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The Bitter Price of Tropical Fruits

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Sweet, healthy and delicious, and inexpensive to boot, pineapples are one of the world’s most desired fruits. On average, the world eats more than 26,000 tons of pineapples each year.1

But hidden beneath their low-price tag lies an industry riddled with heavy pesticide use, water pollution, deforestation and the exploitation of farmworkers, who are forced to work in risky conditions and for low wages. The dark side of the pineapple industry is rooted in Costa Rica, the world leader in pineapple production, producing more than 6.4 million pounds each year.2

The featured film, “The Bitter Price of Tropical Fruits,” produced by Arne Lorenz and Petra Pommerenke, explores the true cost of Costa Rica’s pineapple production, revealing how large-scale producers use pesticides and cheap labor to maximize their profits.

The film begins in the early morning hours of a wholesale market in Hamburg, Germany, where pineapple and other exotic fruits from around the world, including melons, bananas, mangos and oranges, make their way into the country. Germany is one of the largest consumers of pineapple in the EU, importing more than 150,000 tons each year, the majority of which comes from Costa Rica, according to the film.

The pineapple and banana trade are inextricably linked. The same handful of multinational companies controls both markets. These companies include Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita and Fyffes. Prices are kept low by the monopoly and the power held by supermarkets. In Germany, consumers pay just €1 to €3 ($1.15 to $3.44) per pineapple, regardless of the brand.

Four Major Chains Control 85 Percent of Germany’s Food Sales

In Germany, the largest purchasers of exotic fruits are supermarkets and discount chains, which sell more than 90 percent of the nation’s imported goods. The buying power held by these retailers makes them important players in the global food trade, as well as the global pineapple trade. This power allows supermarkets in Germany to dictate market prices.

This theory is supported by Franziska Humbert of the international charity Oxfam International, who helped conduct a study on growing pineapples in Costa Rica. She says that small suppliers are blocked by big retailers from selling their goods on the German market.

“That’s the eye of a needle that all of the goods have to get through, and it means the supermarket chains have a lot of power,” said Humbert. “They can set prices and returns to their suppliers.”

The supermarkets’ power has grave consequences for the producers in their home countries. That’s the message Jorge Mora, president of the Central American Regional Association for Water and the Environment (ARCA) in Costa Rica, wants to convey. According to Mora:

“The pineapples in Costa Rica have been produced with many problems. They are using a lot of pesticides that are contaminating the water supply systems of many communities. They are cutting many natural forests to plant pineapple. Also, they have very bad conditions for the workers in the plantations. It’s important the German public know the reality of what is happening in Costa Rica.”

Who Profits From Pineapple Production?

The film breaks down the economics of pineapple production, illustrating who earns what. Supermarkets and discount chains profit the most, pocketing nearly 43 percent of the total profits involved in pineapple production. Producers, often the major international fruit companies such as Dole and Chiquita, come in second, earning about 25 percent of the proceeds. Farmworkers earn less than 10 percent.

Can consumers buy pineapple with a clear conscience? The film heads to Costa Rica to find out. A dream destination for many tourists from the U.S. and Europe, Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforest-dense country with untouched beaches that stretch for miles along the coastline of the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.

Costa Rica’s rich flora and biodiverse rainforests make it a model country for ecology. Costa Rica is doing well economically, too, as it’s one of the richest countries in Central America. Agriculture is the backbone of Costa Rica’s wealth. Its tropical climate is ideal for growing many different kinds of tropical fruit, which can be grown all year-round.

Pineapple is one of Costa Rica’s most valuable crops. More than 43,000 hectares of land are devoted to growing pineapple in Costa Rica. The industry employs 32,000 people and exports 2 million tons of the fruit — worth about $1 billion — each year.3

Bittersweet

While the world enjoys an insatiable taste for pineapple, small farmers in Costa Rica are suffering. The growing demand for pineapple is creating conflicts between producers and traditional farmers and livestock owners, who are increasingly marginalized by large plantations run by international companies.

