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Organic View - An e-mail publication of the Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association is affiliated with the
Campaign for Food Safety

v.1 n.10

Contents
1. USDA Delays Again on Organic Rule
2. Gerber Takes GE Out of Baby Food - Goes Organic
3. Coalition Calls For Pesticide Tax
4. Study Finds GE Soybeans Less Nutritious
5. US Surrenders on International rBGH Dispute
6. World Pesticide Use Statistics From PAN


1. USDA Delays Again on Organic Rule

Now close to ten years in the making, the USDA has once
again pushed back the completion of next proposed organic
rule. The USDA announced last week that it hopes to submit
the next round of proposed national organic rules by the end
of the year.

The national rules will replace a patchwork of state and
local organic standards that currently ensure the integrity
of organic food. The USDA's first proposed organic rule was
an unmitigated disaster, including loopholes that would have
allowed genetic engineering, irradiation, and sewage sludge
in organic food production. The agency received nearly
300,000 comments from angry consumers; with the help of
OCA's Save Organic Standards campaign, and decided to
rewrite the organic rules.

The organic food industry, conscious of the USDA's
propensity for delay, is developing its own national organic
standards. (See Organic View n. 7 -
www.organicconsumers.org)

2. Gerber Takes GE Out of Baby Food - Goes Organic

Last week the nation's largest baby food maker, Gerber,
announced it would remove genetically engineered food
ingredients from its popular baby foods. In their place, the
company said it would substitute organic ingredients.

Gerber is responding to a recent Greenpeace report which
found that Gerber Mixed Cereal for Baby, a dry three-grain
cereal mix for infants, tested positive for DNA from
genetically engineered insect resistant "Bt" corn and
herbicide tolerant "Roundup Ready" (RR) soybeans. (See
Organic View n. 8 - www.organicconsumers.org)

Gerber announced it is dropping soybean and corn suppliers
who use genetically engineered crops. By September, the
company will substitute corn flour and soy flour that is
"organic." Those ingredients account for less than 2 percent
of Gerber's products, mainly dry cereal.

Gerber claims it is taking the action (made public in a
front-page Wall Street Journal story), not because it
believes GE crops are dangerous, but because the company
fears that public concerns about GE crops in Europe could
spread to the US. Gerber's parent company is the Swiss-based
biotech company Novartis. The European Union has placed a
temporary ban on new genetically engineered crops, and the
British Medical Association has called for a moratorium
until further research is done on the human health and
environmental impacts of engineered crops. While public
opposition to GE foods and crops hasn't yet been as fierce
in the US, Novartis is concerned that the situation could
change quickly.

Gerber produces 5.5 million baby food products per day in
the U.S. and has U.S. sales of $700 million annually, plus
$300 million abroad. Gerber is not the only baby food
company backing away from GE crops. H.J. Heinz Co., of the
organic Earth's Best line says its baby food also will be
manufactured without using genetically engineered crops.

3. Coalition Calls For Pesticide Tax

Friends of the Earth and a coalition of environmental, farm
and consumer groups are calling on 29 states to add a sales
tax to pesticides and insecticides. These states are
collectively losing approximately $674 million each year
because of sales tax exemptions for pesticides. The
additional tax revenue could be used for sustainable and
organic agriculture and family farms.

According to a report by Friends of the Earth, of the $175
billion spent by U.S. farmers to grow crops in 1996, about
$20 billion was paid to the agrochemical industry. About $11
billion was spent on chemical fertilizers and about $9
billion on pesticides. The report calculates that if an
average sales tax of 5 percent were collected on these
sales, about $1 billion per year would be available to
address problems created by the use of these chemicals.

The report estimates nationwide health and environmental
costs as a consequence of pesticide use to be about $8
billion a year. The 10 states losing the most potential
revenue are: Minnesota ($65 million); Texas ($62 million);
Illinois ($59 million); California ($54 million); Florida
($50 million); Indiana ($45 million); Washington ($36
million); Kansas ($36 million); Ohio ($35 million) and
Missouri ($27 million).

The report, Fair Agricultural Chemical Taxes: Tax Reform for
Sustainable Agriculture, can be found at the Friends of the
Earth web site: http://www.foe.org/fact/index.html

4. Study Finds GE Soybeans Less Nutritious

A study released last month found that genetically
engineered Roundup Ready soybeans have reduced nutritional
content. The study, published in the Journal of Medicinal
Foods, found that soybeans engineered to be resistant to
Monsanto's toxic pesticide, Roundup, have between 12 to 14
percent reduced levels of isoflavones - an estrogen-like
substance.

