GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! GRC Elections: Your individual vote and participation in our food co-op matter!


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.


Last night, the Member-Owners of the Honest Weight Food Co-op held their quarterly  meeting. Elections were held to fill a vacant seat on the Governance Review Council (GRC). The results of that election, as certified by Rita Nolan, Chair of our Elections and Nominations Committee, are as follows:

“166 Member-Owners were in attendance at last night’s Membership Meeting.

131 votes were cast so 33 votes is a 25% plurality:

Gene Reilly          103 Votes
Rebekah Rice        26 Votes
Nancy Van Deusen  1 Vote
Russell Ziemba        1 Vote

Two (2) Provisional Ballots are awaiting verification but these votes will not affect the result.”

Gene Reilly is the newest member of our GRC. Congratulations to Gene and thank you for your willingness to serve a three-year term! I served with Gene on the HWFC Corporate Compliance Committee (CCC) and I can tell you he is very balanced in his decision-making process, focused, thoughtful, calm, and extremely easy and pleasant to work with.

Gene is the person from the CCC who recommended the term “time investment,” which is the term we now use to refer to the “work” we Member-Owners do at our co-op; his recommendation made it all the way into our bylaws!

Member-Owners, help Gene out by attending GRC meetings and supporting his work…

…errr, that is, time investment!


I was part of the team which made sure the “chain of custody” of the ballots was secure; that is, the ballot boxes were watched by a number of people from the time they were opened at the meeting, until the time they were placed on the table at HWFC, to be opened and ballots counted. I was also on the team which counted the ballots.

The ballot counting process which our Elections and Nominations Committee has developed is detailed, logical, clear, transparent and – most importantly – has multiple times where ballot counting is double-checked by “multiple eyes:” that is, there are multiple checks & balances.

A team of four people is initially involved in the physical count; each of the four checks the count of the others. Once the paperwork is signed off by the team of four, it is passed on to another team, which double-checks the work of the first team and tallies up the final vote count.

The Chair of the Committee was present at all times to answer questions about, for example, an unclear or spoiled ballot, so that the actual counting could proceed efficiently and without difficulty.

Member-Owners are invited and encouraged to witness vote counting at our co-op or to actually count ballots. Please do! It is important that we protect the sanctity of our elections’ process. We need to continually monitor the accuracy of our ballot security and our ballot counting and the certifying of elections so all are comfortable that the results are fair, accurate, transparent and that there is no possibility that the ballot boxes, the ballots, and counting have been tampered with in any way.

A process of hand-counted paper ballots, in public, with multiple people in attendance, with multiple redundancies, with a clear and verifiable, paper ballot re-count process, if and when necessary – according to a League of Women Voters member with whom I worked closely years ago – is still considered the safest way to conduct elections.

This is the process our Election and Nominations Committee has instituted for our co-op.

Thank you to each and every member of our Elections and Nominations Committee – Rita Nolan, Tom Spargo, and Karen Roth – for your hard work in developing this fair and transparent process which we can trust and which we can also verify.


What is crucial to our food co-op is your participation.

The recent first-ever HWFC Coffeehouse (thank you Membership Committee and all the musicians!), our second Art Exhibit opening (thank you Honest Arts Committee and all the artists!), and our Fall Festival, Homegrown Happening (thank you to all the staff involved, the vendors, and all who participated!), are all testament to fantastic teamwork happening at our co-op, both among and between Member-Owners and our wonderful staff.

Thank you to every person who was a part of all those team efforts!

However, governance also needs team effort. Perhaps it is not always fun, like being involved with music and art. It is, however, vital and necessary.

PLEASE start attending Board meetings. PLEASE start attending GRC meetings. PLEASE join a Committee.

More than ever, we need Member-Owners to fill vacancies upon the Board.

To that end, the Board will be holding a meeting this Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 5:00PM to fill vacancies upon the Board of Directors and upon the Executive Committee. Place: HWFC. Nominations are due by 5PM Friday, October 27, 2017, submitted to or submitted in paper format in a sealed envelope to the Service Desk at HWFC. Please do not leave it to somebody else to do; right now we need new Board members. 

Member-Owners, also, do not forget to thank Board members who have recently left our Board; they all put in hard work on our behalf. Thank yous are very, very important, don’t neglect to express your appreciation.

The name of my blog has “Grassroots” in it for a reason. You are one of the grassroots. Together, we families all keep our food co-op strong, resilient, transparent and democratic.

The fewer there are of us, the more chance for non-transparent actions. The more of us, the more roots to keep us grounded, co-operative, self-reliant, and strong.

We are all in charge of our mission which, remember – from our co-operative beginnings back in the ’70’s  – is, at its basics: high- quality, low cost food.

From my perspective – for my family – being involved in  protecting our sources of local, organic, high-quality, nutrient-dense food and building bridges to the local families which produce this food – is an extremely good investment of my time and energy.

Being involved in co-operative governance, to assure that end, is one of the ways to invest your time in our co-operative.

Wouldn’t you and your family agree it’s a sound investment?

© 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


GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! NEONICS I. Gardeners: neonic-coated seeds, the flowers in our gardens, lethal to pollinators & bees


Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner and family to an ‘organic practices’ beekeeper

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


Dear fellow Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) Member-Owners, food co-op lovers, and gardeners,

Today, I’m initiating a series about neonicotinoids, insecticides which have been implicated in massive numbers of pollinator deaths, as well as honey bee die-offs, called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Since it is the fall planting season and many co-op families are busy planting, I’m leading off this series with a neonicotinoid-warning to gardeners.


“Homeowners are planting flowers in their yards thinking they’re helping bees and they’re basically planting poison plants…”

Erin MacGregor-Forbes, Maine Beekeeper

from The Case of The Vanishing Bees by Tom Turner
Posted on Earthjustice

A relatively new industrial agriculture (BIG Ag) practice is the coating of seeds with neonicotinoids (‘new nicotine-like insecticides’ or ‘neonics’), 1 an insecticide which damages the central nervous system of honey bees and pollinators and can cause paralysis and death. Neonics have been clearly implicated in colony collapse disorder (CCD) and massive honey and bumble bee die-offs across the country. 2

Since the mid-2000s, when this practice gained strong momentum, BIG Ag has been routinely coating the seeds of many mono-crops with these pesticides; corn – America’s no. 1 cash crop – soy, wheat, cotton, sunflowers, 3 potatoes, canola (oilseed rape), sugar beets, 4 many cereal grains and legumes, and some vegetables are only some examples of the mono-crops which are getting this seed treatment, both here in the US and throughout the world.

It was also in the mid-2000s that the United States – in a never-seen-like-this-before calamity! – began losing, on average, one third of its managed honey bees annually, as estimated by researchers; a horrific trend which has continued to this day and, in many states, has gotten even worse. 5

71 to nearly 100 percent of the corn seed used in the US today is treated with neonics; a majority of soybean seeds are, as well. Farmers report it is all but impossible to buy corn seed that has not been neonic treated. Seed companies have been steadily increasing the amount of this pesticide used per seed, to the point where some seeds are now routinely being coated with five times the original amounts used!

Neonics are the most widely-used insecticide in the world today. In the US, there are six neonics, called ‘active ingredients,’ registered by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for agricultural use: imidacloprid (the most widely-used, worldwide), acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam (nitenpyram, a seventh, is not registered for used in agriculture). They are being used extensively in (non-organic) agriculture as a foliar spray, in soil drenching, in tree trunk injections, and as a coating for seeds.

It is noteworthy that three neonics were banned in the EU in 2013 for two years, for use on bee-attractive, flowering crops (e.g. corn, sunflowers and canola), and their use was also restricted on ornamental crops (e.g. annuals and perennials). The EU is currently reviewing this ban with the possibility of making it permanent.

It was only very recently, that researchers began to investigate just how pervasive the use of neonic-coated seeds is in the US. As it turns out, the federal government wasn’t even gathering stats about the use of neonic-coated seeds because, under EPA guidelines, it is not considered a pesticide application! 6 This 2015 study, by Margaret R. Douglas and John F. Tooker from Penn State University, states:

“…We synthesized publicly available data to estimate and interpret trends in neonicotinoid use since their introduction in 1994, with a special focus on seed treatments, a major use not captured by the national pesticide-use survey …

… It is remarkable that almost the entire area of the most widely grown crop in the U.S. (i.e., maize) is now treated with an insecticide, yet we have no public survey data reflecting this trend… 7

Pesticide-coating of seeds represents a frightening paradigm shift in pesticide deployment; instead of using pesticides after pests become evident, BIG Ag now prophylactically treats all the seeds of particular crops, before they are even planted.

According to a 2016 Minnesota Department of Agriculture report, neonics in the US are being used primarily as seed treatments. Of those seed treatments, 80% consist of neonic pesticides.

According to this report, Pollinators and Pesticides, by the Center for Food Safety:

“From 2009-2011, over 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids were applied to roughly 127 million acres of agricultural crops annually across the United States.” 8

With 3.5 million pounds of neonicotinoids applied annually to US crops – covering an area which represents approximately one twelfth the area of the US, minus Hawaii and Alaska – how can it be that the EPA does not consider this seed-coating a pesticide application, when we are blanketing our farmland and ecosystem with a toxic load of neonics each and every year? (see 6)

The BIG Ag practice of coating seeds in neonic pesticides also extends to annuals – flowering, as well as vegetable & herb plants – perennials, bulbs, rhizomes, larger ornamentals (shrubs), and indoor potted plants.