Jorge Castro is one of those farmers. Castro has lived and farmed in the area for 35 years. Today, he must cross endless pineapple plantations just to get to his land. He’s one of the few farmers left who has not sold out to the pineapple companies. But living alongside pineapple plantations isn’t easy.

Castro says a bloodsucking fly drawn in by the harvest waste from pineapple production is killing his cattle. The flies cause a lot of stress when they bite the cattle, he says. This causes them to produce less milk and can even stop them from reproducing.

Castro’s neighbor has lost 15 animals to the flies, and nothing is being done about it, despite making local officials aware of the problem. “The scales have tipped in favor of big business,” he says.

Pineapple Farming Is Polluting Costa Rica’s Water

Flies are the least of their worries in El Milano, Costa Rica, where toxic agrochemicals used to grow pineapple are polluting the water supplies of many communities. The pesticide pollution is so bad that the groundwater is deemed unusable for decades, according to the film.

Locals are forced to rely on state-supplied drinking water that’s dropped off twice a week by tank trucks alongside the road at distribution sites. Every sip of water that doesn’t come from a tank truck poses a health risk, particularly to children.

The film shows El Milano resident Xinia Briceno as she carries state-supplied water into her home. This is the woman’s job, she says. But it’s too hard for some women, who, as a result, use the polluted water and sometimes end up with health problems. “We can’t say for sure it’s the chemicals, but there are lots of miscarriages,” says Briceno.

Despite Costa Rica’s small geographical size and eco-friendly image, it uses more pesticides than any other nation in the world. Costa Rica applies 18.2 kilograms [kg] of pesticides per hectare, whereas the U.S. uses about 2.5 kg per hectare.4 It also has the longest list of approved agrochemicals, according to the film, and while its lagoons and wetlands are protected, pesticide contamination in the water remains a huge problem.

In certain areas of Costa Rica, the groundwater is contaminated with Bromacil, a weedkiller commonly used on pineapple and other citrus crops. Bromacil, which works by interfering with photosynthesis, is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a possible human carcinogen.

Animal studies show dogs fed Bromacil experienced vomiting, watering of the mouth and muscular weakness, and sheep died after being fed 250 milligrams/kg doses of the weedkiller over a period of four days.5

The Costa Rican Water and Sanitation Institute (AyA) is the authority responsible for supplying El Milano with clean water. Yamileth Astorga, president of AyA, admits that intensive pineapple farming is a big problem in Costa Rica, as it’s forcing more and more towns to give up their water sources. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of change in the near future.

The largest pineapple plantations are located near the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Many of the people who work on the plantations are illegal workers brought into the country from across the border by a subcontractor that passes them on to the producers as cheap labor.

The migrant workers often earn less than the national minimum wage and are forced to work daily in conditions that expose them to toxic agrochemicals. One farmworker interviewed in the film, who asked to remain anonymous, said that workers normally get bonuses when working with toxic chemicals. But he has never received such a bonus.

Costa Rica’s Pineapple Industry Influences Politics

The film crew tried to get the other side of the story from the operators of pineapple plantations, but no one wanted to speak on camera. The Costa Rican Association of Pineapple Producers (CANAPEP) wouldn’t comment, either.

When the film crew showed up for their scheduled interview, they were met with hostility and told not to film the building or its sign. Once inside, the film crew realized they were the ones being recorded. Cameras were set up around the room, recording footage that was being streamed to an unknown location.

CANAPEP criticized the film crew for speaking with employee representatives, and for meeting with Jorge Mora. When the situation threatened to escalate, the film crew stopped the interview. A few days later, CANAPEP published a scathing press release complaining about their one-sided reporting.

The reach of the conventional pineapple industry extends to the world of politics, too. Costa Rica’s former Minister of Agriculture, Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini, wrote a letter to his ambassador to Germany asking him to exert influence with a TV station and to prevent negative reporting about Costa Rica’s agriculture.

Arauz Cavallini wrote, I appeal to you to get your offices to sort out and correct this matter with the television station prior to the publication of this documentary.” Critical reporting on workers’ rights and the environmental conditions on pineapple plantations is not wanted, notes the film.

