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The August 19, 2019, issue of JAMA Pediatrics1 delivered an unexpected bombshell: A U.S. and Canadian government-funded observational study found that drinking fluoridated water during pregnancy lowers children’s IQ.
The research, led by a Canadian team of researchers at York University in Ontario, looked at 512 mother-child pairs living in six Canadian cities. Fluoride levels were measured through urine samples collected during pregnancy.
They also estimated the women’s fluoride consumption based on the level of fluoride in the local water supply and how much water and tea each woman drank. The children’s IQ scores were then assessed between the ages of 3 and 4. As reported by the Fluoride Action Network (FAN):2
“They found that a 1 mg per liter increase in concentration of fluoride in mothers’ urine was associated with a 4.5-point decrease in IQ among boys, though not girls.
When the researchers measured fluoride exposure by examining the women’s fluid intake, they found lower IQ’s in both boys and girls: A 1 mg increase per day was associated with a 3.7 point IQ deficit in both genders.”
Support for the importance of this study
The findings were deemed so controversial, the study had to undergo additional peer-review and scrutiny before publication, making it one of the more important fluoride studies to date.
Its import is also demonstrated by the fact that it’s accompanied by an editor’s note3 explaining the journal’s decision to publish the study, and a podcast4 featuring the chief editors of JAMA Pediatrics and JAMA Network Open, in which they discuss the study.
An additional editorial5 by David Bellinger, Ph.D., a world-renowned neurotoxicity expert, also points out that “The hypothesis that fluoride is a neurodevelopmental toxicant must now be given serious consideration.” Few studies ever receive all of this added treatment. According to the editor’s note:6
“Publishing it serves as a testament to the fact that JAMA Pediatrics is committed to disseminating the best science based entirely on the rigor of the methods and the soundness of the hypotheses tested, regardless of how contentious the results may be.”
Chemical industry front groups defend fluoride safety
Surprisingly, the findings were widely reported by most major media outlets, including Reuters,7 The Washington Post,8 CNN, NPR, Daily Beast and others, effectively reigniting the scientific debate about whether water fluoridation is a good idea.
Not surprisingly, the findings were hotly criticized by pro-fluoride agents, including the American Dental Association (ADA),9 the American Council on Science and Health10 (ACSH) and the Science Media Centre11 (SMC).
It’s well worth noting that the ACSH and SMC are well-known front groups for the chemical industry, and they will defend all chemicals, regardless of what’s under discussion, so seeing dismissive articles from these groups is more or less par for the course. You can learn more about these groups in the articles hyperlinked above.
It’s also worth noting that Fox, which in 2014 made a similar study headline news,12 wasn’t satisfied with just presenting the latest study as news and, instead, invited its resident doctor, Marc Siegel, to comment13 — and that comment began by blaming tooth decay, not fluoride, on lower IQs. Siegel ended with a rambling diatribe against the study and a scathing criticism of JAMA Pediatrics for even having published it:
“I’m far more worried about tooth decay than I am about fluoride … There’s no way that fluoride would lower your IQ more than having tooth decay … It’s a ridiculous study … complete poppycock … The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics should not have put this in.”
As for the ADA, it’s been promoting water fluoridation as a health benefit for over a century and a half. To change its stance would clearly result in a loss of face, and might even expose the association to liability. The loss of scientific credibility alone is likely enough to encourage the ADA to hold on to the status quo.
The same goes for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which, despite the more than 2,700 studies14 against it, maintains water fluoridation is one of the top 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.15
AAP support of water fluoridation is hypocritical
A bit tougher to explain is the American Academy of Pediatrics’ support of water fluoridation.16 Of any group, the AAP really should reconsider its stance on this issue, seeing how it has officially recognized the hazardous influence of hormone-disrupting chemicals on child development.
