Congressman Ted Lieu Makes Statement on His Glyphosate Concerns: The Activist Hobbyhorse Rides Again

Congressman Ted Lieu who represents California’s 33rd district (which includes Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Santa Monica) issued a statement on his concerns about glyphosate. Below is his statement:


March 15, 2017
Press Release


WashingtonToday, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding reports that unsealed court documents raise new questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup and its chief ingredient glyphosate.

“New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. We need to find out if Monsanto or the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public.”

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”


Let’s unpack this.

New questions about the safety of Monsanto weed killer Roundup are deeply troubling. I worked on the glyphosate issue last term…”

According to Judy Frankel, an anti-biotechnology campaigner writing in Huffington Post, in June 2016, Lieu met behind closed doors with “independent scientists” and “EPA scientists” and “urged the EPA to ban RoundUp.” These scientists provided “testimony that it [glyphosate] poses an unreasonable risk to humans, animals, and the environment” These scientists contended glyphosate is “linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, birth defects, obesity, gluten intolerance, among other health issues.” The other health issues are probably cooties and stuff that chemtrails also covers. The first red flag here is “linked to.” This is not linked in the same way smoking and cancer is linked. No, this is in the way if two different variables have increases over time, they can appear linked. You can link autism with sales of organic food, which is supposed to magically prevent all the things that glyphosate magically causes.


and I believe consumers should immediately stop using Roundup, whose core ingredient glyphosate…”

I suspect the city park’s employees of Petaluma might disagree with Rep. Lieu.

Recently, the tony City of Petaluma stopped using RoundUp as an experiment. The result was a 1700% increase in cost for less effective organic treatments and real health problems for the applicators. According to a story in Petaluma Argus-Courier, “The treatments are also said to be extremely pungent during application, with several workers complaining of eye irritation and one experiencing respiratory problems….Those attributes have required the use of new protective equipment, something that was not required with Roundup.”

[glyphosate] has been labeled a likely carcinogen and has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The best IARC could do, despite the monograph study group being shepherded by  Christopher J. Portier – an activist from the American anti-pesticides NGO, the Environmental Defense Fund; was to declare that glyphosate as a Class 2a hazard. This classification put glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp) in the same category as 73 other things, including night shift work and hairdressing. IARC lists sunlight, wood dust, and alcohol as larger cancer risks.

To get glyphosate into the 2a classification took a monumental effort to distort findings. As toxicologist Frank Schnell says, They are “designed to make your head hurt, so that you won’t hear that soft little voice of common sense in the back of your head whispering ‘this is all bullshit, isn’t it?.’…Stupid nonsense dressed up to look like complicated science is still just stupid nonsense.”

Myles Powers and his friend James, scrutinized the IARC monograph (as the report is called) and found that the citations the mongraph uses say something quite different than the results cited in IARC’s report. The video is less than 20 minutes and well worth your time, especially if you are Rep. Ted Lieu.

As for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, here is what the Environmental Protection Agency concluded: “there is conflicting evidence for the association between glyphosate exposure and NHL. No association between glyphosate exposure and NHL was found in population-based case-control studies in the United States, Canada or France. Additionally, the large prospective Agricultural Health Study (AHS) with 54,315 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina did not show a significantly increased risk of NHL. A population-based case-control study from Sweden suggested an association between glyphosate exposure and NHL; however, this finding was based on only 4 glyphosate-exposed cases and 3 controls.” Got that? 54,315 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina showed no increase versus a small study of “only 4 glyphosate-exposed cases…”

In the right light and the right camera angles, you could make this molehill to look like a mountain.

“Reports suggest that a senior official at the EPA worked to suppress a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review of glyphosate, and may have leaked information to Monsanto. I believe that a Department of Justice investigation is warranted to look into any potential misconduct by employees of the EPA. I also believe a congressional hearing is immediately warranted.”

In other words, a whistleblower probably found that HHS was doing activist science and leaked word to the press. The HHS review was part of Environmental Protection Agency’s review of glyphosate following the IARC classification.

Because, here is what the EPA found regarding glyphosate: “Based on a weight of evidence approach from a wide range of assays both in vitro and in vivo including endpoints for gene mutation, chromosomal damage, DNA damage and repair, there is no in vivo genotoxic or mutagenic concern for glyphosate.” That’s sci-speak for “we found bupkis.”

The technical scientific term for what the EPA found with regard to harm from glyphosate is “diddly squat.” They were as lucky at finding problems with glyphosate as I was with getting to second base with Mary Sue Horsley. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either by the Obama administration or me, I’m sure.

