Archive | September, 2013

Industry Battles to Deny Contribution to Bee Disorders (CCD)

6 Sep

The chemical industry that generates the chemicals designed to kill insects is denying their activity (products) affects bees. To protect their revenues from neonicotinoid sales losses, Syngenta and Bayer filed suits against the European Commission who placed a two year ban on these pesticides.


The FDA in the US is under pressure to take action against the use of neonicotinoids for the same reasons the European Commission took action.

More than a year ago, three “new” studies associated neonicotinoids to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

  1. “researchers found that exposure to small, sublethal doses of a neonic called thiamethoxam significantly affects bees’ ability to find their way back to their hives—”at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse.”” Science
  2. “Given the scale of use of neonicotinoids, we suggest that they may be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.” Science
  3. Experimental results show that the environmental release of particles containing neonicotinoids can produce high exposure levels for bees, with lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers. US National Library of Medicine

The use of these pesticides could place the US food supply in jeopardy, yet the punishment for violating the bans does not offer much of a deterrent. In Florida, a Corporation violated state law twice, killing millions of bees and was fined $1,500. The economic impact to the beekeeper was placed at $240,000, mostly due to loss of honey sales.

“it’s estimated that commercial beekeeping adds up to almost $16bn in value to US agriculture every year.”

This week it was announced that a pilot study reveals that more than half of garden plants attractive to bees sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s have been pre-treated with pesticides that could in fact be lethal to the bees.

The legal system could very well delay the suspension of the use of neonicotinoids. The Guardian has set up a Question and Answer site just for the subject of Beekeeping, colony collapse disorder and the future of bees. It is moderated by Allison Benjamin, author of A World Without Bees.

A Brief History of Fracking

4 Sep

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). It is “… the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water.” “The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.”

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In 2005, Congress passed the 2005 Energy Policy Act. There was a clause written into that act, now commonly referred to as the “Halliburton Clause”, named after Dick Cheney’s relationship to Halliburton. It is interesting that Dick Cheney held no commercial positions in his entire life as a public servant, except for his 1995-2000 tenure as Halliburton’s CEO, served just prior to becoming Vice-President. Below is the “Halliburton Clause”:

SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.

Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:

(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—

(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and

(B) excludes—

(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and

(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’.

Now, as hydraulic fracturing around the world is being attributed to groundwater contamination, the industry is paying “hush money” to people who file legal cases against the industry. Drillers are trying to silence any criticism with regards to their activities.

This last week, a more public water issue came to light from a Forbes article concerning the death of some “Federally Protected Fish”.

The relationship between the “Halliburton Clause” in 2005 which gutted the SDWA and groundwater issues from hydraulic fracturing today, is not a coincidence.

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Consumer Awareness of Genetically Modified Foods

3 Sep

There has been growth in the organic food segment and, organics cannot contain any GMOs per the USDA. Now with the push to identify GMO products with labels and non-GMO products with labels, the decision by the consumer is becoming easier.

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If GMO products were so great for the environment and our health, you’d think the industry would want to specifically identify products as GMO. The response from Monsanto is:

 “Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.”

 The implication from that statement is that there is no “meaningful difference” between GMO and Organic, so per the FDA, no specific labels are required.

As the bio-engineering industry fights the labeling of GMOs, food suppliers are moving toward promoting non-GMO products. A common quote from the president of Whole Foods is that “…some of their suppliers have seen sales increases of 15 percent in foods they have labeled… (non-GMO)”.

Whole Foods business is currently 40% organic. As they drive to label GMOs in their stores, and Chipotle restaurants do the same, we should soon see in the mainstream Kroger’s and Safeway stores non-GMO products being placed directly next to their GMO counterparts. At that time, the market will determine the fate of GMO products. The consumer is in control of this issue and we are indeed reaching a tipping point.

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The Cost of Doing Business

2 Sep

It came out this week that the legal fees for the largest banks in the US will exceed $100B. That was only a portion of the $700B provided to these large banks in 2008.

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In the Quarterly Report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for TARP, the current obligation on that money stands at $456B. This “Special Inspector General” is also responsible for all litigation with regards to the TARP bailout.

It is interesting to see all of the litigation listed in this report. Of special note is that of all (107 convictions) the people prosecuted, it appeared that none of them worked for these big banks. They were what one might call small potatoes. Of the 51 listed in the report, all (with reported employers) came from one of the companies listed below :

American Mortgage Mount Vernon Money Center
Appalachian Community Bank Nations Housing Modification Center
BBR Group, LLC Network Funding
C&C Holdings, LLC New Point Financial
Colonial Bank Omni National Bank
Compliance Audit Solutions Inc. Orion Bank
First Community Bank Oxford Collection Agency
FirstCity Bank ProTrust Management, Inc.
Friends Investment Group Taylor, Bean & Whitaker
Galleria USA, Inc. Team Management, LLC
Home Front, Inc. The Shmuckler Group, LLC
Mortgage Solutions Specialists Timelender

A separate report from SIGTARP does list Bank of America as one of the companies prosecuted, and working up the economic ladder, there was Angelo Mozilo, head of Countrywide, who sold BofA $40B of toxic assets, who avoided any criminal prosecution.

This $100B cost of doing business seems like a bargain.