Flowers are the primary source of honey bees’ food, from which they gather pollen & nectar. It takes the entire lifetime of each of ten, nectar-gathering field bees – each of whom live for six weeks during the summer – to make 1 teaspoon of honey. Notice the soft, fine hairs of this honey bee; her ‘fur’ collects and moves pollen from one flower to another.

Neonics are also being used extensively in other landscape applications, by both homeowners and landscape professionals, including as foliar sprays, soil drenching of turf and trees, and trunk injections.

That there is a pervasive BIG Ag, industry-wide practice of coating seeds with a toxic, systemic pesticide is a fact not well known by most people, let alone home gardeners.

Millions of American home gardeners are – every spring, every fall – transporting hundreds of thousands of flowering annuals and perennials to our homes and gardens – each of our front & backyards, porches, decks, sidewalks, mailboxes, bird feeders, window boxes, and railings decorated with a profusion of beautiful blooms and blossoms – with absolutely no idea that we are poisoning the honey bees and pollinators, for whom a flower is an essential source of food.



“I was asked yesterday by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Gunderson how long I thought we had before disaster struck. ‘How long?’ I answered. ‘It isn’t a question of how long any more, the disaster is here.'”

New York commercial beekeeper Jim Doan forced out of business by pesticide losses
Tom Theobald, Colorado beekeeper

Neonics are systemic, water-soluble pesticides, meaning the pesticide doesn’t simply remain on the surface of the plant. It, instead, travels through a plant’s vascular system, permanently poisoning the plant for the life of the plant: roots, stems, leaves, fruit, berries, flowers, nectar and pollen.

In pollinators, the poisoning by neonics is cumulative; each and every time a honey bee, for example, visits a stand of neonic-tainted clover blossoms in a day, her own neuro-toxicity increases.

Neonics are  – just like the systemic DDT about which Rachel Carson warned in her 1962 book, Silent Spring – very toxic to the living things in an ecosystem, enduring, and their use creates unintended & dire consequences.

However, the DDT Rachel Carson warned about pales in comparison to the toxicity of neonics. Some neonics are, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, “…at least 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT… .” 9 These pesticides are, therefore, highly toxic to honey bees and pollinators in tiny amounts.

Furthermore, when some neonics breakdown, these metabolites can be 10-16 times more toxic to pollinators!

The maximum annual usage of DDT in the US (which occurred in 1959) was 80 million pounds. Using the 2009 figure for US neonic usage (which he found was 3.4 million pounds), beekeeper Tom Theobald estimated (given that neonics are 5,000 – 10,000 times more toxic than DDT and he used the more conservative figure of 5,000) that, per year:

“We are now drenching American farmland with the equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT.” 10

These statistics alone should put to rest any question that neonicotinoid pesticides are causing great harm to bees - and pollinators - in the United States. Our environment is a frighteningly more poisonous and toxic place than Rachel Carson could ever have imagined.

“One of the most concerning aspects about neonicotinoid seed treatments is their propensity for contaminating the environment: when used as a coating on seeds, only 1.6-2.0% of the amount of the active chemical applied actually enters the crop itself, leaving the remainder of the chemical coating to pollute the environment.” 11

When neonic-coated seeds are first sown, a pesticide dust cloud is released into the wind, contaminating neighboring fields, flower-rich hedgerows (including, for example, nearby organic wildflower habitats 12) and pollinators, which can be harmed on both a contact and an oral basis by some neonics. This pesticide’s water solubility makes it especially dangerous as it very easily travels everywhere, ultimately contaminating our ground water, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands. That there is a ‘downstream’ effect to land and water invertebrates, as well as bats and insect-feeding woodland birds, is a given.

This neonic dust, by the way, can also include talc or graphite (used as seed lubricants with forced air seed planters). According to a 2012 Purdue University study in Indiana, this contaminated talc is “light“and “mobile” and “…the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides – up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee…” 13

The article continues:

” ‘Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment,’ Krupke said. ‘This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen. This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives.'” 14

Is anyone researching the damage which tons of airborne, (non-purified?) talc itself might be inflicting upon pollinators and the environment (and anyone in proximity to talc-contaminated air and fields), in addition to the neonics in the talc itself?

What is the impact of talc (and/or graphite), being brought back to the hive in the pollen which field bees collect? 15

[See these images, detailing the US increase in the use of seed treatments of just one neonic, imidacloprid, from 2000 –  2014.]

Neonics, doing double damage, degrade slowly as they continue to poisonand they are taken up by neighboring plants. In soil, neonics have a half-life of between 148 days to as long as nineteen years. These pesticides accumulate with each application, creating, of farmland – of your garden – year-by-year, an increasingly toxic environment for pollinators.

It was absolutely shocking to discover that one of the seeds available with a neonic-coating – used as a cover & rotational crop and to seed pasture is clover. Clover is a favorite flower of honey bees; how many millions of us of us enjoy our clover honey! Pasture sown with this seed will subject bees – who will return multiple times throughout the day – to longterm, low level (sublethal) exposure to toxic neonics, poisoning of the hive, and eventual, likely, colony collapse. 16

Gardeners, what kind of world are we allowing wherein a simple flower has become, to a bee, a poisonous bio-hazard?


Home gardeners, and their pollinators, may be exposed to much higher concentrations of neonics – in landscape ornamentals, annuals, perennials and through landscape contractor practices and homeowner application – than those allowed for in large-scale, commercial agricultural crops:

"Products [neonicotinoids] approved for home and garden use may be applied to ornamental and landscape plants, as well as turf, at significantly higher rates (potentially 120 times higher) than those approved for agricultural crops." 17
One report from 2014 revealed, "Amounts used on ornamentals lead to residues 12-16 times greater than found on crop plants." 18

You cannot wash, soak or scrub this pesticide off. It creates, of any new plant you bed into your garden, a neonic-producing factory, poisoning everything it produces – including the pollen and nectar – for the life of that plant (please read, here).

Your own backyard garden can become a source of this toxic poison, exposing the honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies and monarchs, moths, beetles, lady bugs, native pollinators, hummingbirds, birds, bats (and earthworms) which visit your garden to sublethal (enough to harm but not kill) or lethal doses of neonics.

To be blunt: the beautiful flowers in your own garden, which woo the pollinators, may be wooing them to their death. 19

BeesKnees (2)

The yellow sacs – ‘pollen baskets’ – on this bee are packed to the brim with pollen, gathered from flowers and stored for delivery to the hive, behind the bee’s knees – hence the term ‘The Bee’s Knees!’ Make sure you only purchase local, ‘certified organic’ plants so the pollen which visiting honey bees collect in your garden is free of neonicotinoids.

According to a recent UN report put out by its Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity Ecosystem Services (IPBES), some pollinators – up to 40% in some locations! – are now facing extinction.

The IUCN stated in a 2014 report that 9% of all bees and almost 24% of bumblebees in Europe are now threatened with extinction.

On March 21, 2017 – just six month ago – the rusty patched bumble bee became the first bee in the continental United States to be federally-protected under the Endangered Species Act. This should be a day of mourning for all those who cherish bees and should serve as an urgent wake-up call: for with bees as an ‘indicator species,‘ alerting us as to the health (or illness) of an ecosystem, are we now in trouble?

[Right now, please watch this documentary, A Ghost in the Making Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, by Clay Bolt.]

“…even tiny doses
of a neonicotinoid pesticide
called imidacloprid reduce the amount
of pollen collected by bumblebee colonies by 57
percent, and … the effects last for at least
a month after exposure.” 20

To help you understand neonicotinoids and the poisoning of bees, birds and beneficial insects – from the perspective of an Integrative Pest Management (IPM) specialist – I cannot recommend this publication highly enough: the nonprofit Bio-Integral Resource Center’s April 2014 Special Edition Quarterly, entitled Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects. It’s short; please read it cover-to-cover.

“The major risk [to birds] is seed

treatments; one imidacloprid treated

corn seed, 3-4 cereal seeds,

or 4-5 canola seeds

can be lethal

to the

average bird.” 21

William Quarles, PhD, IPM Specialist, Executive Director of the Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC)



“A single corn plant grown from an imidacloprid-treated seed will have access to 1.34 milligrams (mg) of imidacloprid from the soil it is grown in. In contrast, the recommended label application rate for a perennial nursery plant in a three-gallon pot is 300 mg of imidacloprid, an amount that is 220 times more imidacloprid per plant.”

Gardeners Beware:Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly”
Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide

Friends of the Earth, 2013

Honey bees can travel up to three miles from their hive, however, they will tend to stay within a mile, or so, from home. Flowers are honey bees’ only source of food (with a few minor exceptions) and it may be in your garden where they are getting pollen (when fermented with nectar it becomes “bee bread,” their source of protein) and nectar (when fermented it becomes “honey,” their source of carbohydrate).

Your garden flowers are their kitchen larder!

It is not well-known that honey bees also store water in the hive. Have a source of fresh water for visiting honey bees and pollinators, especially during the hot days of summer. (Use a shallow container and place stones in it, so the honey bees have a place to land.)

A Friends of the Earth (FoE) pilot study, 22 released in 2013, Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide, reported that at major retailers across the country, 7 out of 13 flowering garden plants tested contained neonics. In 2014, Mother Earth News recommended only buying “certified organic transplants.” 23

A follow-up FoE study – Gardeners Beware 2014 – demonstrated the sheer, devilish perversity pervading the gardening industry: over half of the ‘bee-friendly plants’ tested, were, themselves poisoned with neonicotinoids, with no warning whatsoever provided to the consumer!