This hobbyhorse in the activist’s apocalypse rodeo keeps getting trotted out and this time Congressman Lieu decided to ride it. Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker.

Further Reading/Reference:
The EXtension TOXicology NETwork information on glyphosate:

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Look for the Non-GMO Seal of Approval on the Package; it’s Your Sign of Assurance That You are Getting Lower Nutrition at a Higher Price.

Many [people, even those with digital watches,] were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place, and some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no-one should ever have left the oceans.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Twitter is a continuous cocktail party that I can attend without getting dressed. I listen to knowledgeable people talk about interesting things and I can pop in and out of conversations as I please (and I can avoid the nutters too as a rule). That was how I learned I knew more about the cost of the Non GMO Project (or GMO-Free) labels than a reporter for the New York Times.

Back in December 2015, Stephanie Strom, a New York Times reporter, wrote a story about Tropicana’s (and other PepsiCo products) decision to remove any genetically-engineered sourced ingredients (“Some Tropicana and Other PepsiCo Products to Carry Non-GMO Project Seal“) from a portion of their product line and they would have the third-party Non-GMO Project certify that they had.

I saw the headline as a tweet in my Twitter feed and commented that it would be interesting to see if Tropicana orange juice, once free of transgenically produced ingredients, would cost more per serving with less nutrition as a result. Such changes had coincided with other Non-GMO labels when compared with prior formulations. (Sidenote: This pledge by Tropicana to be GMO free is going to become increasingly hard to keep due to citrus regreening that very likely will wipe out all of the citrus production in the United States, where GE looks to be the only way to combat the disease.)

She challenged me for proof.

There was quite a bit evidence actually (go here for more examples).

She said she would contact the companies and investigate.

I commented that the higher price per serving must have something to do with the label. The placement of the Non-GMO seal had so far coincided with higher cost per serving and lower nutritional value per serving. While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, I thought to not even investigate that issue was to be, at best, incurious–not a good quality for a fact-finding journalist wanting to tell a complete story.

Still, I thought that was pretty much the end of our discussion. After all, National Public Radio had already run a story earlier on the topic: “Why Did Vitamins Disappear From Non-GMO Breakfast Cereal?”

However she contacted me in early January 2016 through my beer blog, Batch-22. She told me had contacted the cereal companies and they had said there were no suppliers of non-GMO vitamins, as for the higher cost, one of the companies that answered claimed it had nothing to do with the higher cost of ingredients or the cost of the voluntary label but was due to other things (that bit of PR obfuscation does not pass my sniff test). She had several questions for me, would I be interested in an interview? Her questions and my answers are below. This is the email I sent to her on January 5, 2015 (I am indebted to journalist Robert Bryce–when he was speaking about energy, not GMOs–for the crazy people comment):


Contrary to the meme that nature provides us with healthy food, and all our species need do is pluck it and eat it, we have been struggling for 10,000 years using agricultural technology to make food that is healthy and plentiful. Now, in genetic engineering (GE), we have the ability to do so and we are refusing to use it for the worry that it is ‘unnatural’. This boggles my mind. I’d call it insane but that would be an insult to crazy people.

What do you think about the company’s explanations?

It sounds plausible. I understand the deficiency in vitamins is due to their means of manufacture. In a similar way that companies use modified bacteria or yeast to produce fermentation-produced chymosin for cheese or human insulin, vitamins are manufactured.(1)

Do you think they should have stayed GMO until non-GMO supplies of the vitamins and minerals they add for fortification of the products were available?

I don’t think they should have changed. I believe the movement for non-GE food is based on fear rather than science. GE is a tool used to provide a benefit and poses no health threat to consumers. This change to Non-GE sourced ingredients resulted from a calculated marketing campaign by the organic industry in order to drive market share to their products.(2)

The backstory no one knows is that the nutritional value of non-GMO food is lower, package sizes decreased, and prices raised. That’s not a win-win; it’s a lose-lose for us. So far, mainstream companies that have tried to placate the call for “transparency” have not heard shouts of joy but something closer to the boos that accompanied the introduction of New Coke. Consumers have been underwhelmed.

Are you a consumer of these cereal products?

Yes but this isn’t about whether I eat them or not. This is about informing people about the downside to going GMO-free. The bottom line is most folks don’t know that common ingredients like vitamins, nutrients and even cheese coagulants are genetically engineered. We have been eating them for decades with no ill effects.

If so, did you stop buying them when you realized they had lower Vitamin A and riboflavin?

Again, this isn’t about my personal shopping habits. This is about full disclosure to the consumer. It’s about the label. These companies are compromising people’s health for an ideology and, an unlikely, short-term marketing gain.

