No Love in Boulder for Colorado’s GMO Labeling Proposition

By Keith Kloor | November 4, 2014 11:18 am

The following is a guest post from Paul McDivitt, a second-year master’s student studying journalism and mass communication research at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Follow him on twitter @paulmcdivitt.

UPDATE: The GMO labeling initiative in Colorado was soundly rejected. (Breakdown of Boulder vote is at bottom of post.)

Today, Colorado voters will decide if the state should require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. The ballot measure is called Proposition 105. A Suffolk University poll showed that 49.2 percent in Colorado oppose the proposition, 29.8 percent support it, and 21 percent are undecided. The Democratic Party of Denver endorsed it.

Weeks ago, when I received a voter guide in the mail from the Boulder County Democratic Party, I was surprised to see that it did not take a stand on Proposition 105.

After all, Boulder is known as a liberal bastion. It established itself as a hippie paradise in the ‘60s, and remains a choice destination for free spirits and vagabonds alike, home to countless yoga studios, marijuana dispensaries, and a sprawling farmers’ market. Just the kind of place you would expect to support GMO labeling, right?

But Boulder is also home to several world-renowned scientific organizations, as well as the University of Colorado-Boulder. It’s worth noting that the American scientific community leans left, politically speaking: A 2009 survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found that 55 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 31 percent as Independents and only six percent as Republicans. I suspect that the Boulder scientific community is skewed along similar lines and that local scientists are engaged in local politics.

I wondered if the Boulder county Democratic Party’s non-endorsement of GMO labeling was influenced by the scientific community. Maybe, I thought, scientists are more likely to understand GE [genetically engineered] technology and the scientific consensus on the health and safety of GMOs? To test my theory, I asked several well-known Boulder-based scientists about their views on GMOs and the labeling proposition.

“On the one hand I like the idea of truth in labeling,” said Kevin Trenberth, a Boulder resident and climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “On the other hand I think the whole business of GMOs is seriously distorted in the minds of the public and the rhetoric in the media.”

Professor Michael Breed and several of his colleagues in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at CU-Boulder were strongly opposed to Proposition 105. “There’s no convincing scientific evidence that I’m aware of that GMOs present a health hazard, and there’s no practical way to separate and identify GMOs in our food stream.”

Pieter Tans, a climate researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which employs hundreds of scientists at its Boulder research center, was similarly unswayed by GMO health and safety concerns. “Humanity has been eating genetically modified food for thousands of years,” he said.

Of the dozen scientists I talked to, none supported Proposition 105 and none had any concerns about the health and safety of genetically modified foods. (A 2011 Demographic Profile by the Boulder Economic Council found 34.8 percent of Boulder residents hold advanced degrees compared to the U.S. average of 10.4 percent. That’s a lot of highly educated people.)

This exercise gave me some hope. Maybe it is possible for us to educate our way out of politically polluted scientific debates?

Or not. “Boulder has a lot of educated people that do not use scientific thinking,” Dr. Andrew Martin, an Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics professor at CU-Boulder, told me. As an example, he pointed to a certain organic mecca in Boulder. “Whole Foods is full of potions and herbal remedies that are costly yet lack any convincing evidence for the promoted effects.”

Baby steps, Dr. Martin, baby steps.

UPDATE: Boulder voters rejected the GMO food labeling measure, 54% to 45%.

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  • JH

    Nice piece, Paul.
    But baby steps indeed. One hidden benefit to much education: it dramatically improves one’s ability to rationalize one’s own beliefs.

  • Charles Rader

    How sad that the state Democratic Party endorsed this.

    • First Officer

      If i were voting in Colorado, i would cross party lines and vote Republican in the local elections, with the caveat that the particular Republican candidates aren’t so anti-science. [Added} Fortunately, it looks like the Dems didn’t endorse it after all.

  • mem_somerville

    You talked to scientists? That’s crazy-talk. Everyone knows you should take science advice from chefs and foodbabes.

    • RobertWager

      And flying yoga/ballroom dancing instructors

      • Your1Friend

        Irrelevant comment.

    • Your1Friend

      Not a few chefs and “food babes” are far better informed about GMOs than America’s pseudo scientists, corporate-sponsored “researchers,” and persons such as yourself.

      • mem_somerville

        You mean folks who sell cookbooks, expensive meals, and memberships to their “partners” and “affiliates”?

        http://adage.com/article/news/activist-capitalist-food-babe-makes-money/294032/

        Mm hmm.

        • Your1Friend

          Well, I know they can cook better than I do, men_somerville!

          • mem_somerville

            Well I have a feeling I can science better than you do, but that won’t actually matter to someone with terrible standards.

          • Your1Friend

            I think not.

            Learn the difference between “science” and bad “technology.” GMOs have made much money for their manufacturers. But this too shall pass as citizens all over the world are seeing through the public relations sophistry and advertising which is the very life support of GMOs. Not the case in America quite yet.

            In 2014, most Americans don’t even know what a GMO is, but that too will change.

            I am not philosophically opposed to GMOs, but long-term testing is essential.

          • mem_somerville

            Too bad you have missed all the science on this.

          • Larkin Curtis Hannah

            The interesting point is that as people learn more about transgenic plants, the less they are concerned about them — the only good thing about this labeling BS.

      • Loren Eaton

        “Not a few chefs and “food babes” are far better informed about GMOs than America’s pseudo scientists, corporate-sponsored “researchers,” and persons such as yourself.” Really? I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and I’ve created around 25K GM plants in that time. Accuse me of being biased if you can prove it…but the notion that ANY chef or Foodbabe is more informed on any aspect of this issue is just plain ignorant. Quiz me and you’ll get answers if you’re willing to listen. Quiz the Foodbabe and she’ll smile and look prettier than me. (A low bar, to be certain).