Bees, in particular, are extremely sensitive to, thus easily harmed by, neonicotinoids. These poisoned ‘bee-friendly’ plants, when transplanted to your garden, will harm or kill visiting bees…

…and you will never even know it happened.

In 2016, even though the new FoE report indicated there is progress, it was shocking to see favorite annuals like coreopsis, salvia and petunias as testing extremely high in neonic residues. This FoE report shows that most large retailers are implementing plans to eliminate neonics from their plant sales’, as well as labeling any which have neonics in them.

However, there are still many US consumer reports of plant retailers continuing to openly sell plants grown with neonics without labels, professing ignorance as to their plant products, or who are being out-and-out deceptive in their sales’ practices.

If you chose to buy these plants and plant them in your garden…

…you may be endangering the pollinators in your backyard with neonic pesticides.


One significant (and, as yet, unrecognized by the public) place where neonics are entering the plant supply chain is at the creation of a plug (seedlings, liners, starts). These are seedlings, raised from seed in individual cells and sold ready for transplanting. Many nurseries purchase flats of plugs / starts from seedling wholesalers and transplant them, to save on the time, space and warm conditions needed to germinate seeds. When they order trays of these plugs / starts, they can select – at the point of sale – the option to have seeds grown which are “coated.” (See this example of a plant catalogue, utilized by plant retailers, which sells coated plugs, pp. 61-70 and 112.)

So, it is with the very seed itself – or, rather, the toxic treatment of the seed – where both the danger to pollinators …as well as the silent poisoning of our gardens, begins.

Without neonic-warning labels on each and every plug and start (which will, themselves, each be moved and transplanted at least once) – it becomes impossible for the home gardener to know if the adult plant they are purchasing is 100% guaranteed-free of a neonic pesticide.

Retailers, themselves, may not even know if their plugs and starts were neonic-treated, or what other chemicals may be in them! For example, one company in the plug business since 1968, has two nurseries which produce ornamental plant plugs, in nurseries in China.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in its 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, states, “…to our knowledge, no measurements are available of pollen or nectar residues of ornamental plants after coated seeds are planted…24

Just as it was uncovered that no federal agency was tracking the annual tonnage of neonics being spread across millions of acres of farmland via seeds, it appears no one is tracking just how poisoned the flowering plants, herbs, vegetable seedlings, annuals, perennials and bulbs are, which millions of gardeners are bringing home.

In 2016, Maryland became the first state to regulate neonic use among consumers; a  major weakness, however, is the lack of a requirement to label plants, seeds or nursery stock treated with neonics. The law places no neonic restrictions upon industry: for example, seed and pesticide companies, farmers, veterinarians and the home repair industry.


Much harder to control is the lingering presence of pesticides that have been applied to plants months before they reach your garden. There have been reports of dead bees – both honey bees and bumble bees – around commercially grown hanging baskets…

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden
Jennifer Hopwood and Matthew Shepherd

CONSIDER THIS: How many families - in just your neighborhood - planted or displayed neonic-poisoned flowering plants this summer? What has that done to the food supply of pollinators?

This is happening to pollinators all across the United States, in every single neighborhood, in every single town, village and city.

We gardeners need to get the word out: please talk to your neighbors - one neighbor at a time - and educate them. Use this FoE document, Bee Bold Take a Stand Against Bee Killing Pesticides, to help you.

Neonic usage is pervasive in the ‘home & garden’ world. It is industry-wide practice to use neonics as a foliar spray. Soil drenching, in the treatment of turf, trees and ornamental shrubs is another common application method, as well as trunk injections; pesticide residues can remain for months or years. Check the chemicals of landscape contractors you hire and – before you purchase – make sure that any plants, bulbs, rhizomes, bare root plants, shrubs and trees have not had their roots or soil neonic-drenched.

Even the hanging baskets you buy, overflowing with gorgeous annual blossoms, are routinely soaked in a vat of neonics 25 and neonics are included in some “plant starter mixes” (soil)!

With December coming, some families had better prepare for this one: neonics (imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) are approved for use on Christmas trees! Does this include wreaths? Door swags? One would assume yes. This fact may alter many Christmas, Solstice and winter celebrations of those families which also seek to protect pollinators. 26

Many town & city arborists across the country are routinely treating public shrubs and trees with neonics; some are flowering. This has become standard procedure in arboriculture. 27 Turf treatment with neonics, on both public and private land, is epidemic.

Neonics have found their way into our public parks, gardens, golf courses, nature centers, and even our children’s ball fields and playgrounds!

Many common “garden care” products (used by both homeowners and landscape contractors) contain neonicotinoids. These neonic products (and see here, pp. 60-61, and here) are readily available at hardware stores, garden centers and Big Box stores. The variety of trademarked neonic products on the market is so vast, I was unable to locate a single comprehensive, up-to-date product list to point you to!

I found out why. Searching at the EPA website for the six registered and active neonic pesticides approved for use in agriculture, here, returned a staggering 1,688 individual neonic product names – with names like Venom, Maxforce, Assail, Malice, Dominion and Scorpion – all either for sale on store shelves directly to consumers or to seed companies, farmers, vets and others, licensed to use these products in industrial agriculture!

The EPA site was not at all consumer-helpful. Go, instead, to the Pesticide Research Institute’s (PRI) Pesticide Product Evaluator, where you can quickly search for the pesticide data you need. (PRI assisted in the writing of the FoE reports, cited above.) Use of this database requires a fee, however, they allow for a one-day free trial. (I am still searching for a free, searchable site for consumers.)

Neonics are also being used to control parasites in pets (fleas, ticks and worms: please check with your veterinarian for the neonic “Nitenpyram,” and have them also check their databases for the other six registered neonics); as well as indoor insects (e.g. ants, termites, bedbugs); and as a wood preservative treatment, in insulation and building supplies. Neonics are – in point of fact – registered with the EPA for multiple different uses impacting consumer homes and gardens.

Given that the seeds of cover crops, like clover, are available with a neonic-coating, the next logical question is: What about grass seed? Is that, too, available with a neonic coating? A New Zealand writer, Jodie Bruning, asks: What’s all that coloured stuff on our grass seeds? This document confirms it is neonics.

This Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates, again, neonics are being used on grass seed. (I have not yet confirmed usage in the US. A quick call to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), should get me the name of the right person to ask about neonic-coated grass seed here in NYS, as a start.)

The ramifications, not only to our soil and pollinators, but to earthworms, beetles and the birds which eat earthworms and beetles – if neonic-coated grass seed is indeed on the market and being sold to US homeowners – is frightening.

Home owners and gardeners  have – unknowingly and without their permission – become the vector for a poison  – at doses allowed to be much, much higher than those used in food crop agriculture – which is endangering our pollinators and polluting not only our backyards, but – because we have not demanded public policy changes at the village, town and city levels – also our neighborhoods, parks, public spaces, and playgrounds.

One need only remember the fate of the rusty patched bumble bee to recognize we families must take action at the local level to protect our pollinators.


Since the FoE reports documented that some plant retailers are being deceptive and, given that plant neonic treatments are totally invisible, the warning, caveat emptor!  – buyer beware! – applies.

One of the FoE’s recommendations to retailers in its report, Gardener’s Beware 2016, is that retailers offer, for sale to the public, “third-party certified organic starts and plants.” 28

However, be warned that 36.2% of the respondents in the Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State of the Industry White Paper, a trade publication, stated they will continue to use neonics in production.

You, the consumer,

NEED to complain. When

enough consumers show – with their

wallets – that they won’t buy these

poisoned plants and they will

buy ‘certified organic’

plants – they’ll get

the message.

Your voice matters! Complain! Be upset! Post your neonic concerns with plant sellers! Call the plant managers! Because this FoE 2015 report demonstrates that consumer pressure can be leveraged to create change in the garden industry: Growing Bee-Friendly Garden Plants: Profiles In Innovation.

And, because forewarned is forearmed, here are some of the answers with which plant retailers are being prepped, by industry, for those times when we savvy consumers come along and start asking really uncomfortable and pointed questions about neonics in their plants.


Changing you gardening behaviors and habits is critical and it really matters.

Friends of the Earth makes it clear that we gardeners and homeowners are now part of the problem:

"Unfortunately for bees, other pollinators and for all of us, the now common cosmetic use of neonicotinoid pesticides in gardens, lawns and landscapes is an important factor in declining health of managed and wild pollinators." 29

If you are using neonics in your garden or grass or allowing landscape contractors to use these chemicals in your garden, on your grass, on your shrubs and trees, or anywhere on your property, STOP! Figure out a different strategy. Please consider going organic!

As gardeners, one of the safest courses for our honey bees and pollinators is to only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants which are labeled as such. Only buy from reputable, well-known plant sellers, who publicly advertise that they do not allow neonics (and pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) use at any stage of plant production.

A reputable nursery should be more than willing to verify this for you; nurseries, unlike ‘Big Box’ stores, are in the business of growing and selling plants and they value the relationships with longtime, repeat customers.

Be assertive; if you are not satisfied with the answers you get, walk away from that plant retailer and do not go back.

The safest course for home gardeners (and least expensive, for you thrifty green thumbs!), in my opinion? Propagate your own seeds in organic soil medium from ‘certified organic’ heirloom seeds and seeds which you saved yourself and initiate the time-honored practice of seed and plant exchanges between fellow (organic) gardeners.

