Why I encourage Iowans to caucus for Bernie Sanders

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on topics of statewide, local, or national importance. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My name is Aaron Camp. I’m not an Iowan, in fact, I’m a lifelong resident of Vermilion County, Illinois who has never been to Iowa. I’m a staunch supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, although I am not officially affiliated with the Sanders campaign in any way. With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just days away, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage Iowans to participate in the Democratic caucus and caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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Warning signs on GMO feed and animal health

A new study in a peer-reviewed journal indicates that pigs fed a diet containing genetically-modified corn and soy had more severe stomach inflammation and (in females) heavier uteri than pigs fed an equivalent diet in conventionally raised corn and soy that was not genetically-modified. You can read the full article describing research on an Iowa farm here (pdf). For a summary of key findings, click here or here. The pigs “were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions.”

These results are disturbing, considering that more than 90 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in Iowa are now “Roundup Ready” biotech varieties, sprayed with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Many anecdotal reports have linked animal health problems to genetically-modified feed. At the 1000 Friends of Iowa annual meeting on June 8, large-animal veterinarian Arthur Dunham described nutritional deficiencies, fertility problems, and unexplained deaths that he has seen increasingly in the cattle and swine herds of his clients. Dunham has been in practice for nearly 40 years and presented data about lower levels of certain vitamins and minerals (including B-12, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and iron) in feed made from genetically-modified crops.

Monsanto and its allies dismiss such data as anecdotes and cite their own corporate-funded studies, which allegedly show the safety of GM crops. The new scholarly article describes the limitations of earlier research and calls for further studies on the subject. (Very few studies have been conducted over a time period longer than 90 days, for instance.) One Danish hog farmer saw big improvements after switching from genetically-modified feed, but Roundup crops are so dominant in this country that it can be hard for farmers to source animal feed that hasn’t been sprayed with glyphosate.

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Don't hold your breath, Secretary Vilsack

I was struck by this passage in a Sunday Des Moines Register feature on Iowans in key posts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

[USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administrator Michael] Michener declined to discuss the department’s strategy for promoting international acceptance of biotechnology, saying it’s still in the works. But he argues that the Obama administration can be more effective than the Bush administration, which went to the World Trade Organization to unsuccessfully break European resistance to the genetically engineered crops.

Vilsack is taking a lighter approach, Michener said, recounting a discussion the secretary had with his German counterpart.

Vilsack “made this very creative argument on how during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Europeans would lecture us on how we had to bring our citizens along and educate them on the science of climate change. He turned that around and said, ‘You know, you’ve got a similar responsibility on biotech’” Michener said.

That certainly is a “creative” analogy. Getting Americans on board with serious policies on climate change may be our only hope for avoiding a catastrophic global warming scenario. Gaining European acceptance for genetically-modified crops has no comparable global benefit (no, these crops won’t magically end world hunger).

But a more important point is after the jump.

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