ORGANIC VIEW

A publication of the Organic Consumers Association

MEMBERSHIP UPDATE - AUTUMN 2003

Organics for Everyone

Organics for Everyone is an idea whose time has come. The organic community has done an admirable job over the last 30 years of educating the public about the hazards of industrial agriculture, building a $13 billion market for organic food. Yet we can no longer afford to speak just to those already supporting the organic movement. We find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, looking at deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, global poverty, and injustice. We must reach out, as never before, to the broad majority of the population and link up with our counterparts worldwide.

Organics for Everyone means we need to promote and buy not just organic food, but also organic clothing, body care items, and other consumer products and services. This is why the OCA has launched two new campaigns, Coming Clean (promoting organic body care products with strict food-grade organic standards) and Clothes for a Change (promoting non-sweatshop, organic clothing). At the same time as we expand our definition of “organic,” we need to expand the availability of organic food and products to a more racially and economically diverse population. Part of this will involve getting organics into schools, hospitals, and restaurants. As we move outward, we must safeguard what we already have: thousands of small organic farmers, independent retailers, co-ops, and progressive businesses, as well as strict organic standards. We must guard against the dilution of organic standards and the takeover of the organic sector by large corporations, who inevitably seek to drive small and medium-sized organic farmers and retailers out of business, in favor of industrial-sized farms and Wal-Mart-sized retail operations.

With your help and support, the OCA intends to step up its public education and media work and reach out to those people who still know little or nothing about organic food and Fair Trade. In addition, we intend to work with our natural allies and do a better job of raising consciousness and linking together the burning issues: public health, sustainability, peace, and justice. For example, everyone needs to understand that genetic engineering and industrial agriculture are not going to feed the world and alleviate poverty among the world’s 2.4 billion rural residents. The major solution to world hunger and poverty (and its twins, conflict and violence) lies in sustainable and organic farming practices, supported by Fair Trade and equitable prices for farmers. This needs to be coupled with an end to so-called Free Trade policies such as billions of dollars in subsidies for export crops and dumping by transnational corporations of agricultural crops sold below the cost of production. Sustainable farming practices in the developing world can reduce input costs by 50% (eliminating pesticides and chemical fertilizers) while raising yields by 50%.
In addition to its enormous health and economic damage, industrial agriculture, corporate globalization, and long-distance food and fiber transportation are also major factors in destroying the environment (water, soil, air, biodiversity) and disrupting the climate through greenhouse gas emissions. But of course, public health and sustainability will continue to deteriorate unless we stop spending $450 billion a year on bombs and war, while giving away trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy and the big corporations.

Organics for Everyone will require a redirection of our nation’s priorities, including our tax money, to promote the well-being of people, communities, and the environment, rather than just short-term profits for billion dollar corporations. Organics for Everyone will involve utilizing our website and nationwide volunteer action network in a massive lobbying campaign in support of public policies that increase federal and state funding for organic agriculture, and promote access to organic foods for broader sectors of the population.

A major focus of this grassroots lobbying effort will be to promote and influence the work of the recently formed Congressional Organic Agriculture Caucus. The OCA also intends to lobby for organics in our schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. We also want food stamp programs for low-income families and WIC (Woman Infant Children) programs for pregnant woman, which guarantee adequate nutrition, including access to organic foods. We want our students, our elders, and those who are sick to have access to healthy and nutritious organic food, especially foods produced locally and regionally, instead of the brand name junk food and industrial fare that have become the norm in our nation’s institutions.

There is no time to lose in converting America’s $800 billion food industry, $300 billion clothing industry, and $100 billion body care industry to healthy, sustainable, and equitable practices. There’s no time to lose in terms of converting our $1.5 trillion health care system into one based upon holistic prevention and wellness promotion, rather than ingesting pharmaceutical drugs and treating the symptoms of disease. There’s no time to lose in terms of educating youth and mobilizing America’s 50 million Cultural Creatives—those already buying organic foods or utilizing alternative health products or practitioners—into a powerful force in the marketplace and political arena.

Please join the OCA in making Organics for Everyone a reality.

