Tag Archives: Monsanto

Every bite counts: Parts 3 & 4.

Part 3. The People.

staples-2752_640Feeding the world is easy, and we don’t need Monsanto to do it. Did you know that there’s enough crop land in the United States alone to feed 10 billion people? One country could potentially feed the entire global population. So, why aren’t we? Because that only works if we’re not wasting our resources on animal agriculture in all its caloric inefficiency.

One acre of land can produce 40,000 lbs of potatoes, but only 250 lbs of meat.

One acre of legumes produces 10 times more protein than an acre devoted to animals raised for their meat.

70% of the grains produced in the U.S. go to feeding animals raised for food, instead of being grown for people. 80% of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses, but that food is exported to wealthier countries in order to feed animals that will be used for food. It doesn’t get more unjust than that. “Growing grain for feed instead of food may be humanity’s greatest evil yet.”

Artist: Lovis CorinthThose are all issues that you’ll hear every vegan raise. There is, I feel, a missed opportunity in the vegan movement – people that almost never get mentioned in the discussion on the human victims of this system: slaughterhouse employees. I start out with the assumption that most people who work in slaughterhouses do so because it’s the only, or one of the only, options open to them. This will be the topic of another post in the future. For the moment, suffice it to say that one of the first signs of psychopathy in children is harming animals, so why is it considered normal for someone to kill (certain) animals as an adult? Only because we don’t think about it. Society sweeps that bit under the carpet. Many slaughterhouse workers develop serious mental disorders, including PTSD, from the work that they do, and U.S. communities with slaughterhouses have 166% increase in arrests for rape compared to those without them. It is NOT normal.

The next time you buy a piece of meat, just take a moment to wonder who you paid to kill it for you and what kind of effect your demand for that piece of meat might be having on someone else’s mental health.

Part 4. The Animals.

sheep-451981_640To be honest, this is a much more important issue for me now than it was when I first decided to change to a vegan lifestyle. The environmental and health factors were enough. But, since I’m no longer emotionally invested in the ramifications of being a meat, dairy, & egg consumer, I’ve been able to mentally shine a light on those aspects of consuming animal products that were just too disturbing and painful for me to really evaluate while I was still participating in them. For anyone who has shut off that portion of your ability to deal rationally with the consequences of your actions – I get it!

Empathy is a difficult skill to develop and use because it requires that we open ourselves up to feeling pain and sorrow on behalf of others, and most of us have enough trouble dealing with our own suffering without adding to the burden. In this particular case, it also opens us up to feeling guilt, which is an unpleasant but necessary step on this path. Just remember, pain, physical or emotional, exists in order to help us avoid unhealthy behaviors.

It just doesn’t make sense that we love our dogs and cats like members of our own families, and recognize their individual personalities and their rights as living beings, while treating others as products. There’s some massive cognitive dissonance there, and it takes time to be able to confront that. If you haven’t yet watched anything like the documentary Earthlings, then whatever you imagine the treatment of these animals to be like, you can start by multiplying the horror by 10 to even get close. More than 2000 years ago, Pythagoras said,”For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love.”

In the end, I realized that living as a vegan is the only way for me to align my actions with my ethics.

Save yourself. Save the planet. Save the human race. Save the animals. Go vegan.

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The Monsanto Protection Act

We’re Not Done Fighting.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, as it’s titled in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, was passed by the Senate in March 2013, and remains in effect for 6 months. That means it’s set to expire this month (September 2013). Do you think Monsanto is going to let it expire? Do you think they want another public outcry against their provision? I’m guessing no, and no. It’s rational to expect that they’ll try to sneak in another provision somewhere without too many people finding out about it.

Guess what: they already have!

Good thing we have the Center for Food Safety to inform us, but even they only found out after the fact. On September 10th, the House passed a 3-month appropriations bill which included an extension of the Monsanto Protection Act. Shame on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The good news is, it’s only for 3 months, and we can continue to voice dissent and try to ensure that this doesn’t continue.

As the CFS website puts it, “the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods.” This provision essentially grants immunity to Monsanto, regardless of decisions by the judicial system that would otherwise impair the company’s ‘right to profit.’

