I want to post an article from Common Dreams but cannot find how to do that. I copied it and pasted it into a word doc but it doesn't look right, too small. Maybe this board auto fits it? How please? Thanks!
I'm testing posting an article from the site Common Dreams
Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 by Creators Syndicate Non-Organic Organic Food
by Jim Hightower
When it comes to a healthy diet, I am not a purist. Too late for that because I grew up eating such culinary concoctions as toasted sandwiches constructed of Spam, white bread and that oddly orange, oddly spongy cheeselike stuff known as Velveeta.
As an adult, I even have been irresponsible enough to serve as a taster, judge and promoter of Spam creations that were served at a now-defunct annual event held in my town of Austin, Texas. Called "Spamarama," the festival featured unspeakable and (often unswallowable) dishes made from the gelatinous, pink potted meat, including — get ready to gag — Spam ice cream.
So I am not quick to criticize every little diversion from 100 percent wholesomeness. For example, even though I've been an early and ardent advocate of organic production, I recognize that there are certain times when processors of organic foods (from beer to cheese) are unable to get essential ingredients that are produced organically. Thus, non-organic hops sometimes are allowed in organic beer. Indeed, the original law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "certified organic" program recognizes such realities, allowing up to 5 percent of a certified product to consist of non-organic ingredients.
This exemption, however, was not intended to be a free-for-all loophole for dilution of the USDA's organic standard. Two strong caveats were attached to that 5 percent allowance. First, any non-organic substance has to be approved by the National Organic Standards Board. Second, the explicit intent of the law was for producers and processors to be in active pursuit of all organic ingredients, moving away from synthetic and non-organic substances as quickly as the real things could be found.
Enter from stage right: corporate agribusiness and Barbara Robinson. With the phenomenal growth in consumer demand for organic products, such giants as Kraft and Dean Foods have rushed to capture this multibillion-dollar market, except they don't want to play by the rules. Big Food found its enabler in Robinson, who was chosen to administer the organic program during the George W. Bush years.
Consulting regularly with the corporate powers, Robinson has brought synthetic after synthetic under the organic label. At the start of the certification program, 77 non-organic ingredients were on the allowable list, which was supposed to shrink as time passed. Today 245 ingredients are listed.
Likewise, the program was supposed to set uniform standards for how organic foods are produced. Yet 65 of the standards recommended by the board since 2002 simply have been ignored by the administrator. For example, the board proposed specific rules to ensure that organic dairy farmers provide "access to pasture" for their cows, but Robinson's team has refused to implement the proposal. Thus, a giant milk purveyor such as Dean Foods (Horizon dairy products) is allowed to sell "organic" milk from cows that are confined in factory conditions rather than allowed to graze in open pastures. By failing to set rules that apply to everyone, the USDA is permitting private, for-profit organic certification firms to create their own standards, which means corporate interests can shop around for the most lenient certifiers.
You might think that the USDA would see the organic labeling program as a way to earn consumer trust in the integrity of these products. But, no. Robinson told The Washington Post that the label's main purpose is to "grow the industry." A consultant to Kraft Foods eagerly added his amen to her loosey-goosey regulatory ethic. "We don't want to eliminate anyone who wants to be a part of the organic community," he explained.
What a neat idea! We can expand organic production simply by eliminating that bothersome "organic" adjective. Who knows; Spam might qualify for the label now.
Here's a better idea: Let's eliminate Robinson and all of the corporate pretenders. To tell new Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do both, call his office: 202-72....
Hrm. Okay, all I did was highlight the article, then copy, and paste in a reply box here, Patchouli. It appears fine to me. I'm not sure what you're running up against. You want to try a test here of what you're attempting and maybe if I look at it I can figure it out?
There's no need to copy it into Word prior to pasting it here. The site software does auto-format a bunch of stuff like line length and properly squashes URLs for us.
Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 by The Independent/UK The Hidden Truth Behind Drug Company Profits by Johann Hari
This is the story of one of the great unspoken scandals of our times. Today, the people across the world who most need life-saving medicine are being prevented from producing it. Here's the latest example: factories across the poor world are desperate to start producing their own cheaper Tamiflu to protect their populations - but they are being sternly told not to. Why? So rich drug companies can protect their patents - and profits. There is an alternative to this sick system, but we are choosing to ignore it.
To understand this tale, we have to start with an apparent mystery. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been correctly warning for months that if swine flu spreads to the poorest parts of the world, it could cull hundreds of thousands of people - or more. Yet they have also been telling the governments of the poor world not to go ahead and produce as much Tamiflu - the only drug we have to reduce the symptoms, and potentially save lives - as they possibly can.
In the answer to this whodunnit, there lies a much bigger story about how our world works today.
Our governments have chosen, over decades, to allow a strange system for developing medicines to build up. Most of the work carried out by scientists to bring a drug to your local pharmacist - and into your lungs, or stomach, or bowels - is done in government-funded university labs, paid for by your taxes.
Drug companies usually come in late in the process of development, and pay for part of the expensive, but largely uncreative final stages, like buying some of the chemicals and trials that are needed. In return, then they own the exclusive rights to manufacture and profit from the resulting medicine for years. Nobody else can make it.
