Health Odds & Absolutes | Natural Health Newsletter

Date: 10/22/2012    Written by: Jon Barron

Health Guarantees and the People Who Abuse Them

We live in a world of absolutes. Everyone wants their health advice in black and white. They want health guarantees. Tell me what herb cures cancer. Does Echinacea cure colds? What drug should I take if I have diabetes? And everyone from the media to natural health practitioners to the medical community is only too happy to comply. Ahh! If only things were that simple. If only our health options truly existed as clear cut choices that provided health guarantees. Unfortunately, in the real world they do not. Ultimately, health is a game of odds -- and the real world choices we face are anything but absolutes.

As I said in the very first edition of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, there are no health guarantees. Good health comes down to "playing the odds."

For example, if you smoke cigarettes, there's no guarantee that you're going to get sick and die. (We've all heard stories of the man who smoked and drank like a fiend for 80 years, only to be shot to death by a jealous husband when the smoker was discovered in bed with the other man's 20-year-old wife.) On the other hand, there's no question that your odds of having emphysema or lung cancer or of having parts of your mouth, lips, and tongue surgically removed increase dramatically if you smoke. Again, it's all a question of odds. And as a real life example, as I've pointed out in previous newsletters on this subject, there's always Hugh Hefner, with his addiction to Pepsi and his ever present pipe.

Well, in the same way, if you follow the Baseline of Health® program as laid down in this website and in my book, your odds of having good health and long life are significantly increased--not guaranteed, but significantly increased. And as a side benefit, you're going to feel a whole lot better, have more energy, vitality, sexuality, youthfulness, and radiance in the process.

A question you might be asking yourself right now is: if I've covered this topic before, why are we visiting it again?

And the answer is simple. I want to explore some of the most recent abusers of this principle and examine the health consequences for anyone who might be seduced by the appeal of absolutism and thus miss the bigger picture.

The Health Experts Who Pitch Cures and Failures with Absolute Certainty

There are five primary abusers of absolutism. These include:

  1. The Natural Health Community
  2. The Media
  3. The Professional Skeptics
  4. The Politicians
  5. The Medical Community

Let's take a quick look at them one by one.

The Natural Health Community

The natural health community is, unfortunately, frequently guilty of speaking in absolutes. How many times have you read about miracle cancer cures or ways to guarantee that you never get cancer? Unfortunately, they're not true. When it comes to cancer, you can absolutely change your odds, but there are no guarantees. You can't guarantee that you'll never get cancer, and you can't guarantee that you can cure it if you get it. Cells are always going rogue in your body as part of the normal metabolic process -- anywhere from several hundred to several thousand times a day. And yes, your immune system is designed to find and eliminate all of those aberrant cells -- but sometimes, no matter what you do, they slip through the net and begin to multiply. And some cancers, once they get started, know how to fool your immune system into ignoring them. In fact, some cancers can even co-opt your immune system into helping it spread.  When it comes to cancer, there are only odds, no guarantees. You can improve your odds, but there are no guarantees. Thus, when people guarantee natural cures for cancer, they are being less than forthright.

Likewise, when natural health writers guarantee that certain actions, such as overeating sugar, guarantee that you will come down with diabetes, they are overstating reality. Your odds of getting diabetes may increase, but it's not guaranteed. Nor is it guaranteed that you will not get diabetes if you eat a perfect diet. Something to keep in mind is that eventually, every health guru, me included, dies from something. That's one of life's few guarantees.

One of the hot topics circulating through the natural health blogs at the moment is the study out of France done on the effects of consuming GMO corn.1 Essentially, the study, which billed itself as one of the most exhaustive ever on the subject, concluded that eating GMO corn and/or Monsanto's Roundup weed killer caused rats to develop horrible tumors and suffer severe kidney and liver damage. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen, and blood stem cells. To quote from one leading health site, "News of the horrifying findings is spreading like wildfire across the internet, with even the mainstream media seemingly in shock over the photos of rats with multiple grotesque tumors... tumors so large the rats even had difficulty breathing in some cases. GMOs may be the new thalidomide."2 It's all pretty frightening, but there are a couple of caveats before we take these conclusions as absolute gospel.

First, it's one study done with rats. Does that matter? Oh my, yes! Rats are not people.

Rat studies

Recently, someone commented on a Baseline of Health Foundation Daily Health Tip we mailed out concerning the virtues of goldenseal. As they wrote, "I wanted to point out that the US National Institutes of Health conducted toxicological studies in animals fed with Goldenseal Root. They concluded in 2010, and corroborated by another group in 2011 that Goldenseal Root is a potent carcinogenic agent (cancer genesis).3 So, please take "A Closer Look at Goldenseal Root" before you recommend it to your members."

 A question we might want to ask ourselves based on this comment is: "If we're up in arms about the GMO corn study, why aren't we up in arms about the goldenseal study referenced in this comment -- I mean if goldenseal is a proven carcinogen?" My answer to both this question and our reader's comment follows.

