Organic Bytes
Health, Justice and Sustainability News
December 11, 2008 - Issue #155
In This Issue
Obama Prepares to Appoint New Head of USDA: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Probable
Perfect Holiday Gift Idea of the Week
Alert of the Week: Tell USDA to Close All Loopholes Allowing Organic Dairy CAFOs
Victory of the Week: FDA Finally Admits Mercury Fillings May Damage Your Health
OCA Web Forum Topic of the Week: Choosing a Truly Green Christmas Tree
Web Video of the Week: How to Cook Local and Organic Foods Despite Life's Interruptions
Tip of the Week: How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Sugar This Holiday Season
Social Justice News of the Week: Recent Workers' Stand-off Not Seen Since 1930s
Quote of the Week: Obama's Cabinet and Grassroots Organizing Under the Next Administration
Headlines and Articles of the Week
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Organic Consumers Association
Welcome to another exciting issue of Organic Bytes from the Organic Consumers Association.
Obama Prepares to Appoint New Head of USDA:
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Probable...
Secretary of AgriculturePresident-Elect Obama is extremely close to naming a new Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its $90 billion annual budget, including the National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, and agriculture subsidies. Through the Organic Consumers Association web portal, you can now directly communicate with the President-Elect about your choice for Secretary of Agriculture and your vision for our nation's food system.

Take Action
Perfect Holiday Gift Idea of the Week:
Help OCA Raise $75,000 By Year's End
donateIt's that time of year when we look to our readers to support OCA's efforts with your tax deductible donations. OCA's year-end donation campaign launched on December 1st, and you've helped us raise $15,000 so far. But in order to continue to fight as successfully in 2009 for health, justice and sustainability, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal. Send your tax-deductible donation today or donate in a loved one's name as a holiday gift, and we'll send a special OCA holiday card to let them know.

Donate Now!
Alert of the Week:
Tell USDA to Close All Loopholes Allowing Organic Dairy CAFOs

Cow drinkingThe OCA alerted consumers on October 29th about a proposed rule that represents the broadest rewrite of federal organic regulations in history. OCA welcomes the new proposed rules in terms of closing loopholes relating to pasture and forage requirements that had previously allowed dairy companies like Aurora and Horizon to source their milk from giant industrial feedlots. Unfortunately, the new proposed rules also include a number of new cumbersome regulations that would cause tremendous hardship, or even put the majority of organic livestock farmers out of business. OCA also objects to the part of the proposed regulations that would allow non-organic cattle to be brought onto a certified organic dairy farm and then be considered organic. The OCA has joined together with the Cornucopia Institute and a number of the nation's leading organic certifiers to encourage the USDA to revise its proposed rule to crack down on factory farm abuses, and uphold organic integrity, without making it impossible for existing organic farms to operate and thrive.

Please sign your name to our petition here
Victory of the Week:
FDA Finally Admits Mercury Fillings May Damage Your Health
Mercury Fillings After years of pressure from scientists, citizen groups and health advocates, the FDA has posted a statement to its website that is nothing less than a watershed event in oral hygiene history (it's actually quite a bit more exciting than that may sound). Although the FDA has previously adamantly denied any and all scientific evidence pointing to negative health impacts from mercury fillings, the FDA has now posted the following to its website: "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses...Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner."

Learn more
OCA Web Forum Topic of the Week:
Choosing a Truly Green Christmas Tree
Christmas TreeThe majority of Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are grown on large plantations where pesticides are used that may cause the trees to contaminate your house with pesticide residues. Here are some quick tips to avoid that problem:

1) Buy a used artificial tree. People are always buying the latest and greatest and looking to dispose of perfectly beautiful ornamentation. Check out ebay, craigslist, freecycle or your local newspaper.

2) Shopping for a tree at a big box store, large garden center or city lot usually means you'll have no idea where the tree was grown or what chemicals were used.

3) Trees found at "cut-your-own-tree" farms and farmers' markets usually have little to no pesticides. Find an organic local tree farm here

Do you have more tips for a green Christmas?
Learn more from other readers and share your ideas in OCA's web forum here

Web Video of the Week:
How to Cook Local and Organic Foods Despite Life's Interruptions
Organic Movie Check out this series of humorous and educational videos that show viewers how to prepare high-quality wholesome food within the context of busy family life. You'll learn something. You'll get a laugh. You'll work up an appetite. And you'll find comfort in seeing that there are plenty of people with households as zany as yours.

