GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!: Hidden ‘excitotoxin’ MSG aka ‘processed free glutamic acid.’

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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ACTION ITEM REMINDER: There is a Board meeting tomorrow night, March 21, 2017 at HWFC beginning at 6:30pm, not the customary 6:00pm. See you there!

Happy Spring!!

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Today, I have time for – uncharacteristic for GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!a brief post.

Yesterday, the Co-op Voice published another article of mine entitled, MSG and Deceptive Labeling: The Hidden Toxic Chemical in Your Family’s Food-Part 1. Please hop over and read it – it’s carefully researched – and all the other informative, useful and interesting articles from our own co-op community contained in the March edition of our co-op’s Voice. Part 2 will be published by the Co-op Voice in April, so you’ll have to ‘hold yer horses’ on the information about MSG being used both in and on organically-labeled foods. (!!)

You can also see my September 15, 2016 blogpost about MSG: GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx. In this post, I rolled out my brand new series They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude! and in it you’ll get a serious introduction to MSG – a hidden ‘flavor enhancer’ being added to processed foods – which many scientists, doctors and family food advocates feel is extremely harmful to our health – and a company named Senomyx, and its ever-expanding line of artificial flavors.

…just doin’ my small part to get and keep our organic food supply healthy, safe, nutrient-dense, delicious and local!

In a somewhat related story, Mike Adams, the ‘Health Ranger’ of Natural News, has been following the recently-announced ‘partnership’ of Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who are working together to promote vaccine safety and reform. Yesterday, Natural News posted its story, ACTION: “National Call-In Day” announced for vaccine safety and reform: March 30th, asking families to call in to their elected representatives and the President on March 30, 2017, in a national push to raise awareness and promote vaccine safety and reform.

Robert De Niro made public last year that he has an adult son with autism and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has edited a book about vaccines, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury–a Known Neurotoxin–from Vaccines. Kennedy, a Democrat, was recently appointed by Republican President Donald Trump to chair a brand new vaccination safety commission.

More on this extremely interesting and important story in an upcoming post.

Truth in Labeling Campaign (the truth, the whole truth  and nothing but the truth about MSG) co-founder, Jack Samuels, wrote a June 2002 article entitled The Danger of MSG and How It Is Hidden In Vaccines. Sadly, Jack Samuels passed away in 2012 but his wife Adrienne continues the couple’s work at the non-profit Truth in Labeling Campaign. His article outlines some of the facts relating to the (hidden and often not-disclosed) MSG used in vaccines.

I saw no mention of MSG in any of the (notably scarce) national media articles and video clips about this particular vaccine issue and partnership. It will be interesting to see if MSG – that is, monosodium glutamate or ‘processed free glutamic acid’ – enters the national debate as being one of a number of chemicals used in vaccines of which families are unaware and about which they continue to remain in the dark.

Parents are being urged to do their own research into this issue and stay fully informed as advocates for their children. I would heartily agree …and the same goes for any and all adults, as well!

This post is dedicated to a person dear to my life, “C,” who has an adult son with autism.

© Laura Hagen

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

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GRASSROOTS ACTION: “My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there!” No. 2: Who Owns Organic

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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REMINDER: Our HWFC quarterly Membership Meeting is tomorrow, Sunday, January 29, 2017 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany (FUUSA), 405 Washington Avenue, in Albany, NY:

5:30-6:00 pm Dessert Potluck, 6:00-8:00 pm meeting.

From 5:00-6:00 pm, music will be provided by Albany’s own, awesome duo Alan Thomson on piano, and me, Laura Hagen, on the family of recorders! Please come enjoy some live music with your dessert! Guaranteed some 17th-18th c. English Country Dance tune hits (see here if you want to actually dance these elegant dances – to live music – right here, once a month, at FUUSA!) …and other 21st c. musical surprises, as well!

Here is the HWFC Membership Meeting Notice.

We will be voting upon our proposed Food & Product Manual (and please see here for the current Food & Product Manual).

and

our proposed new Member-Owner Manual.

See you tomorrow night!

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       Before I commence this blogpost, let me let you know that I have an article published in the December, 2016 HWFC Co-op Voice entitled Indiana Food Co-op Closes Storefronts: Cooperative Movement, Take Notice! This article, about Bloomingfoods Food Co-op in Bloomington, Indiana, [1] uncovers a process being used to systematically remove and eliminate the legal power & control held by the Member-Owners of a US independently-owned, community food co-operative. It is dedicated to indy author and fellow food co-op Member-Owner Mimi Yahn. [2]

And, BTW, welcome new readers who came over here to GRASSROOTS ACTION! by way of the Co-op Voice! Please feel free to leave a comment or question, below!

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       Holy-moly it’s been three months since I last posted! My new responsibilities as co-chair of an HWFC Committee …Halloween …getting the garden ready for winter …national elections …Thanksgiving …Solstice …Chanukah …Christmas—

—(with a lovely Frasier fir which we cut and a concert with the new Mountain Snow and Mistletoe Orchestra (boy, do we miss Chris Shaw & Bridget Ball and their annual Mountain Snow and Mistletoe Concert, but love the new band, too! I mean what’s not to love about John Kirk, Kevin McKrell and Brian Melick? Listen here!)—

—a nasty sinus infection—

—(ok, long story short(er): I discovered a way to get rid of my sinus infection without the neti pot, eucalyptus steaming, tons of fluids & vitamin C, lots of moaning, and the inevitable and dreaded antibiotics.

It’s called kimchi.

Turns out there are a few intrepid researchers out there researching the “good” bacteria we are supposed to have in our sinuses; they are busy developing a nasal spray with the needed beneficial bacteria. Just like many of us are missing bunches of “good” bacteria in our guts, those of us who get sinus infections are missing certain “good” bacteria in our sinus cavities/biomes (Did you even know you had a sinus biome? Well, you do!)

By the way, let me interject here: any information you read in these blogposts is intended as consumer information only and not meant to take the place of consultation with or advice from your doctors or health care practicioners.

I was led to kimchi by the work of a fellow blogger, Mara Silgailis over at Lacto Bacto  Health, Microbes and More. Turns out we are missing Lactobacillus sakei (L. sakei) – the same bacteria used to ferment sake, BTW… …and also present in kimchi – and if you introduce this missing bacteria into your “sinus biome,” you may get relief. Go ahead, google L. sakei, sinusitus and kimchi. Up pops Ms. Silgailis’s website and her family’s sinusitis story. (See this article about the original 2012 UCSF study and the original study. See also here, here, and listen here, too.)

So, I had dear husband run over to our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op – at 9:30pm, what a saint – and purchase one of the recommended kimchis. I began my own, personal n=1 experiment. (And just to be crystal clear: I am not suggesting that you should actually go out and try this experiment on yourself.)

After delicate insertion of some of the live, fermented kimchi liquid (which I had placed in a separate, small bowl) into each nostril (using a Q-tip) (I’m so sorry, but those of you who suffer with cranky sinuses understand and, no, simply eating kimchi does NOT work!), I had relief within three hours. Three hours later my sinuses were crystal clear!!!

WHAT?!! UNBELIEVABLE!

All because I am missing L. sakei in the sinuses?

Repeating the process 2-3 times a day for a week or so took care of the problem. Good-bye sinusitis forever!

How does this work?

According to all the research, scientific and anecdotal reports I read, by introducing L. sakei into the sinus microbiome, you are restoring order and balance. “Bad” bacteria, which had proliferated and become dominant, are not killed off, but their numbers are reduced and they go back to being just “part of the symbiotic crowd” of the microbiome community.

As a woodwind player and musician, understand that I need my breathing system functioning at top notch, especially when holiday performances approach. For me, this is a miracle! Mara Silgailis, my family here at GRASSROOTS ACTION! thanks your family at Lacto Bacto! And, thank you for blogging your family’s story so that other families may benefit.

Go have fun! Learn. Research. Read-up over at Lacto Bacto  Health, Microbes and More (article updated as of December 2016; and, I highly recommend reading all Reader Comments at Lacto Bacto, as well). The absolute wonders of healthy microbiomes, good bacteria, scobys, ferments, probiotics, nasal biome researchers, and a little ol’ bacterium called L. sakei! (Please go read about another little ol’ bacterium: H. pylori. Stomach ulcers are becoming a thing of the past; sinusitis may join those ranks. See [3].)

However, please, proceed at your own risk and run this by your own doctor, first!

I agree with Dr. Chris Kresser, who states in his article, Chronic Sinus Problems: Another Role for Probiotics?:

Of course I can’t recommend or endorse these procedures, because they haven’t been tested for safety or efficacy. It would seem that the risk is relatively low, but it’s at least possible that some of the other microbes in kimchi or other oral probiotics may not be beneficial for the sinus microbiome. We’re really just starting to scratch the surface in this area of research, and there’s still a lot that we don’t understand. So if you decide to perform these experiments at home, proceed at your own risk!)—

—New Year’s (what fun at Saratoga’s First Night) and First Night dinner with family and friends at a Saratoga pub—

—(Ladies, I saw Richard Gere in Saratoga last year, eating dinner, I kid you not!!!

Hey, just how ever did we get from Christmas music, pub fare, and sinus infections…

…to the stunning Richard Gere?

Well, he was voted the world’s sexiest man alive in 1999 by People Magazine and just how often do you get to say you were in the same room with one of the world’s most sexy men???

He graduated from North Syracuse Central High School and he owns a B&B, the Bedford Post Inn down in Westchester, so I guess Saratoga’s not too much of a leap, just upriver a ways from his B&B.

Richard Gere simply radiates charm and stunning good looks and, I confess, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him… …except when I glanced at dear husband, and my family and friends sitting around me, which brought me back to my very happy, contented, and loved reality. Hollywood’s a world I am very glad to not be a part of; give me my upstate NY community of family, friends, musicians and food co-op families, colleagues, buddies & neighbors any day…

…but – just for your information – he passed right by our table on his way out, and he looked down and smiled! What a smile!

And, of course, there is a musician to thank in this story: thank you forever, Roy Orbison!)—

—and a brand new year with brand new hopes and dreams and promises and great things yet to come!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For me, this will be the year for discovering more about gut bacteria, biomes, “good” bacteria, and making your own ferments. I’ll share with you as I learn! What a journey this will prove to be!

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:

My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there! No. 2: Who Owns Organic

       Today, I want to introduce you to a fantastic tool for figuring out which companies own which organic food brands. The tool is an Infographic called Who Owns Organic. It has been designed by Dr. Philip H. Howard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, who teaches about the US food system and sustainability. Here is Dr. Howard’s homepage.

Remember, I first introduced you to the Cornucopia Institute in the very first blog in this brand new series, started in June 2016, called GRASSROOTS ACTION: “My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there!” No. 1: The Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute “Promotes Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming.” [4]

Dr. Howard’s Infographic, “Who Owns Organic”, available at the Cornucopoia Institute’s website, will help you figure out which BIG Food and/or BIG Organic companies own which (natural and/or) organic food [5] products you are buying. Who Owns Organic tracks sales, distribution and mergers within the US (natural and) organic [5] processing / wholesale network.

A regularly-updated version of “Who Owns Organic” aka Organic Processing Industry: Acquisitions & Alliances, Top 100 Food Processors in North America, is also available directly on Dr. Howard’s homepage, updated as of November, 2016. (Here is a printable PDF.) [6]

He also quantifies which organic processors / brands have remained independent (as of January 2011: you will have to do further research to update through 2017): see Organic Industry Structure: Major Independents and Their Subsidiary Brands (scroll down).

Dr. Howard also has data (through 2008) of mergers and acquisitions among the US wholesale co-operative distribution network: see: Organic Industry Structure: Cooperative Distributors, 1982-2008.

Urgent info for us food co-op Member-Owners, no? It will answer your questions as to which co-operative companies are wholesaling (natural and) organic [5] food to US food co-operatives, like HWFC.

Dr. Howard has provided information about the major corporate, wholesale distributors of (natural and) organic [5] foodstuffs to grocery stores, including US food co-ops: see Organic Industry Structure: Major Organic/Natural Foods Distributors, 2008.

He has quantified information (as of 2007) about the organic “Private Label Brands”, which are increasingly being produced for large supermarkets, wholesale clubs & grocery stores. For example, “Field Day” is a Private Label Brand produced by United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) and provided to US small natural food stores and food co-ops.

Want to know about (organic & non-organic) bread in the US? Dr. Howard has information about Wheat and Bread in North American. There are only three bread firms in North America, which own all the well-known bread brands: Bimbo Bakeries, Flowers Food and Campbell Soup Co.!

(I leave for another blogpost, a discussion about Dr. Howard’s Infographic Global Seed Industry Structure. You will instantly notice the frightening fact that chemical companies, worldwide, are buying up seed companies. His infographic, Cross-licensing Agreements for Genetically Engineered Seed Traits, should instantly send a shock wave through you: “The ‘Big 6’ have entered into a number of agreements to share patented, genetically engineered seed traits with each other, such as herbicide tolerance and expression of insecticidal toxins.”)

RELEASE OF USDA NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS INCREASES ORGANIC CORPORATE CONSOLIDATIONS

       Dr. Howard alerts us:

The development of the USDA National Organic Standard in place of differing state/regional standards [first draft released in 1997] was widely predicted to accelerate trends of increasing consolidation in this sector.”

His warning appears to hold true:

  • Find out how many wholesale co-operatives are left in the US out of the 28 there were in 1982:
    • The reduction in numbers will stun you; there is only one (1) left.
  • What is the name of the one remaining organic co-operative wholesaler?
  • Find out who the main US wholesalers/distributors of processed (natural and) organic [5] foods are:
    • As of 2008, there were only four distributors listed:
      • Haddon House
      • Tree of Life
      • KEHE
      • United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI).
    • How many are left today, nine years later in 2017?
    • Is this beginning to look to you like monopoly-like behavior?
  • Find out which BIG Food corporations own and distribute your favorite organic foods which you buy at Honest Weight Food Co-op or your own local food co-op.
  • Did you realize just how many of your favorite organic products are produced by BIG Food corporations?
  • Did your realize how many of your favorite small, independent or family-owned organic brands are no longer independent or family-owned?
  • Just what are all these giant organic mergers and acquisitions doing to small, local, family-owned organic farms and organic producers?
  • Begin to assess just how many processed organic foods your family may be consuming:
    • Do you really want to place your food budget dollars with all of these processed organic food products?
    • Do you really want to support BIG Food corporations and their organic lines… …or, rather, support local & regional organic farm families and organic producers – who are our neighbors – and who are dedicating their lives to providing us with truly organic, truly healthy, sustainable organic foods?

BIG Food CONGLOMERATES OWN LION’S SHARE

       Yes, if you haven’t already figured it out, many of those well-known “organic” brands you see on the shelves of our food co-op are owned by one or another BIG Food corporation. Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic infographic makes that crystal clear.

Some of the more well-known BIG Food corporations (how many are transnational food conglomerates?) referenced on Who Owns Organic are:

  • Coco-Cola
  • Pepsi
  • ConAgra
  • Tyson
  • Campbell Soup, Co.
  • General Mills
  • Kellogg
  • M & M Mars
  • Hershey Foods
  • J.M. Smucker
  • Danone (Dannon)
  • Nestlé
  • Miller-Coors
  • Hormel

The organic products which BIG Food corporations produce do not – as an industry-wide practice – state the name of the parent corporation on the processed organic foods’ labels; that information is kept hidden. You’ll need Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic in order to figure that out.

My September 15, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx includes a story about Muir Glen Organic Pasta Sauce and its deceptive labeling, here. Turns out, General Mills owns and markets Muir Glen, one of its “organic” lines. That fact is not stated on the label; however, I quickly found it out by using Dr. Howard’s Who Owns Organic.

In addition, organic industry wholesale processors & distributors utilize a very clever PR & Marketing ploy: they pair the terms natural and organic. They hope to pull the wool over our eyes and convince us that “natural” = “organic.”

Investigative reporter Jon Rappoport, in his March 13, 2013 blogpost Can You Trust Whole Foods?, alerted us to this scam being used by Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) and United Natural Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI). UNFI is the same wholesaler used by many US independent, Member-Owned food co-ops, through their membership in National Co-op Grocers or NCG).

Quoting from a January 27, 2011 article by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?, he writes:

“ ‘Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed ‘natural’ foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a ‘natural’ supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)…

…Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to ‘natural’ imposters…'”

It is for this very reason, in this blogpost, I will not willingly pair the terms (natural and) organic. (See [5].) [7]

Many of these same BIG Food corporations supported the passage of the Dark Act: see this Organic Consumers Association article, Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act, here and the Health Ranger’s Natural News article, Organic Food Industry Divided After Organic Trade Association BETRAYS Labeling Movement By Signing Off on Sham GMO-labeling Bill, here.

The BIG Food industry giants have each created their own niche product lines of (natural and) organic [5] foods. Created, that is, or simply bought out – “acquired” – many of the independent “organic” brands, we used to know and love.

Well, we may still know and love them… …but do we know that some new, BIG Food corporation now owns them and they sure aren’t “independent” or “family-owned” anymore?

Over the years, many, many independent organic brands have been bought out. They may retain the same name, same label, similar marketing. But, there is a different corporate owner …and, perhaps, new & different ingredients? (Hadn’t you better go and check ingredient labels? Right now? Go read this post, GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No Dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx, here, in its entirety.)

(Natural and) organic: [5] that’s where the money is, and BIG Food knows we’ll pay more for it. So, they have all developed their own (natural and) organic [5] product lines/subsidiaries and have all developed cool, colorful, catchy-sounding, catch-your-eye packaging & labels, so as to catch more of our families’ food dollars.

Dr. Howard’s infographic, Who Owns Organic, as well as his other cutting-edge data & graphics, will instantly give you answers to some of your questions about the corporate ownership of US foods labeled as organic.

FOOD CO-OP MEMBER-OWNERS: QUESTIONS TO PONDER

       The serious questions which bear reflection by US food co-op Member-Owners are these: have our US food co-op aisles been silently, quietly & quite colorfully infiltrated and “co-opted” by BIG Food and BIG Organic, with their (natural and) organic [5] product lines?

Are we comfortable supporting these BIG Food and BIG Organic corporations, some of which heavily supported the passage of the Dark Act as members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and/or the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)?

Is there a way to, instead, throw more of our support and food budget dollars to local & regional organic farmers, farm families and organic food producers & distributors?

Please study Dr. Howard’s Organic Industry Structure: Cooperative Distributors, 1982-2008. Can you determine exactly how, between 1982 – 2008, 27 wholesale food co-operatives disappeared?

Buy-outs? Mergers? Acquisitions? Out-of business? Hostile corporate take-overs?

This article, Food Co-ops, Food Hubs, and Food Democracy: An Interview with John Curl, may help answer that question: see part I and part II.

What took the place of these 27 US wholesale food co-operatives? This July 7, 2009 Organic Consumers Association article, The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of “Natural” Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement, will help answer that question. And, this February 27, 2013 Truthout article, Our Food Is Being Hijacked by Monopolizing Corporations, will clarify the trend in monopolies in the (natural and) organic [5] food industry.

As an aside: doesn’t it trouble you that (natural and) organic [5] foods are now routinely referred to as an “industry?” What happened to “co-operative self-reliant,” “small is beautiful,” family farms, and regional distribution of regional foodstuffs? You are encouraged to read the October 5, 2016 – New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?

This May 18, 2012 article by The Cornucopia Institute, The Organic Watergate: Advocates Condemn Corruption and USDA’s Cozy Relationship with Corporate Agribusinesses in Organics, highlights a White Paper by Cornucopia entitled,  The Organic Watergate — White Paper Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program. The Report details how “…the USDA’s blatant disregard for the requirements laid out in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), and the intent of Congress, is illegal and has inappropriately favored corporate agribusiness over the interests of ethical businesses, farmers and consumers.” (pp. 2-3).

Finally, given that Dr. Howard’s data shows that the number of US wholesale food co-operative distributors fell from 28 to 1 (as of 2008), and (as of 2008) there were only 4 national wholesale distributors of (natural and) organic [5] foods, is it possible that the same reduction/buy-out/takeover process is underway at US independently-owned, retail food co-operatives?

Given the threats which Member-Owners at many, many US, community retail food co-ops are experiencing (see Mimi Yahn’s two articles and a Letter to the Editor [Losing our Principles, Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op, and Still Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op]; Indiana Food Co-Op Closes Storefronts: Cooperative Movement, Take Notice! and previous posts on this GRASSROOTS ACTION! blog; and Take Back the Co-op and National Stories at Take Back the Co-op), is there a possibility that our US independently-owned, community, retail food co-operatives could be the target of a systematic (and stealth) takeover? Is that as far-fetched as it seems?

Are US community, independently-owned, Member & Family-Owned and operated retail food co-ops – like wholesale food co-ops – going the way of the dodo bird?

Or (what seems more likely, given the billions of dollars and market share retail food co-ops represent), rather than facing extinction:

  • just like the merger & acquisition of 27 wholesale food co-operatives;
  • just like BIG Food’s acquisition of many of the “independent” and “family-owned” (natural and) organic [5] product brands we know and love;

could many US retail food co-operatives have:

  • retained the same names;
  • retained the same types of (natural and) organic [5] foodstuffs on the shelves;
  • maintained the same kind of marketing…

…but (silently) acquired a different corporate structure?

…a corporate structure which has eliminated the legal power & control of the Member-Owners & local families and, thereby, the local community, and leaves behind the shell of a community food co-op…

…that is, a community food co-op in name only.

Are US food co-ops… …being co-opted?

Are the truly authentic, US community food co-ops – owned and run by community families, co-opertively – the target of a systematic (stealth) takeover?

MICHAEL POLLAN’S “Little Food”

       In the October 5, 2016 New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?, a term coined, I believe, by Michael Pollan in his article, Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take on Corporate Agriculture?, caught my attention. He uses the term “Little Food;” something we independently-owned, community food co-ops know a little something about!

Pollan’s definition of BIG Food: “If you leave us alone and pay no attention to how we do it, we can produce vast amounts of acceptable food incredibly cheaply.