You can read about the 5 Terrifying Things to Know about the Monsanto Protection Act, and get involved. Join the March Against Monsanto that will be taking place on October 12th, call your state representatives, and inform others about this vitally important issue! Click on the image below to learn more.

The Rising Danger of Genetically Modified Trees

“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. No useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.” ~ Woodrow Wilson

GM TreesAn outrageous notion, perhaps, but one which Monsanto certainly abides by as it works tirelessly to batter down the doors not only of new markets, but of new products which they know will do further damage to the environment and encounter increasing opposition from citizens around the world.

There are genetically engineered trees that have been designed for two purposes – fruit trees for food and trees for the paper industry. There are currently test fields, around the globe, of genetically modified trees. Most of the test plots in the US are in the southeast, and the areas around them have already seen adverse effects from being contaminated by the pollen from GE trees whose ‘terminator gene’ wasn’t effective.

These trees are engineered, like all the other GMO crops, so that they kill insects by producing the BT toxin, and to be Round-up ready, as well as being supposedly sterile. The trees being designed for the paper industry are also engineered to be low in lignin because it’s difficult and expensive for the industry to remove. There are so many dangers, huge issues, about which we need to engage in public discussion. More people need to be aware of these threats, and more people need to join in the fight against this mad science experiment. Here’s why:

GM trees

Sterility

We’re looking at massive disruption of our vital forest ecosystems through contamination. The inventors of the terminator gene have explicitly stated that it will not be effective 100% of the time. So, Monsanto and others who are creating these GMOs know full well that anytime GMOs are grown, there will almost certainly be contamination of nearby organisms. The threat of this is greatly increased with trees, as they have the ability to spread their pollen over huge areas, up to hundreds of miles. They don’t care because they only stand to gain by it. Monsanto has been given the right to claim ownership of contaminated crops. If they contaminate forests on public lands, we have to ask what the result of that will be. Monsanto has not shown itself to be capable of any kind of self-restraint whatsoever and it’s completely rational to believe that they will have no qualms about cutting everything down. Even if the sterility gene isn’t effective in a particular plant, it can still pass that gene on. So, if our forests become contaminated, it’s also likely that a larger number of trees in native forests will be sterile.

BT toxin

desert-1196987_640We’ve already begun to see the drastic effects that the BT toxin, produced by GE plants to kill insects, has on the surrounding environment. It kills good insects as well as bad, insects that we depend on to pollinate our natural crops and make them viable. Also, if you kill all the insects that other animals, like birds, depend on for food, one thing leads to another and you’ve soon destroyed the entire ecosystem.

Another problem with the BT toxin is that it isn’t limited to the plant itself. It’s also produced in the root of the plant, which means it gets into the ground. This leads to two very damaging environmental effects. First, the toxin leaches into the groundwater, contaminating nearby streams and rivers – sources of drinking water for humans and animals alike. Second, the soil is full of insects which are a necessary part of the ability of natural soil to renew itself. They add nutrients that plants need to grow, through both life and decomposition after death. GE crops also grow faster, requiring more water and nutrients, so while they take more out, they simultaneously make it impossible for the soil to renew itself. Follow this to its natural conclusion and we find that, every few years, more native forests would have to be cleared to make way for the GE trees because the previous plot is now an arid wasteland that can’t support life. Seems like a bad plan, right?

Round-up

Monsanto’s herbicide Round-up has sundry severely damaging effects on human beings, and it’s been found in blood and urine samples, at high levels, of huge numbers of people across the globe. It’s being banned in city after city and country after country as more information continues to come to light about the damage that it does. Read this article about the 10 most important things to know about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-up. It’s in our drinking water for the same reason BT toxin is, and it gets absorbed by crops during their growth because they constantly doused with the stuff, so it’s also in a lot of the food that we eat in trace amounts – and that’s all it takes. Weeds become resistant to it over time, so more and more is used, and a new round of GMOs are being designed to withstand 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in Agent Orange that was responsible for making it so dangerous.

Make it stop.