        • Canadian_Skeptic

          Great to see another plant scientist contributing to these comments!

      • Canadian_Skeptic

        That is just sad. Anti-GMO activism has become no less anti-science than creationism and climate change denial.

        • Your1Friend

          Sentimental nonsense conflated with false analogies.

          Just like typical GMO PR.

    • JH

      I’m intellectually stimulated by scantily clad food babes so I learn more.

      • http://streamnerd.com/ Ian B

        That’s not your intellect being stimulated…

  • Marcus

    This was an excellent article documenting that our local community of scientists are also prone to that age-old pitfall of hubris. Which is news to… no one.

  • bret

    As with most GMO discussions, this article misses at least two key points. It is not so much about whether GMOs are safe or not (which is still officially undetermined, but I will grant they may be possibly safe on the surface depending upon its genetic modification). First, GMOs use copious amounts of pesticide, much more so than non-GMO produce. It has been officially proven pesticides have all kinds of negative affects on health. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and is very hard to to take the other side logically. Second, in my opinion the consumer has an inalienable RIGHT to KNOW, what they are buying, period. Why would we want less information about we are buying? That doesn’t even make sense. Those who don’t care can buy GMOs. I would like to know, so I can stay away by looking for pesticide-free food. When buying beer sometimes I like to look at the alcohol content. If i see 10%, I might stay away because I want something lighter, and sometimes I may go for it because I want a strong punch. I should have the right to make my own personal decisions based on information. What’s the problem with information, cost? Hogwash, the additional cost if any is less than negligible.

    • Robert Howd

      Bret, it’s not clear to me what you might mean by “officially undetermined” or “officially proven.” Public health officials in the U.S. have in fact, by their actions, declared the available GMO products to be safe, and the approved pesticides as safe, in their approved applications. You may be confusing the actions of some NON-official health gurus with the ACTUAL health authorities in the U.S. But, regardless of how the vote goes today, you’ll be able to buy GMO-free food. Just look for the organic and non-GMO labels.

      • bret

        True, non-official gurus are much worse and make all kinds of fanciful claims. Also, true, public health officials have approved pesticides as safe in their approved applications. However, like many things, the determination of safety is not that easy. I think everyone knows that drinking a bottle of pesticide would be quite horrible for you health and possibly cause immediate death. On the other side, ingesting a few molecules from that bottle on single occasion , we can say, with relatively strong certainty, won’t cause any short-term or long-term health issues. It is really about repeated exposure to these trace chemicals for decades. The FDA says, they use a standard of “reasonable certainty” which is fair because it would be hard for anyone to be “100% certain” on a wide range of all kinds of scientific topics. I’m not some anti-science guy either. I view evolution as fact, I am an atheist, etc. With that said, it is not like we have a really large sample size in regards to time with pesticides. The use of many chemicals in pesticides haven’t been used for a century let alone a couple of generations. Also, this assumes the FDA is fully above board. In general, the FDA is a descent actor (I’m not some conspiracy guy), however the revolving door between food companies and the FDA is well-known, and it makes me a little skeptical especially if findings are a little borderline, the FDA may not err on the side of caution depending on the decision-maker(s) is. Exhibit A is Agent Orange. There was a minority who felt a little uneasy about using the chemical during Vietnam, but by and large the health of people were ignored by the government not because our government is evil but rather they didn’t realize the full impact of the chemicals at that time. After, seeing the real effect of agent orange over time, the substance was banned. I’m not trying to say pesticides are as dangerous as Agent Orange, however just because a government agency is claiming that something as safe especially factoring in a small sample doesn’t mean it is for sure and not because the agency is insidious but rather fallible. Not to mention, we know the pesticide chemicals in larger amounts will cause medical problems. What is the limit amount for safety? That is very difficult and hard determination especially when it has only been studied for a limited stretch of time.

    • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

      You do know that organic farming uses pesticides as well, right? It’s like saying something is “chemical free,” which means it’s … nothing. Everything is chemicals. I might also point out that pesticides are tested for health effects, woo practitioners to the contrary.

      • bret

        Yes, I do and understand what you are saying. I am well aware that everything is comprised of chemicals. Some chemicals are good for health and some are not good for health. My apologies, I should have been more clear in my writing.

        • http://streamnerd.com/ Ian B

          In many cases, the organic pesticides are considerably more toxic than the synthetic ones, because the synthetics can actually isolate a specific active compound in specific concentrations so as to use an effective dose, and not overdo it.

          For a long time, you could use tobacco dust as a “natural” insecticide. Even organics prohibit that one now. Tobacco dust’s active compound is nicotine sulfate, which modern neonicotinoid insecticides emulate. There’s actually some recent research that finds that the previous connection between neonics and bee population is unfounded. (and yet it’s still legal for humans to smoke that stuff!!!)

    • mem_somerville

      If you want to vote on pesticides, do that. GMO ≠ pesticide. In fact, you could be choosing products that use less pesticide if you choose GMO. But none of the labels indicate this. A “May contain…” label is useless without the trait involved.

      There are plenty of non-GMOs that use plenty of pesticides. Personally, I would love to see reduced pesticide use on potatoes with a blight-resistant trait. But demonizing GMOs can actually prevent that from happening.

      You should aim better.

      • bret

        Fair point, but correct if I’m wrong that the start of the GMO revolution in grocery stores was really about making a more resistant crop and with that GMOs could withstand a greater use of pesticides. I get that scientist are only limited by their imaginations when conceiving new GMOs and what properties become innate. Thus I can see how some GMOs may not need any non-natural pesticides or any for that matter. However, I was under the impression that GMOs sold in mass are generally sprayed with a lot of pesticides such as Monsanto corn as an example. I do believe that GMO labelling by itself is not enough. I would like to see as much information as possible. More than anything, I genuinely feel like the consumer has the right to know and not just know what food producers want to tell us.