Little Food, on the other hand, is explained by Pollan as such: “That vulnerability [of BIG Food] is the conscience of the American eater, who in the past decade or so has taken a keen interest in the question of where our food comes from, how it is produced and the impact of our everyday food choices on the land, on the hands that feed us, on the animals we eat and, increasingly, on the climate. Though still a minority, the eaters who care about these questions have come to distrust Big Food and reject what it is selling. Looking for options better aligned with their values, they have created, purchase by purchase, a $50 billion alternative food economy, comprising organic food, local food and artisanal food. Call it Little Food. And while it is still tiny in comparison with Big Food, it is nevertheless the fastest-growing sector of the food economy.” [emphasis added]

A most interesting question for me – as a Member-Owner of a food co-op – is: what percentage of our yearly sales comes from Little Food: that is, “organic food, local food and artisanal food?” I would further want to tease out what percentage is minimally-processed and comes specifically from local (defined as within 250 miles) organic farmers & organic artisanal food producers.

In my opinion, a food co-op’s five-year Strategic Plan should have, as its number one goal, a plan to dramatically increase the percentage of Little Food which it buys & sells.

For example, browsing the awesome collection of local, regional & artisanal cheeses our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, sells, is enough to convince me that this is why community-owned food co-ops need to exist and need to continue to thrive in our hometowns! There is a clear two-way street in full operation here, between organic customers (us) and the local & regional organic farmers and families who produce these cheeses!

Michael Pollan’s Little Food, is one of the sources of the strength & power of local, community-owned, Member-Owned and run food co-ops. We should be shouting this from the rooftops!

Dr. Howard’s New Book: Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We EAT?

       Published in February, 2016, Dr. Howard has a new book out called Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? London: Bloomsbury Academic (February 25, 2016). This book is well worth the purchase!

If you read Dr. Howard’s new book, report back here at GRASSROOTS ACTION and tell us what you have learned! I am poised to read it, myself.

It will be interesting to see if his book covers US independently-owned, local food co-operatives.

Thank goodness there are dedicated professors like Dr. Howard researching & quantifying this data and making it clear and easily understandable, so we can track just what is going on with (natural and) organic [5] foods here in the US. Please make Dr. Howard’s website a part of your favorite websites and archive his Infographic, Who Owns Organic on your Smartphone, to use as you shop the aisles of your favorite US food co-op.

Dr. Howard has provided us with data so that we can pierce the corporate ownership & marketing veils and find out exactly who is selling (natural and) organic [5] foods to us. We then have a better chance of finding out what, exactly, is really in the food we eat. We can then make the rational & decided choice to place our family food dollars with those BIG Food corporations… …or not.

Dr. Howard is helping us to work at keeping our organic food supply truly local, truly sustainable, and truly healthy for our families. His work will help strengthen the ties between US food co-op families and the local & regional organic farm families & organic producers who dedicate their lives to providing us with truly organic food.

Every food dollar you place in an organic farm family’s pocket – through purchases at your local food co-op – goes towards strengthening our connection to healthy, high-quality, regional food: a critical need for any family! Spend wisely.

Dr. Howard’s data may convince you, too, of the vital need to keep our food local. Thank you Dr. Howard! His Infographic, Who Owns Organic was sure an eye-opener for me. I think it will be for you, too.

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[1] This Co-op Voice article is a condensed version of my June 14, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION: Indiana Food Co-op Closes Storefronts. HWFC Forewarned-Reducing Overhead Critical. The December article, however, has some updated information which you will want to read.

[2] Please see Ms. Yahn’s two articles and a Letter to the Editor: Losing our Principles, Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op, and Still Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op. Ms. Yahn reveals disturbing threats to her food co-op’s democratic principles and its bylaws, and a wider pattern of “corporatization” at many other American, local, independently-owned food co-ops.

Please note that there are brand new Letters to the Editor and/or Comments concerning Ms. Yahn’s articles, posted more than 1 1/2 years after these articles were first published! There has been so much new action that The Commons Online added a brand new sidebar to direct the reader to the new Letters and/or Comments!

I urge you to go and read them.

See, in particular, the September 21, 2016 Letter to the Editor, “We help co-ops, not weaken them,” in the VT Digger, from the co-founder of CDS Consulting Co-op, Marilyn Scholl, in response to Ms. Yahn’s February, 11 2015 Letter, and the lively commentary, below Ms. Yahn’s February 4, 2015 article, provided in response to CDSCC Marilyn Scholl’s September, 2016 Comment, by co-op Member-Owner KJ Jacobson, at The Commons Online, here (scroll down, below the article to “Leave a Reply.”)

BTW, the Comments by KJ Jacobson were posted just 28 days ago.

One wonders: what prompted CDSCC’s co-founder, Marilyn Scholl, to respond – in September, 2016 – to articles Ms. Yahn had published almost two years previous?

It is, perhaps, noteworthy that on October 5th and 6th, 2016, two weeks after the publishing of her Letter in the VT Digger, CDS Consulting Co-op’s Marilyn Scholl shared the podium with National Co-op Grocers’ (NCG) C.E. Pugh – at two Town Meetings held by La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, NM; please see my October 6, 2016 blogpost, GRASSROOTS ACTION and La Montañita Member-Owners ARE POWERFUL! La Montañita  Member-Owners have been waging a battle to gain back Member-Owner control of their food co-op; see their website, Take Back the Co-op. According to accounts on the Take Back the Co-op website, CDS Consulting Co-op has also had a significant presence at La Montañita for at least the last three years.

While you are over at Take Back the Co-op, read the Letter which Mimi Yahn sent to the Member-Owners of La Montañitahere and the Letter which the Board of the Honest Weight Food Co-op sent, as well, here.

[3] It’s of great scientific interest to note that one of the two Australian scientists who discovered that Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori, a bacterium) plays a role in the development of gastritis and peptic ulcers, Dr. Marshall, intentionally infected himself with the bacterium to prove the scientists’ hypothesis:

In 1985, for example, Marshall underwent gastric biopsy to prove he didn’t carry the bacterium, then deliberately infected himself to show that it caused acute gastric illness. (See the October 3, 2005 article in The Scientist, H. pylori researchers win Nobel by Stephen Pincock.)

Drs. Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005 for their research and discovery.

Read the April 8, 2010 interview with Dr. Warren by Pamela Weintraub entitled, The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery.

[4]  One of the Cornucopia Institute’s Board members, Kevin Engelbert, owns Engelbert Farms (here is their FB page), the first certified organic dairy farm in the US, certified in 1984. Engelbert Farms produces organic milk, veal, beef, pork, pasture, hay, corn, soybeans, and vegetables and is located in our own state, in Nichols, NY, just west of Binghamton.

[5] I will not willingly pair the words “natural” and “organic.” This is a marketing trick of BIG Food and BIG Organic; by pairing these two words, we, ourselves, are seduced into believing that they are equivalent. They are not. In the US, foods allowed to be labeled as “organic” have a specific statutory and regulatory meaning; that is, we have certain, guaranteed consumer protections. The term “natural” on a label, however, is virtually meaningless, offering none of the consumer protections afforded by the term “organic.”

By cleverly pairing these two terms in their marketing, BIG Food and BIG Organic corporations hope to pull the wool over our eyes and convince us that “natural” = “organic.” This is, however, a very clever and deliberate PR & Marketing ploy.

“Natural” does not = “organic.” Caveat emptor.

[6] The reader is encouraged to also view this infographic in a July 14, 2014 article by Michael Snyder entitled Big Corporations Have An OVERWHELMING Amount Of Power Over Our Food Supply, located at The Economic Collapse Blog.

[7] See Jon Rappoport’s other articles about Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) and/or United Natural Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI):

March 11, 2013: What’s behind Whole Foods’ Decision to Label GMOs in their Stores?

October 14, 2013: Co-exist with Monsanto or Destroy it? Follow the Organic Money

February 25, 2014: Top shareholders in Whole Foods and Monsanto: Identical

December 23, 2014: Whole Foods Sued for False Non-GMO Labeling

© Laura Hagen

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

GRASSROOTS ACTION, election results & HWFC Letter of Support to La Montañita Member-Owners

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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       The HWFC Board of Directors has shared the results of yesterday’s GRC elections, as well as the vote tallies for the amendments to our Bylaws and the change to our Articles of Incorporation.

All three candidates who ran for the GRC were elected; the change to our Articles of Incorporation was approved and ALL of the 15 individual votes to amend our Bylaws were approved. To view the exact vote tallies, please see the HWFC Inside Scoop from this morning, October 24, 2016, here.

Welcome to Judith Brink, Chris Gockley and Tom Spargo, the newest members of our Governance Review Council (GRC)! They will be joining Jeff Marden and Chair Sandy McKay, which gives us a full complement of GRC members.

Wonderful potluck desserts, (as usual!), great conversations before and after the meeting, and interesting Q & A with the three GRC candidates. Congratulations to Board secretary Rebekah Rice for successfully moderating the section of the meeting relating to the Bylaws’ votes; a difficult subject which was rendered simple and intelligible and allowed for swift passage of all Bylaws’ amendments.

Thank you, thank you to all the members of the Membership Committee who prepared the meeting space, handled check-in, and cleaned up afterwards! Thank you to our Nominations Committee for successfully handling the election, and the GRC for its back-up support, and providing us with vote results which we trust and which are verifiable; a paper ballot system – with no proxy voting, no absentee ballots, no electronic, internet, paperless, non-verifiable voting – and with paper ballots counted and verified immediately afterwards.

In the past, I have had League of Women Voters members share with me, that this system is still considered the best, most secure, transparent, and safest ways to conduct elections. Let’s keep this gold standard as part of our democratic system at HWFC.

Special thank yous to Carol Ostrow and the Members of the Communications Committee who brought our HWFC 2015-2016 Annual Report to completion! We received our copies last night and Carol and the Committee members did a splendid job; a document we can all be proud of! The AR is not online yet, but here is where you can find  it, when it is.

Thank you for a job well done, Carol! It is beautiful and a work to be proud of!

Thank you to each and every member of our Board of Directors who contributed to this very successful quarterly meeting. We appreciate your continuing hard work on our behalf!

Special thanks to ALL the HWFC Member-Owners who participated in our Bylaws’ revision process: the eight members of the Bylaws Panel; the Members of the Corporate Compliance Committee; the members of the Membership & Personnel Committees; staff Member-Owner Janet Sorell; and all the Member-Owner staff and staff members who continue to participate on Board committees, offering invaluable advice on Bylaws’ issues.

As you know, we will continue this process and have a second round of Bylaws’ revisions presented at the January, 2017 Membership meeting.

Inch-by-inch, row-by-row [1] …step-by-step …one careful decision at a time, we are strengthening our Member-Owned and locally-owned and operated food co-operative and are one step closer to strengthening our connections to local organic farms, farmers, food producers and their families.

Finally, congratulations to the 145 Member-Owners and 8 Shareholders who attended our Quarterly Meeting last night. We were all part of the “participatory democracy” which keeps our locally-owned and locally-operated food co-operative strong, vibrant, healthy and robust.

Congrats to all of us for a job well done! Boy, have we come a long way in 365 days!

(If I have forgotten to thank anyone or any Committee, the error rests solely with me. Please, my “eternally vigilant” readers, let me know and I will amend the error post haste…)

HONEST WEIGHT FOOD CO-OP BOARD & MEMBER-OWNERS SEND LETTER OF SUPPORT TO LA MONTAÑITA FOOD CO-OP MEMBER-OWNERS

       At our last Board meeting, the Board approved the sending of a Letter of Support to the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op who are Taking Back Their Co-op. Chris Colarusso is also gathering the signatures of HWFC Member-Owners (see Thomas Paine, here. She’s at it again, gathering up signatures!!) who wish to sign on to this letter.

So here, on the one-year anniversary of the date upon which the Member-Owners of the Honest Weight Food Co-op presented the (former) acting President of the Board a petition to call for an emergency Special Membership Meeting – October 24, 2015 – is our Letter of Support to fellow Member-Owners at La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As of October 18, 2016, the Member-Owners of La Montañita have surpassed their goal of 1,700 (1-7-0-0, seventeen hundred!!!) signatures needed on their petition to call for a Special Membership Meeting! That is amazing work!

Our Letter of Support has been received by the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op and has been posted on their website, Take Back the Co-op, under “New York,” here.

October 5, 2016

 Greetings to Member-Owners of La Montañita Co-op, New Mexico, from the Member-Owners and Board Members of the Honest Weight Food Co-op, Albany, New York. 

 We celebrate your bold effort to take back your co-op, and we applaud your many efforts to reach out to other food co-ops nationwide to inform and support their struggles.  We know you can succeed in taking back your co-op, because we took ours back.

 Just a year ago our co-op found itself in what seemed like an impossible situation.  A series of decisions had been made that a majority of our Membership could not support and that were not supportive of our Membership.  In particular, these decisions would have caused our Membership to lose our decision making authority.  We found ourselves petitioning for a Special Membership Meeting to recall the Board.

We had our Special Membership Meeting! We voted to recommend a change in our management structure.  We approved a recommendation to evaluate and remedy concerns about our leadership team.  We seated new members on our Board of Directors.  At that time we did not fully understand our financial status, which we have learned also needed a turnaround.

 Fortunately, we were successful in creating change. We have implemented a new leadership structure and hired new managers.  Our Member-Owners have started an independent online newsletter, the Co-op Voice, which gives us back the direct voice we lost several years ago.  We have had three strong financial quarters, and our financial picture is improving.

 The Member-Owners and Board Members of Honest Weight Food Co-op respect you and the quality of the groundwork you have done.  May your Special Membership Meeting be well attended, be peaceful, and above all, be successful in creating the changes that you will need to fully regain decision authority.

 To honor our past, for the promise of our future, and true to our Mission Statement, we took action to exercise our rights and responsibilities as Member-Owners of Honest Weight Food Coop.  We wish you great success.

Signed,

The Honest Weight Board of Directors

Carolynn Presser, President
Tim Corrigan, Vice President
Rebekah Rice, Secretary
Kate Doyle, Treasurer
Ned Depew
Rick Donegan
Nate Horwitz
Daniel Morrissey
Saul Rigberg

© Laura Hagen

[1] The Garden Song, recorded by the likes of Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Arlo honors Pete (Arlo: “I know everybody likes singing with Pete… He sings the song twice at the same time … once in front of the song and then once with everybody…”), John Denver and the Muppets, Peter, Paul & Mary and Makem & Clancy, was written by Dave Mallett, who can be heard singing it here. Called by some the “Homesteader’s Hymn” or just “Inch by Inch,” this song is a reminder to us food co-op families to thank all the local organic farmers, food producers and their families – and all of us who are gardeners – who honor & bless the earth and her bounty: we who “temper them with prayer and song...”

And thank goodness for YouTube …and musicians!

~~~~~

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

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GRASSROOTS ACTION and (oops) Sunday’s Meeting begins at 4:30pm with MEET THE GRC CANDIDATES!

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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CORRECTION ALERT: The HWFC Membership Meeting on Sunday, 10/23/16 begins at 4:30pm with a Meet the GRC Candidates’ Session; 5:30pm is the Dessert Potluck; Meeting begins at 6:00pm at St. Sophia’s Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY.

Please see the rest of today’s blogpost here.

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THANK YOU to a bunch of “eternally vigilant” readers for the HWFC meeting time correction!

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

~~~~~

GRASSROOTS ACTION and Membership Meetings on 10/23/16 ARE POWERFUL!

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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ALERT: Here is the new HWFC October, 2016 Coop Voice!

CORRECTION: The HWFC Membership Meeting on Sunday, 10/23/16 begins at 4:30pm with a Meet the GRC Candidates’ Session; 5:30pm is the Dessert Potluck; Meeting begins at 6:00pm at St. Sophia’s Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY.

       This Sunday, October 23, 2016  – 4:30pm Meet the GRC Candidates; 5:30pm dessert potluck; 6:00pm Meeting at St. Sophia’s is our quarterly Membership Meeting of the Honest Weight Food Co-op. Come! Show up! Be present! Vote! (See below for the message from our Board. Member-Owners see here for meeting details and agenda.)

It is critical to our participatory democracy at Honest Weight Food Co-op that you attend the Membership Meetings …not only for the great potluck desserts and for the community camaraderie, but also to be there to make your decisions, cast your votes, and be part of all of us deciding the future of our co-op, all at once, together.

We are voting on:

-critical Bylaws’ changes (see here)
-an important change to our Articles of Incorporation (see here, Meeting Announcement)
-three new Governance Review Council (GRC) Members (see here)

This is one of the places in your life where YOUR VOTE REALLY COUNTS and you get to COUNT THE VOTE if you wish to volunteer! This means: we are all in charge of the casting of our individual, paper ballots and we can participates in the legal vote counting or observing of the vote counting. We have got a democratic, fair, accurate and verifiable voting process going on here at HWFC.

I feel very secure about our vote counting process: paper ballots, cast and counted by all of us together in real-time (no absentee ballots, no proxy voting, no electronic, online, computer, paperless, NON-VERIFIABLE, hackable voting) in the same room, at the same time together. (See this story of another US food co-op which did not guard their democracy: “voting” just occurred last night, here.)

Our Membership Meetings, with voting, are held in the best tradition of the old time New England Town Meetings we’ve all studied in American history. The community meets …debates …and decides.

With all the shenanigans still predicted to occur in the upcoming federal elections (go see the latest the computer scientists have to say over at Verified Voting) it is safe to say that we can rely upon the elections at HWFC!

Thank you to our HWFC Nominating Committee (new proposed name: Elections and Nominations Committee) team for organizing and overseeing the process!

OCTOBER 24, 2015: THE PETITION IS RATIFIED

       Now, in case you have forgotten, Saturday, October 24, 2015 was the day in our history when WE MADE HISTORY! On that Saturday, Member-Owner Chris Colarusso passed around for signature a now-famous petition to call for an emergency Special Membership Meeting (eSMM), to confront a crisis at our food co-op. 720 people showed up to that meeting: our largest Membership Meeting ever in our 40-year history, held on November 30, 2015!

The rest, as they say, is history. And we changed our history! Let us all thank Chris for taking the appropriate, right action at the right moment in time, so save our food co-op. Now Chris would be the first person to say there were many, many, many, many other people who helped out – and that is true! – but let’s honor she who is the Thomas Paine among us. Who was Thomas Paine?

…an English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and he inspired the rebels in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. [1]

Chris (with help!) authored a “pamphlet” which altered the course and future of our co-op for the better. Let us not forget the power of pamphlets, petitions, signatures, democracy …and our own food co-operative history!

thomas_paine_cc_img.jpg

Thomas Paine (with a pamphlet?) …not unlike our HWFC eSMM petition
dated Saturday, October 24, 2015
and Handed To The Board of Directors On That Same Day, Duly Ratified.

SING YER HEARTS OUT!

       And, on that note, it’s time for a song. As a musician who is also an HWFC Member-Owner, I’m hauling out – again, and with pleasure – the wonderful, singable The Ant Song, sung by Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, which I first introduced right after the election results from our emergency Special Membership Meeting. Sing your hearts out!

High Hopes aka The Ant Song

Just what makes that little old ant,
Think he’ll move a big rubber plant?
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant!

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes,
He’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes!
So anytime you’re feeling low
‘Stead of letting go
Just remember that ant…

Whoops there goes another rubber tree,
Whoops there goes another rubber tree
Whoops there goes another rubber tree plant!…

So, fellow ants, get yourselves to the meeting on Sunday! Together, move a rubber tree plant or two!

Here is part of a message from our Board of Directors about our meeting on Sunday, from the Inside Scoop:

Democracy in Action–Your Attendance Essential!
 
Our next General Membership Meeting will be Sunday, October 23, at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY, starting with a dessert potluck at 5:30, with the meeting starting at 6:00.  We look forward to seeing as many member-owners as possible attend because we will be voting on changes to two documents critical to our governance as a co-op:  our Bylaws and our Articles of Incorporation.
 
For the past several months, a group of hard-working member-owners have been meeting regularly as the Bylaws Panel, diligently reviewing and examining and suggesting critical corrections, modifications and additions to our Bylaws.
 
The Bylaws Panel will be holding several more information sessions on the proposed changes so that everyone can ask questions and be informed before they vote.  We encourage you to attend one or two or as many information sessions as you can in order to understand the proposed changes and how they matter and affect YOUR co-op. Check out the Bylaws web page at http://www.honestweight.coop/page/bylaws-15.html . Download the proposed changes from the links at the bottom of the web page.

See ya Sunday!

© Laura Hagen

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

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[1] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Entry: Thomas Paine. Accessed October 20, 2016. See here.

[2] Picture of Thomas Paine. Photo via Wikipedia Commons. http://www.thenation.com. See February 9, 1737: Thoma Paine is Born by Richard Kreitner and The Almanac. Accessed October 20, 2016.

[3] High Hopes also known as The Ant Song, written by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. “It was nominated for a Grammy and won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards [April 4, 1960].” See Wikipedia, here. Accessed October 20, 2016.

GRASSROOTS ACTION and La Montañita Member-Owners ARE POWERFUL!

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS STORY, Thursday, October 6, 2016: Tonight in Sante Fe, NM at 5:30pm La Montañita Food Co-op is the sponsor of a Town Meeting for “questions, answers, and productive dialogue.” The invited guests are: Marilyn Scholl, the co-founder and current Director of CDS Consulting Co-op (CDSCC) and C.E. Pugh, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for National Co+op Grocers (NCG).

A similar event occurred last night at the La Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, NM. There are no updates as of yet.

It is noteworthy that this co-op is the very same co-op which has a very large group of Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op  and who are, right now, community-organizing an emergency Special Membership Meeting.

La Montañita Member-Owners, go here to sign the petition to legally call for a Special Membership Meeting of the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op.

In a very surprising move, these two separate “.coop” corporations, National Co+op Grocers and CDS Consulting Co-op, are appearing together on the same stage at these two Town Hall meetings, to “focus on discussing what’s been going on recently at La Montañita:” special guests of the Board of La Montañita.

From La Montañita’s website:

There are some member-owners who strongly disagree with some of our retail business initiatives and decisions, and a campaign has been started, which calls for a special meeting to replace the current member-owner elected Board of Directors and remove our general manager, Dennis Hanley.

The La Montañita Co-op Team is here to ensure member-owners, customers and the community-at-large that it has not forgotten its mission/vision: La Montañita believes in the shared benefits of healthy food, sound environmental practices and a strong local economy. And in the markets we serve, La Montañita provides increased access to, and purchase of, healthy food options for our diverse customer base.