In 2018, the AAP issued a policy statement17 warning parents to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals — commonly found in processed food, fast food wrappers and plastics, for example — and while fluoride was not specified as an example of a chemical to be avoided, research shows fluoride has hormone disrupting potential, placing it in the exact same category. As noted by FAN:18
“Fluoride was definitively identified as an endocrine disruptor in a 2006 report19,20 by the U.S. National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC). This report states:
‘In summary, evidence of several types indicates that fluoride affects normal endocrine function or response … Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor in the broad sense of altering normal endocrine function or response … The mechanisms of action … appear to include both direct and indirect mechanisms …”
Fluoride Action Network addresses study critique
In the featured video, Paul Connett, Ph.D., founder and current director of the FAN, addresses some of the criticism and why this particular study is such an important wake-up call for health care practitioners and pregnant women.
“[Fluoride exposure] during pregnancy will lower the IQ of their children. Only if you think a child’s tooth is more important than a child’s brain would you not be disturbed by that,” Connett says. “You can repair a child’s tooth. You cannot repair a child’s brain once it’s been impacted during fetal development.”
One pro-fluoride critique against the JAMA Pediatric study is that it doesn’t show cause and effect. “Well, no epidemiological study proves cause and effect,” Connett says. “That’s a given! To say it doesn’t show cause and effect is a redundant statement.” Other pro-fluoride voices argue the effect size is small — only 4.49 IQ points21 for boys, on average. However, as Connett points out:
“If you shift the entire population over by 3 or 4 IQ points, you would almost halve the number of geniuses in your society … and you would increase by about 50% the number of mentally handicapped children. So, on a population [basis] such shifts are highly, highly significant.”
A third manufactured controversy revolves around the fact that only boys were impacted by maternal urine levels of fluoride. Some hitch their critique of the study on this simple gender difference.
However, it should come as no surprise that boys and girls can be affected in different ways by the same toxic compound, as their development is affected by various hormones, including sex hormones, and toxins affect various hormones in different ways. We’ve seen this type of gender difference in many other instances as well.
“However you cut it, you have to be so wedded to fluoridation not to take this incredibly seriously,” Connett says. “Remember, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever — no scientific evidence — that a fetus exposed to fluoride has lowered dental decay.
There’s no evidence you’re protecting the baby from future decay during pregnancy. So, ANY evidence suggesting it may be damaging the brain has to be taken seriously …
We have potential harm [on the one side] … and on the other side you have something that is totally unnecessary. Why on earth would any doctor hesitate to advise pregnant women: ‘Don’t drink fluoridated water during pregnancy’?”
Other studies support link between fluoride and IQ loss
What’s more, as Connett so strongly points out, while this particular study has received a great deal of media attention, it’s not the only one raising a red flag. There are at least 60 other studies listed in FAN’s scientific database22 showing that fluoride exposure damages children’s brains and lowers IQ.
There are also a couple of thousand other studies detailing other adverse health effects. When you add in animal research, there are more than 300 studies demonstrating fluoride can cause:23
- Brain damage, especially when coupled with iodine deficiency
- Reduced IQ
- Impaired ability to learn and remember
- Neurobehavioral deficits such as impaired visual-spatial organization
- Impaired fetal brain development
In his video commentary, Connett briefly mentions the importance of the 2017 “Bashash study.” This was an international study effort led by professor Howard Hu, who at the time of the study’s publication was at the University of Toronto. The study is known as the “Bashash study” after the lead author, Morteza Bashash, Ph.D. The team also includes researchers from McGill, Harvard, Mount Sinai, Michigan, Indiana and the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico.
Funding for this research came from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The finalized study24,25 was published in the September 2017 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
This study was remarkable for the fact that it followed participants for 12 years, involved several well-respected researchers, employed rigorous methodology and controlled for virtually all conceivable factors.
Here too, they found a strong relationship between the urinary level of fluoride in pregnant women and the subsequent IQ in their children. They also found a dose-dependent relationship, so the higher the mother’s urine level of fluoride, the lower the IQ in the offspring.
According to the Bashash study, compared to a mother who drinks fluoride-free water, a child of a mother who drinks water with 1 part per million of fluoride can be predicted to have an IQ that is 5 to 6 points lower. What’s more, they found there was no threshold below which fluoride did not affect IQ.