        • Chris Preston

          Bt crops are not sprayed with a lot of pesticides, but are sprayed with less.

          For herbicide tolerant crops it depends very much on what herbicides were used previously. Corn and canola are sprayed with less herbicide, soy and cotton with more.

          However, one shouldn’t focus so much on the amount of pesticide, but the specific toxicities of the pesticides. Reducing insecticide use is a very good thing for reducing chemical toxicity, reducing herbicide use much less so.

          • bret

            I understand as that make sense. For some reason it reminds me of a snake envenomation, where you shouldn’t don’t worry so much about venom yield but rather toxicity potency.

        • Larkin Curtis Hannah

          Actually there is less pesticides applied to transgenic plants compared to the older, non-transgenic plants.

          • http://streamnerd.com/ Ian B

            Especially where glyphosate is concerned – you hit the field once, good and hard, to knock back the weeds while the plants are still small (as opposed to tilling, which has a host of its own environmental problems) and then the crop takes over. You might need to do a second application for some of the really pesky weeds, but by the time harvest rolls around, you really don’t have much of a weed problem and the glyphosate has long since broken down in the soil (it usually lasts 3-30 days after application, depending on climate)

    • Charles Rader

      bret, I think you should be directing your complaints to the people pushing the GMO labeling bills, because they have determinedly refused to write legislation that would give you the information you say you want. All they seem to want is a broad category label, produced using genetic engineering. If one of these measures passes, you won’t know which ingredient is derived from a GMO. You won’t know whether that ingredient contains the actual transgene or the novel protein, or whether these have been removed or changed by food processing. You won’t know whether the GMO trait is one which reduces pesticide use, or encourages more pesticide use. Or maybe the GMO ingredient is a vitamin and the food company may choose to remove the vitamin so they can avoid the GMO warning label. This has actually happened.

      Incredibly, you give the example of alcohol content. Do you realize that the Colorado measure exempts alcoholic beverages?

      Bret, these people speak piously about your right to know, but they are really only interested in THEIR RIGHT to force you to “know” only what they want you to know.

      • Michael Phillips

        Bret, I seriously hope you read and consider the thoughtful reply Charles has written here. Cheers.

      • bret

        I certainly agree that FULL truth-in-labelling is important. I don’t live in CO, (rather CA) although it’s one of my favorite states in part for its top-notch snowboarding and beautiful scenery. Ironic about alcohol as being exempt, but really I was just making a simple analogy to say I should know what I’m buying. I have not doubt there are ulterior motives for some when money is involved as that is human nature. The more information the better unless it is, of course, not factual or misleading.

    • Larkin Curtis Hannah

      Something you should understand is of the pesticides in a plant, over 99% are actually synthesized by the plant. One of these is cyanide. We need to keep all of this in perspective.

      Curt Hannah

    • http://streamnerd.com/ Ian B

      It’s not “officially undetermined” that GMOs are safe, because you can’t prove a negative. You can, however, prove that something causes harm, and there’s a mountain of research that has been unable to prove that GMOs are actually harmful (remember, kids, correlation does not imply causation. I can draw a pretty graph that correlates 2 completely unrelated data points to get you to infer that there’s some sort of relationship between the two, but that doesn’t make it true). At this point, the demonstrated environmental and agricultural benefits (increased yields, reduced pesticide use, higher crop density/yield, retained topsoil) of GMOs far outweigh any demonstrated risk.

  • Dimitri Fields

    Why is the issue whether GMO’s have been proven unsafe? This is the stance taken by an industry that wants to be sold to people regardless of what they want, by keeping them uninformed so that they cannot make a choice. Cigarettes also weren’t proven unsafe, for as long as possible. It is not fair or ethical treatment for the consumer, to make it impossible for a person to know what they are eating.

  • MarkDonners

    GMO is a lethal and dangerous poison. Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, “developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females.” The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. Everywhere GMO is being grown, food allergies, disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others have been skyrocketing in the human populations.

    There has been a drastic decline of crop-pollinating insects all over the world, and what this means for the future of the world’s food supply. Wild pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and beetles are basically disappearing. GMO industrial agricultural practices are causing this insect genocide. Pollinating insects in general, which include a wide range of insects and other animals, are simply vanishing from their normal habitats and foraging areas. That lower diversity and lower abundance of wild insects means less fruits and destruction of the diversity of plants and their fruits worldwide.

    GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.

    GMOs increase herbicide use. Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant”―surviving deadly weed killers. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

    GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.

    By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.

    GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world.

    Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield―the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

    The toxins associated with GMO should never be tolerated. NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDE neurotoxins are absolutely the main factor causing the collapse of bee and pollinator populations along with other lethal chemicals, Agent Orange herbicides, glysophate, etc. When these poisons are banned as they were in Europe the bee populations start to recover. GMO neonicotinoids, roundup etc. MUST BE BANNED OUTRIGHT and all the farmers along with USDA, Biotech and chemical companies told to cease and desist from what they are doing.

    An even scarier prospect: the “BT” version of GMO soybeans and corn, (basically pesticides engineered directly into the plant )

    The “BT toxin” gene is put into the DNA of the corn in order for it to manufacture its own toxins that kill pests. The BT gene originated from a soil bacteria that also infiltrates the microflora (friendly digestive bacteria) in your gut. The Bt gene converts the microflora in your intestine into toxin-manufacturing machines.