For it is you, on behalf of the pollinators which grace your backyard, who are 100% in charge of which flowering plants end up in your garden. Plant wisely.


A beekeeper who uses organic practices in hive management, inspecting a Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH), shaped like a hollow log (a preferred wild honey bee habitat). This hive allows for easy inspection without unnecessarily disturbing the bees. He uses no gloves – to allow for sensitivity in inspection – and (often) no smoke, due to his familiarity with the rhythm of the hives.



Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) does not have a written, publicized neonic policy. I, therefore, am including the non-organic plants, seeds and gardening products (like straw, hay and soil) for sale at HWFC in this warning. Only purchase ‘certified organic’ plants and gardening products from HWFC. Its policy should state that HWFC will only purchase regionally-grown, ‘certified organic’ 30 indoor and outdoor plants, seeds, cut flowers, wreaths, door swags & evergreen products, and garden supplies. Period.

The policy needs to require written contracts with all plant & garden vendors, in which the vendor explicitly states that it does not use neonicotinoids (and any pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) at any stage of plant production, including in plugs & starts, soil mediums, foliar sprays, and elsewhere on the farm. Each plant needs to have a clear label.

With the gardening industry the way it is today – the industry-wide use of neonic-treated plugs & starts, the use of neonics in planting mediums, the greenhouse foliar spraying with neonics – it is simply not good enough to strive to not carry plants which are neonic-treated. HWFC must NOT carry any neonic-treated plants and supplies.

For “striving” will not keep our pollinators out of harm’s way.

This sample letter and questionnaire to a ‘valued grower’ from FoE (pp. 49-52) is a well-thought out way to insure that all the seeds, plants, and plant supplies HWFC sells are safe for pollinators; FoE highly recommends ‘certified organic’ as being the safest.

FoE also published a report and scorecard, Swarming the Aisles Rating Top Retailers on Bee-Friendly and Organic Food, which should be reviewed by our co-op for the ‘pollinator protection policies’ being implemented at top US food stores.


Before you buy those mum plants,

those unlabeled crocus bulbs,

that Christmas tree or wreath,


to make sure they have a label

that says they’re neonic-free


better, that they’re ‘certified organic.’

If not,

put them right back…

…and walk away.

We are very fortunate that, in addition to non-organic plants, HWFC includes ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds in its plant selections; many local nurseries do not. (Lots more about The Farm at Miller’s Crossing – a Hudson Valley farm selling certified organic vegetables, grass fed beef and maple syrup, and whose certified organic flower, vegetable and herb plants HWFC has sold for years – in a special, upcoming post.)

It is crystal clear to me – who has a family member who is a longtime ‘organic-practices’ beekeeper – that, until the plant-growing industry cleans up its act, our co-op needs to adopt the above policy and aggressively implement and publicize it.

We at HWFC cannot wait another season, for Christmas trees and wreaths will be coming in, probably loaded with neonics… …and without labels alerting us not to buy them.

Many other large corporations, like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Whole Foods have already adopted plans to get rid of neonics. Our co-op needs to proclaim its commitment to our pollinators and be proud of its stand against the sale of neonics and pesticides in any and all of the seeds, cut flowers, bulbs, holiday wreaths, plants and plant products which it offers for sale to the public.



Since we’re on the subject of seeds, let me highlight the two regional seed companies whose seeds HWFC sells. 31 Both offer ‘certified organic’ selections:

Take the time to read this wonderful interview with Fedco Seeds‘ founder, CR Lawn. Fedco, a Maine-based business founded in 1978, is a co-operative; HWFC has been a member for decades, maybe almost since Fedco’s founding! Approximately 30% of its seeds are ‘certified organic’ and Fedco sells neither coated nor genetically-modified seeds. They are quite knowledgeable about all the recent BIG Ag trends in seed production. Each February, HWFC Member-Owners look forward to the delivery of the simple, black & white newsprint Fedco seed catalogue, and we families, collectively, place an order with Fedco – all scrambling to meet their deadline! – and receiving a nice discount. Fedco seeds are sold at the store throughout the growing season, as well. 32

HWFC also sells seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Company, which, since May 2013, has been both “a Certified Organic Farm and a Certified Organic Handler.” Their website states: “We offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for vegetable, flower, and herb varieties. Many of these seeds we produce on our own small farm; the rest we source from other local farmers, farmers in other regions, and from trustworthy wholesale seed houses that are not owned by or affiliated with multi-national biotech companies.” In addition, they “have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, and … adhere to Vandana Shiva’s Declaration [on] Seed Freedom.

This company is quite a treasure for us here in the Hudson Valley! Their ‘Art Packs’ (this is the ‘coating’ your seeds come in!) are designed by artists, many from the northeast and many who are, themselves, gardeners. This is an incredible, added bonus to your seed purchase!

Fall Bulbs

Fedco appears low on fall bulb stock, please browse; Hudson Valley Seed Company has plenty in stock and “All bulbs are neonicotinoid-free, as well as systemic fungicide and systemic pesticide-free.”

Before you purchase your fall bulbs, please listen to this The Organic View radio show, Hidden Dangers of Systemic Pesticides on Tulips & Bulbs, with host June Stoyer, as she interviews Jeroen Koeman, President & Co-Founder of EcoTulips LLC.



“In the past we didn’t designed gardens that play a critical ecological role in the landscape, but we must do so in the future … As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, and the need to do so has never been so great.” 33

Douglas W. Tallamy

It’s not enough to purchase ‘certified organic’ annuals and perennials, if your intent is to feed local pollinators. You will want to bed in a variety of native flowering plants which are suited to your climate and soil and which span the growing season, so as to produce a variety of flowers, all season long. Be sure to plant late-bloomers for autumn pollinator needs.

If you just can’t part with certain beloved perennials, stick with the old-fashioned & heirloom varieties, something my Dad, a gardener, always recommended. They are ‘tried and true’ and they offer a better shot at providing good sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators than common, hybrid cultivars.

For, what you may not know, is that many of the annuals and perennials which you buy at ‘Big Box’ stores, grocery stores and most garden centers & nurseries are hybrids, bred specifically for the beauty and size of their blooms: their ‘curb appeal’ to humans. They are not bred for the flowers’ ability to produce high-quality, nutritious pollen and nectar.

Therefore, you need to become familiar with the wonderful world of native plants. Oh, joy, a new adventure in gardening to begin!

Here are three good resources to begin learning about native, pollinator-friendly plants for your garden: Friends of the Earth’s Bee & Bee Create Your Own Bed and Breakfast for Bumblebees, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s Pollinator Plants Northeast Region and Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.


In its second year, this HoneyBee Fest in the tiny NY hamlet of Narrowsburg, offered local honey, bee-related crafts, honey ice cream, music, bee workshops, and even a modest Bee Parade! Narrowsburg has officially “adopted” the honey bee; other Sullivan County towns have each “adopted” a different pollinator.

Kim Eierman, an Environmental Horticulturist and a presenter this weekend at the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, and with whom I met, highly recommended the works of Dr. Doug Tallamy, Sara Bonnett Stein, (who has sadly passed away) and her book Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards and, of course all of Rachel Carson’s books, including Silent Spring. Here is her own list of resources and her list of bee-friendly native perennials and late-blooming native perrenials. I am simply floored at the wealth of valuable information available on her website!


 This stand of native flowers in a suburban, upstate NY garden provides a better source of food for pollinators than the non-native cultivars and hybrid perrenials offered at most nurseries and ‘Big Box’ stores.

Ms. Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial, who cautioned me to remember “right plant, right place,” when selecting native plants, is a “Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science … an Accredited Organic Landcare Professional, a Steering Committee member of The Native Plant Center, and a member of The Ecological Landscape Alliance and the Garden Writers Association … She teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center in NY, Rutgers Home Gardeners School and several other institutions.

She recommended these two regional native plant nurseries, the Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY and Earth Tones Native Plants in Woodbury, CT, as being reputable, knowledgeable and happy to work with you in planning your pollinator garden.

Remember, in addition to honey bees, there are many other pollinators; native bees, bumblebees, butterflies, native wasps, moths and hummingbirds are just a few of the many different kinds of pollinators which might live in or fly through a backyard garden, seeking food and drink. Make sure your native plantings provide food for them, too. Study Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens and his new book, with co-author Rick Darke, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, and peruse the wonderful, (free!) information at EcoBeneficial.



Do not support BIG Ag and the gardening industry’s harmful, destructive and toxic practice of growing plants from neonic-coated seeds or the spraying & dousing of plants with neonic pesticides.

  • Do not share your family’s ‘garden budget’ with any retailer which is not selling ‘certified organic’ plants and seeds, (see 30) which are labeled as such.
  • Do not allow plants treated with neonics or pesticides onto your property. (Be sure to review your lawn & garden contractors’ chemicals, and your own, as well. Go organic.)
  • Do support ‘certified organic’ seed and plant growers & retailers.
  • Do support regional, native plant nurseries, which specialize in understanding how plants and pollinators help each other.
  • Do begin planting for pollinators even if you know nothing about it. Read! Learn! Begin! One plant at a time, create a pollinator habitat in your own backyard.
  • Do take the first step, and switch to organic gardening, if you have not yet done so.

Take the time to just sit and watch the pollinators in your backyard. That’s it, just observe. Let them teach you.

For our pollinators’ and our honey bees’ lives depend upon your wise plant purchases and your organic land stewardship.