Your contributions are making a difference
FAN is part of the Mercola Health Liberty Coalition, founded in 2011 — the mission of which is to inform and educate about the fraud and deceptions created by the junk food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Other Health Liberty partners include the National Vaccine Information Center, the Organic Consumers Association and Consumers for Dental Choice.
Not only has your support been helpful to catalyze the removal of fluoride but you have been able to help us make massive changes with two other health issues as well:
- GMOs — When we first started, the average person in the U.S. did not know what GMOS were. Now, not only do they know but they are also aware how dangerous they are. Your support has allowed FOIA requests to be filed that produced critical evidence resulting in juries awarding plaintiffs billions of dollars from Bayer/Monsanto, with another 13,000 cases pending and a possibility of bankrupting this evil giant.
- Dental mercury — Charlie Brown has coordinated worldwide bans on the use of mercury in dentistry that has already resulted in banning mercury in dentistry in many countries, with the likely complete elimination of amalgam within the next few years.
Again and again, we see “controversial” and “contentious” stances proven prudent and correct given enough time for sufficient science to accumulate. It’s important for you to recognize that your donations to these organizations through the years have allowed these successes to manifest. The latest JAMA Pediatrics study brings us another major step forward in the process to eliminate water fluoridation.
Editors compare anti-fluoridation to anti-vaccine sentiments
As noted by JAMA Pediatrics editor-in-chief, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, in the JAMA podcast (embedded above):
“Before there were anti-vaxxers there were anti-fluoriders, and the traditional teaching when I was going through residency in my early professional career was, ‘fluoride is completely safe and all of these people trying to take it out of the water are nuts. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened for children’s dental health and we need to push back and get it into every water system’ …
So, when I first saw this title [‘Association Between Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Fetal Development and IQ Scores in Offspring in Canada’], my initial inclination was, ‘What the hell?”
Christakis goes on to express shock at the discovery that only 3% of European residents, while 66% of Americans and 38% of Canadians drink fluoridated water (statistics noted in the JAMA Pediatrics paper26), as he was under the assumption that all developed countries fluoridated all their water supplies. This just goes to show the general ignorance that still exists even among well-educated health professionals.
Christakis and JAMA Network Open editor-in-chief Dr. Frederick Rivara also express mutual surprise that the effect of water fluoridation on IQ was so great. They point out that a 5-point reduction is significant indeed, as it’s “on par with lead.”
Christakis goes on to discuss the fact that there have been other studies suggesting fluoride may be a neurotoxin. “Which, again, was totally news to me. I thought it was junk science,” he says. Rivara agrees, saying such studies have in the past been likened to “junk” anti-vaccine science.
Christakis admits he struggled with the findings — basically because of his preconceptions of the science. He certainly did not want to be the one putting out “junk science” that might lead to a deterioration of children’s dental health. This is precisely why the study was put through additional reviews to make sure the methodology and findings were sound. In the end, the research was solid enough to pass the tests.
It’s interesting to hear Christakis and Rivara talk about their struggle to accept the idea that water fluoridation may be harmful — at the very least until the child starts developing teeth. But even toddlers may be harmed, the pair admit, as toddlers and young children’s brains are still developing.
It’s even more interesting to hear them equate their struggles to that of the vaccine safety question for, indeed, the very same struggle to accept the idea that vaccines can cause harm is identical to the struggle to accept that water fluoridation may be damaging our children.
Both are considered unassailable public health victories, and no one wants to entertain the idea that we may inadvertently be causing grave harm on a populationwide basis. Yet that’s a very real probability, as this study shows (and many others as well).
Fluoride is an environmental pollutant as well
Overall, it makes absolutely no sense to fluoridate municipal water supplies. First of all, it’s forced medication without oversight — there’s no way to ascertain the dosage any given person is getting, or what effect it’s having on their health.