But Costa Rica does have alternatives to conventional pineapple cultivation and its poverty wages and heavy pesticide use. The film shows a plantation surrounded by rainforests that’s trying to use organic farming practices. Pesticides aren’t used on this plantation and the workers are from surrounding villages.

Organic Pineapple Farming

Organic pineapple production can be costly and time-consuming, as the sweet fruit has a lot of natural predators. The film interviews Freddy Gamboa, an organic farmer who says weeding requires the most work.

It rains a lot here, which is good for pineapples, but good for weeds, too, he says. Since herbicides are prohibited in organic farming, Gamboa’s plantation uses plastic sheets to suppress weed growth. Removing the plastic post-harvest proves difficult, but without it, there would be no organic pineapple farming, he says. Despite the hardships, Gamboa believes in organic farming:

“We need a change in attitude across the whole chain. From the producers to the supermarkets and to the buyers. We all have to change for that to be possible.”

Only 1 percent of pineapple exports to Europe are organic, according to the film. A recent scandal involving fake organic pineapple exported from Costa Rica to the U.S. did not bode well for the industry’s reputation.

American consumers reportedly paid premium prices for more than $6 million in pineapples that were falsely sold as organic. Lawmakers in Costa Rica have accused two certifiers, one in California and the other in Germany, of labeling pineapples “organic” that were farmed with toxic chemicals. Business Insider reports:6

“The two certifiers criticized in the legislators’ report — PrimusLabs, of California, and Kiwa BCS Oko-Garantie GmbH, of Germany — approved production of Costa Rican pineapples allegedly grown with chemicals forbidden in organics.

The congressional committee found that Primus violated USDA regulations by certifying farms run by Del Valle Verde Corp. while the company’s processing plant was suspended by Costa Rica for organic production. Lawmakers concluded that Valle Verde’s pineapple operations did not meet organic standards.”

Using Permaculture to Grow Pineapples

The majority of pineapples grown in Costa Rica are cultivated on land that was once rainforest. Even organic pineapple farming can be problematic, as it entails a monoculture that requires land at the expense of the rainforest. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The film features Manuel Mittelhammer, a forester and licensed assessor who checks and verifies sustainable and organic crop cultivation on behalf of various organizations. His specialty is permaculture. Permaculture involves the growing of various food crops in the forest, which is their natural environment.

The film shows Mittelhammer inspecting a permaculture operation where cacao, papayas, bananas, pineapple and other crops are grown together. This creates an ecosystem in which each variety benefits the other — this is the original, natural setting for pineapples.

Here, the ground is green and biodiversity is high. The pineapples are vigorous and strong. It’s clear that chemicals haven’t been used here in years, says Mittlehammer, a good indicator, he adds.

In a permaculture operation, nature regulates almost everything without chemicals or plastic. However, the producers in the rainforest can’t keep up with the pressure of prices put on them by supermarkets. Their returns would be too low and the product much too expensive to supply the European market. Mittlehammer says:

“The pressure on prices comes about because of the huge buyers, and also, our big supermarket chains are among the biggest produce purchasers in Costa Rica. They dictate the price which gives producers a level of certainty.

They say, ‘I’ll buy your product for years to come for this price, and you have to supply us.’ This pressure on prices, that producers get, is passed on to workers. They employ illegal workers who don’t have social or health insurance.”

Pesticides in Pineapples

The film concludes by revealing the results of a water sample taken from the edge of a Piña Fruit pineapple plantation. It tests positive for a cocktail of toxic pesticides, including three that are linked to cancer, and are banned in Europe. When confronted with the results, Grupa Acon, the operator of the Piña Fruit plantation, denies using the pesticides.

Test results for Piña Fruit pineapples purchased in Germany show only traces of pesticides, but the crown of the pineapple is a different story. Test results show the pineapple’s crown is contaminated with diazinon, a dangerous insecticide absorbed by the skin that can damage human DNA and possibly cause cancer.

The lab technician warns consumers to handle the crown with caution, and to rinse your knife, so as to not contaminate the fruit. Diazinon insecticide is banned in the EU. While testing found that the chemical didn’t exceed allowable limits in the fruit, the same cannot be said for the pineapple’s stud.