    So, to be clear, eating GMO corn products can cause your gut (which is primarily responsible for keeping you healthy) to turn into a breeding ground for tiny little pesticide factories inside your body, actively creating toxins which are designed to kill living things. These toxins are found in the blood and are readily transferred across the placenta to developing babies in the womb.

    • Tom

      No.

    • Loren Eaton

      The Bt protein is inactive in acidic environments.

      • rain

        Lot of data is not reveled in your statement.
        As far as I know, the decomposition of plant fiber that contain Bt is slower than non Bt crops.

      • Judy Nonarchi

        Correct.

    • Chris Preston

      Same post you spam on every article mentioning GM crops.

      I have previously pointed out to you how wrong it is. After all, Roundup is a brand of herbicide, not a fertilizer and the research you rely on in the first paragraph was retracted, because it didn’t show what the authors claimed it did.

      If you like, it was mislabeled.

      • rain

        What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?

        A broken food system is destroying the soil and fuelling health crises as well as conflicts, warns Professor John Crawford of the University of Sydney.

        http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/

        Is soil really in danger of running out?

        A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded – the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. Even the well-maintained farming land in Europe, which may look idyllic, is being lost at unsustainable rates.
        Why haven’t we heard more about this?

        • Chris Preston

          Glyphosate-tolerant crops actually help preserve soil in agricultural fields by allowing glyphosate to be substituted for cultivation. These crops have helped the adoption of no-till agriculture.

          It is cultivation, used for weed control and to aid seed bed preparation, that is largely responsible for soil erosion.

          • rain

            Roundup also wipes out beneficial soil microorganisms in addition to promoting toxins that stave off plant prosperity. Roundup doesn’t directly kill the plant; rather, similar to the AIDS virus in humans, it creates conditions that make the plant susceptible to other diseases.
            Then we add the pesticide Bt in to plants that also kill microorganisms in soil.

          • Judy Nonarchi

            Your knowledge about glyphosate and Bt is pathetic. But if you want to spew anti-science, whatevah. Go eat organic or non-gmo then, and leave the rest of us alone.

          • MarkDonners

            And you’re a “scientist”. Is “whatevah” the new terminology for “scientists”? The “rest of you” who are frantically defending Monsanto’s obscene profits can commit suicide if you want, but the sane population does not want to kill themselves or their children and pets. In fact those people who are not “the rest of you” may even want your children to survive. Go eat poison then, and leave the sane population alone.

          • Chris Preston

            Your ignorance is astounding. Glyphosate doesn’t kill of micro-organisms in the soil. It is extremely tightly bound to divalent cations in soil meaning it is not readily available to kill anything very much. That is why you can sow a crop within a day of applying glyphosate.

            Micro-organisms break down glyphosate when they can get hold of it. This happens quite quickly.

            Glyphosate application will change the population structure of micro-organisms in the soil, because it kills of plants that are then broken down by microbes. But then, so does anything else you do to soil, including cultivating it.

            Citing i-sis? Really.

          • Tom

            “Roundup also wipes out beneficial soil microorganisms…” Citation please!

          • rain

            Dying of the Trees, the Climate Engineering Nightmare Continues.
            http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/dying-of-the-trees-the-climate-engineering-nightmare-continues/
            Can it be raining weed killer and it is killing trees?

            They found glyphosate in 39.4 % of samples (1 470 out of 3 732) and its metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) in 55 % of samples [1]. Water samples included streams, groundwater, ditches and drains, large rivers, soil water, lakes, ponds and wetlands, precipitation, soil and sediment, and waste water treatment plants.
            http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Widespread_Glyphosate_Contamination_in_US.php

          • Judy Nonarchi

            Absolutely. One of the big benefits of GE herbicide technology is no-till agriculture. A huge advantage ecologically and environmentally.

    • Judy Nonarchi

      Oh, geez. The old rat study again? Yawn. There was a recent study of over 8 Billion animals being fed GE crops with NO incidences of harm.
      Oh, and by the way, re: yield: Our farmers here have 40% higher yields on their GE sugar beets than they had when they were using much-more-toxic atrazine. Just sayin.’

      • MarkDonners

        I’m sure you are well aware as a paid Monsanto propagandist, that the Seralini study, which found serious problems with GMOs in an animal health study, was not in any way “discredited.” What happened is that the biotech industry put enormous pressure on the publisher of the study to retract the study and forced onto the publication a new editor who was a former employee of Monsanto. The study was then “retracted” for no scientific reason and the the publication was widely condemned by a large part of the scientific community for allowing corporate interference with science. The Seralini study has since been republished in another reputable, peer-reviewed journal and it is considered the best long-term feeding study on animals and GMOs that has ever been conducted. Oh, by the way, the study found a whole range of very troubling negative impacts on rats from being fed GMOs over a two year period. Of course, the biotech companies could easily replicate this study if they wanted to prove the safety of GMOs, but they have assiduously avoided such work for over twenty years as they know what they results will be. You certainly sound like you are on the payroll of the biotech companies or have a direct financial benefit from seeing GMOs more widely accepted.

  • First Officer

    Drenched, laden, drowned, washed, soaked???

    Huh, no:

    http://t.co/Li9DQhBD67

  • AlgernonMoncrief

    THE COLORADO SUPREME COURT . . . “POLITICIANS IN BLACK ROBES.” (AS IT TURNS OUT.)

    For decades I refused to believe it, but it is now incontrovertibly established. The Colorado Supreme Court is indisputably a political actor. Our Colorado Supreme Court exists to serve Colorado political parties. At present, the Colorado Supreme Court is more rightly considered an adjunct of the Colorado Legislative Branch, than a check on the Colorado Legislative Branch. Rather than “truth-seeking,” the Colorado Supreme Court now sees its role as “political-outcome seeking.” Litigants successfully use the Colorado Supreme Court to achieve political purposes. In the Ralph Carr Justice Center, rather than meeting impartial guardians of the law, litigants meet their political allies on the bench.