A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Autumn greetings and regards. As I write this I have just returned from the World Trade Organization protests in Mexico. I was in Cancun with a 20 person OCA delegation to participate in a series of teach-ins, workshops, and street marches. OCA’s mission in Cancun, along with 20,000 others who traveled from all over the world, was to help deliver the message to world governments that corporate globalization and free trade—embodied in unsustainable practices such as industrial agriculture, massive subsidies to corporate agribusiness, and genetic engineering—are threatening our health, our environment, and indeed the very survival of the world’s 2.5 billion farmers, rural villagers, and indigenous communities. On September 8, while seated at a long dinner table, we were filmed by a camera crew from Fox News, who were apparently intrigued by the notion of “solidarity tourism” exemplified by the OCA delegation. We drank a toast to the demise of the WTO and to the rise of an organic future of peace and social justice. As I explained to the Fox interviewer, “The OCA is neither anti-business nor anti-trade. We’re not here to have a confrontation with the police. We simply believe that commerce must promote health, sustainability and justice. Let’s replace the WTO with a World Fair Trade Organization.”

On September 10, our OCA group in Cancun was shocked and saddened by the death of a 57 year-old Korean farm leader Lee Hyung-Hae, who at the head of a march of 10,000 demonstrators, climbed to the top of a police barricade wearing a sign that said “WTO Kills Farmers” and stabbed himself in the heart. As a team of medics carried Lee’s body past the OCA delegation, it became tragically clear that there is no time to lose. As consumers and farmers, North and South, we must vote with our hearts and minds, our political energy, and our consumer dollars for a new way of life that puts people and life ahead of corporate profits. In the wake of Lee’s self-sacrifice and the mass protests the WTO talks collapsed, just as they did in Seattle four years earlier.

The theme of this issue of Organic View is “Organics for Everyone.” The idea is simple, though far-reaching. We need to speed up America’s steady progress toward sustainability and organic living. We need to promote and buy, not just organic food, but also organic clothing, bodycare items, and other products. We need to expand the availability of organic food and other products to a more economically and racially diverse population.

But to make “Organics for Everyone” a reality, we need your support more than ever. Please encourage your friends and family to become OCA members. We thank you in advance for your continued support.

Bon Appetit! – Ronnie Cummins

 

ANOTHER US FOOD GIANT QUIETLY DUMPING FRANKENCORN

The OCA, along with the GE Food Alert (GEFA) network recently received results from our laboratory analysis of Kraft foods. We’ve been watching Kraft closely for more than two years, since we found illegal traces of Starlink corn in their Taco Bell products (a genetically modified corn that the USDA has deemed unsafe for human consumption).

The most recent test results reveal Kraft is sourcing its corn ingredients from GE-free suppliers. Of the seven products we tested, only one of them tested positive for GE ingredients at a level unacceptable by European standards. The OCA and GEFA have been pressuring Kraft to go GE free, based on its market influence as one of the world’s largest distributors of food products.

Although Kraft has not yet stated that they are going GE free, many of their ingredient suppliers have, including Azteca, the world’s largest corn mill. Underlining the success of the global anti-GE foods movement, all major food companies in Europe have already removed genetically engineered ingredients from their foods, including Unilever, Nestle, Novartis, McDonald’s, and all major supermarkets. In the US, partial bans on Frankenfoods have been announced by a number of companies including Frito-Lay (corn), McDonald’s (potatoes), and Gerber (baby foods). Although Kraft is removing GE corn from its products, they are still using milk from cows injected with Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) in their dairy products .

OCA is mobilizing its supporters, along with GEFA, for a week long flood of nationwide rallies focused on Kraft. The planet’s largest food distributor is on the verge of going GE-free and we need your support and involvement to pressure Kraft and its suppliers into taking these final steps.

The rallies will be held at Kraft production facilities and grocery stores across the US during the week of October 25 through November 1. Contact OCA to take part in a leafleting rally near you and learn more by going to OCA’s GE-Free Supermarket Campaign website at www.organicconsumers.org/supermarket

 

OCA’S COMING CLEAN CAMPAIGN ROCKS THE BODY CARE INDUSTRY

As hundreds of natural and organic product industry professionals spilled out of buses at the Washington, DC Convention Center September 5, loudspeakers boomed with a message from the Organic Consumers Association. “Added water should not be considered an organic ingredient in body care products.”