When it comes to fetuses and infants, water fluoridation is useless, as there’s no scientific evidence to even remotely suggest it has a beneficial impact on future dental health, and it certainly does not make sense to “prevent cavities” in those without teeth.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the fluoride in the water never ever touches a tooth. It’s simply flushed down the drain, becoming an environmental pollutant. As noted by Edward Groth III, a staff officer on the Environmental Studies Board, Commission on Natural Resources, with the National Research Council back in 1975:27
“Environmental contamination by fluorides exposes many organisms to potentially toxic effects and may exert some stress on the ecological interrelationships among plant and animal populations … [T]he available evidence does support the view that fluorides are pollutants with considerable potential for producing ecological damage.”
Groth’s article, “Fluoride Pollution,”28 which appeared in the journal Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, summarizes the ecological impacts of low-level fluoride pollution, pointing out fluoride has been found to accumulate in the bodies of insects, birds and mammals, in some cases to potentially toxic levels, thus increasing fluoride levels in the food chain as a whole.
There are also reports of toxic effects in algae and freshwater vertebrates, and “indications that aquatic vegetation may also concentrate the element.” Substantial amounts of fluoride are also entering farmland, where it’s taken up by soil organisms.
“Possible conversion of fluoride into fluoracetate (more toxic than fluoride itself and related organic forms), and the likelihood that fluoride may enter into synergistic actions with other contaminants, greatly expand the potential for ecological damage by low-level fluoride contamination,” Groth writes.29
Water fluoridation is a clear form of water contamination
It’s also important to realize that the fluoride added to our water is an untreated industrial waste product from the fertilizer industry — not a pharmaceutical grade product — that is suddenly deemed a health product once it’s purposely added to water.
As long as the chemical is on the premises of a fertilizer company, it’s actually classified as hazardous waste, requiring costly disposal measures to comply with hazardous waste regulations.
This fluorosilicic acid is frequently contaminated with lead, arsenic, uranium, radium, aluminum and other industrial contaminants. In other words, water fluoridation can be likened to a legal water contamination scheme.
For a review of the oft-neglected history of water fluoridation, read through “Toxic Treatment: Fluoride’s Transformation from Industrial Waste to Public Health Miracle” in the March 2018 issue of Origins,30 a joint publication by the history departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University. As noted in “Toxic Treatment:”
“Without the phosphate industry’s effluent, water fluoridation would be prohibitively expensive. And without fluoridation, the phosphate industry would be stuck with an expensive waste disposal problem.”
There’s also very little evidence to suggest water fluoridation actually has a beneficial impact on tooth decay, while there’s unequivocal evidence of harm, as it causes dental fluorosis. Origins writes:31
“Only a handful of countries fluoridate their water — such as Australia, Ireland, Singapore, and Brazil, in addition to the United States. Western European nations have largely rejected the practice. Nonetheless, dental decay in Western Europe has declined at the same rate as in the United States over the past half century …
This is not to vilify the early fluoridationists, who had legitimate reason to believe that they had found an easy and affordable way to counter a significant public health problem.
However, the arguments and data used to justify fluoridation in the mid-20th century — as well as the fierce commitment to the practice — remain largely unchanged, failing to take into account a shifting environmental context that may well have rendered it unnecessary or worse.”
Franklin County, Missouri, has made it mandatory for food handlers to receive a hepatitis A vaccination. The commission order, dated July 30, 2019, gave 90 days for all currently employed food handlers to get vaccinated, and gave two weeks for new hires to get a hepatitis A shot.1
While the order states that a food handler may decline to be vaccinated, if they do so, they will be restricted from “working with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, linens and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles,”2 which makes it likely they could no longer work in their former food handling role.
While the move is said to be part of ongoing efforts to curb the spread of hepatitis A, a contagious but typically self-limiting liver infection, it signals a concerning and growing trend toward expanding mandatory vaccination regulations and laws that violate the informed consent rights of people, not to mention putting their ability to continue working in certain livelihoods at risk.
Mandates for hepatitis A vaccine continue
Franklin County, Missouri, is only the latest county to mandate hepatitis A vaccine for food handlers. St. Louis County, Missouri, and Ashland and Boyd Counties in Kentucky, already have such mandates in place.3
Similar to other vaccine mandates as a condition for employment, like influenza vaccines for health care workers, requiring a food service worker to get vaccinated in order to keep his or her job violates the human right to informed consent to medical risk taking, including the right to make a voluntary decision about use of vaccines carrying a risk of injury, death or failure, without being punished for the decision made.