    “I think there are many who think of judges as politicians in robes. In many states, that’s what they are.” “They seem to think judges should be a reflex of the popular will.”

    Sandra Day O’Connor

    In this article, I provide an example of the political and partisan role of the Colorado Supreme Court. I describe a case in which the Colorado Supreme Court summarily erases billions of dollars of debt owed by Colorado state and local governments. That is, one branch of Colorado state government relieves another branch of Colorado government of its legal debts.

    The case involves Colorado statutory contracts that create financial obligations on the part of Colorado governments. Over decades, political considerations induced the Colorado Legislature to mismanage those financial obligations. In recent years, the terms of those statutory contracts were deemed politically inconvenient and politically unpopular. The Legislative Branch asked the Colorado Supreme Court to discard the contracts.

    In 2010, the Colorado Legislative Branch requested that the Colorado Supreme Court grant this political favor by ignoring the Contract Clause of the US Constitution, ignoring the history of legislative mismanagement of these state financial obligations, and relieving Colorado governments of their accrued legal debts.

    In this article, I address the Colorado Supreme Court’s lack of independence, integrity, and impartiality. I provide a brief history of the efforts of the Colorado Legislature and the Colorado Supreme Court to escape Colorado governmental financial obligations. I comment on the recent (October, 2014) Colorado Supreme Court Decision itself, which summarily erased these billions of dollars of Colorado public sector debt. I highlight some of the numerous factual and logical errors that exist in the Colorado Supreme Court’s Decision in the case. I express incredulity at the Colorado Supreme Court’s willful ignorance of public pension administration, knowledge that was necessary to any court claiming to “seek truth” in the case.

    My intent in writing this article is to enhance the public record of, and further document, what I consider to be one of the greatest “crimes” in Colorado history.

    Visit the following link for the complete article:

    http://coloradopols.com/diary/64487/the-colorado-supreme-court-politicians-in-black-robes-as-it-turns-out
    x

    • JH

      OT

  • rain

    My rights to label GMO food and the “opponents of the requirements — including food corporations and biotech firms — say mandatory labels would mislead consumers into thinking engineered ingredients are unsafe, which scientists have not proven.”

    I wonder why no one can say GMOs are unsafe…

    GMO safety? Laws are custom made that stop testing of GMO food. A independent lab will need to sign the agreements that forces limited testing and the results need to be approved by Dow or Monsanto before published. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/13/opinion/la-oe-guriansherman-seeds-20110213

    Companies that genetically engineer crops have a lock on what we know about their safety and benefits.
    In other words, No one can test GMO Seeds, Crops, or Food and the health effects on humans and what the GMO Food system does to the environment?

    • Charles Rader

      rain, you’ve posted something that is simply wrong. Anyone can tell that it is wrong because there have been a number of GMO critics who have done such research and published anti-GMO results. The anti-GMO propaganda web sites trumpet these results prominently and they show up in the press.

      Suppose you go to any seed supplier and buy a sack of GMO seeds and raise the crop. Then you use some of the crop in experiments. How can anyone stop you?

      Despite this, the seed companies did try to use their patent rights to control research. They obviously have the right to do that to prevent their seeds from being used to develop competing varieties. It’s unfortunate that you chose to post a link to a three year old article. Did you know that since that time, the seed association has made it clear that this is the only restriction, and that researchers can study and publish about safety, environmental impact, yields, etc. ?

      • rain

        Charles Rader, If I tell you it is a lie? See news posted all over the internet.

        ‘Syngenta methods of silencing GMO opposition are unbelievable’ Published time: May 15, 2014 13:45
        http://rt.com/op-edge/159184-syngenta-gmo-opposition-silencing/

        A German farmer has revealed shocking GMO company tactics to silence him in an exclusive interview with RT Op-Edge.

        German dairy farmer, Gottfried Glöckner, has told William Engdahl about attempted blackmail, character assassination and, ultimately, wrongful imprisonment he suffered when he refused to back off his charges that the Anglo-Swiss GMO company, Syngenta, had provided him with highly toxic GMO Maize seeds that ruined his prize dairy herd and his land.

        After spending two years in prison, Glöckner is traveling round the world to tell the story and warn the public of the extreme danger of GMO seeds.

        Pleas do not get me started on how the media and corporations do not tell full stories of why something is seeming to be safe.

        • Charles Rader

          rain, you posted some statements.

          a) “Laws are custom made that stop testing of GMO food.”

          b) “independent lab .. need to sign the agreements that forces limited testing .. results need to be approved by Dow or Monsanto before published.”

          c)”No one can test GMO Seeds, Crops, or Food and the health effects on humans and what the GMO Food system does to the environment”

          These statements are false. I explained why I know that they are false.

          Now perhaps you don’t think they are false after all. Then you can provide us with something that contradicts what I said. But you haven’t done that. You gave us, instead, a take of a corporation misusing its power to intimidate a farmer. A farmer, not a researcher, not a laboratory, not a publisher. Your example does nothing to contradict my explanation of why the original statements are false.

          • rain

            Corporate takeover of science

            Instances of the takeover and manipulation of science abound. The chemical/biotechnology corporations serve as a prime example. They figured out that science is the religion of the day, and taking control of science is to take control of people. They have used every means at their disposal to suppress scientific enquiry. They hire scientists and give money to academic institutions to fund research. They install people in key government positions at every level [4]; actively lobby congress and use their influence to coerce other nations to accept their products. They place editors on scientific journals, controlling what does and, more importantly, what doesn’t get published [5]; even to the extent of having published articles retracted that they see as damaging to their agenda, expunging the results from the public record and paving the way for expansion [6].