Some research has linked soybean isoflavones to reduced
rates of certain cancers, improved heart health and
increased protection against osteoporosis. The Food and Drug
Administration is deciding whether soy protein can carry a
label saying it can improve a person's health.

The researchers, lead by Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey of the
Center for Ethics and Toxics, looked at isoflavine
concentrations in two varieties of Roundup Ready soybeans
and compared them to conventional soybeans grown under
similar conditions. Roundup Ready soybeans are typically
sprayed at least twice in a season with high doses of
Roundup. The research was a pilot study, and the authors'
called for additional research on other genetically
engineered soybean varieties.

The American Soybean Association attacked the study and
tried to diminish its significance by claiming that
environmental conditions such as weather, soil quality and
the slope of the field may have caused the variation in
isoflavine concentrations.

But the researchers grew both engineered and non-engineered
soybeans under similar soil conditions and climates.

The new study was done because all previous research on the
nutritional content of Roundup Ready soybeans has been done
by the product's manufacturer, Monsanto - a clear conflict
of interest. In addition, those studies tested soybeans that
had not been sprayed with Roundup - unlike the gene-altered
soybeans found in hundreds of products on supermarket
shelves.

The research highlights the importance of establishing
standards for isoflavine concentrations in soybeans, and
labeling those that are genetically engineered. In 1992, the
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a
policy statement for genetically engineered foods stating
that it "will require special labeling if the composition of
a food differs significantly from its conventional
counterpart." Currently there are no labels on foods which
contain genetically engineered byproducts in the United
States. The new data suggest the FDA should review its
current labeling policy.

An abstract of the study can be found at:
www.cetos.org/toxalts/abstract.html

5. US Surrenders on International rBGH Dispute

The United Nation's main food safety and labeling body, the
Codex Alimentarius Commission, voted earlier this month not
to endorse the safety of the recombinant bovine growth
hormone (rbGH), a genetically-engineered hormone produced by
Monsanto designed to increase dairy cows' milk output.

Codex officially agreed to shelve any further discussion of
a U.S.-backed proposal to set a Maximum Residue Level for
rbGH in milk in light of vigorous opposition from other
nations that still question the hormone's safety. By
indefinitely shelving the proposal, Codex acknowledged the
deep division between countries such as the U.S., that
insist rbGH is safe and countries like those of the European
Union, where rbGH has not been approved due to serious
safety concerns.

"By refusing to set a standard today, Codex has recognized
that there is no consensus on rbGH safety in the
international scientific community, and that national
governments should be able to decide whether rbGH should be
permitted in their milk supply," said Jean Halloran,
Director of the Consumer Policy Institute of the Consumers
Union.

The U.S. government and rBGH-maker Monsanto have pushed
Codex to approve the safety of rBGH to ensure the continued
export of US dairy products from cows injected with the rbGH
drug. But U.S.-driven efforts to persuade the international
community that rbGH is safe have been blocked twice before
at Codex, in 1995 and again in 1997, primarily by opposition
from European governments.

The FDA is currently being sued by a number of environmental
and consumer groups calling for the agency to pull rBGH off
the market in light of recent research related to its public
safety. (For more info,
http://www.organicconsumers.org/OV2.stm

6. World Pesticide Use Statistics, from Pesticide Action Network

The Pesticide Action Network Updates Service reports on 1998
World and US Agrochemical use:

* The world agrochemical market is approximately $31 billion
in 1998. This represents less than 0.2% growth over 1997
sales. Sales of genetically engineered seed, however,
increased by 145% over 1997 figures to $1.6 billion.

* Almost 53% of all U.S. agricultural agrochemical sales
were for pesticides used on corn and soybeans. Sales of
soil-applied corn insecticides increased by 27% in 1998 to
$255 million. Cotton is still the third largest market, but
sales were down by 11% from 1997 figures to $732 million.
Rice showed the greatest increase in pesticide sales in
1998, with the market increasing by 28% to $191 million.

* In the U.S. last year, Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate)
replaced Cyanamid's imazethapyr as the most widely used
herbicide on soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service. The
volume of glyphosate used almost doubled to 28.1 million
pounds as a result of increased plantings of Roundup Ready
soybeans.

The USDA's Agricultural Chemical Usage 1998 Field Crops
Summary can be accessed from the National Agriculture
Statistics Service web site at
http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu:80/usda/

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