"And then there is the study, also published in 2010, that shows that goldenseal is cancer protective.4

"The bottom line is that a couple of studies with mice don't mean very much. Standard lab rats and lab mice are insulin-resistant, hypertensive, and short-lived. With a two-year life cycle, they metabolize drugs and supplements much more quickly than their human counterparts. In addition, having unlimited access to food makes the animals prone to cancer, type-2 diabetes, renal failure, and liver disease; it alters their gene expression in substantial ways; and there's reason to believe that ragged and rundown rodents will respond differently--abnormally, even--to experimental drugs or natural supplements. In the end, only about 4-20% of mouse studies statistically translate to humans. Although mouse trials are useful, they are far from definitive.5

"Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that with over 100 years of commercial use for goldenseal, and millions of people using it, there has been no evidence of an increased incidence of cancer among those users. If only pharmaceutical drugs could make that claim."

So what does this mean vis-à-vis Roundup and rats? It means that unless we're applying double standards, the same logic has to apply. One rat study does not a conclusion make. It may raise concerns, but it is hardly definitive and at best has about a 20% chance of relating to humans. Also, it needs to be noted that Roundup Ready Corn was first commercialized in 1998. In other words, it's been eaten en masse for some 14 years, and there's no sign yet that it's producing results in humans anything like what we've seen in the rat studies. Are cancer rates up? Absolutely, but they were up for years prior to the introduction of Roundup Ready Corn. There is no evidence of any spike since its introduction. There is the question of time, of course. Perhaps not enough time has elapsed. But so far, there is no indication that the results of this study translate directly to humans

But there are other problems with the study. For one thing, the rats in the study fed higher doses of Roundup pesticide or GMO corn didn't consistently get sicker than those fed lower doses. In fact, some rats fed higher doses had better health outcomes. Another curiosity is that the study got the identical results from two entirely independent treatments. The rats fed straight Roundup and the rats fed Roundup Ready Corn, but with no Roundup in it got exactly the same tumors. That's pretty much a nonsensical result.  And maybe most important of all, the strain of lab rats used in the study (Sprague-Dawley albino strain Crl:CD(SD)IGS BR®) is predisposed to tumors, especially mammary tumors such as those seen in the study rats. By about 2 years of age, on average, about 80% of this strain of rats will get tumors--just from being alive--regardless of what they eat or are exposed to. Since the study ran two years, you do the math.

So, does that mean Roundup Ready Corn is safe? Not at all! I've expressed concerns about any GMO foods for years. What it does mean, however, is that no absolute conclusions concerning the carcinogenic properties of GMO corn and Roundup can be drawn at this time. Calling GMO corn the "new thalidomide" might make for great headlines, but when based on one seriously flawed rat study, such a claim is a tad premature to say the least. One final thought to keep in mind when considering the relevance of animal studies to humans is chocolate. Chocolate can kill your dog. With humans, it just makes us feel like we're in love. For most people, those are very different responses. Note: onion, garlic, and macadamia nuts can also be deadly to pets. If one bases conclusions concerning the safety of foods and supplements on the results of one or two animal studies, the odds of coming to false conclusions are high. At best, animal studies merely point a direction for further study.

I resent being put in the position of having to defend Roundup and GMO corn, but the alternative health community has grabbed onto a bad study as proof of point. Yes, there is much to dislike about Roundup and GMO corn, but it is not found in the French study. And coming to absolute conclusions based on one badly done, agenda driven, rat study is not only bad science; it's bad health. It's also a dangerous precedent. If we were to accept one flawed rat study as proof that GMO corn is unhealthy, wouldn't we be obligated to do the same for the equally flawed rat study on goldenseal? What's good for the goose and all that…

Prop 37

The above French study (and we can now see how flawed it is) has been used as a rallying cry in support of California's Prop 37, the ballot measure mandating the labeling of genetically modified food. I know many in the alternative health community are trying to encourage their California followers to vote in favor of 37. I really, really wish I could support this measure, but I can't. I'm all in favor of honest labeling and in having both GMO and irradiated products clearly identified. As a formulator, I scrupulously make every attempt to avoid GMO ingredients in any product that carries my name. But this is a seriously flawed measure that reeks of exemption by influence and ambiguity through bad writing. For example, pet foods containing meat would likely require labels, but meats for human consumption would not. Cheese, alcohol and all restaurant foods are exempt. But foods that are milled or pressed, such as olive oil, quite easily could be prevented from carrying a "natural foods" label. The measure is fuzzy in this regard. There are some who would say that even a bad law requiring GMO labeling is better than no law at all. I beg to disagree. Prop 65, which was previously passed to protect consumers from exposure to things like lead and arsenic, has done little to change their use and consumption. What it has done is unleash a multi-million dollar industry of ambulance chasing lawyers and out-of-state, carpetbagging bounty hunters who are now attempting to feed off its teat. And they have made a point of specially targeting small natural food and supplement companies because they don't have the resources to fight a prolonged legal battle and are, thus, more likely to pay the extortion fee to make the problem go away. Make no mistake; ultimately, you the consumer will pay the cost in higher prices. Do we really want to approve another badly written measure to drive up costs?