            Meanwhile the people, not being conversant in scientific language and largely unable to decode the scientific literature (it might as well be in Latin), are dependent on a go-between, a translator. The corporations dress up their scientific priests in white coats and have them deliver the message they want the people to hear. They repeat the dogma over and over using key phrases like “science-based” and “anti-science.”

            Permit me a small digression. In a chiropractic office that I once patronized, all of the chiropractic doctors wore white coats. The only reason I, a scientist, ever wore a white coat was to avoid getting my clothing stained. But my chiropractor was hardly in danger of being blood-spattered, so one day I asked her why she wore the white coat. She informed me that it was required by the management because people listened and obeyed if she wore a white coat whereas they didn’t if she did not. White Coat = Authority.

            If the people hear voices dissenting from the scientific priesthood, the corporations immediately send out their scientists to harass and discredit the other scientists. Their methods, results, and even their credentials are called into question. Many have been denied tenure, lost their funding and even their jobs after publishing results casting doubt on the wisdom of genetic engineering. This has created a climate of fear within the scientific community and confusion without. The vast majority of scientists who are willing to speak out are either retired or of retirement age. They have nothing to lose. This is all too reminiscent of the historical relationship between the Pope, the kings & queens, the bishops & priesthood and the people.

            If people intuitively reject the idea of eating genetically engineered food, liberally sprayed with poison, they are damned as irrational, unscientific and ignorant. Many people still believe that Roundup is safe enough to drink, as claimed by the company.
            See link:
            http://www.i-sis.org.uk/The_Corruption_of_Science.php

          • Judy Nonarchi

            “….liberally sprayed with poison….” They use less than a drop per acre. You want they should go back to the old ways, with spraying (REAL spraying) of atrazine? Look up atrazine and look up glyphosate. Educate yourself as to which is more toxic, and about how much glyphosate is used on GE crops. But don’t think we’re gonna be swayed by your hysterical claim of crops “liberally sprayed with poison.”
            (Reefer Madness, anyone?)

          • rain

            Your good and thank you for the explanation and example.
            This is from another post I made, but it seems to be the views of someone that knows what’s going on in the Corporate Science Technology.

            Because biotech goods have been determined to be GRAS they undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, we rely on the tests performed by biotech companies.

            – Pleas see document…link.
            http://www.csid.unt.edu/files/

          • rain

            I looked up Round up Pro Granules, 73% glyphosate, One pound can make about 30 to 50 gallons of weed killing spray

          • Charles Rader

            Judy, it’s more like a quart per acre. Of course, the propagandists will call that “drenched” anyway.

          • Warren Lauzon

            It is around 10 to 20 ounces per acre for glyphosate.

          • Caroline

            “less than a drop per acre?” Ha, ha, ha, ha. Both atrazine and glyphosate are bad. In 2013 Monsanto requested and got a higher allowable increase of Roundup which if much higher than the limit set in Europe.

          • rain

            Because biotech goods have been determined to be GRAS they undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, we rely on the tests performed by biotech companies.

            – Pleas see document…link.
            http://www.csid.unt.edu/files/What's%20Wrong%20With%20Genetically%20Modified%20Food.pdf

            -What’s Wrong with Genetically Modified Food?

            in Frederick Adams, ed.

            Ethical Issues of the 21st Century

            ((Charlottesville: Philosophy Documentation Center Press, 2004)

            David M. Kaplan, Ph.D.

            Polytechnic University, Brooklyn

            The most common concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among

            environmentalists, doctors, scientists, and public interest advocates have to do with the

            health risks they might pose, the environmental pollution they might cause, and the

            biodiversity they might threaten. Although these are all valid concerns, there is not yet

            any overwhelming evidence that genetically engineered food is dangerous. We really do

            not know what the long-term consequences will be for our health, safety, or the

            environment. Maybe the biotech defenders are right and they are safe to eat and safe to

            grow. A stronger argument would show that even if GMOs could be made safe to eat and

            safe to grow there would be still be good reason to oppose them. I believe the key to

            such an argument is the way that the biotech industry uses intellectual property rights

            laws and international trade regulations to patent GMOs and to transform the nature of

            farming from an activity required to sustain life to a profit-driven high-tech industry. The

            World Trade Organization (WTO), the largest, most powerful international organization

            dealing with global rules of trade among nations, has aggressively protected the rights of

            GMO producers to sell their goods, prevent labeling, and protect their patents. I believe

            that what is at stake here is the institutional privileging of market imperatives over the

            needs, interests, and democratic values of peoples and nations around the world to choose

            what kind of food they would like to produce and consume. It is a conflict between the

            basic human right to freedom and food security versus the property rights of private

            enterprises – and that’s what’s wrong with genetically modified food. After briefly

            examining the usual arguments opposing GMOs, I’ll explain what is wrong with the way

            the WTO allows for the corporate control of patented food, and suggest some things we

            can do as philosophers and citizens to address ourselves to it.

            Among the potential dangers of genetically modified food are the various health risks

            they could pose. In 1992 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that

            genetically engineered foods were no different than conventional foods. Under FDA law,

            food must be thoroughly tested unless it is “generally regarded as safe,” (GRAS) which is

            2

            a legal determination. Because biotech goods have been determined to be GRAS they

            undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, we rely on the tests performed by biotech

            companies. However, there are important questions to be answered about the toxicity of

            GMOs, their connection with allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, and carcinogens.

            Some argue that the possible health risks are so great that it is better to err on the side of

            caution and avoid them altogether. The recent episode in which the GM corn Starlink,

            deemed unfit for human consumption, found its way into consumer goods in grocery

        • Warren Lauzon

          One problem is that almost none of that story as it appeared on RT is actually true. (Hint – RT is not a reliable source for any real news). And you failed to mention that he was not in prison for anything to do with his supposed case, but for violent spousal abuse and child beating.