It was the opening morning of the three-day annual Natural Products Expo East, and the OCA was sponsoring a press conference in front of the Convention Center. Mission? To insure that the 10,000 attendees of the Expo pay close attention to the ongoing controversy surrounding mislabeling of many so-called “Organic Body Care” products.

Organic cosmetics regulations, and the lack thereof, have led to blatant labeling fraud within the industry. Thus, the OCA’s press conference, covered by the Washington Post, Indy Media, and Mothering Magazine among others, served to remind the attending retailers, producers, distributors, certifiers and consumers of these cosmetics to pay attention to the fine print. OCA staff also handed out several thousand “Coming Clean” leaflets to Expo attendees.

After the press conference, the OCA attended the Personal Care Task Force (PCTF) meeting. This is the committee that is establishing recommendations to the USDA that will ultimately become the federal standards for organic body care products. The OCA has been lobbying members of the PCTF to propose strict, “food grade” standards for body care products that bear the “USDA Organic” label. The scientific and public health justification for “food grade” standards for organic body care products is that our skin is permeable, sort of like a million little mouths, and that problematic or toxic chemicals in soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics can get into our bodies (as well as the groundwater) and harm us, especially children and infants.

In short, a body care product that is labeled organic should not contain problematic synthetic ingredients or petrochemicals. Currently, some of the best selling “organic” body care products on the market contain synthetic ingredients, like preservative parabens, and petrochemicals, such as olefin sulfonate. This is misleading to consumers, who may not recognize a potential toxin listed in the ingredients and purchase these products, trusting the organic label.

In addition, the OCA is pressuring the PCTF and USDA to create standards that do not allow added water in a body care product to be included in the overall labeling of organic ingredient percentage. Some of the most popular “organic” shampoos, liquid soaps and lotions have essentially the same synthetic ingredients as conventional body care products, but are labeled as “70% organic”. These companies are simply including added water as an organic ingredient.

This is easily the most contentious issue currently in the organic body care debate. Added water is hidden within an ingredient known as hydrosol (also referred to as hydrolat, floral water and hydroflorate). This is where it gets tricky, because hydrosols are a legitimate product and have been used medicinally in aromatherapy for centuries.

Hydrosols are most frequently made during the process of extracting essential oils from a plant. A plant, like lavender, is put into a distillation unit, steam is pumped through the plant matter, which extracts various components from within the plant, and then the steam is cooled back into a liquid state.

At that point, the water insoluble components rise to the surface of the captured water and are separated out—these are the essential oils. The water that is left over holds some water soluble components of the plant—this is the hydrosol.

While hydrosols contain many useful elements of the plant, chemical analysis actually reveals that they are mostly water. In fact, over 99% of a hydrosol is water. Some of that water actually came from the plant, but the vast majority is just from the steam that was initially pumped into the distillation unit.

This is where the debate starts. Some companies say they should be able to include hydrosols, in their entirety, including the added water, as an organic ingredient in their body care products. With that argument it follows that if you are making a product that is mostly water (like shampoos) and you replace the water with an organic hydrosol, you suddenly have a product that you can label as “70% Organic Ingredients” (or even more). In fact, this is exactly what companies like Avalon, Kiss My Face, Nature’s Gate and Jason’s are actually doing, even though the vast majority of that “organic” ingredient percentage is actually just added water from the steaming process.

The issue gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that there are no regulated industry standards for hydrosols. That is, it is completely legal to put some plant matter in the distillation unit, turn on the tap water to begin the steaming process and just let it run indefinitely. After the plant matter is completely exhausted, the only thing coming out the other end is distilled water. All of that distilled water can be captured and sold as “organic hydrosol”. And that hydrosol is exactly what is being used to make certain body care products appear to have such a high percentage of organic ingredients.

It must be noted that the OCA fully recognizes high quality hydrosols as a legitimate and useful product, but when it comes to organic labeling standards for multi-ingredient products, the federal regulations are clear. The USDA organic standards stipulate that added water cannot be considered when assessing a product’s overall organic ingredient percentage. But to date, there have been no relevant studies completed that show conclusively how much water in a specific type of hydrosol is from the plant and how much was added via steam. To assist in resolving this statistical issue, the OCA has commissioned Rutgers University to do a comprehensive analysis of the hydrosol production process, in order to determine just how much added water there is. The OCA will be presenting this information to the PCTF and submitting it via a formal complaint to the USDA National Organic Program.

