its mission is to take a stand for organic cotton and regenerative agriculture.

If you want to learn more about biodynamic farming and why it’s a step above organic, be sure to watch my interview with Elizabeth Candelario, managing director for Demeter USA, which discusses the history of biodynamic farming and why biodynamic certification is the mark of a superior product.

GMO wheat and frankenfish are here to stay

Genetically engineered crops are widespread in the U.S., particularly when it comes to GE corn, soybeans and cotton, but one crop that has not been approved as a genetically modified organism is wheat.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “There are no GE wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time, as APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] has not deregulated any GE wheat varieties.”1

So why, then, did the USDA recently confirm that unapproved GE wheat plants had been discovered growing in an agricultural field in Washington state?2

Rogue GE wheat discovered in Washington state

One of the inevitable truths about nature is that nothing exists in a bubble, and when GE crops are introduced into the wild, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to contain them. The discovery of GE wheat growing in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington is one unsettling example. The GE wheat, which is resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, is likely a remnant from a former field trial.

“USDA is collaborating with our state, industry and trading partners, and we are committed to providing all our partners with timely and transparent information about our findings,” the public health agency said in a statement, adding, “There is no evidence that GE wheat has entered the food supply.”3

In the 1990s, Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, developed GE wheat with a trait that makes it resistant to glyphosate. Although the GE wheat never received approval and was not developed commercially, it was evaluated, according to Monsanto, in a limited number of field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001.4

However, according to a December 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, the USDA’s APHIS granted Monsanto approval to test GE wheat in about 100 field trials spread throughout 16 states between 1998 and 2005.

What’s more, the GE wheat detected in Washington state is not the first time Monsanto’s GE wheat has shown up in unexpected places. The first time was in 2013, when GE wheat was found in Oregon. While Oregon was one state on the approval list for field trials, the field where the GE wheat was originally detected was not one of the areas used for such trials.5

In fact, it was only detected because a farmer who sprayed his 80-acre field with glyphosate discovered wheat plants that were volunteers (i.e., they came up on their own) and were not killed by glyphosate. He took samples of the wheat plants to Oregon State University, where scientists tested them and found the potential presence of GE glyphosate-tolerance in the plants.

The scientists then notified APHIS, which formally investigated and found the plants were one of Monsanto’s GE glyphosate-tolerant wheat varieties used in field trials.6

In 2014, GE wheat was again discovered, this time in Montana. In 2016, the USDA also confirmed the detection of GE wheat plants — 22 of them in all, which were found in a field in Washington state.7 GE wheat also popped up in Alberta, Canada, in 2018, before most recently making another appearance in Washington state.8

GE wheat contamination could have major trade implications

If GE wheat were to show up in U.S. wheat exports, it could have serious implications for trade. Wheat is a major crop for the U.S., ranking third among field crops, behind only corn and soybeans. In 2018 to 2019 alone, U.S. farmers produced an estimated 1.884 billion bushels of winter, spring and durum wheat, planted on 47.8 million acres of land.9

While the U.S. produces only about 7% of the world’s wheat, it ranks among the top three global wheat exporters.10 However, this would likely change if evidence of GE wheat contamination was found.

Japan, the European Union, South Korea and many other countries have a zero-tolerance policy about importing unapproved GE wheat. When such plants were first detected in Oregon, Japan and South Korea temporarily suspended purchase of U.S. soft white wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest.11

It’s similar to what happened in 2006, when traces of unapproved GE rice were discovered in the U.S. rice harvest. This led to several countries banning U.S. grown rice and exporters lost millions of dollars as a result. Bayer, the company responsible for developing and field testing the GE rice, ended up agreeing to pay $750 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by 11,000 rice farmers.12

As for the rogue GE wheat, in 2014 Monsanto also agreed to pay $250,000 to wheat growers’ associations along with $2.1 million into a settlement fund for farmers of soft white wheat in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.13 Since then, the USDA claims it has strengthened its oversight of GE wheat field trials, noting:14

“After previous detections of GE wheat, USDA strengthened its oversight of regulated GE wheat field trials. APHIS now requires developers to apply for a permit for field trials involving GE wheat beginning with GE wheat planted on or after January 1, 2016.

Bringing GE wheat under permit enables APHIS to create and enforce permit conditions that ensure confinement and minimize the risk that the regulated GE wheat will persist in the environment.”

Concerns with GE wheat

As for why GE wheat has not become a staple crop like GE corn and soy, the USDA cited wheat’s “complex genetics” and consumers’ wariness of GMOs in the food supply:15

“Genetic improvement has been slower for wheat due to the food grain’s significantly more complex genetics and lower potential returns from research investments. Farmers grow wheat primarily for human food use, and U.S. food processors are wary of consumer reaction to products containing genetically modified (GM) wheat. No GM wheat is commercially grown in the United States.”