In 2019, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) monitored more than 500 vaccine-related bills and actively reported on more than 200 bills introduced in 40 state legislatures that proposed to expand, restrict or eliminate vaccine informed consent rights.4
In the wake of hepatitis A outbreaks that have occurred in the U.S., attorney Bill Marler, of food safety law firm Marler Clark, went so far as to offer chain restaurants the chance to vaccinate their employees in exchange for not being sued. Marler wrote:5
“So, here is my offer — to the first restaurant chain with more that 250 locations (corporate and/or franchise) that will offer hepatitis A vaccinations to all present and future employees and I will agree to consult with that restaurant chain for $1.00 and conflict Marler Clark from being on the opposite side of the courtroom. This seems like an “offer you can’t refuse.”
Are vaccine mandates the answer to curbing hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is highly contagious, and it can be spread by eating or drinking something contaminated with even tiny amounts of fecal matter from an infected person. As such, food handlers infected with hepatitis A, who don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, could potentially contaminate any food or other items handled and spread the infection to co-workers or customers.
Hepatitis A outbreaks linked to restaurants certainly have occurred, including one recently reported at a McDonald’s in Tennessee, where an infected employee potentially exposed about 500 customers to hepatitis A.6 However, being a food handler does not increase the risk of hepatitis A, nor is eating in a restaurant one of the major risk factors for getting this infection.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Infections in the United States result primarily from travel to another country where hepatitis A virus transmission is common, close personal contact with infected persons, sex among men who have sex with men, and behaviors associated with injection drug use.”7 As for who is at an increased risk of hepatitis A, this includes, according to the CDC:8
Persons with direct contact with persons who have hepatitis A
Travelers to countries with high or intermediate endemicity of HAV infection
Men who have sex with men
Users of injection and non-injection drugs
Persons with clotting factor disorders
Persons working with nonhuman primates
Household members and other close personal contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate hepatitis A endemicity
CDC doesn’t recommend hepatitis A vaccine for food workers
Food service workers are included among the groups the CDC states do NOT need routine vaccination against hepatitis A, because, they state, “Foodborne hepatitis A outbreaks are relatively uncommon in the United States.”9 As for why they do not recommend that all food handlers get hepatitis A vaccinations, the CDC states:10
“CDC does not recommend vaccinating all food handlers because doing so would not prevent or stop the ongoing outbreaks primarily affecting individuals who report using or injecting drugs and people experiencing homelessness.
Food handlers are not at increased risk for hepatitis A because of their occupation. During ongoing outbreaks, transmission from food handlers to restaurant patrons has been extremely rare because standard sanitation practices of food handlers help prevent the spread of the virus.”
The New York State Department of Health echoes this sentiment, adding that only 2% to 3% of hepatitis A cases are acquired through eating hepatitis A contaminated restaurant food. Further, vaccinating restaurant staff may be impractical in some cases, they note, because of the high turnover rate of employees in the food service industry.
What’s more, “Emphasis on careful hand washing, use of disposable gloves and not working when ill are measures that can greatly minimize the risk of spreading hepatitis A and a number of other infections”11 — without the need for mandated hepatitis A vaccinations.