On the website of the Member-Owners of La Montañita, under the heading Follow the Money, we find a different perspective:

In truth, our Co-op’s net income was very strong until 2013—an average of $649K in profit per year. We were not in financial trouble until we expanded three years ago. Guided by CDS Consulting, our board decided to open a new store on Albuquerque’s Westside, located in a strip mall near a Walmart.

That store loses ~$500,000 per year. Overall, it appears that La Montañita has lost between $2 million and $5 million due to an expansion that CDS Consulting, NCG, and UNFI profited from. So why are the GM, board, and senior staff blaming La Montañita’s financial challenges on something other than the real cause?

A National Takeover…One Co-op At a Time
Across the country and at La Montañita, co-ops are changing their policies, products, and personnel. Over and over again, those decisions can be traced back to the influence of CDS Consulting and NCG…

In a September 21, 2016 Press Release from National Co+op Grocers, NCG Responds to Santa Fe-Based “Take Back the Co-op” Campaign Claims, issued two weeks before this NCG/CDSCC visit to Albuquerque, C.E. Pugh states:

Iowa City, IA — National Co+op Grocers (NCG) — a business services co-op for 150 independent, community-owned and locally-governed co-ops nationwide — today is responding to claims from the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based “Take Back the Co-op” campaign.

“We believe strongly in the cooperative principles and respect the rights of co-op owners everywhere to voice their hopes and concerns for the future of their co-op,” said C.E. Pugh, Chief Operating Officer, NCG. “However, we feel this campaign grossly mischaracterizes NCG, its purpose and its relationship with its member and associate co-ops, as well as the benefits offered by CDS Consulting Co-op and UNFI. We take issue with these false claims and want to provide clarity…”

It is noteworthy that NCG’s PR people felt it necessary to to issue a national press statement to the media about one of its member co-op’s Member-Owners grassroots’ fight to maintain control & ownership of their co-op. Have Member-Owner issues at U.S. independently-owned food co-ops become that much of a concern to this .coop corporation, founded in 1999 and “..represent[ing] 143 natural food co-ops operating 196 stores in 38 states, with combined annual sales of $1.8 billion…”? [1]

Interesting that an NCG corporate Press Release found it necessary to defend not only its own corporation, but two others, as well: that of CDS Consulting Co-op and – a brand new corporate player to this particular New Mexico “Town Meeting” food co-op story – United Natural Foods, Inc, UNFI.

NCG’s primary distributor is United Natural Foods, Inc., (Nasdaq: UNFI), founded in 1976, with whom it signed a primary distribution agreement in 2015, good through at least July 2021. NCG and UNFI have had a contractual relationship for ten years, since 2006. [2]

UNFI’s net sales for fiscal year 2015 were $8.18 billion. [3]UNFI is the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S….” [4]

A 2009 Organic Consumers Association article characterizes UNFI as a “near-monopoly wholesaler.” [5] Four years later, in 2013, Wenonah Hauter, the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, in an interview about her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, stated, “(UNFI) now controls the distribution of organic and natural products. Publicly traded, the company has a contract with Whole Foods and it is the major source of these products for the remaining independent natural food stores…” [6] This includes U.S. Member-Owned, independently-owned & operated, community food co-ops. [7]

Perhaps it is no coincidence that La Montañita, a member of NCG and the second largest food co-op in the entire United States, and its “La Montañita Co-op Team” – its Board and Management – are receiving immediate corporate support from NCG…

…and La Montañita’s rightfully-angry, grassroots OWNERS are, instead, the recipients of their very own NCG corporate headquarters Press Release. [8]

Corporations don’t send two of their top people – one,  a co-founder and the current Director of the entire corporation, and the other, the Chief Operating Officer – to a couple of simple “Town Meetings.” It’s clear that NCG and CDSCC are there to address the uprising of the Member-Owners of La Montañita Food Co-op: the Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op.

Why did both of these U.S. .coop corporations find it necessary to fly their people out to New Mexico and – together – take to the co-op podiums in Albuquerque and Santa Fe? This certainly confirms rumors we have heard from multiple U.S. co-ops in attendance, that La Montañita was on the lips of NCG Board members at the NCG Annual Meeting last week in Minneapolis.

But just what does CDS Consulting Co-op have to do with rumblings on the NCG Board? What’s the connection between these two separate .coop corporations?

Any why are they confronting this Member-Owner uprising …together?

The website of the Member Owners who are Taking Back Their Co-op poses an answer in an article entitled A National Takeover…One Co-op at a Time:

‘NCG will provide the vision, leadership and systems to catapult a virtual chain of food co-ops to a position of prominence in the natural foods industry.’
– NCG Mission Statement

But how do you create a chain when you’re dealing with unique, autonomous member-owned co-ops? Some group would have to go to those co-ops and install the same bylaws, board policies, and the same kind of GMs. They’d have to promote the same produce, standardize all cereal aisles, and most importantly: disenfranchise the actual owners. They’d enforce uniformity, but convince co-ops it was their choice to do so.

A ten-year contractual relationship between NCG and UNFI is a matter of public record; not, perhaps, surprising that NCG would defend its primary distributor and industry-giant UNFI in its Press Release. However, it does raise the question: Is there also a contractual relationship between NCG and the eight-year old CDS Consulting Co-op, of which the public is unaware? [9]

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       It’ll be very, very interesting to hear reports about these two “Town Meetings” from the grassroots, OWNERS of La Montañita themselves.

If you go visit NCG’s website, La Montañita (Nob Hill) is currently one of the featured co-ops on their homepage: see here and here.

ALERT: Bloomingfoods Member-Owners, in Bloomington, Indiana, this same article, on the website of the Member-Owners of La Montañita, A National Takeover…One Co-op at a Time, has a section about your co-op, Bloomingfoods.

Please, everybody, send your Member-Owner good energy and powerful grassroots’ vibes to fellow Member-Owners in Albuquerque & Sante Fe who are now “the dragon being poked” at this US food co-op!

For “dragon” reference, please see this November 5, 2015 Albany, NY Times Union article, Honest Weight Food Co-Op Reverses Decision on Member Workers, by Tim O’Brien, containing the words of HWFC Member-Owner Jules Harrell (she, the heroine of the NYS DOL FOIL coup campaign):

Harrell said the [Board’s] actions [reversing a decision to stop members from working in the store to gain discounts], while welcome, may not undo the damaged confidence members have in the leadership.

“They have already poked the dragon,” she said.

How appropriate that foils and a fire-breathing dragon (“snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed” ) appear in this U.S. food co-op epic tale and saga …yet again. [10] This is the stuff of folk legend …yet it is real life for the families & Member-OWNERS, invested in saving American independently-owned, locally-operated, community food co-ops. Grendel, Grendel’s mother and that dragon, antagonists of the hero Beowulf from the epic tale, Beowulf (Nowell Codex, ca. ~ 1000 A.D.), have nothin’ on us and our (organic carrot) spears!

###

© Laura Hagen

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran

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[1] See this NCG document, National Co+op Grocers
Partnership Opportunities January – June 2016
.

[2] See the August 20, 2015 The Shelby Report.

[3] See this form 10-K report from the September 30, 2015 UNFI SEC filings.

[4] See this January 31, 2013 article, Domestic Fair Trade: A Plea to UNFI and Whole Foods for Justice by Ronnie Cummins, founder and International Director of the Organic Consumers Association, and Dave Murphy, founder and Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!

[5] Cummins Ronnie. The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of “Natural” Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement. Organic Consumers Association, July 8, 2009. See here.

[6] Karlin, Mark. Our Food Is Being Hijacked by Monopolizing Corporations. Truthout, February 27, 2013. See here.

[7] Though not directly on topic, you are encouraged to read yesterday’s – the October 5, 2016 – New York Times Magazine Food Issue Can Big Food Change?, and the article by Michael Pollan, called Why Did the Obamas Fail to Take on Corporate Agriculture? Note Mr. Pollan’s references to “Little Food;” something we independently-owned, community food co-ops know a little something about!

[8] This corporate Press Release flew to Albuquerque and did its job. See these two media hits, both involving Albuquerque local reporter, Dennis Domrzalski, who – clearly – utilized this NCG Press Release and who – clearly, twice – expressed his bias against the La Montañita Member-Owners and their issues; particularly shocking for a reporter operating in the Indy Media field.

This same reporter also got significant facts wrong. Cooperative Development Services (http://www.cdsus.coop/home) of St. Paul, MN and Madison, WI, is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985. “CDS consists of two organizations exempt under Internal Revenue Codes Sections  The activities of Cooperative Development Services, Inc. are classified as exempt under Section 501c6 and the activities of Cooperative Development Fund of CDS are classified as exempt under Section 501c3  The 501c3 organization is classified as a public charity…” See here: the 2012 IRS Form 990 for Cooperative Development Services, Inc. and here: the 2014 IRS Form 990 for the Cooperative Development Fund of CDS. Both organizations list the same corporate address in Madison, WI.

CDS Consulting Co-op, of Putney, VT  (http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/), a .coop corporation, was founded on July 20, 2008.

The predecessor of CDSCC, according to co-founder Marilyn Scholl, is CDS: see here and here, (go to 6′ 56″). On CDSCC’s website: “Like many organizations in its infancy, CDS Consulting Co-op started with one consultant working in collaboration with Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul, Minn. … CDS Consulting Co-op became a cooperative in 2008 after a mutually beneficial 21 year affiliation with Cooperative Development Services.

[9] CDS Consulting Co-op and National Co+op Grocers have a working relationship, the full extent of which remains unknown to the public.

A large number of NCG member and associate co-ops are also found listed as clients of CDSCC.

CDSCC names NCG as an affiliate on its webpage footer (along with CoMetrics, Cooperative Grocer Magazine, the Food Co-op Initiative and, possibly (it is not clear), the International Cooperative Alliance.

Both .coop corporations, CDSCC and NCG, sponsor the Cooperative Grocer Network  (formerly know as Co-operative Grocers’ Information Network, CGIN), along with the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) (see page footer). The Cooperative Grocer Network publishes the Cooperative Grocer Magazine.

CGIN is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(6) trade association, chartered in 1998. The CGIN website states: “In 2007, CGIN contracted with National Cooperative Grocers Association to assume responsibility for the management of CGIN.NCG, a “business services co-operative”, managed CGIN until 2011, when the contract was moved to Triangle Park Creative, which also published the Cooperative Grocer Magazine for NCG. The Cooperative Grocer Magazine, still published by “Triangle,” has been, since 2012, a publication of CGIN, now re-named the Co-operative Grocer Network. See CGN history here and membership information here.

A March 11, 2015 article in the international Cooperative News, entitled US Co-op Grocers are Sharing Data for Mutual Benefit, interviewing NCG Chief Executive Robynn Shrader and acting Chief Executive Tim Ferguson of CoMetrics (another partner with NCG, offering a shared data platform for NCG member co-ops) states, “The NCG has partnered with Cooperative Development Services [sic] and the National Co-operative Bank [and the NCB Development Corporation] for Food Co-op 500, an initiative to start-up new food stores.” [emphases added]

The Food Co-op 500 “a program to increase the number of retail grocery cooperatives from the current 300 to 500 in 10 years” and which was founded in 2005, led to the formation of a new 501(c)(3) not-for-profit in 2010, the Food Co-op Initiative, with the subheading, New co-ops start here.

Founding partners of the Food Coop Initiative include National Co+op Grocers, CDS Consulting Co-op, Cooperative Development Services, National Coop Bank, National Coop Bank capital impact, USDA Rural Development and the Blooming Prairie Foundation.

[10] Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel, ed. Christopher Tolkien. Beowulf  A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell. London: Harper Collins, 2014. The quote is taken from the publisher’s Book Overview on its U.K. webpage. Please see here, here and here.

May this American Indy food co-op saga eventually include the honest, generous and pleased Hrothgar bestowing gifts…

…or not. Participatory democracy has no room for kings, be they despotic …or benevolent.

GRASSROOTS ACTION: INVITATION (RSVP) REQUIRED for some to Cast Vote at Bloomingfoods’ 40th Annual Meeting

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS STORY FROM LA MONTAÑITA FOOD CO-OP IN NEW MEXICO, Wednesday, October 5, 2016, please go here.

REMINDER: HWFC Member-Owners, don’t forget the Board meeting Wednesday evening, October 5, 2016 at 6:00pm at HWFC (the Board will not meet Tuesday because of the holiday). See you there! The Quarterly Membership Meeting will take place on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 6:00PM; we are voting on Bylaws changes and elections for the GRC. Here is the schedule for Bylaws Panel Information and GRC Meet the Candidate Sessions. Here are the proposed Bylaws’ changes.

ALERT: Because of a co-op Annual Meeting Notice from Bloomingfoods (which I just received in the mail), I am holding off on highlighting the awesome work of the Member Owners of LA Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, New Mexico who are taking back their co-op, like we at HWFC are doing. Some Member-Owners of La Montañita are readers of this GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL blog so, a SHOUT OUT OVER THE MILES to fellow Food Co-op Member-Owners  in the Land of Enchantment! Here is their September 6, 2016 Press Release.