“What the hell is the rush to apply these ideas?…The rush to apply these ideas is absolutely dangerous because we don’t have a clue what the long-term impact of our manipulations is going to be.” ~ Dr. David Suzuki, geneticist

If you’re not fighting Monsanto, with your knowledge, your time, and your wallet, now is the time to start! Buy from small farmers who use sustainable practices, buy organic, have conversations with people who don’t know the truth.

Why GMOs Don’t & Won’t Help the Hungry

Let’s ask a question that no one asks. Why are we looking for a technological fix to the problem of hunger and nutrition deficiency?

Is it because it’s the best way to solve the problem, or is it because it’s the best way for companies that engage in genetic engineering to make money off rich and poor alike?

Dangers

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I know what you’ve been told, but it’s simply not true. It’s propaganda. GE crops aren’t really meant to save the world from hunger. They’re meant to make money for Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, et al. The seeds have to be purchased anew each year – a ridiculous thing to ask of a small rural farmer in a poor country (or any other farmer, for that matter), so that’s making life harder for them, not better. They have to increase the amount of pesticides they use on the crop, which is both more expensive and leads to exposure to toxic chemicals, causing health problems of all sorts, including lymphatic cancers and leukemia, not to mention the environmental damage caused by the same chemicals. And let’s not forget that GMOs also attack from the inside out, causing intestinal and digestive problems, neurological disorders in children who ingest them or whose mothers ingest them while pregnant, DNA damage and cancers, and the list goes on.

GMO crops often need more water than their non-GMO counterparts, largely because they’re meant to be high-yield, leading to wasteful water usage which contributes to the severity of droughts and pollutes more water. Since they’re high-yield, they also rapidly deplete the nutrients in the ground, and there’s no crop rotation to let the soil renew itself – you can’t plant anything else in the same spot because of the herbicides that are now in the soil. Malnutrition is, in fact, increased by using GE crops because of the way it causes massive declines in biodiversity, which is important not just for nature, but for our own diets and health.

Take the example of ‘Golden Rice,’ which was genetically modified to include more vitamin A, as well as to be high-yield and pesticide resistant. They said it was going to be the savior of southeast Asia, where there’s high incidence of blindness due to a common lack of vitamin A in the diets of many of the region’s poor, who eat a lot of rice because, well, that’s what they grow a lot of since it’s so cheap. There are a few problems with that plan. For starters, all the problems described in the previous paragraph apply, and there’s an important health risk to consider: if you eat a lot of rice, and not enough of other things, vitamin A isn’t the only thing you’re deficient in, so your problem isn’t really solved. Also, eating large quantities of vitamin A over a long period of time has been shown to lead to vitamin A toxicity.

Now step back and ask yourself how this is saving the world form hunger. Right. It’s not. It’s just not a great solution, to go from eating lots of regular rice to eating lots of vitamin A-fortified, pesticide-laden, environmentally destructive rice.

Alternatives

How about educating communities about nutrition and getting farmers to set aside more land for growing things other than rice, such as dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, mango – these all contain beta-carotene which the body processes into vitamin A, and contain other nutrients as well. Now we can have crop rotation, far less water usage, a balanced diet, more fertile soil, no negative effects on health, and it’s not costing the farmers anything because they don’t need all the toxic chemicals and they can save their seeds, use them for the next growing season, and share them with other farmers. There’s just one major problem with this plan – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta won’t make any money.

An Unsustainable Food Supply

Fur trappers and traders who came to North America in the 1600s and 1700s had to eat what they could forage and catch. Rabbits were plentiful in many regions at that time, and so they formed the bulk of some trappers’ diets. Those trappers who relied too heavily on rabbit meat often died of malnutrition. Rabbit meat takes more calories to procure than you get back from eating it. That balance is unsustainable, and yet it is exactly how the U.S. food system works.

A little bit of math

It takes approximately 10 calories worth of fossil fuels to produce and transport 1 calorie of food. That means, for a family of four with a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, 930 gallons of gas per year will be required to produce and transport their food, not including that family driving to and from the grocery store. Since the average household in the U.S. consumes somewhere around 1,000 gallons of gas per year, the way we manage our food supply nearly doubles the already ridiculous amount of fuel each person is responsible for consuming. That kind of imbalance on a personal level will eventually kill you, and what we’re seeing on a national level is no different.