Why does what some might consider a minor change make a difference to you?

This “minor change,” as you put it, is a step backwards. Any time I see a company voluntarily taking a step backward into the past rather than forward into the future, I look more closely to see if there is science behind their decision, or if it is just an attempt to pander to those consumers who believe that ‘natural’ equates to ‘better’. In this case, the step backward is simply to appeal to that segment of the market.

Technology makes our lives better; if it didn’t we wouldn’t buy it. Furthermore, this is a time when our country is facing health issues like obesity and inadequate nutrition. Removing any amount of nutritional fortification – particularly in foods like cereal consumed by kids and the elderly – is exactly what we don’t need right now. So even though the amount may seem inconsequential, the point is that there is no justification for removing nutrients. You are trading out something with real value – vitamins and nutrients – for something of no value. Lose-lose.

Technology, contra foodie agony aunts, has improved human lives over the past 100 years.

Between 1933 and 1935, more than 5,000 children in the United States alone died from diarrhea and enteritis, due primarily caused by food-borne pathogens. Today, the rate is 1/2 of 1% of that for Americans of all ages.

Due to pasteurization, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and diphtheria are no longer regularly transmitted through milk.

Goiters were common in the U.S. and in serious cases, mental disability, before iodine fortification of salt.

As for B-12 , according to the National Institutes for Health, “Periconceptional intake of folic acid is known to reduce a woman’s risk of having an infant affected by a neural tube birth defect (NTD)…fortification of wheat flour with folic acid” has “shown decreases of 19%–32% in the prevalence of NTDs overall since the implementation of folic acid fortification in 1998.” I have a little granddaughter whose life might have been marred had it not been for B-12 fortification. [Editor’s Note: a correction was sent to Ms. Strom on February 7, 2016: “Folic acid is actually vitamin B-9 not B-12. Folic acid vanished in non-GMO Kashi Heart to Heart and significantly was reduced in non-GMO Post Great Grain.”]

Lastly the removal of Vitamin A: In 2013, a blind girl lurched toward me across the parking lot at Tirta Empul temple in Bali, mewling. I guessed she was ten to thirteen years of age, and shorter than she should have been. A whitish haze coated her eyes, each looking upward in a different direction. She moved herky-jerky due to poorly formed bones. I did not speak Indonesian; she did not speak English, yet there was no doubt what she wanted. Money. I gave her what I had in my pocket: a 5000 Rupiah note, about 42 cents. According to the World Health Organization, “Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections.”

For those of us the sidelines, it’s no surprise the anti-GMO movement and Team Organic are trying to downplay the loss of vitamins like Vitamin A in children’s cereal. They have worked for years to stop Golden Rice, biofortified rice that could prevent VAD in millions of malnourished children around the world, such as the blind girl I met in Bali. If they don’t care about hungry, malnourished children in the developing world, why would they care about a few vitamins here or there for American kids? At least they are consistent in their fear of fear itself.

These are hardly small things.

Do you rely on cereal products like these to get the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A and riboflavin?

Cereal has long been a source of daily fiber, vitamins and nutrients for lots of people, particularly children and the elderly. It’s hard to find another food that’s quick to eat that has traditionally offered the kind of health benefits that most cereals do. And cereals like Cheerios and Grape Nuts have long been viewed as healthy choices. Now, they are not as healthy as they used to be. I have difficulty understanding how this is a benefit to consumers to lose vitamins, while paying more for less product.

The pro-labeling groups claim GMO labels are needed because consumers “have a right to know.” Then they also have a right to know that these new non-GMO varieties are lower in vitamins and nutrients. It should accompany the label so consumers are able to make fully informed decisions when purchasing.

Are you paid in any way by anyone or any company, trade or advocacy group to speak about GMO labeling and its consequences?

No one pays me to write, speak, or advocate for or against GE labeling. For me, it is a passion.

When I worked for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection I was trained to be a peace officer. The training is certified by the California Peace Officers’ Standards Training (POST); it is the same training all police officers receive throughout the state. We were taught not to accept free donuts or meals, and if the shop would not take our money then we would tip the server the amount of the meal. Once, when I was part of the Cal Fire Academy, the president of the firefighters’ union offered to buy all our meals. I was the only one to refuse. I am now a retired forester who receives a government pension.

I am now and always have been interested in the environment. So I began to write about forests, which expanded to writing about issues affecting the environment. Given that agriculture uses nearly 40% of earths’ 13 billion ha of land, anything that lowers that amount means more room for nature (I won’t try to define that anymore than simply less affected by humans than farming).