Just last Friday, Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stoneyfield Farms, a huge organic dairy company with over $400 million in annual sales, was on Bill Maher's Real Time promoting a yes vote on Prop 37. Bill was very impressed that Gary had managed to take Stoneyfield from 7 cows to $400 million in sales -- and it is very impressive. What was left unsaid is that The Dannon Company now owns 85% of Stoneyfield, and it was marketing and distribution from Dannon that helped propel Stoneyfield to the top of the food chain. One of Dannon's products is Activia, which is powered by Bifidus RegularisTM, which "appears" to be a genetically engineered (GE) strain of bacteria. Let's just say that Dannon is cagey and ambiguous when pressed on this issue. Does that mean that Activia is unhealthy or even dangerous? Not at all. Many vitamins and even human growth hormone are now produced by GE bacteria. If it's not dangerous, then, why does it matter? It matters because dairy is exempt from Prop 37. If it were not, Dannon might be forced to declare Activia as GMO on its label. How convenient, then, that Gary can promote Prop 37 without damaging the interest of his parent company. Is he doing anything wrong? Not at all. But it is convenient, and it does bring us back once again to the main point. What kind of GMO labeling law exempts dairy, meat, and poultry?

I know I'm on the same side of the issue as Monsanto and big agribusiness on this. How in the world did that happen? But that doesn't mean it's the wrong position -- and keep in mind that we share the position for diametrically opposed reasons. And I know I'm going to get howls of protest from some of our readers, but badly written laws are bad laws. And no, something (approving a bad ballot measure) is not necessarily better than nothing (in this case, not approving the measure). Even though I desperately want to support Prop 37, I have to recommend against it as it's written. Yes, it's easy to support in principle -- if you don't live in California, or your business is exempt. There's no price to pay. But those of us who live in California and have to deal with the consequences and costs of a badly written law deserve better.

The Media

I've dealt with this issue so many times that I'm beginning to feel like a typical software upgrade -- now on version 11.3. Relying on health information you see in the media is just plain stupid. There are three primary reasons for this.

  1. Budgets have been cut so severely at most newspapers and magazines that there is virtually no investigative journalism left when it comes to issues of health. In fact, the media primarily functions as a transcribing service. As I've pointed out previously,  one of the national news services picks up the press release on a new study and calls a couple of their "reliable" doctor sources to comment on it. The news service then broadcasts the identical report, almost never challenged, to all of its newspaper, magazine, and TV subscribers. Those news outlets then merely rewrite the story they've just received, with no further investigation of their own. And that's why so many of the stories (and even the headlines) you read on any particular study look so similar from newspaper to TV station to radio show -- because they're all rewrites of the same story.
  2. Again, because of collapsing budgets and competition from other news outlets and the internet, most news media is now more into marketing the news rather than presenting it. In fact, some stations even let you vote on the stories you want to hear each day as a way of getting you to watch their channel. The bottom line is that if you're marketing the news, the more dramatic the headline and story, the easier it is to sell. Thus a study that indicates that conventional food has only about 30% more pesticide contamination than organic comes with the headline that reads, "Organic Foods a Waste of Money." In other words, the media will happily turn statistical ambiguity into market grabbing absolutism with reckless abandon.
  3. And let's be honest here. Due to massive advertising revenues provided by the medical/pharmaceutical industrial complex, the press will rarely write favorably about natural remedies or negatively about medical mishaps. There's just too much money at stake. Make no mistake, this has a profound influence on journalistic content.

The bottom line is that the mainstream media is driven to speak in absolutes, even when no absolutes are there. Anyone who takes them too seriously deserves the false information they get.

The Professional Skeptics

Professional skeptics, like my "good friends" Robert Carroll and Stephen Barrett, by definition, must speak in absolutes. For example, on his Skeptic's Dictionary website, Bob Carroll expresses his disdain for all things related to alternative medicine, "Some will be harmed by AM [alternative medicine, ed.] and many people will benefit from it, but the entire benefit from AM comes from the so-called placebo effect, which includes the reduction of stress hormones due to the calming effect of good ritual, "bedside" manner, promise of relief, and desire of the patient to be helped and to please the healer, classical conditioning, and the illness running its natural course."6 When you think about it, categorically stating that ALL alternative medicine is bogus is a pretty amazing absolutist statement that presents one with some startling contradictions. One of the most obvious concerns is the connection between herbal medicine and pharmaceutical drugs. To believe that the entire benefit from alternative medicine comes from the placebo effect requires you to believe that herbs such as foxglove, cinchona bark, and Pacific yew trees have no intrinsic benefits but that the drugs derived from them -- digitalis, quinine, and taxol -- do. Now that requires some logical gymnastics. And in truth, there are dozens of drugs derived from plants. And the reason researchers looked at those plants in the first place is because they had been used as healing plants for hundreds of years. How miraculous it would be indeed if all you had to do to turn a plant's placebo benefit into an actual medical benefit was to patent its active ingredient. When you think about it, it's not so much a testament to science, as it is to healing power of patents. Talk about the power of capitalism!