Hepatitis A does not lead to chronic infection
Unlike hepatitis B and C, which can become chronic, hepatitis A does not lead to chronic infection. In fact, in most cases symptoms resolve on their own within two months of hepatitis A infection.12 Symptoms, which may develop a few weeks after exposure, include:13
Nausea and vomiting
Abdominal pain, especially by your liver (upper right side beneath your lower ribs)
Clay-colored bowel movements
Loss of appetite
Yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Some people with hepatitis A develop no symptoms at all or develop only mild symptoms that disappear in a few weeks. While hepatitis A can, rarely, cause liver failure and death, the CDC notes, “Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage.”14
Status of US hepatitis A outbreaks
Between late 2016 and August 23, 2019, there have been 24,688 cases of hepatitis A (mostly among at-risk groups15) reported in the U.S., including 14,800 hospitalizations and 240 deaths.16 While hepatitis A can be spread via contaminated food or water, most outbreaks in the U.S. are caused by infections spread from person to person. The CDC considers high risk groups to be:17
- People who use drugs
- People experiencing homelessness
- Men who have sex with men
- People with liver disease
- People who are or were recently in jail or prison
Despite this, while the CDC recommends children receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine between their first and second birthdays, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently recommended expanding the use of hepatitis A vaccine for all children and adolescents aged 2 through 18 years.18
ACIP also recommended that people with HIV (aged 1 year and older) should be routinely vaccinated with hepatitis A vaccine, even though research suggests the effectiveness is much lower in this population. One study found hepatitis A vaccine to be effective only 48% of the time in HIV-positive patients.19
It’s also important to understand that while infection with hepatitis A is thought to provide lifelong protection against the disease,20 it’s unknown how long the protection offered via hepatitis A vaccine lasts. According to NVIC:21
“The duration of immunity following hepatitis A vaccine is unknown. A 2017 published study reviewing the antibody levels of 52 hepatitis A vaccine recipients found that 88.5 percent had measurable antibody levels after 20 years.22
It is important to note that while protection from hepatitis A infection may be related to the presence of antibodies, the lowest levels of antibody protection is not known.”
Informed consent is your right
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland Resort in California on May 31, 2019, and a small group of “freedom fighters” staged a protest against forced vaccinations outside the entrance.
Public demonstrations like these against forced vaccination policies and laws are increasingly common because there is an ongoing effort by government officials, medical trade groups, online platforms and mainstream media outlets to shut down all public conversations about vaccine risks and failures, as an increasing number of vaccinations are added to the recommended childhood vaccine schedule and vaccine mandates for adults — like hepatitis A vaccine for food handlers — become more widespread. According to Barbara Loe Fisher, cofounder and president of NVIC:23
“For children born in America in 1983, the federal government recommended 23 doses of seven vaccines given between two months and six years old.
Today, the child vaccination schedule is 69 doses of 16 vaccines given between the day of birth and age 18, with 50 doses administered before age six, at a current price tag of more than $3,000 per child … For children born in America in the years to come, that vaccine list and cost could double or triple.
The World Health Organization is encouraging drug companies to fast track more than a dozen new ‘priority’ vaccines to market for children, pregnant women and adults — and you can be sure industry will lobby governments to mandate all of them — respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), streptococcus A & B, HIV, herpes simplex virus, gonorrhea, e-coli, shigella, salmonella, tuberculosis, malaria and more.
Where is the scientific evidence to support the assumption that forcing everyone to use more and more vaccines to atypically manipulate our immune systems and repeatedly provoke inflammatory responses in our bodies throughout life will produce better health for all?”
This is precisely the point, and the reason why the freedom to exercise informed consent to vaccine use is a human right — one that should be protected, like freedom of thought, speech and conscience, which define the civil liberties upon which the U.S. was founded. When vaccines are mandated in order for you to hold a job, your freedom is being threatened and taken from you.
On their surface, farm subsidies, which are government funds given to farmers to help offset bad weather, price fluctuations and other risks to crops, seem like a reasonable use of taxpayer money. And many people probably assume that farm subsidies are helping to support farmers who truly need them, such as those whom you may meet at your local farmers market.
The reality, however, is much more sordid. Since the 1970s, farm policies have favored the consolidation and industrialization of agriculture and the food supply. Federal farm subsidies, tax credits, crop insurance, price supports and disaster payments favor industrial agriculture and the streamlined production of cheap food.