In order to provide full disclosure, after five years of writing (see footnotes (3), (4), (5), (6) for examples), Monsanto invited me to see their Davis facility, which is about two hours drive from my home; I jumped at the chance. As part of their welcome they provided attendees with a $100 gift card, hats, coffee, fruit, and pastries. They also bought our lunches. You cannot buy off someone who is already in agreement with the goals of lowering the footprint of agriculture by making farmers more productive. I also have taken home brewing swag given away at the National Homebrewers’ Conference which included beer, tote bags, and malted barley. Would this mean I am a shill for Big Malt?

    Where do I think we should be putting our efforts?

I find the GE food wars to be a distraction from making our world a better place for people and nature. That being said, it doesn’t appear there will be a ceasefire anytime soon. So it’s incumbent upon people like me to make sure the full story about genetically enhanced food is being told. This technology has the potential to address some of the problems in the world’s food system, from easing food waste to the promoting the humane treatment of animals to reducing pesticide use to eliminating dangerous crop diseases. It’s really disheartening to see the same people who advocate these goals object to the use of any modern technology to achieve success.

Here’s where our time and energy ought to be going:

1. Micronutrient supplements for children (vitamin A and zinc) to combat malnutrition
2. Enact the Doha development agenda to promote free trade
3. Micronutrient fortification (iron and salt iodization) to combat malnutrition
4. Expand immunization coverage for children
5. Biofortification to combat malnutrition
6. Deworming and other nutrition programs at school to combat malnutrition and improve education
7. Lowering the price of schooling
8. Increase and improve girls’ schooling
9. Community-based nutrition promotion to combat malnutrition
10. Provide support for women’s reproductive role
(source: Copenhagen Consensus Center)



  1. According to an NPR article, “Some companies are most likely making vitamin B-12 and riboflavin using genetically modified microbes; they have, at least, published scientific papers showing how this can be done.”
  2. “The burning question for us all then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws.” – Ronnie Cummings

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In Defense of (Processed) Food

Great-Great Grandma’s Food:  an easy way to lose weight…and lower your life expectancy

I live north of Harbin Hot Springs, a new-age “health resort,” which catered (it burned in the Valley Fire) to new-agers who have yet have to find an alternative-anything that they don’t like. Alternative medicine. Alternatives to clothing. They distrust modern technology (except computers and mobile phones, which they use to complain to their friends about how awful modern technology is), especially biotechnology.

New-agers are the sort of people who name their child Raspberry.

You can spot them easily in the Safeway supermarket; they are the ones, usually with dreadlocks, peering intently at the label of a can of pasta sauce and muttering to themselves, “Fuck. I knew it! I knew it: high fructose corn syrup! Fucking Monsanto and their fucking poisonous GMO corn made into high fucking fructose corn syrup!” They put the can back on the shelf and stomp out of the store, leaving the scent of patchouli oil in their wake.

They obviously agree with:

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” – Michael Pollan

Labels on food came about in the United States from the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. In 1990, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. This is generally the nutrition label we know today. It is enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The criteria for what gets labeled revolves around nutrition and safety.

Producers try to get a leg up and an edge on their competition by using nutrition labels to game the system, such as making serving sizes small. “Marketing experts from Germany found that shoppers bought more yogurt when the recommended serving size was smaller,” an article on Science 2.0 says. “‘Smaller recommended serving sizes will let all nutrition values on the label appear smaller too, independent of the product’s actual nutritional composition’ says lead author Dr. Ossama Elshiewy from the University of Goettingen. Shoppers, who read nutrition labels, tend to ignore the smaller recommended serving size and think that these products are healthier than others.”

As to the safety of any genetically modified (GM) corn, even Gregory Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has admitted it is safe: “There is no reliable evidence that ingredients made from current GE crops pose any health risk whatsoever.” Lest you think CSPI is in Big Ag’s pocket, CSPI “has made a name for itself by tackling the food industry’s big guns…” You can look it up. Jaffe says this about labeling, “Consumers should know how their food is made and where it comes from. But as this is not a food safety or a nutritional issue—it’s not like allergens or trans fats—we don’t feel it should be mandated on labels that foods are produced with GM crops.”

In fact, we have the safest food (leading to healthier citizens) than any time in our country’s past, despite what Michael Pollan says…

“What an extraordinary achievement for a civilization: to have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!” – Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

When was the last time you saw a goiter? Adding iodine to salt banished them. Pellegra? Body lesions are caused by inadequate niacin or tryptophan in the diet. A pellegra epidemic occurred in the U.S. starting in 1906 and lasted four decades. It cost the lives of 100,000 people. Enriching flour with niacin put away pellegra. Scurvy?  The discovery of vitamin C has thwarted it. Typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and diphtheria? No longer transmitted through milk because of pasteurization.