          Investigators found many problems on his farm not related to any GMO corn – such as extensive Botulism infections, mold in feed, and other problems. Millions of other cattle in Europe, especially Spain, have been eating that same corn since 1998 with zero ill effects reported. So why did only HE have problems?

          When you complain about not getting the “full story”, you should look at both side of that “not full story”.

          http://www.aec.org.ua/pdf/gmo/LivingLegends_Biotech_05_Apr_08.pdf

      • rain

        Charles Rader = If you test a GMO seed there are laws that can stop you from plublising the results. If you do publish, you can be sued and the published info will soon be out of the public’s view.

        Look to see if you have to agree to terms when you buy into a GMO system.

        • Charles Rader

          Then how do you explain the numerous reports, on anti-GMO web sites, about research that seems to show very bad features of GMOs, which none of the developing companies would want to see published?

          Take Seralini, the darling of the anti-GMO crowd. He describes in great detail how he grew several groups of Monsanto’s herbicide resistant corn, with and without the use of the herbicide, then used that crop to feed rats who developed gruesome tumors. Did he do the research? Yes. Did he publish his results? Yes, and also made them into a film. Was he sued? No. In fact, he himself filed several lawsuits.

          If you claim there are these laws that prohibit independent GMO research, where can we find these laws? Bill number? Year passed? Chapter and section?

          Once again, the only research the companies prohibit by their patent rights is use of the seeds to help develop new and presumably competitive plant varieties.

    • Judy Nonarchi

      Rain, I think you meant to say “I wonder why no one can say GMOs are safe.” Well, here’s why. Get out your science book. Science CANNOT prove anything (i.e. that a food is “safe.”). All it can do, statistically, is show that the opposite hypothesis is unlikely to be true. Example: “Prove” to me that the sun will rise tomorrow. See? You can’t. But you CAN clearly show that is highly statistically unlikely that the sun will not come up tomorrow.
      That’s how science and statistics work. (if you’re in doubt, ask your kid’s science teacher.)
      And that’s what researchers have shown in 1800 studies; that there is insufficient evidence to show that they are likely to be unsafe.

      • rain

        Because biotech goods have been determined to be GRAS they undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, we rely on the tests performed by biotech companies.

        – Pleas see document…link.
        http://www.csid.unt.edu/files/

        • MarkDonners

          To be more specific, it’s that Axis of companies found in the US, Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer and Dupont. This US Mafia is out to control the global food supply, but fortunately failing miserably. They would be jailed in Russia. Growing GMO’s and using their associated herbicide toxins is a felony in Russia.

  • JH

    OT: Looks like Big Demographic Shift in favor of the Democrats hasn’t happened just yet…

  • mem_somerville

    Whoa–even in Boulder it went down? I am genuinely surprised by that.

    • Judy Nonarchi

      Yup. Boulder County voters voted “no.” The Boulder Dems didn’t take a recommendation position because during the debate where this was to happen (I was there), the proponent was weak and didn’t make a good case for it; the opponent talked about scientific safety, inconsistency in the labeling measure, costs to consumers (beyond the label itself) and the harm it would do to local Boulder County farmers. This was the ONLY race, either for elected officials or ballot initiatives, by the way, that the Boulder Dems did NOT take a position on.

  • kam

    WOW, can’t believe people don’t want to know if they are consuming products that are GMO’s. Even if you don’t feel there is a difference why not be aware of what you are consuming.

    • Chris Preston

      The answer is mostly because it doesn’t matter and gets in the way of more important information. I am not particularly opposed to GM labels, but feel they are pretty useless from an information point of view. They won’t tell you anything except about the method of production and will just add cost to food.

      When I read product labels, I am more interested in whether they contain material to which I have a food intolerance. I want that material to be prominent on the label and not hidden because people think that stuff that makes no difference to the quality or make up of the product should be on the label.

      • MarkDonners

        Wrong, you label GMO’s just like you would label rat poison. Nobody cares what you do to kill yourself, but it’s very useful so that your kiddies and pets don’t ingest the poison, fall ill and die. Monsanto should be recognized for what it is, a terrorist group. It is in fact guilty of far worse crimes than ISIS

    • Judy Nonarchi

      If you’re paranoid about gmos, just eat organic or non-gmo certified. Simple. Don’t spray your paranoia and anti-science rhetoric over the rest of us, tho.

  • Loren Eaton

    We have a winner;-)

  • rain

    Common Weed Killer is Widespread in the Environment
    http://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2014-04-23-glyphosate_2014.html

    Related Headlines

    Neonicotinoid Insecticides Documented in Midwestern U.S. Streams

    Measuring POEA, a Surfactant Mixture in Herbicide Formulations

    Pesticides Found in Amphibians from Remote Areas in California

    Chemical Soup and Intersex Fish Found at Smallmouth Bass Nesting Sites

    Complex Mixture of Contaminants Persists in Streams Miles from the Source

    Fungicides from Areas of Intense Use Detected in Streams and Groundwater

    Contaminants Affect Fish and Wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay

    Pyrethroid Insecticide Contamination of Streams Increases with Urbanization

    Mixtures of Pesticides Detected in Crab Embryos

    Understudied Fungicides Common in U.S. Streams Draining Agricultural Land

    Are Pyrethroid Insecticides in Our Streams?