USDA bailout goes to wealthy farmers — and even non-farmers
In 2019, the government authorized the USDA to provide up to $14.5 billion to farmers and ranchers whose commodities were impacted by “unjustified foreign retaliatory tariffs” that led to a loss of export markets. The Market Facilitation Program (MFP), as it’s known, is available to producers of certain commodities, including wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans, with an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000.1
As reported by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “China responded to … tariffs on Chinese aluminum and steel products by placing retaliatory tariffs on more than 800 U.S. food and farm products, which led in turn to the MFP bailout program.”2 Nathan Rosenberg, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, explained via the Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE):3
“The White House announced the MFP in response to large, retaliatory tariffs that the Chinese government imposed on most agricultural products from the U.S. in April 2018.
Prior to 2018, China had either been the largest or second largest buyer for U.S. agricultural goods each year since 2008. Agricultural exports to this massive market declined quickly after the tariffs were put into place, reducing the prices farmers received for many important commodities, especially soybeans.”
In previous years, analyses by EWG revealed that “city slickers” are often recipients of farm subsidies. In 2015 and 2016, for instance, 17,836 people living in large U.S. cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, received $63 million in farm subsidies.4 In 2017, further analysis by EWG revealed that 19,832 people living in big cities received $108 million in farm subsidies.5
The trend continued in 2018 to 2019, when EWG obtained MFP data via a Freedom of Information Act request. Again, thousands of people living in large cities received MFP payments. Further, large farms were overwhelmingly favored and the majority of payments went to a small number of farm businesses.
According to EWG, 54% of MFP payments from 2018 through April 2019 went to the top one-tenth of recipients. And while there are supposed to be caps of $125,000 on MFP payments, rules allow relatives to also receive farm payments, even if they’re not meaningfully involved in farming.6
Wealthy farms receive greatest payouts, minorities left out
The top receiving farm, DeLine Farm Partnership in Charleston, Missouri, received $2.8 million in MFP payments while, in all, 82 farms received more than $500,000 in MFP funds. According to EWG, “The top 1 percent of MFP recipients received, on average, $183,331. The bottom 80 percent received, on average, less than $5,000,” and minority farmers are often left out.7
Farmer businesses may also receive other subsidy money from commodities and crop insurance, and disaster payments, however since MFP began due to the ongoing trade war with China, it’s become the largest subsidy source for farmers.8 According to Rosenberg:9
“These payments are large enough to constitute the single largest source of subsidies for farmers. During the Obama administration, the federal government provided operators with roughly $15 – $20 billion annually through agricultural subsidy programs.
These subsidies were primarily distributed through crop insurance, commodity payments, and conservation programs, which, together, make up the modern farm safety net. The MFP is larger than any of these single programs and has substantially increased the amount of subsidies farmers are receiving.”
Not only have the payouts been rewarding wealthy landowners on a disproportionate level, but an analysis by Rosenberg and a colleague revealed that, of the approximately $8 billion in MFP payments to producers of whom race could be identified, 99.5% went to white business owners. When gender of the receiving producer was identifiable (as it was in about $6.8 billion in MFP payments), more than 91% was given to males. Rosenberg continued:10
“Not only did almost all of the funds go to white operators, but an overwhelming share of the funds appear to have gone to upper-middle class and wealthy families.
The average family that produces soybeans has a much higher income — and a lot more wealth — than the average family in the U.S. But a disproportionate share of MFP money has been paid out to families operating large-scale farms, who have even more wealth.
According to data we received from a separate FOIA request, the largest 11 percent of soybean producers applying for MFP funds received 52 percent of all soy payments through February 20.
Meanwhile, the largest 3 percent received more than a quarter of all payments. The … administration plans to distribute up to an additional $14.5 billion to farm operators for crops produced this year. Most of that money will go to well-off white families.”
The second round of MFP payments will be based on per-acre payments,11 which means, as EWG noted, “The bigger the farm, the bigger the government check.”12
Vanishing prairies, shallow roots, drought = Dust Bowl
Farm subsidies, which once began as a safety net focused on food security, are now contributing to environmental destruction that could lead to food scarcity, including an environmental catastrophe similar to the Dust Bowl. In the early 1900s, the grasslands of the southern U.S. plains were rapidly plowed up and turned into wheat fields.