But Bob Carroll saves some of his most cutting remarks for acupuncture.  "The evidence from the scientific studies also shows clearly that sham acupuncture is just as effective as true acupuncture. What is not so clear to some people, but is easily ferreted out from the evidence, is that acupuncture most likely works by classical conditioning and other factors that are often lumped together and referred to as ‘the placebo effect.'"7

Unfortunately, once you've invested so completely in an absolutist position such as Bob Carroll's, you're faced with a conundrum when contradictory evidence appears such as the recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that stated, "Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo."8 You can do a mea culpa and admit you were wrong, of course, but that isn't likely since you're so invested in the wrong position. That means you either end up ignoring the new evidence as does Bob Carroll, or dub them "dubious" as does Stephen Barrett -- even though the study was spearheaded by that bastion of conservative medical think, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and represents the most rigorous examination to date on the subject of acupuncture.9

The Politicians

There really isn't much to say here that I haven't said dozens of times before. Politicians are absolutely the worst people to control what you do for health. Yes, they have a role to play as regulators in trying to maintain standards, but when it comes to grandstand issues, their motivation is almost always political -- and often influenced by a huge dollops of lobbyist money.  For example:

One of the funniest examples of how the regulation of health by politicians is political by definition comes from the movie "Thank You for Smoking" when the tobacco lobbyist, Nick Naylor, is called in to testify before a U.S. Senate committee to "defend" cigarettes. He ends up turning the tables on his interrogators by attacking the Senator from Vermont for promoting cheddar cheese, which leads to clogged arteries, the number one killer in the U.S. And no, I'm not advocating for cigarettes.

The bottom line when it comes to politicians is that they are raging with the hobgoblins of their own minds. They need to:

  • Stop playing games.
  • Stop subsidizing things that harm our health.
  • Stop playing both ends against the middle -- lobbyists and public opinion against health.
  • Regulate without bias across the board. In other words, level the playing fields between unhealthy and healthy foods and between mainstream medicine and alternative medicine (as if that will ever happen).
  • Make sure people are educated about their choices.
  • And then just get out of the way and let people make their own choices. If they make bad choices, that's part of what freedom of choice means. Just level the playing field so the deck isn't stacked against them.

The Medical Community

If there is any group that should know better, it's the medical community. Virtually every study done on their behalf draws its conclusions based on percentages and numbers. This drug will reduce your chances of having a heart attack by 12%. And this chemotherapy drug will reduce your chances of surviving your cancer by 15%.

And yet….

The medical community tends to be selective about which studies it communicates to the public and seems to have no problem converting percentages to absolutes when telling the public about the studies. Consider a sampling of the following items we have discussed previously in our newsletters.

Although statin drugs can lower your risk of having a second heart attack, statistically, they have not been shown to add a single day to your life. Does your doctor tell you that when prescribing them for you -- or do they just allow you to infer that it helps you live longer?

Chemotherapy drugs all work on odds. For example, taking chemotherapy drugs after colon cancer may improve your odds of survival by about 15% in exchange for the side effects -- some of which may be permanent. Does your oncologist tell you the odds so you can make an informed decision, or are you allowed to infer that you have no choice but to take the drugs if you want to get well? Even worse, that 15% improvement is across the board. It's not like everybody's odds improve 15%. No, what it means is that only one in six people will receive any benefit at all. The other five out of six will only get side effects. Whether or not they get a recurrence of the cancer will have nothing to do with the chemotherapy drugs. Is that explained to you?

When it comes to flu vaccines, doctors always cite the cohort studies that found that flu vaccine is 98% effective in preventing the flu.  What they don't tell you is that the same study also found that the same flu vaccine will also protect against being struck by lightning, killed in a drive by shooting, or dying in an airplane crash. Makes you wonder if there's something wrong with those study results, doesn't it. In fact, other studies have shown that flu vaccines are only marginally beneficial -- and that's if they guess the right strains to defend against.

Sometimes doctors just ignore studies that conflict with what they already believe. Men, has your doctor told you that the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recently concluded that "many men are harmed as a result of prostate cancer screening and few, if any, benefit?"10 And yet, despite these recommendations, many doctors have chosen to continue annual screenings. A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine survey showed that of 125 primary care doctors interviewed, many were hesitant to stop PSA testing in patients who received it regularly.