Approximately 15% of the energy supply in the United States goes into crop production, livestock production, food processing, and packaging. A Cornell University professor of ecology and agricultural science did the math for what that means for the big picture: if all of humanity were to go about food production the way the U.S. does, we would exhaust all known fossil fuel reserves in seven years. Wow, that’s wasteful!

Agricultural practices contribute greatly to global warming. Because of the complexity of the problem and the multitude of factors, it’s difficult to arrive at an accurate number, but it’s thought that approximately 33% of contributions to climate change are a direct result of the food supply system. Some of the factors are farm machinery, petroleum-based chemicals used in synthetic fertilizers, the manufacturing processes for agro-chemicals and fertilizers, the processing of major crops like corn and soy into a vast array of derived products, and the distribution over long distances of everything, including the final output. Animal agriculture itself accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions (18%) than all transportation in the globe (14%). (Others argue that the figure of 18% allows a large number of unallocated emissions that are really due to animal agriculture, bringing the figure up to 51% – read more here.)

Let’s take school lunches as an example, if only because a) they need to change anyway as they’re incredibly unhealthy for our children, and b) I can quote directly from an article by Tom Starrs, VP and COO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation:

“According to 2005 USDA National School Lunch Program participation figures, 29.6 million American school children were served nearly five billion meals at school last year. Typically these meals are highly processed, filled with conditioners, preservatives, dyes, salts, artificial flavors, and sweeteners. Usually they’re individually portioned and packaged, and travel thousands of miles to the school cafeteria.

School meals are commonly delivered frozen, wrapped and sealed in energy-consumptive packaging, and in need of some interval in a warming oven to thaw before being served to students. Studies of packaging and plate waste in school cafeterias indicate that, every day, as much as half, by weight, of these hasty, unappetizing, low-nutrient, highly processed and packaged meals is tossed by students — unopened, un”appreciated”, untasted, unrecycled and uncomposted. The energy needed to collect and transport the waste generated by school lunch must also be added to the net energy embedded in the meal.”

This is no different from food in the grocery store, which travels hundreds if not thousands of miles to get there, and is wastefully packaged to boot.

It’s the Monsanto monster again

A huge amount of agriculture and food supply mismanagement can be traced back to Monsanto & friends. The federal government has been convinced by lobbyists and money to subsidize over-production of monoculture crops such as corn and soy. They are genetically modified crops, grown in petroleum-based synthetic fertilizer, drenched in herbicides and insecticides, then either fed to cattle who can’t digest them or highly processed before going into your own food. Monsanto & friends get extremely-well paid, while you and I foot the bill, twice – once in our tax dollars funding their subsidies and once for increasingly expensive health care to treat our inevitable diet-related illnesses.

Farmers growing fruits and vegetables that are fit for human consumption don’t receive subsidies. It’s really an upside-down system. We should be able to offer farmers subsidies to protect them from a year of drought, blight, etc., but not for purposeful overproduction of nutritionally useless and environmentally damaging crops that serve no purpose but to line the pockets of those in charge of unethical corporations.

Tipping point

With a rising global population, increases in droughts and flooding, and a beautiful planet that can’t take much more of what we’re throwing at her, we absolutely have to make our system more sustainable and energy-efficient if we’re going to survive. None of us can implement that change alone, but we can each make choices in our daily lives that will contribute, and we can urge others to do the same. If enough of us care and get involved, we can and will reach a tipping point where the system will have to change. It’s a top-down problem that we need to try to solve from the bottom-up. We all have to get involved. Buy local as much as possible. Go to farmer’s markets. Grow your own vegetables at home. Start to think about the net energy that goes into your food and the waste that results. Start or get involved in a local community garden, farm-to-school program, or food forest project. Above all, teach your children!