And please remember, Grassroots Action is Powerful! We gardeners can, one-by-one, in our backyards, towns & villages & counties, help effect the change pollinators need, together.


This sign, in the front yard of Christ Lutheran Church in Woodstock, NY, which we passed on the way home from the Narrowsburg, NY HoneyBee Fest, says it all:
If you plant it, they will come.”


Future topics I will be exploring relating to neonics and our honey bees and pollinators include:

  • Neonicotinoids: a public policy nightmare. Get involved to help NY’s pollinators!
  • Are neonic-coated seeds even allowed in NYS?
  • Whatever happened to that NYS Pollinator Task Force, formed in 2015, which seems to be missing-in-action …a case of “Task Force Collapse Disorder” right here in NY’s capital? (Let our own local author, Tracy Frisch, introduce you to that topic in Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees.)
  • How to invest your town, village, county or city in supporting pollinators.
  • The pervasive & frightening use of neonics in our food supply.
  • “Greenwashing” initiatives in which BIG Food and BIG Organic are investing BIG Sums, to lure you – the consumer – into believing they are doing everything possible to protect pollinators. (They’re not.)
  • The beekeeper’s perspective, from those natural beekeepers who specifically use organic principles in hive management.
  • The large, commercial ‘migratory beekeepers’ – who truck thousands of beehives all across the country following seasonal crops  – and whose apiaries are among those being threatened – and disappearing – because of BIG Ag mono-cropping practices and neonic-poisoned crops.

GiveBeesAChanceDo you think ‘John Lennon would approve of this message?’


If you liked this post, learned something from it or have a question, please leave me a note, below. Feedback is welcomed!

In true grassroots’ fashion, pass this information on to other pollinator & plant lovers, organic food lovers, and your friends and family, of course.

You can also sign up to receive automatic GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! updates in your email box. When you scroll upward, an icon, ‘follow,’ will appear in the lower right hand corner of your screen. Click on that and follow!


This series of posts about the dangers of neonicotinoids – and the dangers to our seeds – is dedicated to Mom and Dad: Dad, who was a greenhouse man and the head gardener on a Hudson River estate, where we lived in the gardener’s cottage (learn about Dad’s battle with ‘THAT woodchuck,’ here), and Mom, who was a florist, by his side, and a lifelong backyard gardener. Mom and Dad taught my brother and me to love the land, plants, birds, bees and animals which are the grace, wonder & beauty, in our everyday life. I cannot even imagine having a gardening conversation with them, in which the words butterflies or hummingbirds appeared in the same sentence as the word ‘extinct.’

Dad warned my brother and me when we were kids, sitting together in the back of the greenhouse on a warm, autumn day, watching him as he prepped some seeds for saving, “Kids, now I want you to remember this. Listen to me. Pay attention! Always save your seeds.” These words of my Dad, the gardener, resonate as I bear witness – fifty years later, ever the gardener’s daughter – to the assault upon our pollinators and upon our seeds.

© 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



1. Please read the books:
2010: The systemic insecticides: a disaster in the making by Dutch toxicologist Henk Tenneke
2008: A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker.

The Center for Food Safety maintains a list of peer-reviewed, scientific studies documenting the adverse impacts of neonicotinoids, here.

2. Where you get your news from is critical. There is the ‘real‘ news about CCD, honey bee and pollinator die-offs and pollinator extinction threats – as expressed by organizations I have cited in this blogpost, such as Earthjustice (here and here); Center for Food Safety (here, here, here, here, here); The Pesticide Action Network of North America (here, here, here, here, here, here;); Beyond Pesticides (here, here, here); Friends of the Earth (here); Pesticide Research Institute (here); The Neonicotinoid View on June Stoyer’s The Organic View Radio Show (here and here); The Pollinator Stewardship Council (here and here);  The American Bird Conservancy (here and here), and others.

Individual beekeepers who have been defending honey bees and pollinators include Jeff Anderson, Lucas Criswell, Gail Fuller, David Hackenberg. In addition, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL); beekeepers who won one battle.

And then there is the ‘fake news’ being pumped out by standard media outlets like, for example, Bloomberg (Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder) and some public radio outlets (Are Bees Making A Comeback From Colony Collapse Disorder?).

US Right to Know warns against the Genetic Literacy Project in its July 18, 2017 article Jon Entine and Genetic Literacy Project Spin Chemical Industry PR.

3. Due to sunflowers being one of BIG Ag’s mono-crops which utilizes neonic-coated seeds, birders are cautioned to only purchase organic sunflower seeds for the wild birds they feed.

4. Beekeepers who supply fondant (a “fudge” made of sugar and water) during the winter months, need to be aware that close to 50 percent of the white, table sugar in our country is manufactured from sugar beets. Not only are sugar beet seeds routinely neonic-coated but, as of 2009, 90 – 95 percent of US sugar beet production was reported as using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® GM sugar beet seeds; the decision to do so was made in 2005. See: One Man’s Battle Against GM Sugar Beets by Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

For your fondant, source white sugar which is made from cane not sugar beets and, if possible, organic.

5. For example, in 2015-2016, NY was among the states which had the highest rates of (managed) honey bee die-offs, with 54.1 percent losses! National averages for the same time period were 44 percent. Some NYS commercial beekeepers have recently experienced 70 percent losses!

Annual losses of thirty percent had become the new national average, since 2006 – 2007. Prior to this, 5 – 10 percent in annual loss was the national norm among US managed honey beekeepers.

The USDA considers annual losses of 18.7 percent to be unsustainable.

This is a crisis.

6. Please read this 2016 article, Beekeeper Who Sounded Alarm on Colony Collapse Disorder Loses 90 Percent of His Hives, by Maryam Henein, the director of the award-winning documentary film, Vanishing of the Beesto understand how the US EPA is able to continue allowing neonic-coated seeds to be utilized in agriculture.

See the April 26, 2017 Citizen Petition to Regulate Coated Seeds under FIFRA.

In a partial victory, on May 8, 2017, a federal court ruled on a four-year old case, that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved 59 neonicotinoid pesticide registrations, including uses for landscaping and ornamental plants. Tom Theobald, the beekeeper cited above, was one of the plaintiffs, which also included beekeepers Steve Ellis, Jim Doan, and Bill Rhodes; Center for Food Safety (CFS); Beyond Pesticides; Sierra Club; and Center for Environmental Health. It remains to be seen how this decision will help pollinators.

7. Douglas, Margaret R. and John F. Tooker. “Large-Scale Deployment of Seed Treatments Has Driven Rapid Increase in Use of Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Preemptive Pest Management in U.S. Field Crops.” Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University. Environmental Science & Technology: 2015, 49 (8), pp. 5,088–5,097: pp. 5,088, 5,093. Web. 15 September 2017.

See the article by Nathan Collins, Bee-Harming Pesticides Are More Common Than Anyone Thought and this article, First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams, which both referenced the above study.

8. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 4. Web. 21 September 2017.

9. Conclusions of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. “Harm.” Worldwide Integrated Assessment, January 2015. Web. 20 September 2017.

See the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides’ chart comparing the toxicity, in honey bees, of DDT to neonicotinoids, here, in, Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates by L.W. Pisa

The IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – initiated by a group of European scientists – formed the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA). WIA “has made a synthesis of 1,121 published peer-reviewed studies spanning the last five years, including industry-sponsored ones. It is the single most comprehensive study of neonics ever undertaken, is peer reviewed, and published as open access so that the findings and the source material can be thoroughly examined by others.

10. Stoyer, June, host and Tom Theobald, special guest co-host. “The Big Picture on Neonicotinoids.” The Organic View Radio Show. The Neonicotinoid View, 8 September 2014. Web. 20 September 2017.

Please also see Tom Theobald, Are neonicotinoids the new DDT?

11. Walker, Larissa. “Pollinators and Pesticides.” Center for Food Safety, September 2013: p. 5. Web. 21 September 2017.

Dr. William Quarles states, “About 2-20% of a seed treatment is absorbed by the plant.” See: “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 3. Web. 25 September 2017.

12. USDA whistleblower, former USDA employee, and agro-ecologist and entomologist Dr. Jonathan Lundgren started a research initiative, Blue Dasher Farm, and has already begun producing data; this research demonstrates that simply growing a bunch of wildflowers (‘hedgerows‘) around fields which are continuing to be actively contaminated with neonics & windblown neonic seed dust will not protect pollinators from ongoing contamination by toxic neonics. (Consumer alert: funding ‘hedgerow‘ projects  – to the tune of millions of donated, corporate dollars to worthy nonprofits – is becoming the popular means for BIG Food and BIG Organic to [try and] demonstrate they are protecting our pollinators: ‘greenwashing‘ aimed directly at the consumer, assisted, in some cases, by happy, cartoon honey bees and colorful wildflowers on food product packages.)

This 2014 Center for Food Safety report, Heavy Costs  Weighing the Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Agriculture, was peer-reviewed by Dr. Lundgren, in his role as a Research Entomologist, US Department of Agriculture.

13. Wallheimer, Brian. “Researchers: Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure.” Purdue University. Purdue University News Service: 11 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

The study referred to is: Krupke, Christian H., Greg J. Hunt, Brian D. Eitzer,  Gladys Andino, Krispn Given.” Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields.” PLOS ONE. 03 January 2012. Web. 27 September 2017.