And women, has your doctor told you that most recent studies indicate that mammograms would have to reduce breast cancer mortality by 51 percent to counterbalance the risks of the screening for women between the ages of 24 and 29, and they don't come close, leading to the conclusion that the risks far outweigh the benefits for this age group? And even for older women into their 30s, the benefits appear marginal. In fact, when you combine the increased risks of breast cancer from regular mammograms with the increased risk of cancer from hormone replacement therapy, you come to the unmistakable conclusion that much of the increase we've seen in breast cancer in the last 50 years is a direct result of medical intervention. And if that weren't bad enough, has your doctor told you that the rate of mammogram false positives, by some estimates, is as high as 90 percent or greater?11


Cures rarely come in magic bullets, although the medical community loves to think they do. And of course, by applying that criterion when examining alternative remedies, they get to "prove" that they don't work.12 But as we said at the beginning of this newsletter, real health does not come in magic bullets and absolutes. It comes by dealing with the body as a whole and by improving your odds.

If you don't do that, if you don't worry about the odds and think you're going to be able to take some magic bullet provided by your doctor, you're going to be disappointed. In fact the odds are very bad. As an indicator, it's worth noting that a recent study confirms that the Baby Boomer generation's overall health is in sharp decline. Australian researchers have completed the first stage of a report on the generation born between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1960s. Among other findings, the researchers found that obesity among baby boomers is more than double the rate of their parents at the same age, and the odds of boomers having three or more chronic conditions was 700 percent greater than the previous generation.

It's your body. It's your life. It's your choice. Why not stack the odds in your favor?

  • 1. de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. "A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health." Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5(7):706-726.
  • 2. Mike Adams. "Shock findings in new GMO study: Rats fed lifetime of GM corn grow horrifying tumors, 70% of females die early." 19 Sept 2012.
  • 3. National Toxicology Program. "Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of goldenseal root powder (Hydrastis Canadensis) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed studies)." Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 2010 Aug;(562):1-188.
  • 4. Karmakar SR, Biswas SJ, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. "Anti-carcinogenic potentials of a plant extract (Hydrastis canadensis): I. Evidence from in vivo studies in mice (Mus musculus)." Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2010;11(2):545-51.
  • 5. Melissa Hendricks. "The Mouse Model: Less than Perfect, Still Invaluable." Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. (Accessed 14 Oct 2012.)
  • 6. Robert Carroll. "FAQ." the Skeptic's Dictionary. (Accessed 14 Oct 2012.)
  • 7. Robert Carroll. "Acupuncture." the Skeptic's Dictionary. (Accessed 14 Oct 2012.)
  • 8. Andrew J. Vickers, DPhil; Angel M. Cronin, et al. "Acupuncture for Chronic PainIndividual Patient Data Meta-analysis." Arch Intern Med. 2012;():1-10.
  • 9. LINDSEY TANNER. "Acupuncture can help with pain, study finds" The Associated Press. 16 Sept 2012. (Accessed 14 Oct 2012.)
  • 10. "Screening for Prostate Cancer Current Recommendation." USPSTF May 2012. (Accessed 15 Oct 2012.)
  • 11. "More on the Dangers of Mammography." Credence Publications EClub. (Accessed 15 Oct 2012.)
  • 12. Rita Rubin. "Strike Vitamin D Off the List for Cold Prevention?" WebMD Health News. 2 Oct 2012. (Accessed 15 Oct 2012.


    Submitted by Lester Sawicki on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:29pm

    Great Article! Thanks, I appreciate your research!

    Submitted by Mark W. on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:39pm

    This has to be one of the best summaries of health management in today's society that I've read in a long time. There's really nothing here that I could argue with. I have hopes that prop 37 will move things more in the right direction, but I have no illusions that in the end, it will still be up to the individual to educate themselves and make informed choices as best they can regarding their health and well-being.

    But as this summary notes, there are so many more things one could point to for improvement in today's state of health care, the food industry, supplements, and politics, just to name a few. And we know how slow change will be in these areas. So again...there's nothing like simply saying I'm going to to the best I can to live in health. Come to know thyself, and try to apply common sense whenever possible. It may not be perfect, but it's the best solution going.

    Thanks for sharing this Jon, and for the effort it took to put this all together.

    Submitted by Estelle on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:40pm

    Excellent article, and absolutely true! (Made me wonder if perhaps I was wasting too much money on supplements?????)

    Submitted by Bruce Stewart on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:41pm

    I do have to wonder if there is a financial reason for you not supporting prop 37. How does it affect your business? You don't like it as written so how could it be improved? What changes would you make? Monsanto and the other GMO companies are playing a risky game with our food and health. It needs to be reined in soon before it truly turns into a Pandora's box.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 24, 2012 - 6:22pm

    There are many things you could wonder about this topic, but I'm not sure why you wonder that. As I stated in the newsletter, I don't use any GMO ingredients in my formulations. My concern is that, regardless of its intent, Prop 37 is a badly written measure simply because it's a badly written measure. Believe it or not; sometimes things are that simple. Doesn't it bother you that dairy, meat, and poultry for human consumption are expempt? Keep in mind that the geneticy engineering of animals is the hot new frontier in GMO research likely to go far beyond anthing we've seen with GE plants ('t-produce-human-milk). If one were prone to conspiracy therories (and I'm not), they might wonder if you had a financial incentive for wanting them exempt.