Watch
Tip of the Week:
How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Sugar This Holiday Season
GE Sugar CookiesOver the past year, Organic Bytes has warned its readers about the forced introduction of genetically engineered sugar beets into the U.S.
food supply in 2008. The health and environmental effects of these crops are relatively unknown and have historically resulted in an increase in pesticide use. Most of the mainstream table sugar, cereal and candy companies have refused to ban genetically engineered sugar in their products, including American Crystal and Kelloggs. While OCA and its allies continue to work to remove this new biotech food from the mainstream market, before it becomes as ubiquitous as genetically engineered corn, soybeans and rBGH, we have some tips for consumers:

1) Purchase organic sugar. The USDA organic standards do not allow foods labeled as "organic" to contain ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops.

2) According to Ken Roseboro, the editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, two non-organic sugar companies that are still GE-free are Spreckels Sugar in California and Rogers Sugar Alberta, Canada. Spreckels is processing non-GMO beets because sugar beet farmers in California do not yet have GM sugar beet seed varieties. According to Roseboro, "I spoke with the plant manager and he said farmers would plant GM varieties as soon as they are available possibly by next year. Unless farmers are given extra incentives to grow non-GMO beets they will grow GM." Maybe it's a good time to contact the company and let them know you'd like them to stay GE-free.

3) The OCA is continuing its campaign to pressure major sugar and candy companies to use GE-free sugar.

Take action here

Social Justice News of the Week:
Recent Workers' Stand-off Not Seen Since 1930s
1930s StrikeIn an inspiring scene of solidarity, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1930s, more than 200 workers at a Chicago plant have refused to leave work after being unexpectedly laid off. Executives at the company, Republic Windows and Doors, announced massive layoffs after banks informed the company of credit cutbacks. Although Bank of America received a $25 billion taxpayer funded bailout, the financial behemoth continues to constrict credit, including cutting off operating credit to Republic Windows and Doors. In response to the layoffs, members of United Electrical Workers Local 1110 called for a sit-in at the factory. Worker backlash of this kind hasn't been seen in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Protesting workers wear signs reading, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."

Learn more
Quote of the Week:
Obama's Cabinet and Grassroots Organizing Under the Next Administration
Medea Benjamin"We feel like this is the moment for us as organizers. Yesterday, there were 2,000 organizers that were brought into Washington, D.C., many of them coming from the community organization where Barack Obama was trained in Chicago, talking about how we have to be there to push this administration forward. Groups are planning, January, February, bringing thousands of people to Washington, and also to be a part of this ten million email list that has been created..."

Medea Benjamin, the founder of CODEPINK, speaking in an interview on Democracy Now about the present opportunity and necessity for U.S. citizens to band together and move the Obama administration towards significant change that can address the nation's evermore serious crisis.

Read the full interview here
Headlines of the Week:
Headlines1) Bush's Environmental Legacy on GMOs

2) Chemical Used on Crops Could Make You Fat

3) How to Survive a Government Raid on Your Farm

4) Don't Just Mourn the Climate Crisis, Escalate the Activism

5) A Message for Climate Change Negotiators: Small Farmers Key to Combating Climate Change


Let OCA sift through the media smog and bring you the top new and analysis of the day. The OCA website has 20 or more news articles posted each day, and a library of over 40,000 articles covering issues including health, justice, food and farming, politics, and the environment. Bookmark OrganicConsumers.org
Message From OCA Sponsor:
Sign Petition to Repower, Refuel and Rebuild America
Take Action After eight years of failed energy policy, we finally have the opportunity to make a clean break with dirty energy. But to make it happen, president-elect Obama must take the lead in his first 100 days. That's why the League of Conservation Voters is partnering with other environmental groups to send him the strong message that now is the time to move to 100% clean electricity, create 5 million new clean energy jobs, cut our oil dependence in half, and cut global warming pollution. America has a fresh start. This is our chance to turn things around. Sign the petition and help Repower, Refuel, and Rebuild America.


Message From Our Sponsors
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ORGANIC BYTES is written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins
and is a publication of:
ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION
6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, Minnesota 55603
Phone: (218)- 226-4164
Fax: (218) 353-7652
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