14. Ibid.

15. How many tons of talc are poisoning our farmlands each year? Is the talc which is being utilized purified and cosmetic-grade or not? Please see the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s document, Talc. (Talc is a substance implicated in ovarian cancer deaths among women.)

16. This is an Australian source.

This Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) report, Highly Hazardous Pesticides  Neonicotinoids, indicates neonics are being used on clover seeds in Canada. I am still researching the use of neonic-coated clover seeds in the US.

17. Hopwood, Jennifer, Mace Vaughan, Matthew Shepherd, David Biddinger, Eric Mader, Scott Hoffman Black, and Celeste Mazzacano. “Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides on Bees, with Recommendations for Action.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012: pp. v-vi. Web. 13 Sept. 2017. or

18. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 5. Web. 25 September 2017.

See the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s 2016 report, How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, for the case study, Comparison Between Agricultural and Backyard Products, pp. 50-53.

As an aside, cut flowers are toxic with many different pesticides! This article by Dr. Mercola will help you locate organically-grown cut flowers.

19. This The Guardian article by Karl Mathiesen, Bees may become addicted to nicotine-like pesticides, reviews the 2015 study, Sébastien C. Kessler,, Bees prefer foods containing neonicotiniod pesticides.

20. News Editor. “Neonicotinoid Pesticides Harm Bees’ Foodgathering Ability.” Environment News Service, 29 January 2014. Web. 02 September 2017.

21. Quarles, William, PhD. “Neonicotinoids, Bees, Birds and Beneficial Insects.” Bio-Integral Resource Center. Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly: Special Issue April 2014, Vol. XXVIII, Number 1-4: p. 8. Web. 25 September 2017.

Also see this January 2015 WIA document, Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and fipronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: “Overall, at concentrations relevant to field exposure scenarios in fields sown with coated seeds, imidacloprid and clothianidin pose risks to small birds, and ingestion of even a few treated seeds could cause mortality or reproductive impairment to sensitive bird species.

22. Please see these organizations’ pollinator resource pages: Friends of the Earth, here, and Pesticide Research Institutehere.

23. This is the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) publication, Guidance Seeds, Annual Seedlings, and Planting Stock in Organic Crop Production (NOP 5029).

24. Hopwood, Jennifer, Aimee Code, Mace Vaughan, David Biddinger, Matthew Shepherd, Scott Hoffman Black, Eric Lee-Mäder and Celeste Mazzacano. “How Neonicotinoids Can  Kill Bees The Science Behind the Role These Insecticides
Play in Harming Bees.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2016: p. 45. Web. 23 Sept. 2017.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council, here, the Pesticide Action Network of North America, here, the Center for Food Safety, here and here and Earthjustice, here, are all, like the Xerces Society, doing critical work for pollinators and the threats posed to them by neonicotinoids.

25. Once the season is over, where is the soil from these poisoned hanging baskets going? Are ever-thrifty gardeners dumping it into their gardens? Placing it in the compost pile? Saving it for re-use with which to re-pot an indoor plant? Using it to pot up a treasured perennial to gift to another gardener?

How much neonic-poisoned soil and dead plant matter has entered the ecosystem of our individual backyards, gardens and neighborhoods (and public parks, gardens, nature centers, and playgrounds), year-after-year, over the last 10-12 years, just from neonic-coated seeds, neonic spraying and soil dousing of ornamental plants alone, plant treatments about which we gardeners knew nothing?!

Gardening organically now appears to be the only safe option.

26. Honey bees make propolis (“bee glue”), a sticky, antifungal, antibacterial substance used to seal cracks in the hive, from, among other things, the resin from conifers. With the Christmas tree industry now using neonics on its December products, it opens up yet another avenue for contamination of the honey bee hive by neonics.

27. Read about the June, 2013 killing of 50,000 bumble bees in Oregon after foliar spraying of trees with a neonic: Scientists Call for an End to Cosmetic Insecticide Use After the Largest Bumble Bee Poisoning on Record.

28. Kegley, Susan, PhD, Tiffany Finck-Haynes and Lisa Archer. “Gardeners Beware 2016 Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Across the U.S..” Friends of the Earth U.S. Friends of the Earth, August 2016: p. 17. Web. 10 September 2017.

29. Ibid, p. 17.

30. NOFA-NY: I am currently looking into the meaning of ‘certified organic’ plants  & seeds, as defined by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and, additionally, if there are any NYS regs. which may apply to the labeling and sale of ‘organic’ plants and seeds sold in NYS. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) is the place to go to for questions like this. (And please consider joining!)

Here is, by the way, NOFA-NY’s 2014 Policy Resolution on Neonicotinoids.

New York farmers may also join the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge program. “The Farmer’s Pledge™, [is] a separate and distinct program from USDA Certified Organic … A Farmer’s Pledge certificate displayed at a farm market stand shows customers a farmer’s commitment to responsible growing and a willingness to be transparent to their community. It shows that a farmer takes an environmentally responsible, ecologically sound, holistic approach to farming. This is a wonderful program for farms transitioning to certified organic, small start up farms, and farms that are already certified organic.

Certified Naturally Grown: Would purchasing ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ (CNG) seedlings and plants provide a 100% guarantee that pollinators won’t be harmed from neonics? I don’t know. It needs looking into.

More and more small family farms, which value organic principles but which can’t afford the time and expense of USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certification, are choosing ‘CNG‘ as an option. Here is CNG’s FAQ.

You should read the Cornucopia Institute’s NOP exposé, to understand the threats to small farms: The Organic Watergate—White Paper Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program.

How does the USDA NOSB ‘certified organic‘ differ from the NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge™ differ from Certified Naturally Organic (CNG)? We have now reached the point of absolute confusion for your average consumer and gardener in NYS, including me. I cannot clarify this for you, because it appears very murky. Until I understand the difference, I am sticking to purchasing plants and seeds which are ‘certified organic.’

31. Before there was (almost) anybody, there was Johnny’s Selected Seeds; many of us relied upon Johnny’s! There are, thankfully!, many more companies selling organic, non-GMO seeds. As I uncover reputablecertified organic‘ seed company lists, I will post them here:

Here is NOFA-NY’s list of sources for organic seed.

Here is Beyond Pesticide’s list of Companies That Grow and Distribute Organic Seeds, cited at the Friends of the Earth website.

Here is The Skinny on Seeds and Seedlings from Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).

The Pollinator Stewardship Council has wildflower seeds for sale here as well as pollinator “houses”.

Here are two seed company recommendations from the Xerces Society: Ernst Conservation Seed Company. “Ernst is one of the largest native grass and wildflower seed producers in eastern North America…” and Pollinator Conservation Seed Mixes.

I love this SmallFootprintFamily’s The Ten best Seed Companies for Heirloom and Non-GMO Seeds. For example, this blogpost alerts us that, “Seeds of Change was acquired by the Mars company…” (Be sure to scan the comments!)

For your information, Dr. Phil Howard at Michigan State University, has been keeping track of seed industry structure and the consolidations which have occurred between 1996-2013. Please view his other Info Graphics, as well, especially his “Organic [Food] Industry Structure” Info Graphic.

32. Co-op Member-Owners, please read Fedco Seeds’ founder CR Lawn’s Fall 2003 article, Where Have All the Co-ops Gone?, about the demise of US consumer co-operative food distributors (wholesalers) and consolidations with United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI). 14 years later, where have all the (retail) co-ops gone?

33. Tallamy, Douglas W. “Gardening for Life.” Web. 24 September 2017.


This blogpost is referenced at EcoBeneficial!

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! “GMOS REVEALED” video series: free viewing this weekend!


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 September 16, 2017: Visit the Albany County, NY Hilltowns on a self-guided Farms & Artisan Tour, Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17. Support our local farm families, many of whom are organic or on their way to organic!

Dear fellow HWFC Member-Owners, fellow US food co-op Member-Owners, and those who value and cherish organic food for your family!

Longtime since I posted: life… …and the gardening season… …drew my energy elsewhere! That said, here is really, really important  information for your family.

Please watch the nine-part video series “GMOS REVEALED,” spearheaded by the team of Dr. Patrick Gentempo, Dr. Beau Pierce, and film-maker Jeff Hays (Bought, Doctored, Undoctored). The series has already run once – FOR FREE – starting on 08/22/17. It was announced on the LIVE Q&A Session, two nights ago, that GMOS REVEALED will be running again – FOR FREE – starting this weekend (09/09/17). It has already had more than 1 million views worldwide. Please go here, GMOS REVEALED, provide your email, and you should get updates re. the next FREE viewing dates/time.

The GMOS REVEALED team decided to repeat the free viewing, given that so many families in Texas were unable to watch it, due to the hurricane.

This FREE viewing is time limited; it will end on Sunday, September 10th at midnight EST. Again, go to:


Please do an internet search on the term “GMOS REVEALED” to read reviews about the series.

The GMOs REVEALED website states:

“What are they not telling us?

FACT: Glyphosate, the chemical originally developed to de-scale 
pipes, boilers and metals, is now used to KILL plants. What’s 
more, it is found in 75% of processed foods.

Global Leaders in the fields of medicine, law, agriculture and 
politics share their unique expertise as they explain the 
complex relationship between bacteria, soil, and your body.

GMOs ARE POISON. People and animals that eat genetically modified 
food crops are consuming high levels of toxic glyphosate 
herbicide. There is an unholy marriage of toxic Glyphosate 
herbicide and foods genetically engineered to tolerate 
large doses of it. It’s silently poisoning our land, food, and US!