Already, however, serious concerns have been raised over the creation of GE wheat, including one type developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The wheat, which was altered to silence wheat genes in order to change its carbohydrate content, could match human genes and potentially silence them.16

University of Canterbury professor Jack Heinemann, who led the study, explained at a news conference, “What we found is that the molecules created in this wheat, intended to silence wheat genes, can match human genes, and through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes. The findings are absolutely assured. There is no doubt that these matches exist.”17

RNA is one of three major macromolecules, like DNA. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is responsible for regulating a sizable quantity of human genes.

Writing in the journal Environmental International, Heinemann and colleagues explained that while many commercial GE plants are currently created through in vitro DNA modification to create a new protein, some are designed to change their RNA content in order to regulate gene expression.

The technique, known as RNA interference or RNA knockdown, essentially turns off or “knocks down” certain genes, raising the potential for serious risks:18

“While some GMOs have been designed to make new dsRNA molecules, in other GMOs such molecules may occur as a side-effect of the genetic engineering process. Still others may make naturally-occurring dsRNA molecules in higher or lower quantities than before. Some dsRNA molecules can have profound physiological effects on the organism that makes them.

Physiological effects are the intended outcomes of exposure to dsRNA incorporated into food sources for invertebrates; biopesticides and other topically applied products, and could be the cause of off-target effects and adverse effects in non-target organisms. ‘A daunting outcome is raised, that each [dsRNA] formulation might have its own risks.’

… Production of intended dsRNA molecules may also have off-target effects due to silencing genes other than those intended. Unanticipated off-target adverse effects can be difficult to detect and they are not possible to reliably predict using bioinformatics techniques. Regulatory bodies are not adequately assessing the risks of dsRNA-producing GM products.”

Frankenfish arrive in US

In November 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved AquaBounty salmon, a GE “frankenfish” that is engineered to grow about twice as fast as typical farm-raised salmon, a feat achieved by inserting the DNA from two other fish, a growth-promoting gene from a Chinook salmon and a “promoter” gene from the eel-like ocean pout.

This genetic tweaking results in fish with always-on growth hormone, and because they grow so much faster than other salmon, they also require less food. The GE fish have already been sold and eaten in Canada,19 but a rider attached to an Alaskan budget bill imposed an import ban, effectively blocking the FDA from allowing GE salmon into the U.S.

The import ban was lifted by the FDA in March 2019, with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stating, “[T]his fish is safe to eat, the genetic construct added to the fish’s genome is safe for the animal, and the manufacturer’s claim that it reaches a growth marker important to the aquaculture industry more rapidly than its non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart is confirmed.20

AquaBounty, meanwhile, acquired a fish farm in Albany, Indiana, where eggs intended to grow the first GE salmon for human consumption in the U.S. arrived in May 2019. AquaBounty plans to begin harvesting the GE salmon in late 2020.21 In 2013 a New York Times poll revealed that 75 percent of respondents would not eat GE fish and 93 percent said such foods should be labeled as such.22

Frankenfish to be called ‘bioengineered’

As for labeling, the USDA included AquaBounty’s salmon on a list of foods that must be labeled “bioengineered” (BE), which only refers to a food that has had another organism’s genes spliced into it by a process called transgenesis. Other types of genetic engineering do not need to be labeled at all.

As noted by The Non-GMO Project executive director Megan Westgate, the USDA’s GMO labeling law “jeopardizes GMO transparency for Americans:”23

“In its current form, categorical exemptions prevent this law from delivering the meaningful protections Americans deserve. Highly processed ingredients, many products of new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR and TALEN, and many meat and dairy products will not require disclosure.”

More than 80 retailers, including Aldi, Costco, Kroger and Meijer, have policies against selling GE seafood, and tribal communities have also spoken out against the GE fish, which were created without any tribal consultations. As reported by Friends of the Earth, Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stated:24

“The FDA’s unilateral decision, without tribal consultation, is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats. It’s unconscionable and arrogant to think man can improve upon our Creator’s perfection in wild salmon as a justification and excuse to satisfy corporate ambition and greed.”

How to opt out of GMOs in your food

If you’re wondering how can you tell whether salmon is wild or farm-raised, the flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks, those white stripes you see in the meat, are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed.

Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently come from fish farms, as well as “bioengineered salmon.” As for wheat, there’s currently no GE wheat being commercially sold, although contamination is possible. However, be aware that glyphosate is commonly used as a desiccant on many non-GMO crops, including wheat.

In northern, colder regions farmers of wheat and barley must wait for their crops to dry out prior to harvest. Rather than wait an additional two weeks or so for this to happen naturally, farmers realized they could spray the plants with glyphosate, killing the crop and accelerating their drying (a process known as desiccating).

As such, non-GMO foods may be even more contaminated with glyphosate than GMO crops, because they’re being sprayed just weeks before being made into your cereal, bread, cookies and the like.25 In order to avoid a dose of glyphosate residue in your wheat products, choose only organic or biodynamically grown wheat.

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