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Organic View - An e-mail publication of the Organic
Consumers Association
- Tue, 25 May 1999

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

v. 1 n. 6

Contents
1. Earth Day Success Pushes FDA on Irradiation
2. Pesticide Battlefront
3. New Study Finds GE Threat to Organic
4. Victory in Minnesota: Pro-Organic Legislation Passed
5. New York Times Gives Warning

1. Earth Day Success Pushes FDA on Irradiation

After receiving nearly 10,000 comments demanding that strong
labeling requirements continue for irradiated food, the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to extend the
comment period on the issue until July 19. The comment
period was originally set to close on May 18.

As part of OCA's Earth Day outreach effort, nearly 106
organic and natural food stores and 93 individuals and
organizations from around the country helped to collect
signatures for petitions to be submitted to the FDA
regarding the labeling of irradiated food. OCA volunteers
collected over 8,000 signatures from the petitions, which
also called for the FDA to label and safety test all
genetically engineered foods. Participating co-ops and
natural food stores came from the following states: Arizona,
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of
Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland,
Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina,
Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and
Wisconsin.

OCA, its store network, and volunteers will continue to
collect comments throughout the new comment period. If you
would like to receive an e-mail action alert on the FDA's
proposal (outlined in Organic View, n. 3 -
</old_articles/new.stm#Irrad>/old_articles/n
ew.stm#Irrad), e-mail our
field organizer Debbie Ortman at:
<mailto:safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us>safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us

Or for more information, go to the Campaign for Food Safety
website at: <http://www.purefood.org>www.purefood.org

2. Pesticide Battlefront

In the wake of another setback with the EPA over regulating
toxic pesticides, over two hundred activists from around the
country gathered in Santa Barbara for a conference titled
"Beyond Pesticides: Pollution Prevention is the Cure,"
convened by Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the
Misuse of Pesticides and Pesticide Watch Education Fund.

OCA Campaign Director Ronnie Cummins spoke at several forums
at the conference focusing on the adverse impact of
biotechnology on American agriculture, particularly organic
agriculture. There was widespread support at the conference
for a campaign based on consumers' right-to-know about
whether their food is genetically engineered, and calls for
labeling and stringent pre-market safety testing of all
genetically engineered food.

Other workshops at the conference included: How to make
Integrated Pest Management work in Schools, National Organic
Standards, and Transitioning to Organic.

The inspiring meeting comes after an acrimonious dispute
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the
enforcement of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996.
Under that law, the EPA is reviewing hundreds of pesticides
and re-evaluating allowable residues on food. Under the law,
the EPA for the first time must take into account the risks
posed to infants and children in deciding whether a
pesticide is safe.

Vice President Al Gore had recommended that an advisory
panel be set up to ensure the pesticide review process at
the EPA was completed in a timely manner. But in April,
seven environmental and public interest groups quit the
advisory panel to protest the agency's footdragging. The
groups that resigned from the Committee included: Natural
Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, Consumers
Union, Pesticide Education Center, Farmworker Justice Fund,
National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform, and the
Farmworkers Support Committee. Last year, the Environmental
Working Group was the first to withdraw from the advisory
group in protest.

In a letter to the EPA, the groups said they were quitting
the panel because the agency has been unwilling "to make
hard choices" needed to take the most dangerous pesticides
out of service. "EPA's indecision on these high-risk
chemicals leaves everyone - kids, farmers, farm workers,
food processors, consumers and our precious biodiversity -
vulnerable," the groups charged.

3. New Study Finds GE Threat to Organic

A startling new unpublished report from Britain concludes
that it is inevitable that genetically engineered crops will
contaminate organic food. The report by biotechnology and
agriculture experts at the John Innes Centre found that
pollen from engineered plants can spread far beyond the
boundaries of fields.

The report recommends that organic farmers set a standard
for acceptable levels of genetically engineered content, and
that a system for checking for contamination be put into
place.
"Neither source of contamination, either pollen or seed, can
be entirely eliminated, so acceptable levels have to be
decided on," says the report, Organic Farming and Gene
Transfer from Genetically Modified Crops.

Current organic standards in the US and around the world
require zero levels of genetically engineered content in
organic food.

The authors of the British report reached their conclusions
after examining data from trials of engineered crops to see
whether the proposed "buffer zones" between fields of GE and
organic crops would protect them from contamination. The
report found that pollen from genetically engineered crops
can travel large distances on the wind, and is also carried
by insects. With maize pollen, "in normal weather
conditions, pollination could occur at sites remote from the
source (e.g. 180 kilometres)," the report found.

In Britain, official genetically engineered crop trials
operate with only a 200-yard buffer zone. The Soil
Association, which regulates organic farming in Britain,
says a six-mile barrier is the minimum needed to guarantee
organic crops are not contaminated.

In the US, genetically engineered crops have already
contaminated a shipment of organically grown corn for chips
produced by the Wisconsin company, Terra Prima. The chips
were found to be contaminated after they were shipped to
Europe and tested there - costing the company several
hundred thousand dollars.

In Canada, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on
the Canadian government to make agricultural biotechnology
companies financially responsible for "genetic pollution" of
organic and traditional crops.

4. Victory in Minnesota: Pro-Organic Legislation Passed

While the federal government continues to do little to
support organic agriculture there are promising signs at the
state level. Earlier this month, the Minnesota legislature
enacted legislation that supports the work of organic
farmers by aiding in the promotion and marketing of organic
agriculture.

Despite the strong consumer demand for organic products,
less than 2% of Minnesota's farmers are organic. There are a
number of barriers which prevent farmers from switching to
organic methods, including a lack of awareness of organic
market opportunities, lack of understanding of organic
production practices, lack of research, lack of
infrastructure support, and the regulatory cost of getting
certified organic, which averages $300/year/farm.

The Organic Agriculture Promotion and Education Act helps
remove these barriers by increasing the promotion, education
and infrastructure support for organic producers. It also
provides regulatory relief by establishing a cost share
program under which organic farmers qualify for a cost share
rebate of up to $200/year/farm for 5 years of eligibility.
The program will provide relief for up to 175 certified
organic farmers per year.

The expanded marketing budget appropriations will result in
$480,000 for the first year and $420,000 for the second year
of the biennium. The legislation was passed with the support
of the co-op and farming community in Minnesota. Great job
to everyone who supported the legislation.

If your state has recently passed a strong law to support
organic agriculture, please let us know at:
<mailto:info@organicconsumers.org>info@organicconsumers.org

5. New York Times Gives Warning

New York Times, Editorial
May 21, 1999

A Warning From the Butterflies

". . .Bt is now available to conventional farmers in the
very crops they grow, in genetically modified versions of
potatoes, cotton and corn that are designed to express the
Bt toxin. In the United States this year, nearly 20 million
acres of Bt corn will be planted. That sounds, on the
surface, like a good thing. But researchers at Cornell
University have discovered in a laboratory study that the
pollen from Bt corn, when eaten by larvae of monarch
butterflies, killed nearly half and stunted the rest. The
Corn Belt happens to be critical ground for monarchs, which
live on milkweed, a plant found all across the Midwest. . ."

"It will be a tragedy if the use of transgenic corn,
potatoes and cotton by conventional farmers ends up
destroying the effectiveness of a safe, natural pesticide
that is of great value to many small farmers and all organic
farmers -- to a whole sector of the agricultural world that
has relied on close, attentive management practices as an
alternative to chemical pesticides. It is important to make
sure that monarch butterfly populations are not harmed by
transgenic crops. It is just as important to save Bt
itself."

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