The first taste of disaster derived from losing prairies occurred not long after, in the 1930s. With millions of acres of plowed fields and a chronic drought, winds picked up the soil creating thick clouds of dust called “black blizzards,” which covered the region in an unprecedented yearslong dust “storm.”
It seems no lesson was ultimately learned, as grasslands are still disappearing at alarming rates while farm subsidies promote the planting of annual monocrops. Annuals — which include the grain crops and soy that make up most U.S. farmland — are chemical intensive and enemies of diversity.
Carbon erosion from the land and into the water and air is one result of this turn toward industrial agriculture and annual monocrops. The removal of forests that not only can sustain but also regenerate our soils and solidify this fragile carbon balance is a major part of the problem, but so, too, is industrial agriculture, including the removal of grasslands to plant more corn.
Agricultural chemicals are polluting waterways, leading to toxic algae and red tide, while tilling can destroy the integrity of the soil structure while encouraging runoff. It’s a system based on degradation, rather than restoration.
Annual monocrops destroy the soil and the surrounding ecosystems, whereas regenerative agriculture based on perennial ecosystems rebuilds it, increasing soil organic matter and leading to a number of beneficial outcomes.
Farm subsidies could lead to another Dust Bowl
With drought and hot conditions occurring regularly in the Plains, farm subsidies that encourage continued planting of monocrops could easily lead to another dust bowl. Further, in a 2017 report by EWG, it’s explained that a provision in the Federal Crop Insurance Program could be paving the way for a new dust bowl:13
“[A] provision in the Federal Crop Insurance Program, snuck into the 2014 Farm Bill, encourages farmers to plant the same crops and use the same methods, year after year, repeating the mistakes that led to the Dust Bowl.
The program guarantees farmers’ earnings from their crops won’t fall below a percentage of their usual income. The percentage is set based on a multi-year average of a farmer’s actual crop yields, and averaging good and bad years grounds the program in reality.
But under the new provision, called Actual Production History Yield Exclusion, the government pretends bad years didn’t happen. In some cases, more than 15 bad years can be thrown out when calculating the average yield, resulting in artificially inflated insurance payouts, year after year. The distortion is worst in the very same counties that were hardest hit by the Dust Bowl and are now suffering from severe drought.”
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also explains that about 500 million people live in areas affected by desertification, where dust storms and other extreme events occur. Land degradation, as occurs via intensive agriculture promoted by farm subsidies, only worsens the problem.
“When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon,” the report notes.14 What’s needed, instead, are perennial ecosystems that “redesign agriculture in nature’s image.” In other words, as stated by Forest Agriculture Nursery’s restoration philosophy:15
“Annual monocropping produces nearly all of the grain, meat, vegetables, and processed foods consumed today. These practices require giant machinery, tilling, and the application of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, resulting in the eradication of biodiversity, the erosion of topsoil, and contributes 30% of global carbon emissions — more than from any other source.
Despite the massive human efforts applied to farming, we are woefully short of the inherent resilience, stability, and outright beauty of natural ecosystems. We need look no further than native ecosystems for a template of how to move forward from the many woes of annual monocropping.”
Soybean farmers largest recipients of MFP payments
Meanwhile, although it’s clear that annual monocrops like soybeans are degrading the environment, and contributing to health problems by promoting a processed food diet, the government continues to promote them. In fact, part of EWG’s analysis revealed that soybean farmers are the largest recipients of MFP payments and have received $46 billion in subsidies from 1995 to 2019.16
Subsidy programs that instead reward crop diversification and regenerative farming practices like planting cover crops are urgently needed.
Unfortunately, Food & Environment Reporting Network noted that 45% of farmers who say they’re interested in trying cover crops hold back because of concerns about crop insurance, and a 2015 National Wildlife Federation survey found “over one-third reported that they’d been told by an agent or adjuster that using cover crops could put a claim at risk of denial.”17,18
How can you help? Make an effort to support the farmers who are farming the right way, using regenerative farming techniques — often without the help of any farm subsidies. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your area:
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other organic produce. Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — The Weston A. Price Foundation has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food From Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
FoodRoutes — The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you’re unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws. California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
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