Factory Farms, Eggs & Food Safety

 

#240, September 2, 2010

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

Edited by Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins

 

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Organics

Eight Reasons Why We Need Organic

1. Personal Health

Eating organic prevents exposure to agricultural pesticides known to disrupt neurological development in infants and children, increase the risk of prostate cancer, and double the incidence of childhood lymphoma.

The President's 2010 Cancer Panel Report urges consumers to choose "food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers" and to limit "exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots" "by eating free-range meat raised without these medications."

2. Nutrition

An organic diet increases exposure to health-promoting CLAs, flavinoids, antioxidants.

3. Water Quality

Organic cropping systems can prevent nitrogen losses to groundwater and the atmosphere and keep drinking water from being contaminated with nitrates, which can cause blue baby syndrome and other negative health impacts.

4. No Genetic Engineering

Genetically engineered Bt corn harms aquatic insects and disrupts stream ecosystems.

Genetically modified plants have already established themselves in the wild. One study found 86 percent of plants collected outside of agriculture fields in North Dakota tested positive for genetically engineered herbicide tolerance, including combinations of transgenes that are unique to the feral varieties.

 5. Soil Quality

Organics are shown to increase soil organic matter, enhance microbial activity and reduce soil acidity, all of which are linked to greater yields.

6. Biodiversity

Organic farming increases biodiversity at every level of the food chain, from bacteria to mammals.

7. Climate Change

The UN-WTO's International Trade Center found, "organic agriculture has much to offer in mitigation of climate change through its emphasis on closed nutrient cycles and is a particularly resilient and productive system for adaptation strategies."

8. Feeding the World

Research summarizing 293 published comparisons found a 30% increase in world-wide yields using organic methods. (Source: "What is Organic Food and Why Should I Care?" by Jim Riddle and Bud Markhart for the University of Minnesota)

 

Support the OCA!

OCA Needs Your Help to Fight Junk Food and Spread the Organic Revolution

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated to OCA over the past few weeks. We've successfully overcome our financial crisis and are back to full staffing. But we still need your donations to fight Monsanto and junk food. We still need your help to relocalize and rebuild local food and farming systems and work for real solutions for food safety. Please send us a tax-deductible donation today and we'll send you a free "Millions Against Monsanto" bumper sticker so you can help spread the word in your community. Please be sure to put "sticker" in the comments field of your donation.

Any donation $100 and over will get a free t-shirt. Please specify your interest and size in the comments field. Help OCA and spread the word about the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign!

Please consider joining OCA staff on one or both of our 5-6-day delegations to the Global Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico at the end of November or early December. Details follow below.

 

Alert of the Week

Factory Farms, Eggs & Food Safety

The recall of a half-billion eggs from two mega-farms in Iowa is accelerating the call for government action on food safety, while news reports are confusing consumers over the safety of organic eggs.

There are many news reports are suggesting that organic eggs are no safer than conventional brands. It's fairly easy to rebut this argument. One can start with the fact that no USDA certified organic egg producers have been caught up the recall. There's also loads of evidence that factory farm practices that are banned in organic, including battery cages and feed contaminated with slaughterhouse waste and manure, are the cause of disease outbreaks.

The Food Safety Bill

Some consumer groups are pushing the Senate to vote on its version of the food safety bill passed by the House last year. The bill (S510) would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to order a recall. Currently, it's up to companies to recall tainted products. The bill would also improve procedures for tracing food back to its source, increase the frequency of FDA inspections of food processors and require on-farm safety standards for produce.

Unfortunately, these reforms would only be a band-aid on the disease-ravaged factory farms where millions of overcrowded and mistreated animals live amongst mountains of their ever-accumulating waste. If we task government regulators with devising a food safety regime fit for filthy factory farms, we're likely to end up with draconian measures that will hurt local and organic farmers if they are applied to their small-scale, pasture-based farming techniques.

Pasteurizing factory-farmed milk might reduce bacteria. McDonald's hamburgers might not have as much E. coli if they're irradiated or injected with ammonia. Battery-caged eggs and chicken might have less salmonella if they're dunked in chlorine. But, if it comes down to picking our poisons like this, then the health of future generations is in serious trouble.

The only way to safely reduce the incidence of food borne diseases is to get animals out of factory farms and onto pastures big enough to absorb their waste. And, we have to make sure that at the end of their lives, they are butchered on the farm or at small-scale, local slaughterhouses to avoid contamination at the meatpacking plant.

Here are a few things we can to do to get moving in the right direction:

1. Congress should exempt small-scale, direct-to-consumer, local, pasture-based, and organic farmers and food processors from inappropriate food safety regulations. Support Tester-Hagan amendments to Senate Bill 510.

2. Consumers should swear off factory-farmed animal products and eat vegetarian when pasture-raised organic isn't available. We also need to press the USDA to require pasture for organic chickens, as it has for cows.