The maximum levels for the fungicide fludioxonil in the fruit and husk were massively increased in 2015 when the manufacturer pushed to make the allowable limit 700 times higher, according to the film. The EU attributes the decision to easing trade barriers, but for consumers, it means eating pineapple that just a few years ago would have been classified as hazardous waste.

In the end, it’s up to consumers to decide if they’re willing to pay more for organic pineapple. Consumer demand has the potential to incentivize supermarkets to apply pressure to producers to maintain social and environmental standards. But in order to achieve that, consumers will have to pay fair prices, and inspections must be enforced to uphold the standards on farms.

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Bill Gates: Third Shot May Be Needed to Combat Coronavirus Variants

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With more than 40 million Americans having received at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, a third dose may be needed to prevent the spread of new variants of the disease, Bill Gates told CBS News Tuesday.

Gates’ comments come amid growing concern that the current vaccines are not effective against the more contagious Brazilian and South African variants.

Pfizer and Moderna have stated that their vaccines are 95% and 99% effective, respectively, against the initial strain of COVID. However, some scientists have questioned those statements. Additionally, the World Health Organization and vaccine companies have conceded that the vaccines do not prevent people from being infected with COVID or from transmitting it, but are only effective at reducing symptoms.

Gates told CBS Evening News:

“The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?”

U.S. vaccine companies are looking at making modifications, which Gates refers to as “tuning.”

People who have had two shots may need to get a third shot and people who have not yet been vaccinated would need the modified vaccine, explained Gates. When asked whether the coronavirus vaccine would be similar to the flu vaccine, which requires yearly boosters, Gates couldn’t rule that out. Until the virus is eradicated from all humans, Gates said, additional shots may be needed in the future.

AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant,” Gates explained. “And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the studies being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, CBS News said. The foundation has also invested in the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and the Novavax vaccines, which are being tested against new variants. Once the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative or GAVI, founded by Gates, will distribute it globally.

“Gates continues to move the goalposts,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel of Children’s Health Defense. “Meanwhile the strategies he and others have promoted are obliterating the global economy, demolishing the middle class, making the rich richer and censoring vaccine safety advocates, like me.”

Kennedy said that the exclusive focus on vaccines has prevented the kind of progress required to actually address and recover from the pandemic:

“From the pandemic’s outset, clear-headed people familiar with the challenges inherent in the vaccine model have understood that the path out of crisis would require multiple steps. Those steps would need to include the development and/or identification of therapeutic drugs, the sharing of information among doctors to hone improved treatment models that reduce infection mortality rates below those for flu, and the kind of broad-spectrum long-term herd immunity that protects against mutant strains and that only derives from natural infection.”

Instead, Gates and vaccine makers are proposing a lifetime of boosters, supporting insufficient testing to determine safety and failing to address the inadequate monitoring of vaccine injuries, Kennedy said.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.

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Young nurse suffers from hemorrhage and brain swelling after second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

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(Natural News) A 28-year-old healthcare worker from the Swedish American Hospital, in Beloit, Wisconsin was recently admitted to the ICU just five days after receiving a second dose of Pfizer’s experimental mRNA vaccine. The previously healthy young woman was pronounced brain dead after cerebral angiography confirmed a severe hemorrhage stroke in her brain stem.

Her family members confirmed that she was “breaking out in rashes” after the vaccine. She also suffered from sudden migraine headaches, and got “sick” after taking the second dose of the vaccine. At the very end, she lost the ability to speak and went unconscious. The migraines, nausea, and loss of speech were all symptoms of a brain bleed and brain swelling, something her family did not understand at the time, and something nobody would expect after vaccination.

While on life support, neurologists used angiography to image the damage inside the brain. They found a subarachnoid hemorrhage, whereas a bulging blood vessel burst in the brain, bleeding out in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. The ensuing swelling cut off oxygen to the brain and caused brain death. On February 10, 2021, Sarah reportedly had “no brain activity.” Some of the woman’s organs are now being procured, so they can be donated to other people around the world.

