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ORGANIC BYTES #78
Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!


3/29/2006

Subscribe to this Bi-weekly Email Newsletter: http://www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.htm

Written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins

IN THIS ISSUE

  • ORGANIC CONSUMERS GETTING MILKED: TAKE ACTION TO SAVE ORGANIC STANDARDS
  • READER POLL: SHOULD WE BOYCOTT? PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE
  • WORLD LEADERS DEFEAT THE TERMINATOR AND FRANKENTREES
  • CONSUMER DEMAND FOR ORGANICS EXPLODE WHILST SUPPLY DWINDLES
  • QUICK FACTS: HOW MUCH FOSSIL FUEL IS IN YOUR FOOD?
  • USDA SUED FOR NOT ALLOWING U.S. PRODUCERS TO TEST FOR MAD COW
  • QUICK TIDBITS

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ORGANIC CONSUMERS GETTING MILKED: TAKE ACTION TO SAVE ORGANIC STANDARDS
The watchdog group Cornucopia Institute has published a long-awaited report ranking organic dairy companies in the USA, and the facts are rather sobering. The good news is that most organic dairies in the U.S. are following strict organic standards, including giving animals regular access to pasture. The bad news is that several major players in the organic dairy sector are blatantly violating organic standards, with a wink and a nod from the USDA and the industry-controlled Organic Trade Association. Two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods); and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant and others, who together control 65% of the market, are purchasing the majority of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture. In addition, a routine practice on these giant dairy feedlots, many with thousands of cows, is to continuously import calves from conventional farms, where animals have been weaned on blood, fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains, and injected or dosed with antibiotics. Send a message to the National Organic Program of the USDA to stop the labeling of factory farm milk as "organic." http://www.organicconsumers.org/nosb2.htm

OCA also needs your donations to fight off the billion dollar corporations who are hell-bent on degrading organic standards and dictating what you and I can purchase under the "USDA Organic" label.
Donate Now!
http://www.organicconsumers.org/donations.htm

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READER POLL: SHOULD WE BOYCOTT? PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE
In the last issue of Organic Bytes we invited our readers to vote on the direction of OCA's Safeguard Organic Standards Campaign. If you haven't done so yet, please take part in our quick online poll: Should the Organic Consumers Association call for a boycott of organic brands that are lobbying to weaken organic laws and taking advantage of loopholes in the organic standards (example: producing so-called "organic" dairy products on factory farms, where the animals are imported from conventional dairy farms, and then kept in intensive confinement, with no access to pasture)? Vote here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/chat/viewtopic.php?t=587

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WORLD LEADERS VOTE AGAINST THE TERMINATOR AND FRANKENTREES
Leaders of the world have made some important decisions regarding genetically engineered crops over the past two weeks at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Eighth Conference of the Parties in Brazil. A majority of world leaders voted against the release of genetically engineered trees, referencing the possible spread of the plants into native forests. "Because there is insufficient scientific data regarding the biological impacts of transgenic trees, as well as an absence of socio-economic and cultural impact assessments, it is good scientific practice to invoke the Precautionary Principle, which is enshrined in the CBD," stated Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of the Federation of German Scientists. "This means no release of transgenic trees into the environment whilst this research is on-going," she added. A majority of world leaders also voted to maintain the moratorium on the "Terminator" technology, wherein plants are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds, forcing farmers to purchase seeds year after year, rather than continuing traditional practices of saving seeds with each year's harvest. The U.S. and other leading biotech nations voted in the minority for the spread of these technologies. http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/trees060324.cfm

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CONSUMER DEMAND FOR ORGANICS EXPLODE WHILST SUPPLY DWINDLES
Not enough U.S. farmers are finding it possible to make the transition to organic production, according to a January 2006 marketing report from the research firm Organic Monitor in London. Domestic consumers are buying record amounts of organic foods, but farmers are unable to meet that demand, resulting in $1.5 billion of organic crops imported into the U.S. in 2005. This means that 10% of all organic sales in the U.S. today are imports. In comparison, U.S. organic exports amount to a meager $150 million. In the European Union, government programs help conventional farmers make the transition to organic production with subsidies and technical assistance. In contrast, the majority of U.S. agricultural subsidies are earmarked for large chemical-intensive and energy-intensive farms and genetically engineered crops, making it difficult for family-scale farmers and ranchers to afford the expensive and difficult three year transition from conventional to organic production. "Unless more American farmers consider converting to organic practices, exporters are likely to capitalize on this lucrative market," the report said. http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/shortage060326.cfm

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QUICK FACTS: HOW MUCH FOSSIL FUEL IS IN YOUR FOOD?
An average of over seven calories of fossil fuel is burned up for every calorie of energy we get from our food. This means that the average 2000 calorie daily diet requires approximately two quarts of crude oil to produce, process, package and transport.

The processing of just one pound of coffee requires over 8,000 calories of fossil-fuel energy -- the equivalent energy found in nearly 30 cubic feet of natural gas, or around two and a half pounds of coal.

To reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed and greenhouse gases generated by the foods you eat, buy locally grown organic products, foods with minimal packaging, and avoid highly processed foods. http://www.organicconsumers.org/btc/fossilfuel060326.cfm


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USDA SUED FOR NOT ALLOWING U.S. PRODUCERS TO TEST FOR MAD COW
Due to yet another confirmed case of Mad Cow disease in the U.S., foreign buyers remain skeptical about the safety of conventional, non-organic U.S. beef. The USDA has refused to stop allowing the feeding of blood and slaughterhouse waste to cows and to require universal testing for the fatal disease, as required in the EU and Japan, causing overseas sales of U.S. beef products to plummet. While 100% of cows in Japan, aged 24 months and older, are tested for the disease, only 1% of the 35 million cattle slaughtered annually in the U.S. are tested (and the USDA has announced it will be scaling back this level of testing). As a result, a Kansas-based meatpacking company, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, announced last week that it will voluntarily test all of the beef it processes, in order to meet the demands of some of its foreign buyers. In response, the USDA has filed a notice against Creekstone, saying the company is not allowed to test its meat for the brain-wasting disease. Creekstone believes it has a right to test its meat and is suing the USDA. "Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again," chief executive John Stewart said in an interview Wednesday. "We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that." http://www.organicconsumers.org/madcow/lawsuit060326.cfm


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QUICK TIDBITS

Tom's of Maine, the popular maker of a variety of natural and organic body care products, has agreed to be bought out by the Colgate-Palmolive Company for $100 million. Although in past years Tom's of Maine has made negative comments about Colgate's use of artificial ingredients in its toothpastes, co-founder Tom Chappell claims "We have a commitment from Colgate that our formulas will not be tampered with." Colgate says it can help Tom's of Maine increase sales and distribution in the current fast-growing $3 billion US market for natural oral-care and personal products. http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/toms060326.cfm
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The National Academy of Sciences has released a report indicating that the current legal levels of fluoride in drinking water are dangerous and should be lowered. Although the U.S. government states that only 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of drinking water is necessary to help prevent tooth decay, up to four times that amount is present in some municipal water supplies. Excessive fluoride ingestion is known to weaken bones. The fluoride debate has raged on for over 60 years, with opponents pointing to data showing that it's effective when applied topically but not ingested. Consumers can learn how much fluoride is in their tap water by asking their local utility, and most of it can be removed through filtration. http://www.organicconsumers.org/foodsafety/flouride062406.cfm
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This week's blog by OCA Director Ronnie Cummins focuses on the Corporate Assault on Organic Standards, and what organic consumers can do to expand and protect organic agriculture in North America. Read and share your thoughts: http://www.organicconsumers.org/rd/ronnie1.cfm
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