FACT: The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy 
estimates that 85% of U.S. corn is genetically modified. Other 
widely modified crops include canola oil, alfalfa and sugar beets.

FACT: GMOs are banned in 27 countries. Also, in 61 countries 
foods must be labeled as being genetically modified - but not in 
the U.S.

Discover how Big Agriculture and companies like Monsanto have 
drastically influenced agriculture in America, leading to 
corrupt, inhumane and toxic farming practices.”

American Families Need to Stop Buying Foods Produced with GMOS and the Toxic Chemicals Glyphosate, Roundup, and the Class of Pesticides Known as Neonicotinoids

This series (~23 hours) was so phenomenally informative – with explosive new information – to my own family’s understanding of our food supply, hidden GMOs (and “genetic splicing,” “gene editing,” and “genetic silencing”), Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, neonicotinoids (neonics) and the active and ongoing threat to US honey bees and all pollinators from those neonics – that I am going to formally ask HWFC to buy a copy of the series for viewing by any and all HWFC Member-Owners.

I encourage you to ask your local library to also purchase a copy of GMOS REVEALED. We need to get this info out to more families in our own area.

  • Be sure to listen to the interview with Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute, which provides “economic justice for family scale farming.” The Cornucopia Institute is, specifically, an organic industry watchdog organization; I learned a lot from this interview.

We, as food co-op Member-Owners, cannot remain ignorant of the facts presented in this series, given that our business is food …and that we present ourselves as a locally-owned food co-op which actively supports local, organic, bio-dynamic, and sustainable farmers and farm products, and that our policies, as of the January 29, 2017 Membership Meeting, address the GMO issue in our Food and Product Manual, which says, in part:

HWFC shall require that our suppliers, including distributors, be required to disclose any information that they know about the GMO content for the product we are purchasing.”

After viewing this series, you need to find out which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling:

  • are genetically-modified?
  • have Roundup or Glypohosate in them?
  • include wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans, or sunflowers: which, in the US, are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant? Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant?
  • have neonicotinoids (neonics) in them: neonics are now being used to coat many of the the seeds which farmers buy
  • are not labeled as being genetically-modified and/or as having Roundup, Glyphosate and/or neonics in them?
  • include ingredients or “sub-ingredients” which themselves likely (or do) contain GMOs, Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, and/or neonics.
    • There are many, many, many “ingredients” or “sub-ingredients” which may be toxic; please take the time to do your homework.
  • leave you thinking – at checkout – that your purchases are safe from Roundup, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics – due to the lack of disclosure on the label?

Which of the food & plants which Honest Weight Food Co-op is selling are:

  • 100% organic, a label which provides the only means we consumers have right now to be (pretty) sure the food & plants we are buying are free of Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate, GMOs, and neonics?

I cannot answer these questions, but each and every one of us Member-Owners needs to ask these questions, quantify the answers for our families, and take a good, hard look at our co-op’s wholesale food supply, especially the inner aisles with their large percentage of processed, packaged, non-organic, “natural” foods.

While We’re on the Subject: What Is “Organic?”

Did you  know there is not one but four separate categories of organic labeling, as authorized by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)? Yes, four! It’s not enough to just “buy organic!”

You had better learn the differences right now! The USDA NOSB made buying organic food unnecessarily complex and burdensome, especially for busy families:

1. “100 percent organic”

"'100 percent organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and 
water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed 
farm products can be designated '100 percent organic.' 
Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added 
ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can 
also be labeled '100 percent organic.'"

2.  “Organic”

"'Organic' can be used to label any product that 
contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the 
ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products 
that are not commercially available as organic and/or 
nonagricultural products that are on the National 

3. “Made with Organic ______”

"'Made with Organic ______' can be used to label a product that 
contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients 
(excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed 
constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the 
nonorganic portion."

4. "Specific Ingredient Listings"

"The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient 
statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic 
contents—for example, 'Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic 
tomatoes, salt.'”

We do know now – from the above definitions – that “nonorganic ingredients’ are allowed in foods labeled as “organic.” Exactly which “nonorganic” ingredients are allowed in foods with the three label designations, which are not “100 percent organic?

At the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service NOSB website, I drilled down to the regulations governing “processed products,” which is what you and I would find on the shelves of our food co-op, and which would end up in our shopping cart. (I did not review the regulations governing synthetic and nonsynthetic substances allowed/prohibited in organic crop and/or livestock production.)

Here is the USDA NOSB’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which gives you the information about “processed products.” There are two regulations which govern “processed products:”

Here is §205.605, which governs “Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic’ or ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).'”

Here is §205.606, which governs “Nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as ‘organic.'”

There are a whole lot of ingredients allowed in organic foods which are suspect and which I would not chose to eat!

To my mind, there is so much wiggle room here – which could allow for Roundup Ready, genetically modified organisms in organic food – that I am not going to comment until I contact the Cornucopia Institute, US Right to Know, the Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, and others, for clarification.

However, begin your own research. See the Food Democracy Now! and The Detox Project report: Glyphosate: Unsafe On Any Plate Food Testing Results and Scientific Reasons for Concern. Perhaps this report will provide data on GMO/Glyphosate levels being found in organic foods. (In fact, it does, to a limited degree.)

My bottom line: buy “100 percent organic,” 100% of the time, and buy locally-made; support our local, organic farmers! It seems to offer the consumer the safest protection from GMOs, Roundup and Glyphosate.

The “Dark Act” Is In Play: We Have Been Denied The Right To Know

The passage of The Dark Act (“Deny Americans the Right to Know”) or the Roberts-Stabenow Compromise last summer (2016), has given the food industry virtual carte blanche in including Roundup Ready GMOs and GMOs in our (non-organic) food supply and they do not have to disclose that fact on food labels. This is in effect right now; if you are buying non-organic foods, that food could have Roundup Ready GMOs in it…

…and you would not even know it.

The label, on which we are accustomed to reading the “List of Ingredients” to help us make wise food purchase decisions, has been hijacked…


…and, in part, silenced.

Imagine that: a label which does not tell you what’s in the product! Isn’t that the purpose of a list of ingredients on a label: to tell you what’s in it?

Secret, unknown ingredients – Roundup Ready GMOs, Glyphosate – are now being included in our food and we have no way of finding out which foods they are in!

Please go to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) website to update yourself on this travesty which is now harming American families: Tell Congress: Repeal the DARK Act! According to this OCA article:

How did corporations convince Congress to ignore the will of more than 90 percent of Americans? The Big Food companies that both sell a lot of GMOs but also have bought up influential organic brands, convinced leaders of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to do their bidding.

The leaders of this coup were Smuckers, Danone, UNFI, General Mills, and Organic Valley.

Smuckers and UNFI have long held seats on the OTA board, while Danone is represented by recent acquisitions Earthbound Farm and WhiteWave. It’s easy to see why Danone, General Mills, Smuckers and UNFI would oppose labels, given how many GMOs they sell. But why did Organic Valley play along? Because of its business relationships with Danone and General Mills.”

UNFI, or United Natural Foods, Inc., is the primary wholesaler for Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon). It is also the primary wholesaler for HWFC, and many other large, independently-owned, US food co-ops, through their contracts with National Co+op Grocers (NCG).


The information in GMOS REVEALED is crucial to your family’s health. Take the time and listen to the well-known physicians & researchers this weekend!!

Do you know, positively, that the food, plants, and water which you buy for your family are all free of Glyphosate, Roundup, Roundup Ready GMOs, and neonicotinoids?

Do you know what these chemicals do to your own health? The health of your children?

Better find out.


  • 4% of the entire US population had chronic diseases in the 1960s. In 2017, 46% of just US children (pediatrics) now have a chronic disease by the age of 12.
  • 1 in 40 children in the US today have been diagnosed with autism. That stat, in the 1960s, was 1 in 10,000 children.
  • Did that statistic sink in? 1 child in 40 in the US today today is diagnosed with autism. Estimates are – if nothing is done – by approximately 2040 1 in 2 US children will have autism.
  • A doctor has positively correlated the rise in certain auto-immune diseases in the U.S. (diabetes is one example, autism and ADHD are others) with the introduction of genetically-modified foods into the food supply in 1996.
  • Doctors revealed that glyphosate bio-accumulates in your own body, every single time you ingest it. This poison also – at the same time – harms your own body’s ability to detox it out.
  • US wheat, oats, barley, edible dry beans and sunflowers are routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant. Lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes which are likely sprayed with Glyphosate as a pre-harvest dessicant.
    • This use of Glyphosate as a dessicant has nothing to do with – and is a separate issue from – the use of Glyphosate or Roundup in GMOs.
  • There is NO REQUIREMENT for the food, agri-business and agri-chemical industries to disclose the presence of Glyphosate / Roundup / Roundup Ready GMOs / neonics in any non-organic food your family eats. Organic foods are not supposed to have these chemicals in them, per USDA NOSB regulations.
  • LABELS DO NOT TELL YOU if Roundup, Glyphosate, Roundup Ready GMOs, GMO ingredients and/or neonics are present in that food. The lack of this data on the food label DOES NOT MEAN THE FOOD IS FREE OF THESE SUBSTANCES.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL sugar beets grown in the US today are treated with neonicotinoids (“neonics,” which are implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and killing honey bees) and are GM, Roundup Ready. White sugar is just one of the products made from sugar beets; 54% of domestically-produced white sugar comes from sugar beets.
    • MSG / processed free glutamic acid is often produced by growing GM bacteria on a sugar beet medium.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy seed in the US today is treated with neonics.
  • VIRTUALLY ALL (non-organic) corn and soy grown in the US today is also GM, Roundup Ready.
  • Corn products or derivatives are pervasive in our food supply (see here, here, and especially here and here) and other common household products, as well (see here.) Go and check the labels of the processed, packaged food you buy, to confirm this!
    • Examples of just some of the food products made from corn are: high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, some ascorbic acids (vitamin C) and some vitamin Es, vitamin fillers, cellulose, baking powder, citrate, citric acid, Xylitol, Sorbitol, corn meal, Maltrodextrin, Dextrose, Ethanol, HVP, flavoring, Malic Acid, Malt, Malt flavoring, modified food starch, MSG/processed free glutamic acid, Xanthan Gum.
  • Corn and soy are among the top feed used for livestock. The chemicals they ingest – the Roundup Ready GMOS, Glyphosate and neonics in (non-organic) corn and soy feed- are ingested by you in the eggs, chicken, turkey, beef and pork, and so on, which you eat.
  • Scientists are now asking the question: does Genetically-Modified, Roundup Ready food alter the genetic make-up of humans and our diverse gut bacteria? Do you even understand the ramifications of that possibility? You’re not alone, most of us don’t either. It is very, very serious.