In the meantime, OCA is doing a major public education campaign to help consumers make educated decisions about their body care product choices. With media coverage of this OCA campaign everywhere from the New York Times to the Washington Post and full page OCA educational ads in publications like Utne, Nation, and Mother Jones, the public is quickly learning that when it comes to body care products, close attention must be given to the ingredient label.

The OCA’s Coming Clean Body Care Campaign, including its stance on the hydrosol issue, has now been endorsed by nearly 300 body care companies and retailers, many of whom were tabling at the Natural Products Expo in Washington, DC and supported the OCA’s stance at the PCTF meeting that weekend.

To learn more about the body care and hydrosol issue, go to www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare

 

FAIR TRADE EXPANDS, BUT SO DOES GREENWASHING

Four years ago, when the OCA first kicked off its Starbucks and Fair Trade coffee and chocolate campaign, the concept of Fair Trade products was unfamiliar to the majority of even the most ethically conscious consumers. Since then, Fair Trade has exploded into the mainstream market with global sales of $400 million in 2002. In North America, the Fair Trade industry is enjoying a powerful annual 37% growth-rate, an encouraging market trend that is even drawing some of the largest transnational corporations into the Fair Trade fold, or at least causing them to “greenwash” their business as usual activities.

Recent newspaper headlines include the following:

  • “Proctor & Gamble, Maker of Folgers, now Sourcing Fair Trade Coffee”;
  • “Dunkin’ Donuts Will Provide Fair Trade Coffee Throughout Entire Chain”;
  • “Starbucks Supports Farmers by Offering Fair Trade Coffee”.

Although the headlines look great, it must be noted that there’s a two tiered incentive for these profit-focused corporations to jump on the Fair Trade bandwagon. In addition to sharing some of the revenue of an exploding Fair Trade coffee market, which grew an astounding 54% last year, these companies also enjoy a slather of media attention, upon announcing their decision to act as an “ethical business” and support fair wages for farmers. Although these businesses should be applauded for recognizing Fair Trade products as economically viable, the OCA is continuing its efforts to keep consumers educated in a manner that allows them to see beyond PR media fluff.

Marketers know that if a consumer associates a business name with strong ethics, they are more likely to buy those products and even pay a little more for them. Hence, the recent significant growth of Fair Trade, GE-free and organic products. Educated and ethically conscious consumers, like you, are to thank for these positive market trends. Staying informed and up to date on these issues, however, while paying attention to the fine print, is as important as ever.

Let’s take one more look at those great newspaper headlines, only this time with a helpful informational addendum from your friends at the OCA:

  • “Proctor & Gamble, Maker of Folgers, now Sourcing Fair Trade Coffee”
    -Not available in any Folgers products. Only available in Proctor & Gamble’s new novelty “Millstone Fair Trade Coffee”. Available on a limited basis and only in select specialty coffee shops.
  • “Dunkin’ Donuts will Provide Fair Trade Coffee Throughout Entire Chain”
    -Available only upon request, if it is being brewed, and only in espresso beverages, and it’ll cost you extra.
  • “Starbucks Supports Farmers by Offering Fair Trade Coffee”
    -Available only upon request, if it is being brewed, or if you can talk the cashier into brewing it specially for you, and of course it’ll cost you extra. Less than 1% of Starbucks coffee sales are Fair Trade.

In short, don’t assume it is Fair Trade, unless you see the label. In the meantime, patronize coffee shops that offer Fair Trade and Organic coffee and chocolate every day (tell them to get rid of rBGH-tainted milk and replace this with organic milk and soy milk), and buy your bulk coffee beans and chocolate from companies that are 100% Fair Trade and Organic (for example Equal Exchange, Dean’s Beans, Peace Coffee, Higher Grounds, Rapunzel, and others).