“Meanwhile,” Ronald Bailey notes, “stomach cancer rates are down by 75 percent since 1950 because old-fashioned food preservation techniques like salting, pickling, and smoking have been replaced by refrigeration.”

So much for Pollan’s proscription: “Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

Obesity and Type-2 diabetes, which Pollan is probably referring to, is a problem of plenty (and perhaps high-fructose corn syrup), not one of scarcity or processing.

But, let’s consider for the sake of argument, that maybe yesterday’s food that great-grandma would recognize was better. For that, let’s check out going to a farmers market and buying food there:

Marc Bellemare, writing in the New York Times, found “positive correlations between farmers markets per capita and outbreaks per capita of norovirus[2], a common cause of gastroenteritis. Likewise, we found a similar positive correlation between farmers markets per capita and outbreaks per capita of Campylobacter jejuni[3], a bacterium typically found in animal feces that is also a common cause of gastroenteritis.” He points out that correlation is not causation, even if they could identify causation, “most cases of illness are caused by consumers who undercook or fail to wash their food. Indeed, our results may suggest that many people erroneously believe that food bought at farmers markets needn’t be washed because it is ‘natural.'”

Now, there is a food illness great-great grandma would recognize. Between 1933 and 1935, more than 5,000 children in the United States alone died from diarrhea and enteritis,  caused primarily by food-borne pathogens. Today, the rate is 1/2 of 1% of what it was in the 1930s for Americans of all ages. Though, given what Bellemare and his colleagues found, the rate may be higher for farmers market folks.

Those who think Pollan’s food rules are true, might want to remember H. L. Mencken’s words:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Sound bites are not a meal. And as I wrote here, Pollans’ bromides resemble little “linguistic amuse-bouches that foodites dutifully repeat as though they were really wisps of wisdom” rather than the “self-indulgent bits of twaddle” they really are.

Rachel Laudan, a food historian, knows what great-great-grandma’s food was like:

“By the standard measures of health and nutrition—life expectancy and height—our ancestors were far worse off than we are. Much of the blame was due to diet…No amount of nostalgia for the pastoral foods of the distant past can wish away the fact that our ancestors lived mean, short lives, constantly afflicted with diseases, many of which can be directly attributed to what they did and did not eat.”

Food technology and processing, despite what American foodie Agony Aunts such as Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman have to say, has improved human lives here in the United States for more than the past 100 years.

Our problems stem from having too much food rather than too little.

Unless you think diarrhea is a great idea as  a weight loss program, returning to the dangerous diets of yesteryear does nothing to fix the obesity problem.

Disclosure: To my knowledge, I own no shares in any food or biotech company. I receive no compensation, other than lower prices at the supermarket (like everyone else), from any biotech firms or any farming cooperative, organization, lobbyist, company, etc. Since I buy at Costco, I do (reluctantly) eat and buy organic food. I also compost and recycle.


Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine has an interesting post on the Clean Eating Delusion.

While some parts of the world are concerned with eating, because of food insecurity, the “worried and well-fed well” are increasingly obsessed with so-called “clean eating.”

This is nothing new, but like every cultural phenomenon, it seems, has increased partly due to the easy spread of misinformation over the internet.


Bailey, Ronald. 2002. “I Don’t Care Where My Food Comes From.”

Bellemare, Marc F. (associate professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota). 2016. “Farmers Markets and Food-Borne Illness – The New York Times.” Accessed January 17.

Kava, Ruth (American Council on Science and Health). 2016. “When Food Labels Can Mislead – American Council on Science and Health.” Accessed January 16.

Kliman, Todd. 2016. “How Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Slow Food Theorists Got It All Wrong – Washingtonian.” Accessed January 17.

Laudan, Rachel (visiting scholar at the University of Texas). 2016. “In Praise of Fast Food.” Accessed January 17.

Miller, Henry I., and and Peter Van Doren. 2000. “Food Risks and Labeling Controversies – Miller.pdf.” Cato.

News Staff (Science 2.0). 2016. “Seduced By The Promise Of Food Labels.”

Splitter, Jenny (Grounded Parents). 2016. “I Watched Michael Pollan’s New Fantasy ‘In Defense of Food’ so You Don’t Have To. | Grounded Parents.” Accessed January 24.

Watson, Elaine. 2013. “CSPI: There Are Concerns about GMOs, but Not around Food Safety.”

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