Alternatives to Big Pharma

I started writing this post a few days ago. Too bad I didn’t finish it. The timing would have been perfect. Yesterday, I read an article entitled NYC Allows Doctors to Prescribe Fruits and Veggies Instead of Pills, which ended like this,

“The largest city in the nation (and global leader itself) is taking a stand for natural health and true wellness. Here’s hoping they are only the first in many more to come.”

Heard! It’s wonderful to see strides forward in this area. Now, on to my post –

I don’t know many people who don’t keep a shelf or a plastic tub full of pharmaceuticals. Maybe you’ll get a headache and need a pain-killer, or maybe you or your child will get a cold and need to take some cold medicine. Most people assume that these things are perfectly safe since they’re approved by the FDA and sold over the counter, and most people don’t experience any extreme side effects from them. They simply help you and your family feel better, right? Maybe we should question the conventional wisdom here.

Sometimes, no matter what we do, we’re subject to viruses, bacteria, microbes, broken bones, and other things. However, a huge number of people have illnesses that are diet and lifestyle related. I’ve done a lot of research and learned a lot of things about nutrition & pharmaceuticals, and I want to share some of them.

The best medicine is prevention, and the best prevention is a healthy diet that enables the body’s natural self-defenses, rather than causing imbalances and weakness. (*Let me be clear: 1. I’m not a doctor; 2. I’m not against medical intervention; and  3. early childhood vaccinations are an important part of prevention!)

Pharmaceuticals, by and large, do not treat the causes, only the symptoms. It’s perfect if you’re a major corporation whose main interest is making a profit. If you’re a human being whose interest is general health and longevity, there are other things to consider.

Staying healthy

sugar-973899_640Stay away from sugar as much as possible. It suppresses the immune system significantly with as little as 1 tablespoon. It contributes to digestive problems by making the digestive tract acidic. It contributes to arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, tooth decay, obesity, premature aging, macular degeneration, asthma, gallstones, kidney stones, heart disease, yeast infections, appendicitis, high cholesterol, headaches. I’m going to stop there, because there are roughly 146 things to put on this list. A literature review found that “8,000 scientific papers link refined white sugar to chronic disease. “There are two more, though, that are worth mentioning separately. The sugar intake of a pregnant woman is related to the likelihood of the child developing allergies. High sugar intake can lead to depression and even schizophrenia.

Cook at home. Though we all enjoy a nice restaurant now and again, what’s problematic is eating take-out, fast food and prepared foods that you buy at the grocery store on a regular basis. If you start from scratch with fresh ingredients, you’ll avoid a host of chemicals, fillers and additives.

supermarket-949912_640Don’t be fooled by flavor and smell, either. In many processed and prepared foods, the flavor and smell aren’t natural. MSG – you likely know that MSG is bad for you, but you probably mainly associate it with Chinese restaurants, at least, if you’re in the U.S., but it’s in so many more foods. They just changed the name to disguise it. It’s often listed as “natural flavor” or “hydrolyzed yeast extract”, or it’s cheaper cousin “autolyzed yeast extract.” Did you know it’s a common ingredient in McDonald’s food?

But here’s the real problem with all these ‘extras’ in our food – it’s not individual items that are dangerous. It’s that Americans are spending a steadily increasing percentage of their food budgets on food that’s prepared in a factory, ingesting more and more of all these different chemicals and additives, and it’s causing health problems. Here is a list of the 10 worst additives to watch out for.

Foods that heal

Unless you invest your time and energy in researching these things, you might never know because no one will tell you, including your doctor. I started researching this topic years ago, and have made some surprising discoveries.

Did you know that garlic is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial? You can buy odorless garlic supplements, so you don’t have to smell bad to take advantage of it. To give just one example: cold sores, shingles, chicken pox…there are many different forms of herpes, some common and some rare, together affecting a large portion of the population. Herpes is a virus. Garlic is a very effective preventative for symptoms of this virus for those with forms that can manifest from time to time, like cold sores. This is information that could drastically improve the quality of life for a huge number of people, but what doctor tells you to take 12 garlic supplements immediately at the first sign of an outbreak, and then 6 more every few hours?

flax_chiaOmega-3 fatty acids are also powerful for prevention and healing. They’re a natural way to combat depression and anxiety, as well as clearing out bad cholesterol, lubricating joints, reducing inflammation (a key ingredient in asthma), and boosting cognitive function in people with deficits, like ADHD and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Flax and chia seeds are both sources of omega-3s.

herb-spice-906140_640Herbs and spices are more than just added flavor, though even in that respect they have an important health benefit, allowing you to use less salt, sugar and saturated fats as flavor enhancers. The 15 strongest are basil, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme and turmeric. Read more about them here.