La Montañita has just posted a brand new page with information from “Workers, managers, board members, and member-owners from 15 different co-ops in 12 different states…” and they have posted a “Whistleblower Letter” from Mimi Yahn, here.

~~~~~

Monday, October 3, 2016

COUNTDOWN: 16 more days until another U.S. independently-owned, community food co-op says another good-bye to a piece of democracy.

DEMOCRACY’S VOICE FURTHER STIFLED

       I am very sad to report that democracy’s voice is about to be further stifled at another U.S. food co-op: Bloomingfoods (B’foods) in Bloomington, Indiana. It is in process right now, and will be completed on the evening of October 19, 2016.

I have been blogging about the threats to participatory democracy and Member-Ownership at two U.S. co-ops: the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY (HWFC) and B’foods. I started blogging about HWFC in early November, 2015. Posts about Bloomingfoods began in April, 2016. Information keeps creeping in about the same thing happening at other U.S. independently-owned community food co-ops. The latest report comes from the Member-Owners of La Montañita food co-op in Albuquerque, NM. Please go read their September 6, 2016 Press Release, their “Whistleblower Letter” from Mimi Yahn, here, and a brand new page with information from “15 different co-ops in 12 different states…

This blog itself, GRASSROTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!, would not have been if not for the seminal journalism work of Mimi Yahn, an independent author / writer and fellow food co-op Member-Owner from Vermont. In two articles and a Letter, Ms. Yahn laid out the disturbing threats to democracy and Member-Ownership  of the co-op, which she experienced at her food co-op, the Putney Food Co-op (be sure to view Reader Comments, below each article):

January 14, 2015 Losing Our Principles at The Commons Online
February 4, 2015 Searching for Democracy at the Putney Co-op at VTDIGGER.org
February 11, 2015 Still Searching for Democracy at Putney Food Co-op at The Commons Online

On June 14, 2016, I wrote a blogpost called GRASSROOTS ACTION: Indiana Food Co-op Closes Storefronts. HWFC Forewarned – Reducing Overhead Critical. Now this post qualifies as a book, or even a mini-series! I am warning you to make a pot of coffee or tea to accompany the read …and I make no apologies. This story is worth telling and it is worth reading if you cherish local, independently-owned, community food co-ops, and democracy.

This June 14th blogpost compares actions & events at HWFC and B’foods; actions which are threatening the Ownership rights of the local Member-Owners of these food co-operatives. It is my opinion – having personally been there on the front lines with a bunch of other Member-Owners – that HWFC Member-Owners fought hard, with dedication and co-operatively for their food co-op, for democratic action, and for their legal rights as the Owners of the co-operative corporation …whereas it appears that the Member-Owners of B’foods are unaware of the peril.

It is hoped that grassroots action will light a spark in Bloomington and Member-Owners will rescue the treasure that is their 40 year-old, locally-owned, community food co-op!

Here is a story of yet another chink in the armor of the Ownership rights of B’foods’ Member-Owners and it concerns, of all things, a party: the 40th Birthday Celebration and Annual Membership Meeting on Wednesday evening, October 19, 2016.

IT LOOKS LIKE DEMOCRACY & SOUNDS LIKE DEMOCRACY…

       The invitation to the Bloomingfoods Annual Meeting came by mail and starts out like any other co-op invitation I have received over the years:

BfoodsAnnualMeeting.1.jpg

Bloomingfoods’ 2016 Annual Meeting Postcard Announcement to co-op Owner-Members

The back side of the postcard has all the usual co-op’y things you’d expect to find at an Annual Meeting:

bfoodsannualmeeting3

Your vote counts   Your voice matters   Vote like your co-op depends on it!

The invitation clearly mentioned good food, drink & music, always an important part of any co-op gathering!

The tag on the bottom, in particular, caught my attention:

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW!

Vote for fully revised and modernized bylaws beginning March 20, 2017!

Upon checking the B’foods  website, I found that these are the voting procedures for this Annual Meeting:

Election

Please visit VoteBloomingfoods.com for election details, and to vote in the 2016 annual election.

Voting will begin on Tuesday, September 20th and will run through Wednesday, October 19th.

In an effort to increase ease of voting and voter turnout, there are three ways for you to vote in this election:

VOTE ONLINE: If you want to vote online, you are in the right place. Simply read through the candidate statements, the proposed Articles of Incorporation/Bylaw changes and get to know the possibilities for Positive Change, then when you are sufficiently prepared, you can log your vote online. Your Bloomingfoods member number is your user name. Each number can only be used once. Your password is your first name or zip code.

TO VOTE ONLINE AT THE ANNUAL MEETING (Oct. 19th): You may vote on your smartphone, tablet or computers we provide at the meeting. We will not be taking paper ballots at the meeting, but staff will be available to assist you with voting if needed. Online voting from any venue must be completed by Oct. 19th.

TO VOTE IN-STORE: Place your ballot in a specially marked election envelope – seal the envelope, print your name, zip code, and member number then sign and place in a ballot box located in the store by 12:00pm on Wednesday, October 19th.

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/election/

IT LOOKS LIKE DEMOCRACY & SOUNDS LIKE DEMOCRACY …BUT IS IT DEMOCRACY?

Let’s get right to it. Here are the problems:

  • Did you know that a room has been selected which has limited capacity of 300?
    • Why couldn’t a larger meeting room have been found?
    • Wouldn’t a co-op want to be inclusive rather than limit the number of Owner-Members celebrating its 40th Birthday?
    • What if you already voted …and just want to attend this 40th Birthday Party to celebrate with your fellow Owner-Members? Not allowed?
  • B’foods website states: “Please note that the Wonderlab has a 300 person capacity. If we exceed capacity, admission is based on a first come basis, by order of RSVPs.
    • This statement is contradictory. Is the capacity 300 …or is it more than 300?
    • RSVPs?! For an Annual Co-op Meeting?!
  • Did you know that you have to RSVP ahead of time to be assured admission?
    • Nowhere, on the mailed invitation, does it tell you: “There will be an online RSVP required for this event.” (See Owner News-September 2016, here.)
    • RSVP here.
    • How many people will simply  show up at the door on the 19th, and be told: Sorry, room’s full to capacity …and you were supposed to RSVP ahead of time, online.
    • The absence of this statement on the “Notice of Member Meetings” (Section 4.4 in the Bylaws) calls into question the validity of the notice itself.
  • Did you know that you will have to RSVP ahead of time online to be assured you can cast your votes at this Annual Meeting?
    • Why is any sort of limit being applied to the rights of Owner-Members to vote?
    • What about the voting rights of the people who will be turned away at the door?
  • Why is the 40th Birthday Annual Meeting being held on a Wednesday night?
    • Why not a Saturday or Sunday, when many more people, families & kids could attend?
    • Wouldn’t a co-op want to be inclusive rather than limit the number of Owner-Members celebrating its 40th Birthday?
  • Electronic, online, internet, paperless voting and (absentee) paper ballots at storefronts are being used between September 19 – October 19
    • Do you trust electronic, internet, online, paperless voting?
    • Do you trust the count of the (absentee) paper ballots being accepted at storefronts?
    • Do you trust any vote counting that cannot be verified by Owner-Member watchers, in real-time at the Annual Meeting, with the full quorum of Owner-Member voters present at the same time watching & verifying a paper ballot count?
  • Voting at the Annual Meeting: “You may vote on your smartphone, tablet or computers we provide at the meeting. We will not be taking paper ballots at the meeting.”
    • Do you trust electronic, online, internet, paperless voting?
    • Do you trust (paperless) computers you are being asked to vote upon?
    • Why aren’t paper ballots being utilized?
    • Do you trust any vote counting that cannot be verified by Owner-Member watchers, in real-time at the Annual Meeting, with the full quorum of Owner-Member voters present at the same time watching & verifying a paper ballot count?
  • The bylaws don’t allow the Board to authorize the acceptance of paper ballots in the storefronts:
    • Section 4.12 The Board may authorize voting by mail or electronic ballot in conjunction with, or in lieu of, a meeting of members. [emphasis added]
    • Who  is responsible for this serious error?
  • Did you know that a quorum will legally consist of the 300 Owner-Member voters who attend this meeting and the (unknown …is it 500? 600? 700? more?) number of Owner-Members who vote by paper ballot (in the store) and electronically on the internet, in advance of the meeting?
    • This invisible, non-present, non-verifiable quorum may have already carried the vote before the 300 voters granted “admission” to the actual meeting cast their votes – in person – on Wednesday evening, October 19th.
    • Do you have any means at all of verifying that this legal majority of invisible, non-present, non-verifiable quorum members actually voted the way you will be told they voted?
    • Isn’t it essential to be provided with proof of the actual quorum number required, ahead of the election? (Of course, since you will be absolutely unable to verify the vote itself, having the legal number for quorum disclosed actually becomes irrelevant.)
  • Bylaws changes are being made
    • This is always a red flag where Member-Owner control of a food co-op is under attack!
    • Do you know what these changes are?
    • Are your rights as Owner-Members under attack?
    • Are rights being granted to employees of the corporation which might conflict with rights of the Owner-Members of the corporation?
    • 2nd red flag: what does “Vote for fully revised and modernized bylaws beginning March 20, 2017!” mean?
  • The Articles of Incorporation are being “simplified”
    • Have you compared the old Articles to the new “simplified” ones?
    • What are the changes?
    • Are your rights as Owner-Members under attack?

URGENT GRASSROOTS ACTION NEEDED

       If you are an Owner-Member of Bloomingfoods Co-op, hadn’t you better immediately start some grassroots phone calling, texting and emailing of other B’foods Owner-Members? Alert them that something is terribly, terribly wrong at their co-op? (See: …something is terribly, terribly wrong here at our food co-operative.)

Owner-Members of Bloomingfoods, you need to challenge this election process right now.

HERE’S SOME INFO YOU NEED IN ORDER TO VOTE

       On Bloomingfoods’ website, I found information about the vote on the “Simplified Articles of Incorporation” (better check just what “simplified” means): see here.

Here are B’foods current bylaws. Here and here are the proposed changes.

I leave it to you, Owner-Member, to do your homework on the six Board members up for election. Here are their Candidate Statements.

ALLOW ME TO REACT: THE GRASSROOTS’ SPIN-MEISTER

On Bloomingfoods website, Member-Owners are warned:

There will be an online RSVP required for this event.

Please note that the Wonderlab has a 300 person capacity. If we exceed capacity, admission is based on a first come basis, by order of RSVPs.

An Owner-Member is required to RSVP to be sure to be granted “admission” into their own co-op’s Annual Meeting! This statement – all by itself- is shocking.

WHAT?!

After 300 people are granted admission, you get in the door “by order of RSVPs received”!!!

WHAT?!

An Owner-Member has to RSVP in order to be guaranteed the right to cast votes at their own Annual Meeting!

What about your voting rights if you are turned away at the door?

WHAT?!

Only 300 people are being allowed to attend the Annual Meeting… …which is also the 40th Birthday Party?!

(Does that 300 include non-voting family members, kids, friends, further limiting the number of legal voters able to cast a vote?)

WHAT?! REALLY!? ARE YOU KIDDING?!

They “forgot” to tell people on the mailed Annual Meeting announcement that they are required to RSVP online, ahead of time???!!!

WHAT?! SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

So what is the plan? Are the Board and Management going to turn away the OWNERS / VOTERS of the co-operative who show up on the 19th and WHO WEREN’T TOLD THIS ESSENTIAL FACT ON THEIR MAILED ANNOUNCEMENT: “THERE WILL BE AN ONLINE RSVP REQUIRED FOR THIS EVENT?”

All the electronic, online, internet, paperless ballots – for those who vote before the meeting – are non-verifiable; the (absentee) paper ballots are also subject to manipulation.

Only electronic, online, paperless ballots are being used at the Annual Meeting itself!

The reasons being given for electronic, internet, paperless, non-verifiable voting (and absentee ballots) are that it’s “an effort to increase ease of voting and voter turnout.”

WHAT?! OMG!

Has nobody on the Bloomingfoods Board or in Management (or their consultants) ever heard of VerifiedVoting.org – you know, the bunch  of computer scientists who first raised the warning about paperless, electronic voting back in 2002 – and who continue to do so, to this very day? With additional warnings about the insecurity of internet voting! Given the massive number of reports since 2002 about the insecurity  of electronic, paperless voting, and internet voting, let alone the complaints about the security of absentee, paper ballots, do you trust this non-verifiable process?

On the Verified Voting website, in this May 30, 2014 article, Verified Voting Blog: Hack the Vote: The Perils of the Online Ballot Box, by Pamela Smith and Bruce McConnell, it states:

…online voting is fraught with danger. Hackers could manipulate enough votes to change the results of local and national elections. And a skilled hacker can do so without leaving any evidence.

 See: Verified Voting at https://www.verifiedvoting.org/

See: Electronic Frontier Foundation at https://www.eff.org/

Go. Dig. Read.

What does “ease of voting” high “voter turnout” matter …if the vote can be hacked?

I have absolutely no confidence in this system of ballot gathering & counting whatsoever.

Do you?

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       To quote one of the many national voting rights’ advocates, who arose after the U.S. 2000 elections, Lynn Landes:

Voting is the linchpin of democracy. And democracy demands transparency, not trust.

WHAT ABOUT THIS ISSUE OF QUORUM?

       What do the current bylaws say is quorum at the Annual Meeting? What number of Owner-Members establishes that a meeting and its elections are legal? 300 voters seems awfully low to me for quorum for this co-op…

Establishing quorum is an essential element of a democratic process.

See what B’foods Owner-Member Ann Kreilkamp has to say about this issue of quorum at her blog, Exopermaculture, in an April 30, 2016 post labeled: Bloomingfoods and Me; Part 2.

Here is what the B’foods Bylaws say about a quorum at Member Meetings:

Section 4.6 – Quorum at Member Meetings:  Except as otherwise stated in these by-laws as to particular circumstances, the presence of ten percent of members entitled to vote at any meeting shall constitute a quorum.  Unless one-third of all members are present at a membership meeting, the only matters that may be voted upon are those described in the meeting notice. [emphasis added]

However, they also say:

Section 4.12 ‑ Voting by mail or electronic ballots:  The Board may authorize voting by mail or electronic ballot in conjunction with, or in lieu of, a meeting of members. In such event, the notice of the meeting shall include a copy of the issue to be voted upon, together with a ballot and a postage paid voting envelope with an online link as an electronic voting option and notification of the date by which ballots must be returned.  Ballots must be returned in a sealed envelope which is authenticated by the member’s signature or sent electronically to a verifiable online site.  If mail or electronic ballots are used in conjunction with a meeting of members, votes cast by those ballots shall be counted together with votes cast in person at the meeting.  If mail or electronic ballots are used in lieu of a meeting of members, a quorum shall consist of the number of ballots returned.  A vote cast by mail or electronic ballot shall be equivalent to presence in person by the member at a meeting of members. [emphases added]

First of all, a careful read of the bylaws shows that the B’foods Board was not, in fact, authorized to accept paper ballots in the storefronts; this process is in violation of the Bylaws:

The Board may authorize voting by mail or electronic ballot in conjunction with, or in lieu of, a meeting of members. [emphasis added]

As to quorum: for this Annual Meeting, if B’foods has – hypothetical case – 10,000 active, members in  good standing (eligible to vote), a quorum at this meeting would be 10%, or 1,000 Members. If only 300 voters are being allowed to vote at the Annual Meeting itself, that means that a minimum of 700 ballots will have to be cast before the meeting itself – to meet quorum.

Again, assuming a quorum of 1,000, that’s 700 voters who will be casting a ballot either electronically, online, on the internet, with no paper back-up to verify the vote or placing (absentee) paper ballots (gathered at the storefronts), which, themselves, are subject to manipulation.

Owner-Members are being expected to simply:

  • trust they are being told the accurate number for quorum
  • trust the tallying of electronic, online, internet paperless ballots & (absentee) paper ballots
  • trust that, in fact, there is a legal quorum because at least (in this hypothetical case) 700 ballots were received in advance of the meeting

If there are only 300 voters allowed “admission” at the Annual Meeting, that means that (given the hypothetical figure of 1,000) 700 non-verifiable ballots will have already carried this election before any voters even cast (an electronic, online, internet, non-verifiable) vote on the evening of the Annual Meeting itself.

So, your vote, which you plan to cast in-person at the Annual Meeting, already, right now, may not even matter?

Maybe I read the Bylaws re. quorum wrong; maybe I missed something. THAT IS ALWAYS A POSSIBILITY! Or, maybe B’foods legal quorum is only 300?

WE NEED PROOF OF QUORUM.

There are way too many non-verifiable variables associated with this election – with its implicit reliance upon trust not transparency –  which are under the direct control of the Board & Management. [1]

WHY LIMIT THE SIZE OF THE ROOM … FOR A 40th CELEBRATION??

       Shouldn’t ‘the more the merrier’ guide actions here?

Grassroots advocate’s take: any possibility for grassroots action and/or grassroots voting action by the Owner-Members at this Annual Meeting has been handily eliminated by the Board …by simply booking a smaller meeting room …on a Wednesday night …and requiring advanced, online RSVPs to get in the door …and “forgetting” to state that fact on the official mailed announcement.

There are plenty of large meeting rooms & halls in this town which is home to a large, major state university and with plenty of churches with large meeting spaces.

This is the plan for Bloomingfoods’ 40th Birthday celebration and Annual Meeting?

Owner-Members, you need to show up, en masse, at your Annual Membership Meeting …and bring the press …or, if they decline, bring a bunch of citizen bloggers with cameras.

Bloomingfoods’ Owner-Members, this is your Annual Membership Meeting!

“MODERNIZED” BYLAWS UP FOR VOTE IN MARCH 2017: THIS SPELLS REAL TROUBLE

       The proposed changes to the bylaws for the October 19th meetings appear innocuous. Please go check for yourself. Here and here are the proposed changes.

However, this is what really worries me. The mailed invitation states on the very bottom:

“Vote for fully revised and modernized bylaws beginning March 20, 2017!”

Better go read independent author and fellow food co-op Member-Owner Mimi Yahn’s concerns about “modernized”, “streamlined” and “boilerplate template” bylaws. That March, 2017 bylaws’ vote – that’s the one that’s really, really worrisome. If these same non-verifiable, hackable voting procedures are used again in March, 2017, passage of these “modernized” bylaws could end up being a slam-dunk, with nobody the wiser.

Could this current election process be a dry-run for that much more important March 2017 Bylaws’ overhaul, which could formally & permanently dismantle the legal power & control of the local, Owner-Members of this co-operative corporation?

In her January 14, 2015 article, Losing Our Principles, Ms. Yahn states:

And here in Progressive Vermont, here in Putney, one of our most cherished institutions — the Putney Food Co-op — is in the process of being co-opted by a large corporate entity.

The first many of us learned of this was at the October annual meeting when members were asked to vote some changes to the existing bylaws. Most of us trusted that the board of directors had merely tweaked and, as they termed it, “updated” some of the wording.

However, thanks to the diligent efforts of a staff member, we discovered that what was being proposed was a major overhaul not just of the entire bylaws, but of the fundamental direction and governance of the Co-op.

The proposed bylaws represent a shift away from cooperative, member-controlled governance to an entity modeled on hierarchical corporate structure and control.

We also learned that behind this fundamental shift is a large national consulting firm, CDS Consulting Co-op, which has created standardized templates of uniform governance, bylaws, corporate structure, purchasing decisions, store design, labor management, membership management, public relations, hiring decisions, board training (promoted as “professionalizing” boards), and a range of other decidedly un-co-op-like services to create a single model for all co-ops…

…The proposed [bylaws’] version … is a bare-bones corporate model, a boilerplate one-size-fits-all template that can apply as easily to the Putney Co-op as it can to a Whole Foods or Pepsico subsidiary.

~~~~~

       At the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, just over the border from Ms. Yahn’s Putney, VT co-op, on the other side of the Green Mountains, yet another food co-op’s democratic structure was being dismantled. Our Board and Management were working secretly and feverishly – with the help of $500,000 (!!!) of our co-op’s collective savings and a passel of lawyers, consultants, and a Strategic PR firm. They were utilizing CDS Consulting Co-op (and had been since 2009): the same group of national, “expert” .coop consultants Mimi Yahn noted were being utilized by the Putney, VT co-op Board.

Our Board was intent on ending our Member-Owner Labor Program, subverting our right to vote, changing our bylaws, and, ultimately, dismantling local, Member-Owner control & ownership of our co-operative.

The Board was working hand-in-hand with upper Management, our three person “Leadership Team,” disregarding the separation of powers which – in a democratic structure – should exist as a check & balance between these two entities.

They were secretive, cunning, efficient, disingenuous and very, very organized.

Not only did they have a Strategic PR firm on retainer, whose spin-meisters expertly spun those messages being delivered to Member-Owners – while also conducting secret, “astroturf” (fake grassroots) campaigns – but they had even hired a very professional & credentialed Organizational Development Consultant: an expert in “organizational change.” In hindsight, we now believe he was hired to massage the messages getting to Member-Owners and “ease our pain” in saying good-bye to the old (democratically-run) co-operative corporation …and welcoming in the brand new, “better,” (hierarchical, Board-controlled) corporate structure.

At Board-sponsored Info Sessions (ushering in these new, modernized bylaws), we Member-Owners even had Kübler-Ross “five stages of grief” comments tossed our way:

We’re here to help you. We can all get through this […the co-opting of your co-operative corporation right out from under your very noses…], together.

Any information getting out to us Owners was very carefully controlled. And, understand, all the skills & advice of this slew of advisors & consultants was being lobbed – repeatedly – against the Owners of the co-operative, a fact we only pieced together long after this campaign had begun!

We Owners were the proverbial lobsters thrown in cold water, with the heat being ever-so-slowly raised; quietly, incrementally, and inexorably, our democratic structure was being eroded around us, and most of us – content & complacent in our trust of the Board – weren’t even aware it was happening.

       The CDS Consulting Co-op Co-operative Board Leadership Development (CDSCC CBLD) program teaches the Board and its Management how to function as an efficient team: a team which does not include the Owners of the co-operative. (Listen to CDSCC co-founder and Director, Marilyn Scholl here; within the first two minutes she has repeated the message “strong and powerful” Boards and GMs, with no mention  of Member-Owners.)

In Still Searching for Democracy at Putney Food Co-op, Ms. Yahn states:

Cooperative Board 101 Leadership Development is just one of a staggering array of protocols, trainings, services, templates, and policies our co-op has been instructed to utilize, which begs the question: Does the board’s allegiance lie with the member owners or with a paid consultant?…

…one of the most disturbing “essential elements” is the ironclad tenet that the board “speak with one voice.” Dissent is allowed only as part of the discussion leading up to any decision; once a decision is made by the board, all members must support the decision no matter what.

To ensure absolute loyalty, board members are required to sign a code-of-conduct agreement (template provided by CDS); violating the code by speaking out against a board decision, for example, is forbidden: the board member must resign….

…In reality, policy governance works well in hierarchical structures; however, it undermines the fundamental philosophy of the cooperative paradigm. Cooperatives can only exist — and thrive — through participatory democracy, diversity of thought, member engagement and, above all, the ability to value and encourage dissent as a normal and even necessary part of healthy governance practice.

True democracy demands that we value and strengthen community by being questioning individuals who speak up…

       What was the HWFC Board’s bylaws’ model? The CBLD ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template offered by CDS Consulting Co-op.

These “boilerplate,” “modernized” bylaws were being foisted on us, by our Board, through a “cooked” Bylaws Task Force (BTF) process, expertly managed by that same Organizational Development Consultant. Two CDSCC consultants – Thane Joyal and Mark Goehring – were part of the BTF as  “subject matter experts.” They were also part of a Bylaws Research Team and they were paid to create a brand new document for our BTF called Member Labor Programs at Comparable Co-ops and Related Resources.

This document, provided to the 27 members of the BTF as bylaws’ reference material, had, however, little to do with bylaws …and everything to do with getting rid of Member Labor at food co-ops!

The only bylaws reference material on this list: the CDSCC  ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template. (See here and here.)

(Here is my advice: stay away from the ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template! Keep your current bylaws and work to strengthen Member-Owner control, ownership rights and democratic process. Instead of listening to CDS Consulting Co-op, begin by researching the articles of Laddie Lushin, Esq., a nationally-recognized expert on co-operative corporation law, who – unlike the consultants at CDS Consulting Co-op – supports democratically-run food co-ops, Owner rights, Member-Owner Labor Programs, and transparency in co-operative governance.)

       At HWFC, once we Owners uncovered what was going on, it was a battle zone.

We found evidence that Member-Owners and employees, with their differing perspectives & roles, were (unbeknownst to each other) intentionally being pitted against each other, destabilizing relations, sowing fear and creating a culture of mistrust: this tactic secretly wielded to meet the ultimate endgame goals of both undermining or removing Member-Owner power & control in the co-operative …and controlling employees. This tactic has all the appearance of a planned “psych-ops” maneuver, and its effects among human relations within a community food co-op are brutal.

One-on-one stories shared between fellow food co-op Member-Owners here in the northeast – shared only in person and often with great hesitancy – attest to the silent ravaging of food co-operative communities across New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

These diverse communities – actively practicing “peaceful co-existence,” trust, participatory democracy, and “co-operation” – are ill equipped to defend against an intra-community assault of this nature.

Somebody appears to have carefully studied the structure and functioning of the web of human relations & behavior within a food co-op’s diversified community …and knows how to efficiently, effectively (and secretly) rip it apart.

But, as it turned out, we at HWFC had a passel – a boatload! an army! a legion! – of energetic, talented, skilled and determined Member-Owners on our side, including Member-Owners who are also employees of our co-operative.

Defenders of food co-op democracy!

Stories of: multiple, secret Board Executive Sessions, a secret lobbying contract with a Strategic PR firm (with connections to a top-10 NYS lobbying firm), two Board law firms (one with offices parked down in Washington D.C.), a secret, national AP interview, gag orders, Freedom of Information Letters, a secret letter & meeting between Board reps and a high-ranking official at the NYS Department of Labor, a generous, anonymous donor and gaudy, dayglo-orange T-shirts screaming Let’s Chat!, multiple, late-night meetings getting the charges drawn up against Board Members, a staunch, determined, petite Member-Owner clipboarding, all alone at 9am in the parking lot, in the freezing late-November rain! (because Management refused to let her stand inside), top Management blocking Owners from simply talking to other Owners, food co-op Owners threatened with police removal by Management for peacefully petitioning at their own co-op! …and other tales of sordid corporate intrigue – and bravery!

…all taking place at a US food co-op  – a broccoli & organic yogurt kind of food co-op, for goodness’ sakes! – just upriver from (why are you not surprised?) Wall Street.

American indy food co-ops have sure made it onto somebody’s corporate radar screen and onto somebody’s Board room agenda.

Read all about it! in: GRASSROOTS ACTION and current bylaws ARE POWERFUL!, GRASSROOTS ACTION and Bylaws (Again) ARE POWERFUL! (see the section: ALICE IN WONDERLAND DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE Is this a Bylaws Task Force or a Better End Member-Labor Task Force?), GRASSROOTS ACTION: Board Messages Don’t Add Up: Part I, GRASSROOTS ACTION: Board Messages Don’t Add Up: Part II, We need an Emergency Meeting!, the charges brought against Board members, the incredible emergency Special Membership Meeting!, the election results, and GRASSROOTS ACTION and the Times Union ARE OH SO HELPFUL!

Reporting out of New York’s capital, our local paper, the Times Union, and ace reporter Tim O’Brien had a field day! Just 3 miles or so east of our co-op, the New York State Legislature, and its latest scandals & tales of corruption, sometimes found itself in competition – in the pages of the TU, that is – with stories of the latest Honest Weight Food Co-op Board shenanigans.

(About that NYS Legislature? Go ahead, Google U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Also try: Speaker of the NYS Assembly Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Silver has been sentenced to 12 years in prison; Skelos to five years; Skelos’ son to 6 1/2 years. Now U.S. Attorney Bharara is looking at Governor Cuomo’s people. See this NYPIRG doc: Capitol Offenses: A Review of the Criminal Conduct, Self-Dealing and Ethical Lapses of New York’s Public Officials. Go, Google “Three men in a room” and “Stay tuned.” Have fun, you don’t have to live here. Figures we’d have to fight corruption at our food co-op.)

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       CDS Consulting Co-op, and their CBLD ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template, were utilized by the Boards of both the Putney Food Co-op and the Honest Weight Food Co-op. The Putney Co-op Member-Owners sadly caved in. HWFC Member-Owners, however, fought back and ditched anything having to do with CDSCC: its CBLD Program with its empowerment of the Board-Management axis to the exclusion of the Member-Owners of the co-operative, its ‘Fresh Start’ Bylaws Template, “Policy Governance,” secrecy as a way of doing business in our co-op, mandated gag orders (politely called a “non-disclosure agreement”), and all of its national .coop consultants’ “expert” co-op advice.

It was a narrow escape, let me tell you!

Once we were on to them, our co-op Member-Owners got rid of that Board and, within six months, the members of the three-person Leadership Team (top Management) were all gone.

Housecleaning continues to this very day. It truthfully reminds me, a J. R.R. Tolkien lover, of Frodo, Sam, Merry & Pippin returning home to the Shire, after a long and arduous journey, only to be confronted by the ruffian Sharkey & his minion Wormtongue – and being forced to “clean house” before they can all relax and have a pint and a pipe of Longbottom Leaf. That’s where we are at, The Scouring of the Shire here on the banks of the beautiful Hudson River, just south a bit from the majestic Adirondack Mountains and just north a piece from Rip van Winkle’s ancient Catskills: cleaning house at our food co-op. [2]

Except instead of a pint & a pipe, I look forward to a steaming pot of jade oolong and a bowl of fresh organic fruit, topped with local, organic, whipped cream (with a touch of vanilla & some local honey). Shared with a bunch of other Member-Owners at, of course …a co-op potluck dinner.

It’s time …it’s time to haul out that song which this GRASSROOTS! blog introduced right after our November 30, 2015 emergency Special Membership Meeting and its 720 attendees: The Ant Song. Join Frank Sinatra & Eddie Hodges in singing all about high hopes!

Whoops, there goes another problem kerplop! Grassroots action, baby!

And it’s coming up on our one-year anniversary here at HWFC, a day we Member-Owner’s will never forget: October 24, 2015. That was the day, a Saturday, when Member-Owner Chris Colarusso got a petition signed – in an hour and a half! – by enough Member-Owners to legally call for an emergency Special Membership Meeting of the legal owners of the Honest Weight Food Co-op, Inc.: to levy charges against the Board of Directors and elect new Board members, to vote non-confidence in Management and to vote for a change to the Management structure, and to unambiguously affirm our right as Owners of the co-operative to maintain our Member-Owner Labor Program and, thereby, our Ownership rights to vote and express operational control in our co-operative corporation.

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       Back to the present day. Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomingfoods.

CDS Consulting Co-op appears to be under current contract with the Bloomingfoods Board of Directors; this needs to be verified. [3] The May 26, 2016 Bloomingfoods’ Board Minutes reveal:

4.d.iii. The CDS template will be used for bylaw review. [4]

The June 30, 2016 Minutes, under “Bylaws Review Update,” reveal:

3.c.ii. Beebe has mapped the proposed changes of the first 4 articles to the CDS template.[5]

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW!

Vote for fully revised and modernized bylaws beginning March 20, 2017!