    Submitted by Bruce Stewart on
    October 31, 2012 - 10:12pm

    I would like to see no industry exempt. I want no GMO's in my diet. I even eat my own grass fed beef for this reason.
    Prop 37 is at least a start and if we can get this far perhaps it would be easier to strengthen the bill than to wait for the perfect bill to be passed or even written. We have absolutely nothing now and many other countries do. Do you know what kind of bills have been passed in other countries?

    Submitted by Harald Tilgner on
    March 6, 2013 - 9:07am

    All this manipulation with Nature has gotten out of hand already and I do agree with you, Jon, that there should be NO exemptions, in fact, I would say, it is "past 12" in many ways and the worst part is, humanity is quite blind to the fact, that we are making this planet into a "poison sphere", where NO life at all will survive.

    Example: It took billions of years for Nature to acquire its existence with all its wonderful symbiosis, but humanity managed to destroy most of this in the last few centuries, with exponentially increasing speed. The oceans of the world are home to sea algae, which produce 80% of the available oxygen, but all the herbicides and assorted other poisons are ending up in these waters, killing these algae, fish and mammals, also including invertebrates and the lesser food, essential to the food chain. Plastic is also involved, as are oil spills and dumping of nuclear waste and garbage.

    I hate to say this, but I am glad to have lived before it all becomes increasingly more difficult to have a "normally" healthy life!

    Submitted by Murray on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:41pm

    Lies, damned lies and statistics. Well done in rationalizing the 15% example. But why did you then spoil it all by using the 700%? What is wrong with maintaining the rational - seven times - or even the old sevenfold? Or is it that 700 sound just so much more impressive?

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 26, 2012 - 1:13pm

    From Jon Barron: "I used 700 because that's the actual quote from the study -- not sevenfold or seven times. That said, I wasn't consciously editing anything in or out -- just quoting. But in truth, I'm not sure there's any great difference in perception between seven times and 700%. A sevenfold greater risk is still one heck of a greater risk. If something put me at a sevefold greater risk of coming down with a serious illness, I'd think twice about doing it.

    As the study says, "The proportion of baby boomers with three or more chronic conditions is 700% greater than the previous generation." (

    Submitted by Tom CHHC on
    October 24, 2012 - 2:42pm

    Jon, as much as I admire your work, I really have to admonish you for your stance on Prop 37. No, it's not a perfectly written law-- I challenge you to show me on that is. But it's a start, and it's really important that we send Monsanto and the other Biotech giants a message that what they are doing not only to our health but to the environment is unacceptable. We cannot allow this damage to continue, and this measure that is before the voters in California would be the FIRST victory against these evil corporations who brazenly value profit over public health. Shame on you for siding with Monsanto! Although it is for different reasons, you need to rethink your position on this matter. We must take this first step, to preserve what remains of the integrity of our food supply and prevent further contamination of the soil. The argument against any law the corrupt corporations don't want passed is that it's "poorly written". And yes, maybe parts of it are vague and unclear, as you say. It doesn't matter-- what matters is that we say "NO!" as loud as we can to Monsanto and the others who want to control our food supply and who don't care if they ruin the planet in the process. You've fallen for their tactics, Jon. This isn't about drafting a perfectly written law. It's about sending a message. Consider that every other country in the world requires that GMO foods must be labelled. U.S. exports are BANNED in other countries because they don't allow GMO foods, so it also hurts our trade relationships. As brilliant a person as you are, Jon, I am shocked and saddened that you've taken this position on Prop 37. You need to rethink your views and get on the right side of this issue instead of holding out for some idealistic, perfectly written law to magically come into existence. It never will, and the opportunity we have right now, the one we have worked so hard to get before the people for a vote, is going to be the only chance we get. Please, Jon, rethink.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 26, 2012 - 1:13pm

    Jon fully supports GMO labeling. Come up with a law that treats GMO products like the other countries do that you mention, and Jon will support it. Exempting the entire new frontier in GMO products, animal genetic engineering, isn’t a minor flaw. Rather than accusing Jon of “holding out for some idealistic, perfectly written law,” perhaps the alternative health community should ask why dairy, meat, and poultry were exempted in Prop 37? And keep in mind, we’re not just talking about the future, the genetic alteration of animals. We’re also talking about the present -- animals that are raised on GMO grains. They’re exempted too. That’s not a minor deal. It’s a huge deal. In fact, it’s so significant, it’s hard to believe it was merely an accidental error of omission. The alternative health community really needs to ask why they were left out. It’s the proverbial hole you can drive a truck through. Get the measure even marginally close to correct and Jon will support it.