    Pesticides are Detected in Vernal Pools in Parks and Wildlife Refuges

    Measuring Antidepressants, Fungicides, and Insecticides in the Environment

    Glyphosate Found in Wastewater Discharged to Streams

    A Decade of Research on the Occurrence of Triazine Herbicides in the Environment Leads to a Unique Summary

    Glyphosate Herbicide Found in Many Midwestern Streams, Antibiotics Not Common

    Tracking Atrazine and a Breakdown Product (deethylatrazine) through a Drinking-Water Reservoir

    Three Program Scientists Make Environmental Science and Technology’s Top Ten Papers

    Science of the Total Environment Special Issue on Agricultural Chemicals

    Measuring Pesticides and How They Transform in the Environment

    Management Practices a Factor in Herbicide Declines

    Degradates: A Key to Assessing Herbicide Impacts in Streams

    Where are the Pesticides?

    • Neil

      First up, nearly every title there has nothing to do with GMOs. I looked through your links and only 4 had anything clearly to do with glyphosate. Interestingly another 4 called out pyrethroids, a pesticide used in organic farming and not on GMOs.

      Second,did you read the paper in that link? The graph is communicating when glyphosate was detected and the sensitivity of the assay is a staggering 0.02 microgram/L which, according to a internet conversion tool, is 0.02 part per BILLION. So every time the sample had more than that staggering small amount it was counted as ‘detected’! This is why the word ‘disingenuous’ was invented.

      • rain

        A GMO / GE is a complete system. You can not plant a GMO seed without using the herbicides and fertilizers. I guess you can use a few seeds with out using the all the other components that make a farmer’s GMO crop.

        • Chris Preston

          What rubbish. Of course you can.

        • Neil

          So your answer is “toxic sludge”, “toxic sludge”, “something incorrect about GMO” and “background radiation”?

      • rain

        Toxic sludge is poison. Used on farm land.
        The EPA does not test for all toxins but they do monitor other chemical contaminants not list for approval.

        Scientific evidence has confirmed that municipal sewage sludge contains hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs and other hazardous chemicals coming from residential drains, storm water runoff, hospitals, and industrial plants

        1) What are Biosolids?

        They are nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility. When treated and processed, these residuals can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.

        2) What is the difference between biosolids and sludge?

        Biosolids are treated sewage sludge. Biosolids are carefully treated and monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.
        http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/genqa.cfm

      • rain

        Toxic sludge is good for you?
        San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, along with municipal governments across the US, want farmers, school, and backyard gardeners to grow their veggies using toxic sludge, spreading the outrageous lie that municipal wastewater sewage plants can somehow magically transform hazardous materials into “organic fertilizer.”
        http://www.organicconsumers.org/sludge.cfm

  • rain

    There is an exception, however, for substances that are deemed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). GRAS status allows a product to be commercialized without any additional testing. According to US law, to be considered GRAS the substance must be the subject of a substantial amount of peer-reviewed published studies (or equivalent) and there must be overwhelming consensus among the scientific community that the product is safe. GM foods had neither. Nonetheless, in a precedent-setting move that some experts contend was illegal, in 1992 the FDA declared that GM crops are GRAS as long as their producers say they are. Thus, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations or labels whatsoever. A company can even introduce a GM food to the market without telling the agency.

    Such a lenient approach to GM crops was largely the result of Monsanto’s legendary influence over the US government. According to the New York Times, “What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto and, by extension, the biotechnology industry got.…When the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing.” According to Dr. Henry Miller, who had a leading role in biotechnology issues at the FDA from 1979 to 1994, “In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do.”
    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/fraud/faulty-regulations/An-FDA-Created-Health-Crisis-Circles-the-Globe-October-2007

    • rain

      Biotech Myth #2: Biotech foods are the most extensively researched and regulated food products ever.

      Fact: Every industry likes to pretend that its products are the most extensively researched and regulated products in existence.
      Back in 1992, the FDA decreed that genetically engineered foods were no different than conventional foods. Under FDA law, unless a food is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS), a legal determination, it must be thoroughly tested. Because biotech foods have been determined “GRAS,” they undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, government regulators rely on biotech companies to do their own safety tests and also determine themselves if the product in question is GRAS.

      Testing biotech crops for their environmental safety is equally lax. It is up to the USDA to ensure that genetically modified crops are ecologically safe. The New York Times recently reported that the agency has not rejected a single application for a biotech crop and that many scientists say “the department has relied on unsupported claims and shoddy studies by the seed companies.”
      http://www.vegsource.com/articles/gmo_feed_myth.htm

  • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

    Congratulations Keith!

    You finally wrote an article that mentions the ORGANIC industry.

    Of course, you didn’t actually use the term yourself. You were quoting Dr. Martin who seems to have made the link between anti-GMO and organic activism, a link that for some reason escapes you.

    But it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless!

    Way to go!!

    • MarkDonners

      Don’t comment, PopTarts, you’ve already been discredited. And you’re not earning your pay for your overlords in the Monsanto mafia.

      • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

        Sorry. Where was I discredited Mark?

  • JonFrum

    “It’s worth noting that the American scientific community leans left, politically speaking…”
    Like saying Parisians lean Francophile.

  • ruby

    The labeling of genetically
    modified food will allow a person to decide if they want to consume it or not.
    For those of us who do not trust there is not enough evidence to support that
    genetically modified food is dangerous, we prefer to have a choice. There are
    extreme financial losses to be had if there was anything supporting that GMO’s
    are dangerous. Monsanto for example, estimated to be worth 59 BILLION dollars
    would suffer financially; therefore it is hard to simply accept their findings
    without proof. Monsanto refuses to release their findings to the public. It is
    easier to accept that this research is true because life as we know it would
    continue as so. Financial threat stops
    most of us from making our health a priority. Proposition 105 was concise when
    expressing what the monetary loss would be and it was denied. This proposition
    could have been written differently and could have proposed financial gain, it may have had a different outcome.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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