The point is, you can take control of your health, but you have to do your research. I highly recommend watching as many of Dr. Greger’s videos as possible. If you have an hour on your hands, start with Uprooting the leading causes of death.

Hormones – how they’re related to sustainability

Did you know plants have hormones? We hear about hormones all the time with reference to people – they’re those things that make teenagers and pregnant women crazy. They’re responsible for inducing and regulating a lot of physiological processes, and not just in humans. All multi-cellular organisms on this planet produce hormones. It’s part of how things grow – you and trees both get bigger, in very distinct ways of course, because of hormones.

Hormones are essentially chemicals that are produced in the body and bind with receptors in cells. It takes only tiny amounts of these chemicals to be effective, as each has a unique chemical structure designed to produce specific results. In short, living things regulate their systems with internally-produced chemicals. The natural process can be interrupted by exposure to other chemicals that trick the cell’s receptors into thinking that it received the hormone, or that somehow block the reception of the natural hormone.

For example, people with type-1 diabetes don’t produce enough of the hormone insulin. They can take insulin shots to help make up for this lack, so all the receptors that require insulin will receive it. Another example is the phytoestrogen (plant estrogen) in soy milk. It mimics the human estrogen hormone and interacts with the receptors for estrogen. For some people, that’s a good thing.

Danger, danger, danger

safety-44441_640Where we start getting into trouble is with the chemical soup that’s in our food supply, our air and water, and, by extension, in us. But it doesn’t end there, because we’re spraying these chemical insecticides and herbicides all over the place. Since all plants and animals produce hormones, they’re potentially in danger as well. It’s not well-understood how all the various chemicals we’re continuously exposed to are affecting us physiologically, but the evidence is slowly mounting.

A study of 268 men who had presented themselves to an infertility clinic in Massachusetts showed a direct relationship between levels of testosterone and the amount of insecticide present in their urine. (The insecticides present in these men are mostly manufactured and sold by Dow, known by the trademark names Dursban, Lorsban, as well as the trademark Sevin made by Bayer.)

Widespread insecticide spraying was our answer to west nile virus in many cities across the US, and many cities use insecticides in their parks.

Monsanto’s at it again

Case in point:

cow-35561_640Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is a genetically-engineered hormone manufactured by Monsanto. It’s similar to a natural hormone found in cows that spurs them to produce milk. The problem is that giving milk-cows enough of this hormone to turn them into cash-cows doesn’t come without side effects.

Cows that are injected with the GE hormone rBGH have a greatly increased (79%) susceptibility to udder infections, called mastitis, leading to increases of bacteria and somatic cells (pus) in the milk (and, yes, there’s a legally allowable limit of pus in milk). Eeewww. And that’s only the part that affects milk-drinkers. The poor cows also get digestive problems and lesions on their knees and hooves. Then there are the antibiotics that are used to treat the mastitis. Yes, you end up drinking those, too. rBGH benefits Monsanto and no one but Monsanto.

Bees

You probably know that we’ve just managed to devastate bee populations with insecticides. What you might not know is that what’s actually killing them is a manufactured hormone that’s part of the chemical make-up of the insecticides. Even less-than-lethal doses severely damage a bee’s ability to navigate, communicate, forage, and work communally.

Disruption of the natural hormonal systems in human populations can cause asthma, cancerous tumors, birth defects, diabetes, obesity, developmental disorders, infertility, etc. And what about the dangers to other living things that rely on hormones? We cannot possibly know the extent to which the introduction of so many different chemical compounds will act on the hormone balances of other species, including plants. Sadly, we may be about to find out.

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