SOUNDS LIKE ANY OLD TOP-DOWN NASDAQ CORPORATION TO ME

       Do you own shares in some publicly-traded corporation? Do you receive those annual reports wherein you are asked to cast your vote? Do you, usually, throw them away because, well, it doesn’t seem to matter? The Board candidates are strangers, you don’t own enough shares to really make a difference and the whole thing is so, well, so anonymous, so far-removed from your life. So corporate, so Wall Street.

The voting procedures for the October 19, 2016 B’fooods Annual Meeting are mirrored on this hierarchical structure. You give the corporation your money (share purchases). The Board decides what’s best for the corporation and, once a year, asks for you to bless its actions with your vote. Shareholders in that top-down corporation (may) vote from afar, via online, internet voting or mail-in ballots: quick, fast, impersonal, (insecure & hackable), and anonymous. Throughout the year, you wait for that Board to give you a return on your investment.

You, the Owner-Member of a local, grassroots community treasure – a 40 year-old food co-operative made up of people & families! – have been manipulated into voting via this process of corporate anonymity. Separate and far-removed from each and every other Bloomingfoods’ shareholder, you are being deprived of the fundamental power of democratic action: all gathering together in a room, all at the same time, rubbing shoulders with  your neighbors, discussing the issues, arguing & finding agreement, voting together, verifying that vote count, together …and celebrating your co-operative decision-making actions, together.

This is a sacred, community process.

Given that only 300 in-person voters are being allowed in the door at the Bloomingfoods Annual Meeting (and these ballots are electronic and non-verifiable), the majority needed to carry the elections (to meet quorum) may well be from this large group of invisible, anonymous shareholders, voting electronically on the internet or with (absentee) paper ballots at the storefronts with a vote gathering & counting process which is not in any way, shape or form transparent or trustworthy.

Have I repeated that often enough for it to get through?

The Board and Management control the process. There is NO transparency.

Let me re-state it a different way: the vote count is hackable and you will have no way of knowing it has been hacked or proving it has been hacked.

Democracy at your food co-op has been hijacked.

GIVE ME THOSE OLD-FASHIONED, VERMONT-STYLE, “TOWN MEETINGS” ANY DAY

       Where, at this Annual Meeting, is the dialogue, where are the discussions, the debates, and the democratic process of a quorum of the co-operative corporation voters, all making decisions together, at the same time, in the same room?

Where is the real-time, transparent voting & vote-counting process being supervised by both Member-Owners and Board members and anybody & everybody else?

Give me our hands-on, democratic – and sometimes messy – food co-op quarterly meetings at HWFC, where we exercise real democracy: we get to talk, listen, debate, respectfully disagree, find common ground, jump up and down & yell (and respectfully ask to be seated), make eye contact, listen to multiple viewpoints, shake our heads, nod in assent, seek to understand, smile, get upset, share food, get home – sometimes – at midnight or later…

…and all cast our paper ballots together and witness (and even participate in) the transparent paper ballot counting leading up to verified & trustworthy vote counts and election results.

Yes, sometimes it is “messy” (that word often paired with “democracy”), sometimes it is contentious, sometimes it is very frustrating, and sometimes people yell.

But, we are – together and co-operatively all in the same room – all part of a real democratic process …which election results we all verify & agree to, together.

WHO PLANNED THIS MEETING and WHO DESIGNED THE VOTING PROCEDURES?

BfoodsAnnualMeeting4.jpg

Image on Bloomingfoods’ 2016 Annual Meeting Postcard Announcement to Co-op Owner-Members

       Who is advising B’foods’ Board to hold these annual elections so that the process undermines democracy?

Are there any outside consultants advising the Bloomington Board about this Annual Meeting election process? If so, who are they? Are they under current contract?

Does the Bloomingfoods Board and/or Management have a current and executed contract with CDS Consulting Co-op of Putney, Vermont? For how many years has there been a contractual relationship  between Bloomingfoods and CDS Consulting Co-op?

Who decided to keep the quorum from all being fully present at the meeting together (splitting the power block) and insured that part of that quorum (the invisible, anonymous, non-verifiable, electronic, online, hackable, advance votes) will, in all likelihood, carry the vote?

Who made the decision to allow (absentee) paper ballots to be gathered in the storefronts, a process in violation of the bylaws?

Who made the decision that “There will be an online RSVP required for this event?

Who forgot to place on the official, mailed Annual Meeting Announcement: “There will be an online RSVP required for this event?

Who made the decision to hold the Annual Meeting and 40th Birthday Party on a Wednesday evening and hold – what should be a huge, Bloomington-wide, family celebration! – in a room limited to 300, entrance of which is “by order of RSVPs?”

Who designed a voting process which is hackable, non-verifiable and not trustworthy?

Who is trying to control the vote – that is, the election results – at this Annual Meeting? Or, is the Board, perhaps, simply unaware of the hackable, non-verifiable nature of the voting processes it has implemented?

I invite anyone from the Board of Directors to answer the questions I have posed in this blog; questions I pose as a voting, Owner-Member-in-good-standing of Bloomingfoods.

I pose these questions as an Owner-Member who cherishes American, locally-owned and controlled, independent, community food co-ops.

I SEE THE SHELL OF AN ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

       I see the party, the food, the fun, the music. That’s all a shell without the discussion & voting with the quorum all in the same room, in real time, together, followed by a verified vote process which all may witness.

Where is the democratic, co-operative governance directed by the Owner-Members of the co-operative corporation?

Invisible, secret, non-transparent, controllable and hidden. That is the shell of democracy. Controlled by the corporation and its Board, supported by Management and devoid of oversight by the Owner-Members of the co-operative.

The democratic process with verifiable vote results has been taken away from Bloomingfoods’ Owner-Member voters. Yes, there is an energetic & warm invitation and a party and food (for a special, limited number of people who happen to be free on a Wednesday evening, and who remembered (or who knew to) RSVP online ahead of time.) But true, cooperative, member-controlled, participatory, democratic governance. No, that is absent.

Let’s remember, with a capacity of 300, there will be some Owner-Member voters who will be turned away at the door. They won’t be granted “admission.” They won’t get to vote.

The democratic process at this co-op has been replaced …with something else. Something not at all related to democracy.

Go back and re-read the invitation, above. What do you think now? Warm & inviting? Or something else?

Does Your vote count? Does Your voice matter?

And we didn’t even discuss what’s in those bylaws’ changes or how the Articles of Incorporation have been “simplified.” But I really think it’s this announcement which is the sleeper:

Vote for fully revised and modernized bylaws beginning March 20, 2017!

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       For me, this one action takes the cake: forgetting” to tell people – to whom you mail a party invitation, for a meeting which includes voting – that There will be an online RSVP required for this event.”

Was this simply an error?

And, has it gotten to the point at Bloomingfoods that the Annual Food Co-op Meeting – a hallowed event at most U.S. community food co-ops – is viewed as simply another “event” of the corporation?

Here, Bloomingfoods’ Owner-Members, go RSVP here, so you can vote on Wednesday evening, October 19th (or at least secure  a chance to) …not that I think it really even matters.

And please, think about all those B’foods voters, who may be turned away at the door on the 19th …and prevented from exercising their franchise …such as it is.

© Laura Hagen

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The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran [6]

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[1] See the October 6, 2016 blogpost, RIP Bloomingfoods?, written by this former 1970’s Bloomingfoods’ worker member:

It looks like Bloomingfoods is about to be the next hybrid coop and corporation to fall. In this case the picture above foreshadows the story to come. The picture above of the only Bloomingfoods I knew when I was a worker member in the late 1970s, was abandoned by the powers that be just like they abandoned coop principles earlier.

[2] Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Return of the King. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965. Book Six, Chapter VIII, pp.277 – 300.

[3] Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors January Meeting. Thursday, January 28, 2016. I. E. “Opportunities for CBLD training were announced (board members should consult writeboard Board Participation in CBLD Workshop signup).”

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/January-2016-Minutes.pdf

Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors February Meeting
Thursday, February 25, 2016. 5. iii. “Beebe spoke with Leslie and Paula about looking at the bylaws and getting the template from NCG. 1. Leslie says CBLD has a new template out in the next 10 days and compare.”

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/160225-BOD-Minutes-DRAFT-4emp-2.pdf

Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors May Meeting. Thursday, May 26th, 2016 Committee Reports, Governance Committee 4.D . iii. “The CDS template will be used for bylaw review.

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/160526-Minutes-v2.pdf

Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors May Meeting. Thursday, June 30th, 2016 Minutes. Under “Bylaws Review Update: 3.c. ii. “Beebe has mapped the proposed changes of the first 4 articles to the CDS template.

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/160630-BoD-Minutes-Draft-v2.pdf

[4] Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors May Meeting. Thursday, May 26th, 2016 Committee Reports, Governance Committee 4.D . iii. “The CDS template will be used for bylaw review.

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/160526-Minutes-v2.pdf

[5] Bloomington Cooperative Services. Board of Directors May Meeting. Thursday, June 30th, 2016 Minutes. Under “Bylaws Review Update: 3.c. ii. “Beebe has mapped the proposed changes of the first 4 articles to the CDS template.

See: http://www.bloomingfoods.coop/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/160630-BoD-Minutes-Draft-v2.pdf

[6] See the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. and Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted, p. 200, #1054.

GRASSROOTS ACTION: “They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!” No. 1: GMOs, MSG & Senomyx

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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UPDATE: MARCH 19, 2017: See my newest article at the Co-op  Voice, published today, entitled: MSG and Deceptive Labeling: The Hidden Toxic Chemical in Your Family’s Food-Part 1.

TEASER ALERT:

Next blogpost will highlight the awesome work of the Member Owners of LA Montañita Food Co-op in Albuquerque, New Mexico who are taking back their co-op… …just like we at the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, New York are doing!!! Some Member-Owners of La Montañita are readers of this GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL blog; their work is truly awesome and I look forward to sharing that news with you.

Here is their September 6, 2016 Press Release.

SHOUT OUT OVER THE MILES TO FELLOW FOOD CO-OP MEMBER-OWNERS IN THE ~~LAND OF ENCHANTMENT!~~

GRASSROOTS ACTION, BABY!

See the latest edition of the HWFC Co-op Voice, here.

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       Thank you to my many loyal GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! readers who urged me to get back to blogging! And hello to RP, who is a brand new GRASSROOTS reader from HWFC …who has a special interest in protecting herself from MSG.

After more than a two month hiatus in blogging, GRASSROOTS is back! This blogpost is the first- Number 1 –  in the promised series of  They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!, the companion series to My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there which was posted on June 12, 2016.

And, of course, all information provided by this blog is intended solely for consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice, nor substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment of any disease or condition by your doctors and health care providers. Discuss any information with your doctors and health care providers, first.

So, without further ado the first installment of:

They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!

       You’ll note my last three blogposts were following Congressional voting on THE DARK ACT here, here, and here.

It passed. It is law. Done deal.

Blogging ceased for a while as this darkness descended. The blog went cold.

It is a dark day for those of us in the U.S. who value and who need high-quality, organic, safe, locally-produced, non-GMO food for our families.

BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC won this round. They get to further taint and poison our food supply …and now we will be eating GMOs and not even know it.

Were we protected by the largest national organic trade association: the industry’s lobbying arm? Nope. The Organic Consumers Association is calling the Organic Trade Association the Organic Traitors Association for its support of The Dark Act.

A walk down the aisles of our food co-op with the list of members of the Organic Trade Association will reveal just how many “organic” corporations went over to the dark side.

Ethical moment: do you  want to give your family’s hard-earned food dollars to any of these “organic” corporations?

Consider boycotting members of the Organic Trade Association – don’t buy their food – and ask your food co-op to immediately drop out of the Organic Trade Association if it’s a member, as well. And make sure you tell the OTA why.

Food co-op Member-Owners, are United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) and National Co-op Grocers (NCG) members of the Organic Trade Association? Don’t you think you’d better find out?

Read this U.S. Right to Know series of articles about GMOs, here, here and here and do a search on GMOs at the Organic Consumers Association, here.

DAY-TO-DAY FAMILY LIFE WITH THE DARK ACT

GMOs will start showing up everywhere.

Will it be safe now to eat out at a restaurant?

Nope.

Will  it be safe to buy food that is non-organic?

Nope.

Will eating dinner over at a friend’s home have to be politely declined …or prefaced with a question-list of the foods the host or hostess is using to prepare dinner?

Yup. Unless you (politely) simply act the good guest and eat the GMOs and be done with it.

Will the labels on “natural” and “organic” foods tell you more about what’s in your food so you can make wise and safe choices for your family?

Nope.

Will brightly colored boxes of cool-looking “natural” food – you know those enticing packages of crackers & cereal & cookies & soy or wheat protein products – screaming statements of health and vitality – offer a guarantee of non-GMO safety for our children, our families?

Nope.

Will your children be exposed to GMOs in the lunch food they buy at school?

Yup.

Ditto: play dates, Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts, summer camp, after school events, sports events…

Will buying food at a U.S. locally-owned food co-operative guarantee safe and GMO-free food?

Nope.

THE DARK ACT gives BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC carte blanche with labeling. Merriam-Webster defines carte blanche as “permission to do something in any way you choose to do it.” That’s the permission Congress gave to BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC…

…and we consumers and our families now have virtually no way to defend against GMOs entering our bodies, harming our biomes, killing (or mutating the genes of …this is the really scary part) our own symbiotic bacteria, harming our immune systems, putting glyphosate (Round-Up) in circulation (in our soil, in our food supply, in our water supply, and in our bodies – a lot like the “pink” in The Cat in the Hat) and causing autoimmune disease and cancer rates to further skyrocket in the U.S.

If you continue to eat any  (non-organic) wheat products whatsoever (bread, bagels, cookies, pasta, cereal, crackers… ), you are likely ingesting Round-Up:

Unbeknownst to most consumers is the fact that just before harvest, a vast majority of conventional wheat grown in the U.S. is doused in Roundup herbicide [as a desiccant], which ends up poisoning your favorite breads, cereals, cakes, and pastries. … The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures show that, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat is doused in herbicides prior to harvest. [1]

And those who are vegetarians and vegans? Given the high percentage of processed vegetarian products and non-meat proteins which are made from processed (non-organic, GMO) soy and processed (non-organic, GMO) wheat, the only choice to make is to either eat 100% organic …or abandon being a vegetarian or vegan.

Let’s not even talk about the effect upon our seed supply…

They can now – legally – hide GMOs in our food supply and they don’t even have to tell us.

SMARTPHONES TO THE RESCUE…?

       The whole point of the DARK ACT was to keep the name “GMO” off of the packaging & list of ingredients of food products. GMOs are present – or they might be present – (there’s the kicker) – you  just won’t know it from reading the label.

But if you are among the lucky who own a Smartphone, you can find out – have the secret revealed to you. How? Have the Smartphone read the “QR code” printed on the label: that square, black & white, boxy, squiggly thing.

There will also be 1-800 numbers and websites …but none of this is required to even kick in for the next two years! Notice the information about the presence of GMOs has been handily separated & divorced from the actual food product, itself.

So, you have to own a Smartphone (a huge percentage of seniors, people with disabilities and low-income Americans do not own Smartphones) and have access to the Internet (a huge percentage of senior, disabled, rural and low-income Americans do not have access to the Internet). Furthermore, does the store or co-op you are shopping in have Internet …and what if the the connection is spotty throughout the store ..and what if your battery is about to die …and what if you forgot our Smartphone in the car…

And who the devil is going to have time to stop and check every single QR code for every single item we buy while we are busy shopping??

Can you just see a busy Mom or Dad with two kids, juggling the shopping cart after work, as well as the Smartphone …as s/he dutifully tries to read QR codes in a busy foodstore or food co-op aisle?

It almost appears that this DARK ACT / QR Code system of checking our food supply was designed to fail, doesn’t it? Fail consumers, that is.

It certainly does not fail the needs of BIG FOOD, BIG ORGANIC or BIG AG.

It is well-known among IT people that QR codes can be hacked, so will we even be able to trust what the QR codes reveal if we can get in and through the above labyrinth successfully? And, did they tell us that accessing the QR code could place Malware directly into our Smartphones …i.e. you could damage your Smartphone and need the paid services of a computer technician to repair the damage …if it can be repaired?

So we are supposed to use our $500 Smartphones to access their data  – about the stuff they put into their food product  – and risk our Smartphones in the process?

Huh?

Does this seem a lot to you like Alice in Wonderland down-the-rabbit-hole?

And just what are you supposed to do if you are one of those millions of American  who lives on a low or fixed income, who is a senior, who lives in a rural location, or who has a disability …and who does not own a Smartphone or have Internet (estimated to be 1/3 of the population)?

Doesn’t it seem like whole classes of people got left out in the “consumer protections” offered in the DARK ACT?

What should they do? Grin and bear it? Stop shopping for food? Or simply eat the stuff…

What Dark Act supporters do not reveal is that the Dark Act lacks any enforcement mechanisms or any penalties for violations, making the labeling clauses (effectively) voluntary. And, there is a two-year time period allowed for implementation. So, in the next two years, there will GMOs in your food, with nothing on the labels  …and absolutely nothing at the other end of that Smartphone, 1-800 number or website….

FOOD LABELS DO MORE TO OBSCURE THAN REVEAL

       The alert and aware organic food consumer and co-op Member-Owner knows that the modern function of food labels is to allow BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC to be able to successfully hide what is in the “natural” and “organic” food they are selling  to us.

“Revealing” is not the primary goal of a food label anymore.

Add the DARK ACT’s QR Codes – a work-around to actually placing the word GMO directly onto the food product packaging itself – to that long list of deceptive labeling …i.e. ways to hide the cheaply produced chemicals, invisible additives, flavor enhancers, preservatives, food coloring, inferior food, old food and – let’s call a spade a spade – poisons, which are added to the food we buy for our families.

You need to become a detective to uncover the invisible ingredients which modern “natural” and “organic” food labels cleverly obscure.

PROCESSED FREE GLUTAMIC ACID: aka MSG

       We all know that MSG no longer appears as an ingredientt in food because BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC know that we know that MSG is “bad.” That is, we consumers got wise! Therefore, we began carefully reading labels and avoided purchasing food with “MSG” listed as an ingredient.

MSG is a neuro-toxin or an excitotoxin, a class of chemicals / chemical messengers, which excite brain cells into such frenetic activity that they can die. It is classified as a “flavor enhancer,” which means BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC can use cheaper, inferior ingredients and the MSG “fools” your brain into perceiving more taste / flavor. MSG also instantly creates food cravings when it hits your mouth and, eventually, your gut: sending instant messages to your brain to desire more of the product. You will want to eat/buy more of that food product – not because it is healthy and your system needs it – but because they know how to chemically create craving (and addiction) in a human mouth/digestive/brain system.

How handy for the bottom line of your favorite BIG FOOD or BIG ORGANIC food corporation: a proven way to sell more product!

Because there were enough alert consumers – who stopped buying foods labeled as containing MSG – they deep-sixed using the term “MSG.” Gone. Erased. Vanished.

They did not, however, stop using MSG in food.

They devised a work-around. They devised a method to add MSG to processed food – which they are under no obligation to disclose to you – by including it as a component of an ingredient, which require no disclosure on the label (in other words, the MSG remains hidden to the consumer). BTW, MSG should properly be referred to as ‘processed free glutamic acid.’ The term ‘MSG,’ in the US, refers specifically to the chemical which is 99% pure; most processed food manufacturers utilize MSG at less than 99% purity, so they cannot call it MSG. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, was developed in 1908 and patented by the Ajinomoto company. (Ajinomto currently holds the patent on another excitotoxin, aspartame, and is the world’s largest producer of both aspartame and MSG.)

There is now a list of about 50 food additives which can legally contain processed free glutamic acid, which can be added to the food you buy – and you won’t even ever know about it, unless it makes you subsequently ill. (BTW, its effects are now recognized as possibly being cumulative, and even if you don’t appear to get sick, processed free glutamic acid can still harm you.) See this research, this research, this research, this research, this research, this research, this research, this review of flawed research, which supports MSG’s safety and which was funded by the the International Glutamate Technical Committee, this research, and this brand new, February 2016 research …for starters.

Let me reframe this for you: BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC have over 50 different ways to label processed free glutamic acid – without using the term “MSG” – or without having to disclose on the label that there is processed free glutamic acid present.

Only if MSG is 99% purity or greater is an ingredient required to be labeled as MSG.  Any ingredient that has less than 99% MSG purity is labeled something else. [2]

They have developed 50 very effective means of camouflage, especially useful in processed foods labeled as “organic,” where we – especially – don’t expect to find added chemicals and poisonous ingredients. In fact, most of us are even willingly to pay more for that “organic” guarantee.

That list of, roughly, 50 names keeps changing & enlarging; a smart & savvy family simply must stay on top of information about the newest & latest industry additives – and their labels – which are being developed with the purpose of hiding the presence of processed free glutamic acid from consumers.

BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC don’t even have to break a sweat with over 50 ways …to leave your lover…

…oops! whoa nelly! – I got carried away there by Paul Simon’s music, for just a second… Sorry. What I meant to type was:

BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC have created 50 ways to hide a poisonous chemical in the food you buy: 50 innocent & innocuous-sounding ingredient names, which disarm you into opening your wallet and giving them your hard-earned family food dollars...