Please go to GMOS REVEALED, and plan to give as much time as you can this weekend to viewing it. Your family, our honey bees and pollinators – and our food co-op – deserve it!

And please support local, organic farm families with your food dollars. They are protecting our soil, water, food and pollinators.

I will do my part and ask HWFC to purchase this series, for use by any and all HWFC Member-Owner families.


© 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


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


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.


       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…)


       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.


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


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


       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 (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.


       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 . Download the proposed changes from the links at the bottom of the web page.

See ya Sunday!

© 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


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

[2] Picture of Thomas Paine. Photo via Wikipedia Commons. 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: INVITATION (RSVP) REQUIRED for some to Cast Vote at Bloomingfoods’ 40th Annual Meeting


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.



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.


       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
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.


       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:


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:


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:


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:


Please visit 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.



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?


       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.


       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.


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.


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


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?


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?)


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


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.”


Has nobody on the Bloomingfoods Board or in Management (or their consultants) ever heard of – 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

See: Electronic Frontier Foundation at

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?


       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 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?


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]


       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!


       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.)


       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.


       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]


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


       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.


       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.



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 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!


       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


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]


[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).”


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.”


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.


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.


[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.


[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.


[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


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: 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.


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.



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


       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.


GMOs will start showing up everywhere.

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


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


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?


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?


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


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?


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.


       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?


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….


       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.


       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
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


       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
 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”

(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
 Any “flavors” or “flavoring”
 Natural flavor
 Citric acid, Citrate (E 330)
 Anything “ultra-pasteurized”
 Barley malt
 Malted barley
 Brewer’s yeast
 Pectin (E 440)
 Malt extract

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
 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”
 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.)


       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”).


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:


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 – 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.


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.”


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:


“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.



       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.




       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!!!



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
 -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…


        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.


“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.


       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, the internet’s most-trafficked natural health news website. He is also the creator of,,, 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,, 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.


       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.”


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?


       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.


       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.


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?


       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.


       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?


       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:

[2] Reid, Dr. Katherine. Reading Labels: “No MSG Added.” Unblind My Mind blog post, January 21, 2014. See:

See also:

[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:

[5] Truth in Labeling Campaign. Umami: the “fifth taste” that MSG-sensitive people can’t taste. Truth in Labeling Campaign webpage, unknown date. See:

[6] Meyers, Ronald L., CNC. EXCITOTOXINS Death by Profit Margin. 2004. See:

[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.


[8] Food Identity Theft website. Tomato Sauce Scam webpage. Food Identity Theft Powered by Citizens for Health, unknown date. See:

[9] The Organic and Non-GMO Report. Sugar Beet Industry Converts to 100% GMO, Disallows Non-GMO Option, June 2008. See:

[9a] Truth in Labeling Campaign. What is MSG?  Truth in Labeling Campaign webpage, unknown date. See:

[10] Reid, Dr. Katherine. Reading Labels: “No MSG Added.” Unblind My Mind blog post, January 21, 2014. See:

[11] Hoernlein, Carol. MSG Truth Facebook Page post. May 4, 2016. See:

[12] Fassa, Paul. MSG Now Used to Spray Crops. Natural News, April 29, 2009. See:

[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:


[15]  McKinley, Jennifer. ‘Secretive’ Chemicals Being Hidden in Food Under ‘Artificial Flavors’ Label.  Natural News, April 10, 2008. See:

[16] Warner, Melanie. Food Companies Test Flavorings That Can Mimic Sugar, Salt or MSG. New York Times, April 7, 2005. See: 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:

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

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.)



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 .



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)

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…


  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.


Laura Hagen



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.



The results from last night’s Honest Weight Food Co-op Quarterly Membership Meeting and Budget vote are as follows (I’m echoing official vote tallies from this morning’s Inside Scoop)

Vote Results 

Budget Passed, Discount Passed

224 Members checked in, along with 2 Shareholders, and 3 Provisional Voters

Vote to adopt the 2016-2017 Budget:
196 Yes, 23 No

Vote to approve member discount reduction ending June 30, 2017:
184 Yes, 36 No


Congratulations to our Board, Treasurer, Finance Committee, and acting GM and his staff, for putting together a plan which we all agreed to live with. The presentation last night (and in all the Budgetary Presentations leading up to last night) was superb! Jim Guzewich got a solid round of applause. One Member stated, it was the best financial presentation we can remember in many, many years. Clear, concise, factual and well laid out. Thank you!

And thank you to our Membership Committee for – once again – doing a superb job of organizing the meeting! We appreciate your hard work!

Not only are there -0- planned employee lay-offs in this budget, the staff is getting a 3% raise (based upon brand new staff assessment tools, which go into effect on July 1). The 3% is intentionally graded: the staff on the lowest salary tiers (where the majority of our staffing is) will receive the largest of the salary increases (again, based upon new employee performance criteria); those who make more per hour will see a lower increase (based upon the new employee performance criteria).

The budget includes for likely increases to the cost of staff health and dental plans; thus protecting two important benefits to our employees at HWFC.

There is a freeze on new employee hires, which is a necessary belt-tightening measure.

This budget did an excellent job of protecting our current employees at HWFC, given the economy, and given that many local employers within this industry are either not giving COLAS and/or raises, they are giving less than 3%, or they are downsizing.

We should be proud that we voted for a plan which managed to do these things for our employees!

Member-Owner employees and Member-Owners who work weekly took the brunt of the cuts in the budget: a 4% cut, with our 24% discount going down to 20%. However, it will pop back up to 24% in the 2nd Q (from October 1- December 31) to account for increased holiday shopping. It will drop back down to 20% from January 1 – June 30, 2017.

If we all do our parts – and that is a tall order! – we can see that 24% go back to permanent status on July 1 , 2017. Keep that as a goal and watch each quarterly budget report like a hawk! Hey Owners, we gotta “watch the till” and keep us moving in a positive growth direction!

Quite a change to the Member Meeting last June, don’t you think!

One of the most important parts of the evening, for me, was when Chris Colarusso and Rita Nolan stood up and reminded us about our situation one year ago. It was last year – at the June Membership Meeting and Annual Budget Vote, that Chris and Rita stood up and warned us not to vote for a decrease in our Member-Owner discount, as that (former) Board was requesting of us.

It took them a great deal of determination and grit to be allowed to get on that agenda (and they were only allowed, I think, ten minutes); and they took a barrage of criticism at the meeting from a select few. (You may remember the shouting …and those microphones “mysteriously” dropping-out …at inopportune moments for (only) the Member-Owner speakers). (Did they think we were born yesterday? And, hey, I’m a musician, I know from microphones!)

Never-the-less, that was the wake-up call for some of us; that moment, last June, when two lone individuals stood up, together, bucked the crowd, went against the prevailing wind of the reigning Board & Management ..and shouted a warning cry across the hull of our co-op.

Except they did not shout. They spoke simply, eloquently and passionately.

That took a great deal of courage. Chris and Rita, thank you.

Chris reminded us that it was only four months later – in October, 2015 – that we petitioned for an Emergency Special Membership Meeting and she said, “We wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t done that.

She got a solid round of applause for that. We know.

I remind everyone reading today, that is was Chris Colarusso who brought that petition for an emergency meeting to challenge the machinations of an out-of-control Board & Management, to the Member-Owners on the morning of Saturday, October 23, 2015.

Chris then went on to assure us that the budget we were being presented with this time, this year, was factual, accurate, complete, verified …and trustworthy (unlike last year’s, as we now know).

She and Rita recommended – one year later – that we all vote for a cut to our Member-Owner discount and that we support the budget.

We listened to them. We believed their words last June, and voted no to a reduction to our discount …and we believed their words this June. We voted yes to a 4% cut and we supported the new budget.


Every once in a while, in life, you are witness to a moment, moments – fleeting and ephemeral – which are remarkable in their power to positively affect and change human life …to positively and greatly change a community for the better.

And, sometimes, just sometimes, you are aware of those moments.

Such a moment happened last night, when Chris and Rita stood up, when I reflected back to them standing in that same spot last year…

…and I realized: these two people – whom we are all blessed to know! – quietly took a stand and moved an entire food co-op.