3. Regulators should phase-out the worst factory farming practices. To address salmonella, we can start by banning battery cages. The USDA organic standards ban battery cages. Michigan and California are the first states to pass phase-out laws. Banning battery cages can cut the risk of salmonella contamination in half.

4. Localities should lift restrictions on residents raising chickens in their backyards.

 

Climate Actions

Please Join Us: Climate Actions 10-10-10 and Cancun

Climate Actions 10-10-10

On 10/10/10, the planet is getting to work on climate change. 350.org is organizing a Global Work Party to involve people in efforts that could lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere back down below the dangerous tipping point of 350 parts per million.

A worldwide shift of cropland from industrial to organic production could sequester 40% of global greenhouse gases. That's why 350.org is encouraging people to spend 10/10/10 working on a community garden or an organic farm.

To get to 350ppm, we'll need to rethink the way we produce food on the planet - moving away from industrial agriculture powered by fossil fuels, and towards small-scale, local, organic farming. Think about using your work party as a day to model this new system - maybe you can break ground on a new community garden. Or simply help out harvesting at a local farm.

From Copenhagen and Cochabamba to Cancun: Join the OCA & Via Organica at the Historic COP16 Climate Conference

In 1999 and 2003, the OCA helped organize protests and teach-ins against the World Trade Organization in Seattle and Cancun. The “Battle of Seattle”, as it came to be known, and subsequent mobilizations were the coming of age of the global grassroots. Now you have the opportunity to join OCA Director Ronnie Cummins and other OCA staff on an escorted delegation to the historic teach-ins and rallies for climate justice and organic agriculture at COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico.

Over 100,000 concerned citizens from North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia are expected to converge on Cancun, including leading farm, food, Fair Trade, climate justice, and anti-GE activists. They’ll attend a wide range of workshops, forums, and cultural events. Following up on the theme of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, “Another World is Possible,” the emphasis in Cancun will be on presenting solutions and alternatives to the climate crisis.

The OCA delegation, limited to 100 people, will include international experts on organic agriculture and climate justice, including OCA Directors Ronnie Cummins and Alexis Baden-Mayer, organic farm leader and author, Will Allen, and author and food activist Jill Richardson.

We will be hosting two tours:

    * 6-Day Tour:  November 29th- December 5th, 2010 : Hostel $750, Ramada $950
    * 5-Day Tour: December 5th-11th, 2010: Hostel $700, Ramada $900

It is also possible to stay for the entire 11 day event from November 29th through December 11th, 2010

World famous speakers and activists including Vandana Shiva, James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Pat Mooney, and Maude Barlow are expected to make presentations at the Grassroots Summit, which will take place simultaneously with the global negotiations of leaders from every nation in the world.

 

 

Help America Go Organic

What if America introduced pricing that told the ecological truth about what was truly less expensive and damaging to society and the environment? Then organic food from local family farms would underprice and replace chemical-laden factory farm food - and across our economy, cleaner and safer goods, services and production methods of all kinds would replace their more polluting, unhealthy counterparts! This is exactly what Time to Get Smarter is proposing to Obama and Congress in their Petition for a Green Recovery Leading to a Green America.

 

 

Movies of the Week

Peepli Live

To afford the supplies and steep licensing fees imposed by Monsanto, many farmers mortgage their farms just to survive to plant another year. The first bad yield due to drought or flooding plunges them so far into debt that many resort to suicide.

Peepli Live is a drama set in an indigenous village named Peepli that tells the story of a young debt-burdened farmer named Natha.

Vanishing of the Bees

Bee populations have been in massive decline and bees have been mysteriously disappearing from their hives for the past five years – a syndrome better known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

The new documentary, Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page (Juno, Inception), takes a piercing investigative look at the economic, ecological, political and spiritual implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee.

 

Book of the Week

A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century

Dr. Francis Thicke's A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century, is an important new book with a blueprint for the future of global agriculture. Thicke's persuasive arguments are drawn from the leading edge of the biological and ecological sciences, and the hard-learned lessons and practical wisdom of one of the world's greatest agricultural regions. You can download the e-book for free.

 

Little Bytes

The Berry Healthiest: How Organic Strawberries 'Are More Nutritious'
READ MORE

Silver Nanoparticles Stop Sperm Stem Cell Growth
READ MORE

New Lab Results Raise Questions About Gulf Seafood's Safety
READ MORE

Study: Home Pesticides Linked to Childhood Cancer
READ MORE

Smart Cities are Paving the Way for Urban Farmers and Locavores
READ MORE

 

LOCAL [[State]] NEWS OF THE WEEK

[[State]] - Get Involved Locally

  • Learn more about OCA related action alerts and other news in [[State]] here.
  • Join [[State]] discussion groups in our forum.
  • Post events in [[State]] on our community calendar.
 

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