Food co-op shoppers, be on the alert for this anonymous MSG, camouflaged in your family’s favorite natural and organic ice cream, soups & stocks, crackers, cookies, chips, pasta sauce, cereals, juices, milk & dairy products, heavy cream, non-dairy drinks, processed soy & wheat protein products… …virtually anything with a label is fair game.

~~~~~

       For decades, I knew to avoid the following – even at my food co-op – because they always contained processed free glutamic acid: soups, soup stocks (including “organic” soups & stocks), gravies, salad dressings, soy sauce, mayonnaise, mustard & catsup, and anything which had in its list of ingredients:

artificial flavoring
spices
seasonings
organic flavoring, spices, seasonings
natural flavoring, spices, seasonings
bar-b-cue or teriyaki sauce

If these terms are listed in the ingredients I never purchase or eat that food; years of bad experiences taught me that lesson.

If a food label boasts that the food is “MSG free!” it’s pretty much a dead giveaway that it has processed free glutamic acid in it: less than 99% sleight-of-hand in the labeling business covers that base for the industry, and it is one sure way I know to avoid that food.

The practice of industry stating “MSG Free!,” “No MSG,” or “No Added MSG” is illegal if that product actually contains ingredients with glutamate. Unfortunately, the US FDA has a poor track record of enforcement.

In the last decade, many more processed foods – including foods labeled as “organic” – have had hidden processed free glutamic acid added in. Eating out at restaurants has become virtually impossible; shopping (only) the perimeter of our food co-op was our family’s only option.

My family’s solutions …our “work-arounds?”

  1. Stop buying processed food: 100%
  2. Eat organic: 100%
  3. Cook from scratch: 100%
  4. Eat out: hardly ever
  5. Read labels: 100% of the time
  6. Periodically re-research organic food industry MSG labeling practices

SO WHAT ARE THOSE 50 NAMES FOR MSG?

       Before you dig into the excellent consumer sites I have researched, familiarize yourself with this cleverly-worded U.S. FDA Q & A about MSG here and this Wikipedia entry about monosodium glutamate. These are two really good examples of what I consider industry-friendly spin & propaganda about MSG. [3]

Leaves you feeling warm & fuzzy about MSG doesn’t it?

This section wouldn’t be complete without hearing the industry spin from The Glutamate Association, “…an association of manufacturers, national marketers, and processed food users of glutamic acid…” Here are The Glutamate Association’s Benefits of MSG. You decide: fact… …or propaganda?

The International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) – another influential industry rep – describes the benefits of MSG here in, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): From A to Umami. Here is the list of the companies from the food, beverage and ag industries which support the work of the IFIC.

Now, onto the consumer & family-friendly sites!

This very reliable American list of hidden sources of processed free glutamic acid and the types of processing which create processed free glutamic acid, is put out by an incredible consumer website, the Truth in Labeling Campaign, their FB Page and their series of very informative blogs about MSG, aspartame, and excitotoxins (Truth in  Labeling Campaign, “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about MSG”).

The Truth in Labeling Campaign blogsite states:

…[Truth in Labeling is] a non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to the proposition that in the United States of America, every consumer has the right to know what is in or on his/her food, drink, pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, cosmetics, protein drinks, and vaccines. [4]

The Truth in Labeling Campaign (TLC) is the dedicated work of Jack and Adrienne Samuels, the TLC founders. Thank you, Jack and Adrienne, for your decades of hard work, research & advocacy on our behalf!

Highly recommended are the 2013 books by Adrienne Samuels, The Man Who Sued the FDA and It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s. It Was MSG. Adrienne details her late husband, Jack’s and her powerful crusade to uncover and publicize the toxic effects of MSG. The Samuels’ have, for decades, also: maintained an accurate, up-to-date list of the names of ingredients which contain  hidden MSG; alerted others to the scandalous lack of peer-reviewed research on its effects upon the human body; attempted to compel the FDA to require the labeling of this excitotoxin hidden in processed foods, protein powders & shakes, pharmaceuticals, vitamins & supplements, bodycare products, toothpaste, suncscreen & insect repellents, pet foods, in vaccines, in enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals (!), and in sprays used on farms on fruits and vegetables… …and pervasively found in the U.S. organic food supply.

This Australian organization, the Food Intolerance Network, has a crystal clear listing of – not 50 – but 129 ways to add MSG (and claim ‘no added MSG’ to fool consumers). This down under list – which I found on Truth in Labeling’s FB page – seems to work just as well here in the states. Somebody took some time in organizing the data, so as to make what is confusing, easy to understand. Thank you to the 10,200 families from Australia and New Zealand who are members of the Food Intolerance Network!

Cross-check the Truth in Labeling and Food Intolerance Network lists with this list from Battling the MSG Myth.

Read author, Debby Anglesey’s MSG story, at Battling the MSG Myth.

Be prepared to be shocked at the long list of additives which contain hidden processed free glutamic acid, as well as the modern food processing techniques which release processed free glutamic acid as a result of that processing.

(For example, perhaps you already knew that the ubiquitous guar gum, xanthan gum, and carrageenan (here, here and here) contain processed free glutamic acid? These ingredients often show up in milk & dairy products… Go ahead, go check the ORGANIC yogurt, heavy cream, sour cream, milk, and ice cream which you buy… Just recently I noticed at our co-op that Organic Valley milk products had eliminated “carrageenan” in their heavy cream and substituted it with “gellan gum.” Both have unknown levels of processed free glutmaic acid in them; however, gellan gum is a term unfamiliar to many people, whereas carrageenan has been receiving bad PR in the news lately. Out with the old (and tainted term), in with the new!

Tara gum and tracaganth gum are newer gums which are now showing up in processed foods. (Breyers ice cream’s use of tara gum is exposed in this consumer blog Breyers Natural Ice Cream and Tara Gum: Unilever’s Response.)

Read this fascinating 2012 Organic Consumers Association article, detailing organic milk industry shenanigans, entitled Stonyfield Farm & Organic Valley Respond to Consumer Concerns About Carrageenan and this June 2016 Cornucopia Institute article Will Carrageenan Remain in Organic Food? Removal of Carcinogenic Substance Uncertain Due to Industry Lobbying.)

According to the Truth in Labeling Campaign, these are the Names of ingredients that always contain processed free glutamic acid (last updated March, 2014):

 Glutamic acid (E 620)2
 Glutamate (E 620)
 Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
 Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
 Calcium glutamate (E 623)
 Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
 Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
 Natrium glutamate
 Anything “hydrolyzed”
 Any “hydrolyzed protein”
 Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
 Yeast extract, Torula yeast
 Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
 Autolyzed yeast
 Gelatin
 Textured protein
 Whey protein
 Whey protein concentrate
 Whey protein isolate
 Soy protein
 Soy protein concentrate
 Soy protein isolate
 Anything “protein”
 Anything “protein fortified”
 Soy sauce
 Soy sauce extract
 Anything “enzyme modified”
 Anything containing “enzymes”
 Anything “fermented”
 Anything containing “protease”
 Vetsin
 Ajinomoto
 Umami

(1) Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented.

(2) E numbers are used in Europe in place of food additive names.

These are the Names of ingredients that often contain or produce processed free glutamic acid during processing:

 Carrageenan (E 407)
 Bouillon and broth
 Stock
 Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
 Natural flavor
 Maltodextrin
 Oligodextrin
 Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
 Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
 Barley malt
 Malted barley
 Brewer’s yeast
 Pectin (E 440)
 Malt extract
 Seasonings

The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:

 Corn starch
 Corn syrup
 Modified food starch
 Lipolyzed butter fat
 Dextrose
 Rice syrup
 Brown rice syrup
 Milk powder
 Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%)
 most things “low fat” or “no fat”
 anything “enriched”
 anything “vitamin enriched”
 anything “pasteurized”
 Annatto
 Vinegar
 Balsamic vinegar
 certain amino acid chelates (Citrate, aspartate, and glutamate are used as chelating agents with mineral supplements.)

The Truth in Labeling Campaign list, above, states:

MSG reactions have been reported from soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, and cosmetics, where MSG is hidden in ingredients with names that include the words “hydrolyzed,” “amino acids,” and/or “protein.” Most sun block creams and insect repellents also contain MSG… …Binders and fillers for medications, nutrients, and supplements, both prescription and non-prescription, enteral feeding materials, and some fluids administered intravenously in hospitals, may contain MSG.

Truth in Labeling also states:

The term organic offers no protection: “There are a number of ingredients identified as organic that, organic or not, will contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG). Autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, textured soy protein, and anything hydrolyzed are examples of ingredients that may be made from organic produce, but will never-the-less contain MSG…”

And vegetarians and vegans, please do not fall for the Public Relations / Marketing game that has created all the media hype about “umami,” the so-called fifth taste. The Truth in Labeling Campaign states:

Is umami a fifth taste? Ponder the question if you like. But remember as you do so that fifth taste or not, umami is also a clever contrivance/device/public relations effort to draw attention away from the fact that MSG is toxic. [5]

~~~~~

       Several years ago, after eating an “organic,” vegetarian lunch salad at my food co-op, I was almost instantly struck down with MSG poisoning: a highly unusual, shocking reaction. I had carefully read the label and thought I was safe! Which ingredient was it? It was the fake bacon bits, which, it turned out, were listed on the label as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” (aka “texturized vegetable protein” or TVP), an excitotoxin:

The innocuous sounding “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” is even more dangerous than MSG; it contains three excitotoxins (glutamate, aspartate and cysteic acid) and several known carcinogens. [6]

These days, we eat real bacon, which we process ourselves, a hogbelly which comes from our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC); the source is a local farm in Vermont, which has pastured animals, from farmers we know and trust. (I’ll track down the name  of the farm and post it… …we plan to visit that farm in the near future and thank the family for feeding our family.)

WAS IT THE CITRIC ACID, THE CALCIUM CHLORIDE OR THE SEA SALT …OR ALL THREE?

       The ingredients which I, personally, most recently discovered may now contain hidden processed free glutamic acid include non-organic calcium chloride, and/or non-organic citric acid and/or non-organic sea salt.

How did I find this out? Well, for dinner one day, we purchased a bottle of Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce at our co-op – the Honest Weight Food Co-op – after carefully reading the label. There were only three non-organic ingredients listed on the label: calcium chloride, sea salt and citric acid (it is assumed water need not be “organic”).

muirglena

A bottle of General Mills’ Muir Glen organic pasta sauce with the industry-coveted green, white & brown “USDA Organic” National Organic Program (NOP) Seal

 Here is the list of ingredients of this organic pasta sauce:

img_2694

Ingredients in this Muir Glen “Organic Pasta Sauce” which are not organic: (water), Sea Salt, Citric Acid, and Calcium Chloride

After ingesting this Muir Glen Organic product – and after recovering from processed free glutamic acid poisoning – I sent Muir Glen, which is owned by General Mills, BTW – an email. [7] A long-delayed response (Sales & Marketing and Product Liability must have agonized over my explicitly clear & accurate questions) from SmallPlanetFoods@smallplanetfoods.com – which, instead of answering my questions about the presence of processed free glutamic acid in either or both the non-organic “calcium chloride” and the non-organic “citric acid” – cheerfully invited me to call their 800 number to discuss my concerns.

Note the absence of any reference to MSG, processed free glutamic acid, or  …an answer:

Dear Valued Consumer:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Food quality is a primary focus at our company.

Please call us at 1-866-896-0829 between the hours of 7:30am - 5:30pm CST, Monday - Friday.

We ask that you please have the following information available when you call:

Reference Number: ...

I look forward to hearing from you. As a valued consumer I hope you will continue to use and enjoy our products.

Sincerely,

Norma Stone
Consumer Services

Not a thing in there in print from Muir Glen that: a.) gave me the answers I needed or b.) could attach any liability, whatsoever, to this corporation.

In other words: we’ll do our level best to protect our corporation and the devil be damned about your family’s needs.

So, I did my own research. I now know that modern, industrial citric acid is being produced from GMO corn and an end result of its production is the presence of processed free glutamic acid. No, modern, industrial citric acid does not come from grapefruits, lemons or limes. I bet you thought it did, too!

What about the non-organic “calcium chloride?” I thought calcium chloride is the “safer” salt they tell gardeners to use on their icy, winter sidewalks? What in the world is this stuff doing in tomato sauce? I leave it to you, intrepid researcher, to begin your search here and here, with a quote from Wikipedia …as a hint:

The extremely salty taste of calcium chloride is used to flavor pickles while not increasing the food’s sodium content.

So, my alert reader, did you now start wondering if non-organic “sea salt” –  as an added ingredient to organic foods – can legally contain processed free glutamic acid, aka MSG? Better start your research. Sea salt is added to virtually every processed, organic product I looked at.

I only thought of that possibility after I had dashed off my email to General Mills’ Muir Glen.

NEWLY-ADDED INFORMATION: Who knew that there was a “Tomato Sauce Scam?” According to the Food Identity Theft website, the first ingredient on your tomato or pasta sauce label should simply be “tomatoes.” If not, look to see if the product contains

…reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate – tomato paste and added water. Tomato sauce remanufactured from concentrate is a highly processed food that’s cheaper to make and more profitable for companies who are trying to pass off the stuff as the real thing. [8]

The National Consumers League has been watch-dogging the deception in tomato and pasta sauce labeling for years. Read their April 14, 2011 Press Release, NCL calls on FDA to crack down on misleading claims for tomato sauces made from concentrate.

Well, let’s go back and re-examine that Muir Glen organic pasta sauce label. First ingredient, we don’t find “tomatoes” listed, but rather

Tomatoes in Juice∗, Tomato Puree∗ (tomato paste∗, water)…

What does “Tomatoes in Juice∗really mean? Is it just tomatoes? Who knows, I don’t have a clue! But that second ingredient states explicitly that it is tomato paste and water, that is, “reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate.”

Lovely.

Who knew.

All these years of being “Valued Consumers” of Muir Glen, all these years of buying their organic pasta sauce …and we’ve been eating a slurry of reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate.

Can these two products  – “Tomatoes in Juice” and “Tomato Puree” – contain hidden processed free glutamic acid? Who knows? I’d say let’s email Muir Glen and find out …except they are already known for their email non-answers to their “Valued Consumers.”

Now, carefully read what the label says on the back of this “organic” product:

muirglen1

“At Muir Glen we’re all about delicious, wholesome food grown naturally and without synthetic chemicals…”

This label states “At Muir Glen we’re all about … food grown naturally and without synthetic chemicals…

Note, it does not assert: All the ingredients in this organic pasta sauce were grown organically or All the ingredients in this organic pasta sauce were grown without use of synthetic chemicals.

Just what, exactly, does “grown naturally” mean? It simply asserts, vaguely, “At Muir Glen we’re all about” What does “all about” mean? We’re “all about” what, exactly?

And it certainly does not and cannot state that there are no synthetic chemicals added to this product …because there is at least one synthetic chemical added to it: citric acid is manufactured in a lab, it is definitely not organic, it is from a GMO source (!) and it contains processed free glutamic acid.

Just what does this information on the Muir Glen label reveal to you – the “Valued Consumer,” as to the safety of this “organic” processed food and the ingredients contained in it? …about the reasons that it gets to have the coveted USDA National Organic Program (NOP) label? …about those three innocuous-sounding ingredients – citric acid, calcium chloride and sea salt – which are clearly (not) starred as being “organic?”

Nada. Rien. Bubkes.

If this is an example of what’s hidden in foods with the USDA Organic “National Organic Program (NOP) Seal” label (which we consumers pay more money for!), imagine what’s in the non-organic foods which do not have the benefit of the NOP protections!

General Mills’ Muir Glen adroitly danced around the processed free glutamic acid issue. Obscured labeling… …obscured email response… …obscured processed free glutamic acid in so-called organic pasta sauce.

And as to their label’s statement: “We welcome your questions…”? Sure they may welcome your questions. That does not at all mean that they will answer your questions…

…’cause I still don’t know if it was the non-organic citric acid, calcium chloride, sea salt – all three – or some combination thereof, which contain(s) processed free glutamic acid. And now I have the new information about “Tomatoes in Juice∗” and “Tomato Puree∗ (tomato paste∗, water)” – aka “reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate” – to research: just what in the world is in these two processed (“organic?”) ingredients used in Muir Glen’s processed “organic” pasta sauce?

You see how labels have been carefully crafted to not serve the needs of us consumers and families? …to, rather, hide, obfuscate and keep invisible?

I had better start growing my own (organic) tomatoes, canning them, and making my Aunt Dotty’s authentic, family-recipe, tomato sauce which comes directly from her mother’s family in Italy…

BIG ORGANIC corporations, like General Mills’ Muir Glen, which adroitly demonstrate that they care more about hiding their products’ ingredients – by attempting to fool & deceive with both labels and email replies – than about truthfully disclosing those ingredients to their “Valued Consumers…will lose that “industry-coveted” spot in my fridge, on the shelves of my kitchen pantry, and on my dining room table.

THE ORGANIC FIREWALL HAS BEEN BREACHED

usda-organic

       Here is the familiar (and BIG ORGANIC industry-coveted) green, white & brown USDA NOP Seal you see on the labels of U.S. organic foods

       Has General Mills’ Muir Glen breached the firewall of the federally-recognized term “organic”as defined in the USDA National Organic Program (NOP)? Can foods labeled as “organic” contain non-organic citric acid, which contains processed free glutamic acid, an excitotoxin? Can they also contain GMO’s? (For if the citric acid being used in a product labeled as “organic” is sourced from GMO corn, that organically-labeled food now contains a GMO product …which is also an excitotoxin.)

And just what, exactly, is in “reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate?” Does its processing create processed free glutamic acid, and / or is processed free glutamic acid added to this highly processed “organic” ingredient?

As best I can ascertain, many of the material facts which families need are not required to be disclosed on that “consumer-friendly” label, with the green, white & brown NOP Seal, and Muir Glen’s oh-so-carefully spelled-out list of ingredients.

How many other BIG FOOD and BIG ORGANIC corporations follow these same consumer-deceiving labeling practices?

Visit Dr. Philip H. Howard’s infographic, Who Owns OrganicOrganic Industry Structure: Acquisitions & Alliances, Top 100 Food Processors in North America (which has been updated as of July 2016), to understand the magnitude of the problem for US families which value organic food. (See Dr. Howard’s brand new book, published in February 2016, Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?)

How many other processed foods labeled as “organic” contain additives sourced from GMOs …and/or contain processed free glutamic acid?

…and, heaven help us, is sea salt now in that list of additives allowed to have processed free glutamic acid added to it, without disclosure of that fact?

It’s well-known that common table sale contains hidden MSG in the anti-caking agents. But sea salt?

This becomes mind-boggling, especially if you are a Mom or Dad with a child or children who have auto-immune diseases or any sort of disability, or if you, yourself, have chronic health issues, a disability or are highly sensitive to processed free glutamic acid and need to take care when sourcing your food.

Now, I admit, I have not yet studied the federally-designated categories used for labeling organic food. I am quite sure there are tiers and layers… …but why should a family have to study U.S. federal organic regulations on labeling of GMOs, MSG and the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances in foods labeled “organic,” just to be able to safely purchase the ingredients for that night’s dinner?