    Submitted by Bill Johnson on
    October 24, 2012 - 7:33pm

    Hi Jon, thank you for your courage to be perfectly honest about Prop 37. If those who object to your analysis and opinions on the subject, would only read the context of your statements, they would be enlightened. You have made it very clear as to why this New Law Presented is just not written properly and why it is a dangerous precedent to set for the Health Industry. Yes, we do need to protect our health, and you have stated so,...but, please people, let's not be so anxious to turn over our lives to bureaucrats.

    Submitted by Guest on
    October 24, 2012 - 7:34pm

    I’m going to take the most ethical position Proposition 37 has to offer even though it doesn’t seem ethical enough. Let’s say that I’ve been making and selling baked goods for a living. There are several Asian entrepeneurs in my community and I don’t like them. In fact, I dislike them so much that I decide to kill them. I begin with a delayed action poison that will kill, I’ve heard, 90% of those who consume it within ten years. I put this poison in all cakes ordered by Asians, not particularly caring if other races suffer as well. I’ve been planning on retiring in five years, so there’s very little chance that I’ll get caught. By the time I’m 65, my neighborhood will be a much better place for Caucasians, some of us having owed those Asians a lot of money. Three years pass, then I make the mistake of selling a cake to an angry Asian creditor who takes it to a lab and has it analyzed, discovering the poison. He then wants to know more about our laws. First, does our country need a law that would penalize me for failing to accurately label my cakes? Does it need such a law even though most of my cakes were sold without poison and the poison in a few was only fatal to animals? Second, assuming laws like that set precedents, would the public do well to support a law that applied to cakes but not pies? Suppose my youngest Asian neighbors loved cake: should their parents patiently sacrifice them by waiting for a more perfect law prior to voting in favor? Third, will I have been guilty of murder in ten years even though my poison wasn’t always fatal, was only sold to Asians, was only tested on hamsters, and only targeted people I believed would die anyway when they couldn’t recover their capital? Fourth, if I won’t be held guilty of murder but will be held guilty of breaking a proposed labeling law, will it be possible for practically anyone to terminate his less fortunate neighbors by giving poisoned food away? Labeling laws don’t pertain to donations.

    Submitted by William Dawidowski on
    October 24, 2012 - 7:35pm

    I cannot agree more with your conclusion about the GMO labeling proposition. Very "watered down" and so little effectiveness when compared with the European laws. They should have done it right. It leaves way too much room for continuing use of GMOs in many foods. I thought the same thing when I read the law months ago. The exceptions hurt the effectiveness!

    Submitted by Jack on
    October 26, 2012 - 1:18pm


    Have you read Prop 37 in its entirety or are you actually believing the advertising coming from Monsanto? You said above that "Exempting the entire new frontier in GMO products, animal genetic engineering, isn’t a minor flaw...perhaps the alternative health community should ask why dairy, meat, and poultry were exempted in Prop 37?"

    That is not what the new law states! If the animal has been genetically modified, IT WILL GET A LABEL. If it eats GMO grain, but is not genetically modified, then those animals are exempt. I don't see a problem in this, since at least the GMO ingredient is one step removed from our bodies. Here is the exact text:

    "The requirements of Section 110809 shall not apply to any of
    the following: Food consisting entirely of, or derived entirely from, an animal that has not itself been genetically engineered, regardless of whether such animal has been fed or injected with any genetically engineered food or any drug that has been produced through means of genetic engineering."

    It sounds like you didn't really read Prop 37 and are buying into the lies from the same corporations that have destroyed our health over the years. This is not like you Jon.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 29, 2012 - 3:48pm

    Are you saying then that it would be okay to feed organic seed with inorganic fertilizer and still call it organic…because it would be one “step removed from our bodies”? The problem with that argument is that the plant (or animal in the case of Prop 37) incorporates and concentrates whatever it eats into its own flesh. That’s why your argument isn’t allowed with anything designated organic – but for some reason would be under Prop 37’s GMO labeling requirements.

    Or let’s put the question another way. Which would you rather eat:
    · A tomato from seed that had been genetically modified to emphasize its flavor gene, and then grown using organic fertilizer and no pesticides -- unacceptable under Prop 37?
    · Or milk from a cow born to organic parents and then fed a constant diet of GMO Roundup sprayed corn -- acceptable under Prop 37

    The bottom line is that Jon has read Prop 37. He’s just highly uncomfortable with its ambiguities and what their ultimate impact might be.

    Submitted by Bruce Jala on
    October 26, 2012 - 1:23pm

    Thank you for sharing your view on Prop 37. Before reading your article, I did not know that prop 37 contained an exemption for meat, dairy, and poultry, and share your your objection to the proposition for this omission. However, I still support the measure because it is better to have labeling information on non meat, dairy, and poultry products than no information at all. I view this bill as a first step. Get it passed, and continue the effort to make it better. I am afraid that if you waited for the perfect bill, you would never be able to accomplish any bill.