Although it's not the goal of the individuals working within the system, the outcome is often deadly. The drug companies who owned the patent for Aids drugs went to court to stop the post-Apartheid government of South Africa producing generic copies of it - which are just as effective - for $100 a year to save their dying citizens. They wanted them to pay the full $10,000 a year to buy the branded version - or nothing. In the poor world, the patenting system every day puts medicines beyond the reach of sick people.
This is where the solution to the swine flu mystery comes in. Ordinary democratic citizens were so disgusted by the attempt to deprive South Africa of life-saving medicine that public pressure won a small concession in the global trading rules. It was agreed that, in an overwhelming public health emergency, poor countries would be allowed to produce generic drugs. They are the exact same product, but without the brand name - or the fat patent payments to drug companies in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands.
So under the new rules, the countries of the poor world should be entitled to start making as much generic Tamiflu as they want. There are companies across India and China who say they are raring to go. But Roche - the drug company that owns the patent - doesn't want the poor world making cheaper copies for themselves. They want people to buy the branded version, from which they receive profits. Although not obliged to, they have licensed a handful of companies in the developing world to make the treatment - but they have to pay for license, and they can't possibly meet the demand.
And the WHO seems to be backing Roche - against the rest of us. They are the ones best qualified to judge what constitutes an overwhelming emergency, justifying a breaching of the patent rules. And their message is: Don't use the loophole.
Professor Brook Baker, an expert on drug patenting, says: "Why do they behave like this? Because of direct or indirect pressure from the pharmaceutical companies. It's shocking."
What will be the end-result? James Love, director of Knowledge Economy International, which campaigns against the current patenting system, says: "Poor countries are not as prepared as they could have been. If there's a pandemic, the number of people who die will be much greater than it had to be. Much greater. It's horrible."
The argument in defence of this system offered by Big Pharma is simple, and sounds reasonable at first: we need to charge large sums for "our" drugs so we can develop more life-saving medicines. We want to develop as many treatments as we can, and we can only do that if we have revenue. A lot of the research we back doesn't result in a marketable drug, so it's an expensive process.
But a detailed study by Dr Marcia Angell, the former editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, says that only 14 per cent of their budgets go on developing drugs - usually at the uncreative final part of the drug-trail. The rest goes on marketing and profits. And even with that puny 14 per cent, drug companies squander a fortune developing "me-too" drugs - medicines that do exactly the same job as a drug that already exists, but has one molecule different, so they can take out a new patent, and receive another avalanche of profits.
As a result, the US Government Accountability Office says that far from being a font of innovation, the drug market has become "stagnant". They spend virtually nothing on the diseases that kill the most human beings, like malaria, because the victims are poor, so there's hardly any profit to be sucked out.
We all suffer as a result of this patent dysfunction. The European Union's competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, recently concluded that Europeans pay 40 per cent more for their medicines than they should because of this "rotten" system - money that could be saving many lives if it was redirected towards real health care.
Why would we keep this system, if it is so bad? The drug companies have spent more than $3bn on lobbyists and political "contributions" over the past decade in the US alone. They have paid politicians to make the system work in their interests. If you doubt how deeply this influence goes, listen to a Republican congressman, Walter Burton, who admitted of the last big health care legislation passed in the US in 2003: "The pharmaceutical lobbyists wrote the bill."
There is a far better way to develop medicines, if only we will take it. It was first proposed by Joseph Stiglitz, the recent Nobel Prize winner for economics. He says: "Research needs money, but the current system results in limited funds being spent in the wrong way."
Stiglitz's plan is simple. The governments of the Western world should establish a multi-billion dollar prize fund that will give payments to scientists who develop cures or vaccines for diseases. The highest prizes would go to cures for diseases that kill millions of people, like malaria. Once the pay-out is made, the rights to use the treatment will be in the public domain. Anybody, anywhere in the world, could manufacture the drug and use it to save lives.
The financial incentive in this system for scientists remains exactly the same - but all humanity reaps the benefits, not a tiny private monopoly and those lucky few who can afford to pay their bloated prices. The irrationalities of the current system - spending a fortune on me-too drugs, and preventing sick people from making the medicines that would save them - would end.
It isn't cheap - it would cost 0.6 per cent of GDP - but in the medium-term it would save us all a fortune because our health care systems would no longer have to pay huge premiums to drug companies. Meanwhile, the cost of medicine would come crashing down for the poor - and tens of millions would be able to afford it for the first time.
Yet moves to change the current system are blocked by the drug companies and their armies of lobbyists. That's why the way we regulate the production of medicines across the world is still designed to serve the interests of the shareholders of the drug companies - not the health of humanity.
The idea of ring-fencing life-saving medical knowledge so a few people can profit from it is one of the great grotesqueries of our age. We have to tear down this sick system - so the sick can live. Only then we can globalise the spirit of Jonas Salk, the great scientist who invented the polio vaccine, but refused to patent it, saying simply: "It would be like patenting the sun."
To read Johann's article about how swine flu may have been caused by our hunger for cheap meat, click here.
Copyright 2009 Independent News and Media Limited Johann Hari is a columnist for the London Independent. He has reported from Iraq, Israel/Palestine, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Venezuela, Peru and the US, and his journalism has appeared in publications all over the world.
Well that seems to have worked just fine. I'll post the article into a new thread in news and issues. I'm not sure what I was doing and not even really sure why i was copying to word. I think I've posted articles before and not had a problem. Maybe a senior moment. Thanks for your help, Georgina.