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

~~~~End result of this story: we are taking our business elsewhere. If Muir Glen does not feel it has to fully disclose ingredients in its products nor answer our questions, we don’t have to buy those products. My family will no longer buy products made by General Mills’ Muir Glen.

We are also considering x’ing off any and all General Mills’ organic products (forget Cascadian Farms and those Paleo-friendly Lärabar fruit & nut bars; General Mills owns ’em both: thank you Dr. Howard for your research, Who Owns Organic.)

We will find a local source of organic tomato sauce at our food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, HWFC, which does not promote deceptive labeling with theirValued Consumers.” (Thank you to the HWFC Nutrition and Education Committee for being aware of and sensitive to these labeling issues and for beginning work on updating our Food and Product Manual as re. MSG.)

Such nice sounding names, too: Muir GlenSmall Planet Foods …Lärabar with that continental & oh-so-clever-looking umlaut above the a.

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→ → →CONSUMER ALERT← ← ←

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       Well, I went and studied the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for processed products labeled as organic. At first, I could not find citric acid on the “allowed” lists, nor could I find sea salt. I found calcium chloride. Scan §205.605 and §205.606:

§205.605 is the list of “Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).'”

§205.606 is the list of “Nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic.'”

Ah ha, correction, I did miss something; I just found citric acid. It wasn’t listed under the “c’s” but under the “a’s”  for acid. It says:

Acids (Alginic; Citric—produced by microbial fermentation of carbohydrate substances; and Lactic).”

It even specifies that the citric acid is “produced by microbial fermentation,” so it is clearly not allowing the natural citric acid, with which we are all familiar, which comes from citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, limes, & pineapples. This is the industrial, produced-in-a-lab kind of citric acid.

So, this is the citric acid which contains processed free glutamic acid. And it is allowed in products labeled as organic.

There is a second, allowable use for citric acid, as well, under §205.605:

(b) Synthetics allowed:

Acidified sodium chlorite—Secondary direct antimicrobial food treatment and indirect food contact surface sanitizing. Acidified with citric acid only.

So, in addition to allowing citric acid to be added to organic foods, it can also be used, secondarily, as “direct … food treatment.”

What, exactly, is “direct antimicrobial food treatment?” Is citric acid sprayed on organic foods?  Are organic foods, say vegetables and fruits, washed or soaked in citric acid?

Is that “direct … food treatment” use of citric acid required to be listed on the label? Or are all of our organic foods – our fruits and vegetables – potentially, being treated with citric acid, with no requirement to disclose that fact to consumers?

Now that you’re over there, look at how many ingredients – found on our processed free glutamic acid lists – are also found as “allowed” ingredients in “organic” food!!!

WHAT?!

OMG. WE ARE IN TROUBLE. BIG FOOD AND BIG ORGANIC ALREADY GOT TO THE FEDERAL REGS. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? IT IS CONFIRMED here and here: PROCESSED FREE GLUTAMIC ACID IS CONSIDERED AS “ALLOWED” IN U.S. FOODS LABELED AS ORGANIC.

Confirmed: I found carrageenan, xanthan gum and guar gum. There are more ingredients – on  these two USDA NOP lists – which are also found on our lists of ingredients containing processed free glutamic acid!

These are the names of ingredients which likely contain hidden (unknown amounts of) processed free glutamic acid which are allowed to be used in foods labeled as organic, under the USDA National Organic Program or NOP. This list was cross-referenced with available lists of 40+ ingredients which contain hidden processed free glutamic acid:

-Acidified sodium chlorite - Secondary direct antimicrobial food treatment and indirect food contact surface sanitizing. Acidified with citric acid only.
 -Acids (Alginic; Citric - produced by microbial fermentation of carbohydrate substances; and Lactic)
 -Calcium citrate
 -Carrageenan
 -Enzymes - must be derived from edible, nontoxic plants, nonpathogenic fungi, or nonpathogenic bacteria
 -Flavors, nonsynthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative
 -Gelatin (CAS # 9000-70-8)
 -Gellan gum (CAS # 71010-52-1) - high-acyl form only
 -Gums - water extracted only (Arabic; Guar; Locust bean; and Carob bean)
 -Starches. Cornstarch (native).
 -Whey protein concentrate
 -Xanthan gum
 -Yeast - When used as food or a fermentation agent in products labeled as “organic,” yeast must be organic if its end use is for human consumption; nonorganic yeast may be used when organic yeast is not commercially available. Growth on petrochemical substrate and sulfite waste liquor is prohibited. For smoked yeast, nonsynthetic smoke flavoring process must be documented.

The category of “yeast” is very, very troubling. According to the Truth in Labeling Campaign, it can include (but is not limited to): brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, yeast extract and autolyzed yeast. These ingredients are very common in foods labeled organic, especially yeast extract and autolyzed yeast, which  are quite common in vegetarian/vegan plant-based protein sources. In fact, these same plant-based protein sources are highly processed and often  contain multiple sources of hidden MSG.

As for that non-organic sea salt: I couldn’t find it on the federal USDA NOP non-organically produced “allowed” lists anywhere …it shows up everywhere in processed “organic” foods …and we don’t, for a fact, know its source, how it is processed, or if anything is being added to it, like processed free glutamic acid.

Maybe there is some other list where sea salt shows up as safe for human consumption, like the GRAS list (generally regarded as safe)? More research is needed.

Is General Mills’ Muir Glen out of compliance with federal USDA organic labeling standards with this “non-organic sea salt” ingredient?

Somebody needs to send General Mills’ Muir Glen an email…

SUGAR BEETS, THE FOOD USED TO “GROW / FERMENT” MSG IN A LAB, ARE ROUND-UP READY® and GENETICALLY-MODIFIED

        I am currently researching the U.S. sugar beet industry because one method of producing MSG is to use sugar beets in a lab as the sub-strata to grow processed free glutamic acid through a process of bacterial fermentation.

According to this article at The Organic and Non-GMO Report website, Sugar beet industry converts to 100% GMO, disallows non-GMO option, 100% of sugar beet production in the U.S. is now genetically modified (one-half of the U.S. supply of table sugar comes from sugar beets):

Three years ago [that would be in 2005], these processors decided to convert the entire US sugar beet production to Roundup Ready genetically modified varieties, developed by Monsanto Company. [9]

According to Mike Adams, the Health Ranger’s (see below for more information) website, in a 2013 article, MSG and aspartame are the two leading causes of central nervous system damage in the United States, by S.D. Wells, Monsanto has a monopoly on sugar beet production. (BTW, PLEASE. DO. READ. THIS. ARTICLE.: MSG and aspartame are the two leading causes of central nervous system damage in the United States.)

And, according to the Truth in Labeling website,

…since 1957, MSG has also been produced using genetically modified bacteria (genetically modified organisms or GMO’s), that secrete glutamic acid through their cell walls. [9a]

So, processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is being created by industrial fermentation, using genetically modified bacteria being fed Round-Up Ready®, genetically-modified sugar beets.

One must assume this fermentation process must be creating an especially potent and toxic chemical!

In fact, according to this Truth in Labeling article, How are monosodium glutamate and the other ingredients that contain MSG manufactured?, it is.

Yet, I could find no reports on the internet of any testing being done on the effects of this brand new chemical MSG brew  – a byproduct of GMO bacteria ‘eating’ GMO Round-Up Ready® food – upon either lab rats …or humans, their central nervous systems, glutamate receptors/systems, their guts & their biomes.

Just what does this stuff do to your own gut bacteria which are a large part of your immune system? I would like to know.

This – the use of GMO Round-Up Ready® sugar beets – may explain why there are thousands and thousands of anecdotal reports on the internet – over the last ten years – of people reacting even more severely to the hidden processed free glutamic acid (MSG) in our food supply.

As I learn more, I will post about this alarming issue.

FAMILIES, HERE’S YOUR ASSIGNMENT:

“To avoid eating foods enriched with free glutamate requires that the consumer is aware and understands all the precursors to MSG, the food processes that generate MSG, and the many different ingredient labels that contain MSG.” [10]

We are going to specifically zero in processed free glutamic acid contained in foods labeled as “organic.”

1. Print out – or archive on your Smartphone – (after all, we won’t need those Smartphones for reading GMO QR codes for at least another two years) these lists of ingredients which contain processed free glutamic acid. Bring with you when you shop and don’t buy any foods which contain any of these ingredients:

Truth in Labeling Campaign Printable Brochure and List updated as of March, 2014

Unblind My Mind

Battling the MSG Myth

MSG Truth

Say No to MSG

Food Intolerance Network (AU, not US, source)

2. Print out – or archive on your Smartphone – the two lists of USDA National Organic Program’s “substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic:” §205.605 and §205.606

3. Compare the lists from #1 and #2, above. Don’t buy organic foods which contain any ingredients with processed free glutamic acid in them.

DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!

       I already mentioned my favorite, top-notch consumer websites to go to, to find out about, not only GMOs, but MSG – processed free glutamic acid – and how they hide it: Truth in Labeling, their FB Page and blogs about MSG, aspartame, and excitotoxins   (here is Jack Samuels from Truth in Labeling, presenting at a 2008 Weston A. Price Foundation event), Battling the MSG Myth, and a new (to me) list from Australia, the Food Intolerance Network.

Add to this list this incredible Ted-X Santa Cruz Talk by a mom and biochemist, Katherine L. Reid, Ph.D. entitled, Your Ecosystem on MSG. She documents how she began healing her daughter’s autism behaviors by carefully weeding out the processed free glutamic acid in her family’s food.

Could that be read another way? Did the presence of processed free glutamic acid in processed food cause autistic behaviors …and did the removal of processed free glutamic acid return her daughter to health? Go watch the YouTube video of this Mom’s compelling story…

…please take the time right now – it’s only 9 minutes long – and watch Your Ecosystem on MSG.

View a 16 minute, more detailed version, here.

And visit the website of the brand new nonprofit Dr. Reid founded, Unblind My Mind, where “We believe every healing journey begins with a closer look at what we are eating!” Boy, is that right up my alley!

You’ll find Dr. Reid’s blog at Unblind My Mind, here, extremely informative. And here is her list of ingredients containing processed free glutamic acid, which you can cross-check with the lists at the the Truth in Labeling Campaign, Battling the MSG Myth and the Australia Food Intolerance Network.

MSG Truth is another very reputable website founded by former food process engineer and food scientist, Carol Hoernlein. Top notch scientific information! See their list of research about the toxic effects of MSG. MSG Truth also recommends these food & health-related movies to watch: The Beautiful Truth, Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, Sweet Misery, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? and Vaxxed. Here is MSG Truth’s FB page, for breaking news’ updates about MSG.

Here is MSG Truth’s list of foods to avoid.

Here is an example of an MSG Truth Alert, from their May 4, 2016 FB page:

I’d like to warn you all about a product called Umamix. It is a blatant attempt to mislead the consumer. The product is basically straight glutamate taken from the sources of glutamate I am always warning you about = seaweed (the food MSG was first isolated from) plus concentrated tomato, mushroom and sea salt. They are trying to sell this as a substitute for MSG, but basically it is MSG without the sodium part. [11]

(So, my suspicions about sea salt were right!!! I will read MSG Truth’s FB page and report back what I learn about innocent-sounding “sea salt.”)

Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board certified neurosurgeon, is an acknowledged expert on issues of MSG, aspartame, and excitoxins. Listen to Mike Adams, the Health Ranger interview Dr. Blaylock on MSG and brain-damaging excitotoxins. (Read the text of that March 14, 2012 interview at Truth in Labeling or at Mike Adams’ Natural News.) Read this article by Dr. Blaylock entitled Aspartame, MSG, Excitotoxins and the Hypothalamus and this interview about aspartame, another excitotoxin. Although it was written in 1996, I would still read his book Excitoxins: The taste That Kills. And, I would check out his newsletter, here.

Did you know they are now spraying processed free glutamic acid on growing crops? [12] Is it allowed to be sprayed on certified organic crops? Truth in Labeling and their FB Page will inform you about “AuxiGro.”

Is MSG included as an ingredient used in those sprays of water all the supermarkets and food co-ops use to keep their produce hydrated? Better find out. You have to keep ahead of industry as an alert, informed consumer of organic food.

Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, who hosts a very reputable website, has a 2012 article / video about MSG in vaccines, entitled “New Health Ranger video exposes the truth about MSG, mercury and formaldehyde in vaccines,” here. He has a very recent article, June 17, 2016, entitled “Gluten-free food FRAUD exposed in new Health Ranger video: They’re loaded with MSG and GMO,” here.

BTW, add the Health Ranger to your list of go-to places:

Mike Adams, “known as the “Health Ranger,” is an outspoken consumer health advocate, award-winning investigative journalist, internet activist and science lab director.

He is the founder and editor of NaturalNews.com, the internet’s most-trafficked natural health news website. He is also the creator of CounterThink.com, FoodInvestigations.com, HealingFoodReference.com, HonestFoodGuide.org and several other websites covering natural health topics.

Adams is a prolific writer and has been called “the best health and natural products writer on the scene today.” (by Ronnie Cummins, founder, Organic Consumers Association)

Adams’ new book, Food Forensics, The Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Food and How You Can Avoid Them for Lifelong Health, just published in July, 2016, appears to be just the ticket for those of us concerned about those invisible, non-labeled ingredients in our food supply, which can harm us. His book promo states:

This book, Food Forensics, is Big Food’s worst nightmare. It exposes the toxic chemicals and heavy metals that Big Food manufacturers are using to POISON you … this breakthrough book is such an important victory for grassroots food consumers (and why Big Food is terrified that this book might succeed…)

Mike Adams has created a website, Science.NaturalNews.com, which archives scientific articles & studies (the food industry won’t willingly publicize); he has made it extremely easy to search.

See these studies about MSG:

2010 Effect of systemic monosodium glutamate (MSG) on headache and pericranial muscle sensitivity
2008 Association of monosodium glutamate intake with overweight in Chinese adults: the INTERMAP Study
2008 Monosodium glutamate (MSG): a villain and promoter of liver inflammation and dysplasia
1991 MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein induced headache: review and case studies

Look what I found when I searched!:
2009 Neuroprotective evaluation of extract of ginger (Zingiber officinale) root in monosodium glutamate-induced toxicity in different brain areas male albino rats
2015 Attenuating effect of Lactobacillus brevis G101 on the MSG symptom complex in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Aha, L. brevis, one of those “good” bacteria / probiotics!)
2006 Monosodium glutamate-induced oxidative damage and genotoxicity in the rat: modulatory role of vitamin C, vitamin E and quercetin
2012 Quercetin ameliorates glucose and lipid metabolism and improves antioxidant status in postnatally monosodium glutamate-induced metabolic alterations

Buy this book, Food Forensics! Buy Dr. Philip Howard’s, Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? Buy Adrienne Samuals’ The Man Who Sued the FDA and It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s. It Was MSG.  Don’t forget Dr. Russell Blaylock’s Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills; an interview with the ‘Health Ranger’ Mike Adams (audio or print); and The Blaylock Report. And while you’re at it, buy Wenohah Hauter’s new book Foodopoly. Ask your food co-op to stock these books on its shelves. Get a food co-op reading group started – discuss together – and bring your information to the Committee which oversees your co-op’s food buying policies and to your Board of Directors.

Knowledge is power. First step: get the knowledge.

LABELING: BIG ORGANIC’S 21st CENTURY CORPORATE “WORK-AROUNDS”

       Let’s take a minute and recap. How do the labeling strategies for MSG compare to the brand new labeling strategies for GMOs?

Well, in both cases, BIG ORGANIC is the worst offender – moreso than BIG FOOD – because it grabbed the coveted term “organic,” knowingly added dangerous chemicals to those foods – a fact which it is desperate to hide – and then it slapped on a higher price tag, to boot.

Boy are we suckers, or what? (No, by way of kindness to us, we are honest & trusting people who have been taught to simply believe what we read on food labels):

  • With MSG, their corporate labeling divisions devised a slick strategy of removing the “offending” term “MSG” from food labels and replacing it with (anywhere from 50 -129) terms that serve to keep families in the dark as to the presence of MSG. There is still information on the label – it’s just anonymous, camouflaged, in code.
  • With GMOs and the Dark Act, BIG ORGANIC was complicit in taking the “offending” term, “GMOs” right off of the label! Being anonymous and camouflaged wasn’t good enough …GMOs are outright gone from the label – utterly invisible, in fact, non-existent. Gone. Erased. Vanished. (“Out of Sight, Out of Mind:” is that the name of that particular spin doctor campaign or multi million dollar PR, Marketing and Lobbying Plan?)
  • What’s next? Let’s just get rid of labels entirely, they’re in the way?

So, BIG ORGANIC didn’t work to create more healthy, nutritious organic food; rather, it put its corporate energy into becoming more adept at hiding what it doesn’t want you to know.

So, add GMOs to that list of “since it’s invisible and not listed on the food label / product it must be ok to eat and my family is safe.”

Not.

You – my alert, vigilant, they-can’t-pull-the-wool-over-my-eyes family food guardians & watchdogs – are forewarned! What are your family’s “work-arounds” to BIG ORGANIC going to be?

ARE WE ARE ALL BEING DOSED WITH MSG 24 / 7?

       You now understand that MSG aka processed free glutamic acid is present in virtually all processed foods, including processed organic foods. If we eat these processed products, we are being dosed – daily – with an excitotoxin which – in the tiny amounts present in whole, unprocessed, unadulterated foods – our bodies are designed to process; however, when confronted with the toxic levels of “free,” unbound glutamate (“manufactured free amino acid produced in food and/or chemical manufacturing plants[13]) – ingested cumulatively at breakfast, lunch and dinner – our systems cannot cope.

Alarmingly, data compiled in 2010 by Dr. Adrienne Samuels at Truth in Labeling, informs us that The Young are Particularly at Risk for Brain Damage from Ingestion of MSG. [13]

BIG ORGANIC, especially, needs to be exposed for this practice of secretly including MSG aka processed free glutamic acid in its products labeled as “organic.” It is deceptive and harmful to us, our children and our families. Since they won’t stop… …WE NEED TO STOP BUYING THEIR PRODUCTS.

SENOMYX: “YOU THOUGHT MSG WAS BAD?”

       While you are over at Truth in Labeling and their FB Page, look up the American bio-tech company, Senomyx …the newest way to introduce chemicals (via taste) into our food supply. Senomyx is busy getting a bunch of patents on human taste. Yes, you read that correctly!

Senomyx seeks patent protection to cover our discoveries, including:

  • Receptors, and nucleic acid sequences encoding receptors, that are involved in taste
  • The use of taste receptors to identify flavor ingredients
  • New compositions and uses of these compositions as flavor ingredients

As of December 31, 2015, Senomyx is the owner or exclusive licensee of 530 issued patents and several hundred pending patent applications in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere related to proprietary taste science technologies. We intend to continue to pursue comprehensive intellectual property protection for our evolving technologies. [14]

Mike Adams’ website, Natural News, has an article about Senomyx – ‘Secretive’ Chemicals Being Hidden in Food Under ‘Artificial Flavors’ Label – which ominously begins:

You Thought MSG Was Bad? [15]

Check out the Senomyx website here and their “roster of collaborators,” here. Why am I not surprised that the Ajinomoto company – you know, the one which invented MSG back in 1908 – is one of Senomyx’s “collaborators,” as well as PepsiCo, Firmenich and Nestlé.

A 2005 NY Times article by Melanie Warner reveals additional BIG FOOD involvement:

Kraft, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup have contracted with Senomyx for exclusive rights to use the ingredients in certain types of food and beverages, although the companies declined to identify those categories. [16]

How many of those Senomyx “collaborators” have “natural” and “organic” corporate arms or subsidiaries? How many of those are utilizing Senomyx proprietary products in their “natural and/or “organic” lines? How would you know?

You know what one (just one) of the side effects of these group of chemicals is purported to be? Temporarily shutting down or disabling your body’s innate ability to perceive bitter / poison through taste.

WHAT?!

Our human system was designed with an innate alert system to warn us if something we are about to eat could poison us. Lifesaving measure! Senomyx products can possibly disable this in a human body?

Doesn’t this warrant further investigation?

Here ya go: Senomyx’s latest Press Release dated August 31, 2016: SENOMYX ANNOUNCES APPROVAL OF BITTERMYX® BB68 AND SWEETMYX® SR96 FLAVOR INGREDIENTS IN CHINA.

Vegetarians and vegans, I’d be alert – their sights are set on you:

Bittermyx BB68 is used to reduce the bitterness of certain ingredients and can be used to reduce bitter taste associated with hydrolyzed soy and whey proteins… [17]

Hydrolyzed soy and whey proteins are on all the consumer ‘hidden MSG lists’ I consulted. A chemical used to cover the bitter taste of another chemical? Do I have that right?

What about all the “organic” foodstuffs our food co-ops are getting from wholesalers like United Natural Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: UNFI) , which are sourced from China?

…This regulatory approval allows Senomyx to pursue commercialization of these flavor ingredients in China in a wide range of foods and beverages.  These ingredients are available to flavor houses through Senomyx’s direct sales Complimyx® line and can also be commercialized by two Senomyx collaborators in certain product categories… [17]

After reading this Press Release, are you still going to buy any “organic” foods for your family which are sourced from China?

If this sounds way too sci-fi for you – shades of Robert Heinlein, who would advise it’s time to get off the planet, time to find a new one – just go read what Dr. Mercola has to say about Senomyx here and here, and, as well, the take of Truth in Labeling and their FB Page, and Mike Adams’ Natural News.

And don’t expect to find a lot of information on the Web about Senomyx (NASDAQ: SNMX). There appears to be – what is, in this day and age – a virtual news blackout on the Internet relating to this corporation and its patented products …the corporation which is pursuing “comprehensive intellectual property protection for our evolving technologies.”

One day, will a farmer selling an apple have to pay a fee to this corporation because their patent on the taste of “apple” is owned by them?

“CLEAN LABELS” – THAT’S ALL BIG FOOD & BIG ORGANIC CARE ABOUT

       This quote, from Natural News’ ‘Secretive’ Chemicals Being Hidden in Food Under ‘Artificial Flavors’ Label, says it all:

“We are helping companies clean up their labels,” said Kent Snyder, chief executive of Senomyx.

I bet you you thought I was kidding when I said “Revealing” is not the primary goal of a food label anymore.”

Score 1 for the GRASSROOTS ACTION blog!

If you care about “clean food” you’d better get cracking and start researching ’cause this stuff – GMOs, processed free glutamic acid, Senomyx patents – ain’t going away, in fact, it only aims to get worse.

Protect your family.

HERE’S WHAT TO DO: CAVEAT EMPTOR

       The ethical question an alert and informed consumer, family member and food co-op Member-Owner will be compelled to ask is: will I park my family’s food dollars with these “natural” and “organic” corporations which are silently and invisibly putting GMOs, processed free glutamic acid, Senomyx patents, and a host of other additives, preservatives and chemicals into my family’s food?

Buyer beware.

Quite simply, and because you are a Member-Owner of a food co-operative, you will intuitively resonate with these answers:

  1.  Know the source of your food …and stay tightly connected to it.
  2.  Buy local.
  3.  Buy organic.
  4.  Buy fresh.
  5. Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods.
  6.  Support local organic farmers and organic farm families as much as possible.
  7. Don’t buy any foods with more than 5 ingredients. Read ALL labels.
  8. Carry those lists of ingredients containing processed free glutamic acid with you and don’t buy food which contain any of those ingredients.
  9.  Limit or eliminate your purchase of all processed foods: i.e. cook “from scratch.”
  10.  Insist on the fresh produce / meat / cheese which you buy being labelled with its  place or origin (i.e. is the “organic” vegetable from China (non-trusted source) …or is it from a local, truly organic farm 30 miles away?)
  11.  Ask your co-op to develop a policy of doing farm visits: that is, a team of co-op Member-Owners/employees actually conducts regular farm visits to verify the quality of the food.
  12. Grow your own organic foods.
  13. Read the Weston A. Price Foundation website and join WAPF for top-notch food information.
  14. Join NOFA-NY: the Northeast Organic Farmers’ Association.
  15. Finally, get back to being active at your locally-owned food co-operative.
  16. BTW, HWFC Member-Owners, do your research: does the newly-revised, proposed HWFC Food & Product Manual (coming up for a vote very soon) contain adequate language about our buying policies on processed free glutamic acid? …GMOs?

HWFC MEMBER-OWNERS GET INVOLVED!!

       Honest Weight Food Co-op Member-Owners, attendance at Board meetings has fallen off dramatically! We are not out of the woods by any means. You need to stay active, stay current with what is going on in governance and participate in governance.

For example, do you have any idea what has been going on with current bylaws’ revisions? Do you know that you are going to be asked to vote on new bylaws at the October 23, 2016 Membership Meeting? Are you aware that there are important changes being proposed to our bylaws? Do you know what they are? Do you agree with them? Do you have questions …suggestions?

All the 720 people who showed up at our emergency Special membership Meeting on November 30, 2015 need to get re-involved! A co-operative’s backbone is its Member-Owner participation.

Without our Member-Owners’ participation we will become just another one of those nice, cool, über-hip, friendly, natural foods’ grocery stores …and not remain a vibrant, locally-owned, locally-operated and active, grassroots food co-operative …which is tightly connected to its regional organic farming community.

Seriously, folks, the quality of your food is at stake and HWFC is one place we, as consumers, can effect change and can exert control over buying practices, sourcing and the quality of the food we buy. And we can demand that more local, organic food show up  on our co-op’s shelves and in our bins …and we will be listened to! Why? Because WE are the ones in control of the sourcing & quality of food our co-op buys …all of us, together.

And, seriously, there are some undercurrents at HWFC on our Board which need attention. Member-Owners, you are needed to keep balance, add your energy and viewpoints and contribute your time, effort and reason!

Get back up on the HWFC horse! See you at the next Board meeting, Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 5:45pm at HWFC.

(NOTE: All information provided by this blog is intended solely for consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice, nor substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment of any disease or condition by your doctors and health care providers. Discuss any information with your doctors and health care providers, first.)

© Laura Hagen

~~~

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

John Philpot Curran [18]

==================================

[1] Huff, Ethan A. Are you sensitive to gluten, or just Roundup? American wheat often doused with toxic herbicide before harvest. Natural News, December 04, 2014. See: http://www.naturalnews.com/047962_Roundup_glyphosate_wheat.html

[2] Reid, Dr. Katherine. Reading Labels: “No MSG Added.” Unblind My Mind blog post, January 21, 2014. See: http://unblindmymind.org/2014/01/reading-labels-no-msg-added/

See also: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/V.RegulatoryHistory.html

[3] This 2011 article, MSG For You And A Coffin, Too! Ajinomoto Bribes US Dept of Agriculture and University Professors to Sanctify Poisons, by Dr. Betty Martini, details her concerns about a joint research project carried out by a partnership between Ajinomoto, the creator of MSG, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Listen to this 2013 YouTube clip interviewing Dr. Betty Martini on Sanitas Radio – The Truth About Aspartame, MSG, and Excitotoxins – Segment 1, here, and see her website Mission Possible World Health International and her data about MSG, here.