    Submitted by Dennis Holz on
    October 26, 2012 - 1:26pm

    Jon, I am truly saddened and shocked by your writing on Prop. 37. You act as if we live in a perfect world. Any law can be picked to pieces, (as a lawyer, I analyze them regularly), but unless you are willing to write the "perfect" one yourself and bankroll the good fight, then all you are is another voice from the bleachers. This is the best and only current chance to beat back Monsanto and the GMO corporate culture. State and Federal Governments are bought by these corporations (America is the only one of 49 industrialized countries without a labeling law). Only in California where citizens have the right to make their own laws (unlike most states where the right is limited to the legislature), can the people come up with imperfect but dynamic laws to start the debate and change our corporate-dominated culture.
    Watching the movie on brought home the many unknown dangers from GMOs that have been foisted upon an unsuspecting population, cancer is the least of it. I suggest you take a look, and then decide if your "critical" thinking is appropriate here. There is a time for action and change, and when it is missed, we all suffer.
    My wife knew you when you were in school with Steve Kotich, she and I knew Rusty and Cynthia Wells for many years before his death and ordered from Cynthia for years. Our reliance on your history and your seemingly well thought out and documented health advice is now ended. We will no longer order from you. I leave you with this quote: "A great man is one who is able to change his opinion when he realizes it is hurtful of others." I hope you would reconsider the value of what you have written against the harm it can cause.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    October 29, 2012 - 3:50pm

    From Jon Barron:

    I’m not sure why a number of people keep calling my objections to Prop 37 a hunt for “perfection.” There are a number of elements that keep this measure a long, long way from perfection. For example, as written, the measure allows animals to be raised on GMO foods and not identified as such. One commenter claimed this was not significant because it was “one step removed” from the consumer. And yet, as I reminded him, not one of the people writing in would allow that exemption for a product labeled organic. There is a fundamental understanding that even if you start with an organic seed, if you raise the plant on synthetic fertilizer, that plant is no longer organic and not as healthful – even though it too is one step removed from the synthetic fertilizer when we consume it. And that’s just one problem. There are also major enforcement issues, but that’s another newsletter.

    In the end, my opinion really doesn’t matter much. The measure leads in the polls and is likely to pass. I hope people are as happy with the results as they are with getting it passed. Prop 65, which was also passed by a like minded group of consumers, has not worked out that well. It has done little to improve safety, and it has significantly increased costs that have been passed onto the consumer.

    I have always called them like I see them, and that’s not going to change. I would never expect everyone of my readers to agree with everything I say, and likewise, I would hope that they understand, that I might not necessarily agree with everyone of their opinions. But I would hope that most of my readers understand that I base my conclusions on the facts as I see them – not as I would emotionally like them to be – and acknowledge my right to have those opinions. Fair enough?

    Submitted by Maya on
    November 2, 2012 - 10:00pm

    Hi Jon -- Luckily I came back to your page today because I wanted to share the link, and it gave me an opportunity to leave this comment. Your point is very well taken. I have no quibble with it, at all, but it's the nature of this collective creation that a vote means yes..... or no. You don't just say neutral. We will be picking something..... or a repudiation of something. A no vote is not neutral. In an ideal world, which we should ALWAYS shoot for, it would be better than it is. But it still does not convince me to vote *no*.

    Maybe this is a larger political discussion.... But I think, when called, it's worth putting the chit in for one side or another -- yes or no. I can't agree that a no vote is better. Sorry.

    Submitted by maya on
    November 2, 2012 - 10:07pm

    P.S. John, in answer to your comment above -- you said:

    "I’m not sure why a number of people keep calling my objections to Prop 37 a hunt for “perfection.” There are a number of elements that keep this measure a long, long way from perfection."

    Two sentences, and the second one answers the first question. Nothing is wrong with noticing what perfection is, or how far we fall short of it. The question is do we "actively" vote no. A polling is also a call to which direction. It's not only a particular regulation. Perfection is a North Star -- crucial, important, absolutely! No question. I personally have faith that you will continue to work for it, as will (luckily) thousands of others. But the first clarion call on this one is up - for the public. The public needs to weigh in. We weigh in that labeling, as a concept, is better than not labeling. Do you see?

    Thank you for all the work you do! You are an important voice to me.

    Submitted by Jack on
    November 5, 2012 - 2:18am

    Terrific article Jon................I realy loved the in depth analysis and thoughtful appraisals............please keep up the good work

    Submitted by Jeff on
    November 5, 2012 - 4:01am

    Thanks for such a concise article, really brings out all the details regarding modern medicine. When will they all learn? Sorry to read your thoughts about your Prop 37, however I am sure that you have well thought out reasons. I agree that we need good legislation, not "any old legislation".

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