Doctors warn FDA about COVID vaccines causing autoimmune attacks in the heart and brain

Experimental COVID-19 vaccines may cause inflammation along the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack and/or stroke. This serious issue was brought forth to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Dr. J. Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D. and further confirmed by cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. The two doctors warned that a recently-infected patient who is subject to COVID-19 vaccination is likely to suffer from autoimmune attacks along the ACE-2 receptors present in the heart, and in the microvasculature of the brain, liver and kidney. If viral antigens are present in the tissues of recipients at the time of vaccination, the vaccine-augmented immune response will turn the immune system against those tissues, causing inflammation that can lead to blood clot formation.

This severe adverse event is likely cause of death for the elderly who are vaccinated despite recently being infected. There is no adequate screening process to ensure that this autoimmune attack doesn’t occur. The elderly are not the only people vulnerable to vaccine injury and death. Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine could be the main cause behind the sudden death of Sarah Sickles, a 28-year-old nurse from Wisconsin. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has captured five permanent disabilities in Wisconsin, 58 ER visits, and eleven deaths in just one month. This is the first case in Wisconsin of someone under 44 years of age suffering from severe COVID-19 vaccine side effects and death. There are now more than 1,170 deaths recorded in the U.S. related to the experimental mRNA vaccines, a reality that the FDA and CDC continue to ignore.

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Powering hypersonic weapons: US armed forces eyeing dangerous 5G tech

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(Natural News) Much of the conversation surrounding the benefits of 5G is geared toward the consumer side of the technology. People will be able to download videos at lightning speed and will be more connected than ever, proponents claim, although there are serious questions regarding its safety. However, some of the most important 5G applications are not civil at all – the technology will be used extensively in the military domain.

Some of its military uses are outlined in the Defense Applications of 5G Network Technology report, which was published by the Defense Science Board. This federal committee gives scientific advice to the Pentagon. Their report states: “The emergence of 5G technology, now commercially available, offers the Department of Defense the opportunity to take advantage, at minimal cost, of the benefits of this system for its own operational requirements.”

The 5G commercial network that is being built by private companies right now can be used by the American military for a much lower cost than if the network had been set up exclusively for military purposes.

Military experts expect the 5G system to play a pivotal role in using hypersonic weapons. For example, it can be used for new missiles that bear nuclear warheads and travel at speeds superior to Mach 5. These hypersonic weapons, which travel at five times the speed of sound and move a mile per second, will be flying at high altitudes on unpredictable flight paths, making them as hard to guide as they will be to intercept.

Huge quantities of data need to be gathered and transmitted in a very short period in order to maneuver these warheads on variable trajectories and allow them to change direction in milliseconds to avoid interceptor missiles.

5G for defense

This type of technology is also needed to activate defenses should we be attacked by a weapon of this type; 5G automatic systems could theoretically handle decisions that humans won’t have enough time to make on their own. Military bases and even cities will have less than a minute to react to incoming hypersonic missiles, and 5G will make it easier to process real time data on trajectories for decision-making.

There are also important uses of this technology in combat. 5G’s ability to simultaneously link millions of transceivers will undoubtedly facilitate communication among military personnel and allow them to transmit photos, maps and other vital information about operations in progress at dizzying speeds to improve situational awareness.

The military can also take advantage of the high-frequency and short-wavelength millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G. Its short range means that it is well suited for smart military bases and command posts because the signal will not propagate too far, making it less likely that enemies will be able to detect it.

When it comes to special forces and secret services, the benefits of 5G are numerous. Its speed and connectivity will allow espionage systems to reach unprecedented levels of efficiency. It will also make drones more dangerous by allowing them to identify and target people using facial recognition and other methods.

Like all technology, 5G will also make us highly vulnerable. The network itself could become an attractive target for cyber-attacks and other acts of war being carried out with cutting-edge weaponry. In fact, the 5G network is already viewed as critical infrastructure and is being carefully protected before it is even fully built.

While the focus on 5G’s dangers to human health and the environment is absolutely warranted, it is also important not to lose sight of the military implications of 5G. After all, it is not just the United States that is developing this technology for military purposes; our enemies, like China and other countries, are also making great strides in this realm.

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