[4] See the Truth in Labeling Campaign blogsite, unknown date. See: https://www.blogger.com/profile/02130039743339790651.

[5] Truth in Labeling Campaign. Umami: the “fifth taste” that MSG-sensitive people can’t taste. Truth in Labeling Campaign webpage, unknown date. See: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/The%20special%20case%20of%20Umami.htm

[6] Meyers, Ronald L., CNC. EXCITOTOXINS Death by Profit Margin. 2004. See: http://www.wnho.net/excitotoxins_death_by_profit_margin.pdf

[7] Here is the complete text of my email to General Mills’ Muir Glen:

Dear Sir or madam:

     I would be very appreciative if you would answer the following questions for me. We have been longtime customers of your products, particularly because they are organic. My questions pertain to the ingredients in your product “Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce:”

1. Why do you include two products (aside from sea salt) which are NOT organic? Those two products are: citric acid and calcium chloride.

2. Why don’t you include organic citric acid and organic calcium chloride?

3. Do you add any MSG to this product? Do you add any monosodium glutamate to this product?

4. Do any of the individual ingredients used in this product contain MSG or monosodium glutamate?

5. Does this product contain any processed free glutamic acid and/or free glutamic acid?

6. Does the citric acid contain any processed free glutamic acid?

7. Does the calcium chloride contain any processed free glutamic acid?

8. What, if any, is the percentage of processed free glutamic acid in this product?

9. Why do federal organic regulations, as they pertain to food, allow your company to add non-organic citric acid and non-organic calcium chloride to a product labeled as organic?

10. Why does Muir Glen add citric acid and calcium chloride to this product?

11. Would Muir Glen consider making a line of organic tomato sauce which contains no citric acid?

12. Would Muir Glen consider making a line of tomato sauce which contains no calcium chloride?

Thank you for your time. It is my hope that your responses will continue to allow me to purchase your organic products as we have used them for years.

Yours,

[8] Food Identity Theft website. Tomato Sauce Scam webpage. Food Identity Theft Powered by Citizens for Health, unknown date. See: http://foodidentitytheft.com/culprits/tomato-sauce-scam/

[9] The Organic and Non-GMO Report. Sugar Beet Industry Converts to 100% GMO, Disallows Non-GMO Option, June 2008. See: http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/jun08/sugar_beet_industry_converts_to_gmo.php

[9a] Truth in Labeling Campaign. What is MSG?  Truth in Labeling Campaign webpage, unknown date. See: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/WhatIsMSG.html.

[10] Reid, Dr. Katherine. Reading Labels: “No MSG Added.” Unblind My Mind blog post, January 21, 2014. See: http://unblindmymind.org/2014/01/reading-labels-no-msg-added/

[11] Hoernlein, Carol. MSG Truth Facebook Page post. May 4, 2016. See: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Msg-Truth/133593600016325

[12] Fassa, Paul. MSG Now Used to Spray Crops. Natural News, April 29, 2009. See: http://www.naturalnews.com/026157.html

[13] Samuels, Adrienne, Ph.D. The Young are Particularly at Risk for Brain Damage from Ingestion of MSG: Data. Truth in Labeling website, accessed September 15, 2016. See: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/Proof_TheYoung_TY.html

[14] http://www.senomyx.com/our-expertise/intellectual-property/

[15]  McKinley, Jennifer. ‘Secretive’ Chemicals Being Hidden in Food Under ‘Artificial Flavors’ Label.  Natural News, April 10, 2008. See: http://www.naturalnews.com/022982.html

[16] Warner, Melanie. Food Companies Test Flavorings That Can Mimic Sugar, Salt or MSG. New York Times, April 7, 2005. See: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20050407thursday.html as posted to the New York Times’ Learning Network, “a blog for parents, teachers and students that is freely available outside of the New York Times digital subscription service, and does not require registration.”

[17] Senomyx, Inc. Senomyx Announces Approval of Bittermyx® BB68 and Sweetmyx® SR96 Flavor Ingredients in China. Press Release, August 31, 2106. See:  http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/senomyx-announces-approval-of-bittermyx-bb68-and-sweetmyx-sr96-flavor-ingredients-in-china-300320418.html

[18] See the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. and Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted, p. 200, #1054.

GRASSROOTS ACTION: DARK ACT Updates

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

=============================================

UPDATE: Friday, July 8, 2016 6:00pm

The DARK Act passed in  the U S Congress late last night to a vote of 63 – 30 (with 7 abstentions). Both NYS Senators – Gillibrand and Schumer – voted “nay.”See here for the official Senate Roll Call vote.The Organic Consumers Association website states the following:

…The bill passed last night is intended to hide information (behind electronic codes) from consumers, not provide it—in plain English, on a label.

The bill passed last night is intended to exempt the vast majority of GMOs from even having to be hidden behind codes, much less labeled in plain sight.

The bill passed last night is voluntary—it contains no enforcement mechanism, no penalties for non-compliance.

The bill passed last night is an attack on democracy, an attack on states’ rights. It not only overturns Vermont’s carefully considered and fairly debated mandatory GMO labeling law, but as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted in his speech on the Senate floor, this bill overturns nearly 100 other state laws. (Sanders pushed hard to stop this bill).

The bill passed last night is a fraud, an affront to the nine out of 10 Americans who want what citizens in 64 countries already have—the basic right to know what’s in our food.

The 63 Senators who sided with (and took hundreds of millions of dollars from) Monsanto and Big Food, stole your right to know, and whatever shred of belief you might still have had in the democratic process.

But they did not steal your power to boycott any brand or company that refuses to label GMOs. They did not steal your determination to take back an unhealthy, toxic, corrupt corporate food and farming system…

…The Roberts-Stabenow bill will now go back to the U.S. House, which in July 2015 passed its own version of the DARK Act. If the House and Senate reach an agreement, Congress will vote on a bill to keep you in the dark. That bill will then land on President Obama’s desk…

Here is the text of the bill set for a vote in the US House of Representatives next week.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), a lobbying organization of so-called “organic” companies and corporations, lobbied for this bill, in the best interests of Monsanto. The OTA has acted against the best interests of consumer who buy organic, families, American organic farmers, small family farms and organic producers, and community-owned American food co-ops. The companies which are members of the Organic Trade Association need to be held accountable by American consumers who value organic and who want GMO food accurately and clearly  labelled.

The Organic Trade Association includes many of the organic companies, brand names, and wholesalers with whom you are very familiar. Here is the list of members of the Organic Trade Association. You decide if you want your family food dollars to support any of these “organic” corporations.

Call some of these companies – whose food rests in your pantry and ‘fridge – before the US House vote next week, and hold them accountable. A boycott of some of these companies is one option consumers have to voice their outrage at this betrayal.

 

UPDATE: THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2016 9:10 am

CALL SENATORS GILLIBRAND AND SCHUMER TODAY, RIGHT NOW! IT IS NOT TOO LATE! TELL THEM WHY YOU ARE AGAINST THIS ACT. TELL THEM TO VOTE NO. ALSO, ASK HOW THEY PLAN TO VOTE.

BOTH VERMONT SENATORS CAME OUT PUBLICLY AGAINST THIS BILL AND SAID THEY WILL VOTE “NO.” NEW YORK SENATORS SHOULD DO THE SAME. RIGHT NOW THEY WILL NOT COMMIT TO STATING HOW THEY WILL VOTE.

NYS Senator Gillibrand’s office in D.C. told me this morning that the Senator voted “NO” against the cloture vote yesterday. (This is, she voted against cutting off debate and forcing a vote.)

NYS Senator’s Schumer’s office in D.C. told me this morning that the Senator voted “NO” (That is, he voted against cutting off debate and forcing a vote.)

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 6, 2016 10:30PM

DARK ACT PASSES US SENATE WEDNESDAY WITH CLOTURE* VOTE

A Center for Food Safety Press Release dated today, states:

WASHINGTON— Today the Senate voted to deny one-third of Americans the right to know what is in in the food products they purchase. In a cloture vote of 65-32 the discriminatory, highly-flawed “compromise” GMO labeling bill offered by Senators Stabenow and Roberts, also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, passed through the Senate. This “compromise” bill allows producers to use QR codes and “smart labels” instead of clear, on-package labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The poorly drafted bill exempts major portions of current and future GMO foods from labeling and is discriminatory against low-income, rural, minorities and elderly populations. The bill as written is also a gross violation of the sovereignty of numerous states, as it preempts the genetically engineered food labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska…

The High Plains /Midwest AG Journal article Senate Passes GMO Cloture Vote, dated Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm stated: “Senate will vote on final passage as early as July 7.

Both NYS Senators’ – Schumer and Gillibrand – websites are silent as to how they voted on the Dark Act cloture vote. Please post below, if you have an update.

See the Senate Democrat and Republican Conference websites for information about the Cloture vote and the final vote, possibly tomorrow, Thursday, July 7, 2016.

*What’s a “cloture vote?” “Cloture is a procedure used occasionally in the U.S. Senate to break a filibuster. Cloture, or Rule 22, is the only formal procedure in Senate parliamentary rules, in fact, that can force an end to the stalling tactic. It allows the Senate to limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate.” See http://uspolitics.about.com/od/glossary/a/Cloture-Definition.htm .

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 9:00PM: No results as to the US Senate Vote yet. PLEASE CALL NY SENATOR SCHUMER’S AND SENATOR GILLIBRAND’S OFFICES TOMORROW AND TELL THEM TO VOTE “NO” AND TELL THEM WHY YOUR FAMILY DOES NOT WANT NOR SUPPORT THE ‘DARK ACT.’

Senator Schumer (202) 224-6542

Senator Gillibrand (202) 224-4451

In the meantime, read this June 29, 2016 article at HuffPo by Carey Gillam, Research Director for U.S. Right to Know, a non-profit consumer education group, At ‘Crucial Moment’ For GMO Labeling, Organic Industry Finds Itself Divided.

Read Carey Gillam’s June 27, 2016 article at U.S. Right to KnowFor GMO Labeling Advocates, It Doesn’t Get Much Darker Than This.

And see this Wednesday, July 6, 2016 NY Times editorial, A Flawed Approach to Labeling Genetically Modified Food.

Finally, we were all let to believe that GMO foods were necessary because they would increase food yields. A national report has put that myth to bed.

U.S. Right To Know informs us: “A May 2016 report by the National Academy of Sciences found no evidence that GMO crops had changed the rate of increase in yields, and no clear benefits for small, impoverished farms in developing countries.”

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 6:00PM: An advocate (thanks JS) from HWFC just let our list know she has spoken with the Environmental Working Group. “THEY SAY SCHUMER IS POSSIBLY GOING TO VOTE FOR THE BILL… (the DARK Act)…”

Please call Senator Schumer’s Office and tell him to vote “no.” Tell him why. Tell him the Organic Trade Association, which is supporting this bill, does NOT speak for you and your family.

Flood Senator Schumer’s Office with calls. We need large numbers from the Albany area calling his D.C. office.

Does anyone have a newer update from Senator Gillibrand’s office?

I was told it is more effective to call their D.C. offices. Here are the numbers:

Senator Schumer (202) 224-6542 (9-6PM and you CANNOT leave a message)

Senator Gillibrand (202) 224-4451

Please post any updates, below.

Here is the text of the bill (thanks MR, another HWFC advocate). It just made it out of committee (Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry) and doesn’t have an S number yet. History of bill: (S. 2609 via amendment #3450 to S. 764)

http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Ag%20biotech%20compromise%20proposal.pdf

Folks, please read the text of this bill …and make your Senate phone calls today and tomorrow morning. Call friends & family around the US and have THEM call THEIR Senators today and tomorrow morning to vote “no” to the Dark Act.

GRASSROOTS ACTION: US Senate Vote Tomorrow on DARK Act: Call Senators today!

=============================================

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

=============================================

UPDATE: THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2016 9:10 am

NYS Senator Gillibrand’s office in D.C. told me this morning that the Senator voted “NO” against the cloture vote yesterday. (This is, she voted against cutting off debate and forcing a vote.)

NYS Senator’s Schumer’s office in D.C. told me this morning that the Senator voted “NO” (That is, he voted against cutting off debate and forcing a vote.)

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 6, 2016 10:30PM

DARK ACT PASSES US SENATE WEDNESDAY WITH CLOTURE* VOTE

A Center for Food Safety Press Release dated today, states:

WASHINGTON— Today the Senate voted to deny one-third of Americans the right to know what is in in the food products they purchase. In a cloture vote of 65-32 the discriminatory, highly-flawed “compromise” GMO labeling bill offered by Senators Stabenow and Roberts, also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, passed through the Senate. This “compromise” bill allows producers to use QR codes and “smart labels” instead of clear, on-package labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The poorly drafted bill exempts major portions of current and future GMO foods from labeling and is discriminatory against low-income, rural, minorities and elderly populations. The bill as written is also a gross violation of the sovereignty of numerous states, as it preempts the genetically engineered food labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska…

The High Plains /Midwest AG Journal article Senate Passes GMO Cloture Vote, dated Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm stated: “Senate will vote on final passage as early as July 7.

Both NYS Senators’ – Schumer and Gillibrand – websites are silent as to how they voted on the Dark Act cloture vote. Please post below, if you have an update.

See the Senate Democrat and Republican Conference websites for information about the Cloture vote and the final vote, possibly tomorrow, Thursday, July 7, 2016.

*What’s a “cloture vote?” “Cloture is a procedure used occasionally in the U.S. Senate to break a filibuster. Cloture, or Rule 22, is the only formal procedure in Senate parliamentary rules, in fact, that can force an end to the stalling tactic. It allows the Senate to limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate.” See http://uspolitics.about.com/od/glossary/a/Cloture-Definition.htm .

 

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 9:00PM: No results as to the US Senate Vote yet. PLEASE CALL NY SENATOR SCHUMER’S AND SENATOR GILLIBRAND’S OFFICES TOMORROW AND TELL THEM TO VOTE “NO” AND TELL THEM WHY YOUR FAMILY DOES NOT WANT NOR SUPPORT THE ‘DARK ACT.’

Senator Schumer (202) 224-6542

Senator Gillibrand (202) 224-4451

In the meantime, read this June 29, 2016 article at HuffPo by Carey Gillam, Research Director for U.S. Right to Know, a non-profit consumer education group, At ‘Crucial Moment’ For GMO Labeling, Organic Industry Finds Itself Divided.

Read Carey Gillam’s June 27, 2016 article at U.S. Right to Know, For GMO Labeling Advocates, It Doesn’t Get Much Darker Than This.

And see this Wednesday, July 6, 2016 NY Times editorial, A Flawed Approach to Labeling Genetically Modified Food.

Finally, we were all let to believe that GMO foods were necessary because they would increase food yields. A national report has put that myth to bed.

U.S. Right To Know informs us: “A May 2016 report by the National Academy of Sciences found no evidence that GMO crops had changed the rate of increase in yields, and no clear benefits for small, impoverished farms in developing countries.”

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 6:00PM: An advocate (thanks JS) from HWFC just let our list know she has spoken with the Environmental Working Group. “THEY SAY SCHUMER IS POSSIBLY GOING TO VOTE FOR THE BILL… (the DARK Act)…”

Please call Senator Schumer’s Office and tell him to vote “no.” Tell him why. Tell him the Organic Trade Association, which is supporting this bill, does NOT speak for you and your family.

Flood Senator Schumer’s Office with calls. We need large numbers from the Albany area calling his D.C. office.

Does anyone have a newer update from Senator Gillibrand’s office?

I was told it is more effective to call their D.C. offices. Here are the numbers:

Senator Schumer (202) 224-6542 (9-6PM and you CANNOT leave a message)

Senator Gillibrand (202) 224-4451

Please post any updates, below.

Here is the text of the bill (thanks MR, another HWFC advocate). It just made it out of committee (Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry) and doesn’t have an S number yet. History of bill: (S. 2609 via amendment #3450 to S. 764)

http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Ag%20biotech%20compromise%20proposal.pdf

Folks, please read the text of this bill …and make your Senate phone calls today and tomorrow morning. Call friends & family around the US and have THEM call THEIR Senators today and tomorrow morning to vote “no” to the Dark Act.

~~~

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and its International Director, Ronnie Cummins, issued this statement in an email sent out July 3rd:

On Wednesday, July 6, the U.S. Senate will hold a vote on a bill that could undermine everything that’s been accomplished so far on the GMO labeling front.

If the Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act passes next week, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, enacted yesterday, will be overturned. Consumers will never get clear labels on GMO foods. The right of states to pass their own food safety and labeling laws will be severely undermined.

In fact, even Vermont’s seed labeling law, in existence for the past 12 years, will be wiped out of existence by this grossly offensive piece of legislation.

So much for states being the “laboratories of democracy.” What rights will corporations convince our federal lawmakers to take away next?

The bill proposed by Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow is an anti-consumer, pro-Monsanto masterpiece, bought and paid for by some of the greediest, most deceptive corporations in America…

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Please read my July 2nd post to get updated, here.
  2. It is URGENT that you contact your US Senators TODAY at 888-897-0174  (or Senator Schumer (202) 224-6542; Senator Gillibrand (202) 224-4451), and let them know you do not support the Roberts-Stabenow Senate Bill, aka the DARK ACT. In the past, NY Senators Gillibrand and Schumer both voted “no.” Call them anyway because I did not get a firm answer today from either Senator’s office that they would be voting “no” tomorrow.
    1. See how the rest of the US Senate voted on a “test run” of the vote, here;
  3. Go to your pantry & ‘fridge. Cross-check the brand names of the organic food you buy with this list of members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA);
    1. Email and/or FB some of these “organic” companies today (OTA list of members here);
    2. Tell them to publicly drop support of this bill; you want this in writing;
    3. Tell them you expect to see an announcement on their website and FB page, showing they have removed support for this bill.

I called Senators Schumer and Gillibrand’s offices today. Senator Gillibrand’s D.C. office told me they cannot confirm that she will vote “no” against the DARK Act, but that she did vote against it in the past.

Senator Schumer’s D.C. office line was busy; I am still trying to get through.(UPDATE 7/5/16, 3:30PM: the Senator’s D.C. office stated the Senator does oppose the DARK ACT and has voted against it in the past; however, the staffer does not know how the Senator will vote tomorrow until after he votes.) I spoke to the regional office in Albany and was told the Senator did vote against the DARK Act in the past; the staffer could not tell me the “Senator’s thinking as of this moment.” He urged me to call the D.C. office to be sure my voice is heard and that I am included in the tally of phone calls against the DARK Act.

Let me state this very loudly and very clearly: the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and all of its association members have joined with Monsanto in support of this bill.

This “Organic Industry” trade & lobbying organization, the Organic Trade Association, is claiming to speak for millions of American who buy their members’ “organic” food products. That includes you.

This bill is being voted on in the US Senate tomorrow, July 6th.

Do not allow this organic, corporate “front group,” the OTA, to speak for you. Call your US Senators today on behalf of your family and ask that they vote “no.” Tell them why.

Tell members of the Organic Trade Association – in writing – that your family will stop buying their “organic” foods if they do not immediately drop support for this bill – in writing – which supports GMOs and Monsanto.

~~~

Here is the letter which I emailed today to Melissa Hughes, Chair of the Organic Trade Association and Organic Valley representative:

Urgent Response Needed: OV and OTA Support of the Roberts-Stabenow Bill

July 5, 2016

Dear Ms. Hughes, Chair, Organic Trade Association and Representative of Organic Valley:

I have been a loyal customer of Organic Valley Co-operative milk products for years. Each month I purchase at least 1 gallon of OV whole, grassfed milk to make yogurt and we purchase OV butter, as well.

I am shocked that Organic Valley, represented by you as the Chair of the Organic Trade Association (OTA,) is supporting the Roberts-Stabenow Senate bill – renamed “The DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs).

This bill goes against the very things we consumers want: transparency in labeling of GMOs; full disclosure by food corporations of the presence of GMOs; the right to protect our families from the harm of GMOs; and protection of the term “organic” in food labeling.

Please tell me:

1. Why is Organic Valley supporting this bill?
2. Why are you, as chair of the OTA, guiding the hundreds of OTA member corporations into supporting this bill?
3. What will it take for you to realize that 90% of American consumers DO NOT WANT GMOs in their food and WANT IT CLEARLY LABELED, that a food corporation is using GMOs? Would a national boycott of Organic Valley products be a loud and clear message?
4. Will you, as both Chair of the OTA and as a representative of Organic Valley, publicly and in writing on your websites and Facebook pages, withdraw your support of the Roberts-Stabenow bill (“the DARK Act”) immediately?
5. Please provide me with a list (name, address, phone, website, email) of ALL the farmers who provide milk/dairy to the Organic Valley Co-operative, whose farms are located in New York State & Vermont. I plan to contact each NYS & VT Organic Valley farm family and let them know there is strong consumer action AGAINST the “organic” corporations which support the Roberts-Stabenow Senate bill and that consumers, nation-wide, are poised to boycott any “organic” corporations which, by virtue of being a member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), support the Roberts-Stabenow bill.

Depending upon your reply, my family will either continue to buy Organic Valley milk and butter. …or we will end our support of your corporation and buy our organic milk and butter elsewhere. We will go out of our way to NOT purchase Organic Valley products.

In addition – depending upon your written answer to me – our family will begin a campaign of contacting every member of the OTA whose food has a place in our ‘fridge and pantry, and inform them that we will no longer be purchasing their “organic” food products.

Please do not ask me to call you back; I would much prefer your answer in writing. There are many other Organic Valley customers who will want to know your answers, as well.

Sincerely,

Laura Hagen