 

OCA’S NEW CALIFORNIA PROJECT: ORGANIC CONSUMERS UNITED

OCA has launched an exciting new grassroots campaign in California, called Organic Consumers United (OCU), to gather petition signatures and build up a powerful email and phone network of 5,000 organic consumers in each of the state’s 52 Congressional Districts. Once the network is in place, volunteer coordinators in each District will help mobilize California’s organic consumers into a potent force for change, both in the marketplace and in the political arena. The OCA already has 98,000 organic consumer contacts in California, and an email list of 13,000, but hopes to gather the emails and telephone numbers of 200-250,000 Californians over the next six months who support a basic platform of phasing-out genetically engineered crops and industrial agriculture and converting the state’s multi-billion dollar farm, food, fiber, and body care industries to sustainable and organic practices. Once the California network is consolidated, the OCA intends to rollout a similar campaign nationwide.

The OCA kicked off the Organic Consumers United campaign October 1 with a petition drive in California’s northernmost Congressional District #1, which includes the towns of Arcata, Eureka, Ukiah, Fairfield, Vacaville, and Napa. For the first three weeks in October, OCA petition gatherers will be setting up tables in front of natural food stores, coops, farmers markets, and college campuses to collect a critical mass of signatures/network members. After completing its recruitment drive in District #1, OCA petition gatherers will then move south to Districts 6, 7, and 8 (Sonoma, Marin, and parts of San Francisco), eventually covering the whole state. OCA estimates it will need to raise approximately $10,000 in each Congressional District to consolidate the network and expand the recruitment drive into adjoining districts. Donations and volunteers for the Organic Consumers United campaign are urgently needed.

Please send in your donation today, or, if you want to volunteer, email our California field coordinator: ryan@organicconsumers.org

 

FREE ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTERS

OCA publishes two free electronic newsletters, BioDemocracy News, published quarterly, and Organic Bytes, published bi-weekly.

BioDemocracy News contains comprehensive news and analysis on Organics, Genetic Engineering, Fair Trade, globalization and factory farming.

Organic Bytes is a shorter newsletter containing summaries of some of the most interesting and important recent news stories from our website, along with fun facts, quotations, and amusing graphics.

For a free subscription, find the link under Publications on the left side of our homepage. Current and past issues are available there for your use, copyright free! www.organicconsumers.org/publications.cfm

 

OCA STAFF

Ronnie Cummins, National Director
Rose Welch, General Manager
Craig Minowa, Environmental Scientist
Loranda McLeete, Office Manager
Ryan Zinn, Organic Justice & Trade
Casey Oppenheim, General Counsel
Marguerite DeSpain, Development Coordinator
Judy Linman, Outreach Coordinator
Chris Treter, Clothes for a Change Coordinator
Kate Smith, Database Manager
Mary Anselment, Database
Amy Gardner, Membership Services
Barbara Vaile, Membership Services
Charlene Birdseye, Data Entry
Kelly Lind, Intern
Liz Welch, Illustration, General Services
Nick Lethert, Graphic Design

OCA WEBSITE:

Steve Urow, Web Master
Craig Minowa, Campaign Sections
Michael Greger, MD, Mad Cow Section
Danila Oder, Irradiation Section

 

ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION

National Director

RONNIE CUMMINS

Policy Advisory Board

WILL ALLEN
Vermont Farmer
MAUDE BARLOW
Council of Canadians
JAY FELDMAN
National Coalition
Against the Misuse
of Pesticides
JEAN HALLORAN
Consumers Union
TIM HERMACH
Native Forest Council
ELLEN HICKEY
Pesticide Action Network
JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL
Forest Activist & Author
ANNIE HOY
Ashland Community
Food Store, OR
MIKA IBA
Network for Safe & Secure
Food & Environment, Japan
PAT KERRIGAN
Emergency Food Shelf, MN
JOHN KINSMAN
Family Farm Defenders
AL KREBS
Agribusiness Examiner
BRUCE KRUG
NY Dairy Farmer
HOWARD LYMAN
Voice for a Viable Future
CHARLES MARGULIS
Greenpeace USA
VICTOR MENOTTI
Int’l Forum on Globalization
FRANCES MOORE-LAPPE
Author
ROBIN SEYDEL
La Montanita Co-op, NM
VANDANA SHIVA
Research Foundation for
Science, Technology &
Natural Resource Policy, India
JOHN STAUBER
Center for Media and Democracy


ORGANIC VIEW    AUTUMN 2003

A publication of Organic Consumers Association
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