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Issue 1:October 7, 2002
By Organic Consumers Association

Welcome to the first issue of ORGANIC BYTES, a nonprofit information project designed to give you the latest developments on food issues. This free bi-weekly newsletter provides up to date information on organic and genetically engineered foods, irradiation, factory farms, fair trade, labeling and more, in a convenient and accessible format. ORGANIC BYTES is a project of the Organic Consumers Association. As always, we want to receive any feedback you may have (contact info below). Enjoy the news!

Starting October 21, you will begin to see labels on organic products that say "USDA Organic." Sounds like good news, right? Not so fast...It would be nice to think that the Feds have finally established, once and for all, stringent national criteria, which conscious U.S. consumers can seek and trust when purchasing their fine edibles. But let's not forget that G.W. Bush is in office and that Bush's USDA appointees ultimately have the power to determine whether or not we have strict or loose organic standards]. While foods bearing the "USDA Organic" label are certainly better and safer than their chemically-laden and genetically engineered counterparts, USDA Organic ignores or downplays important issues like humane treatment of animals, fair prices for small family farmers, social justice for farmworkers, food miles, supporting local producers, biodiversity, etc. In short, look for the USDA Organic label, but go further: support local or regional farmers and producers, emphasize whole foods, avoid wasteful packaging, and buy Fair Trade or fairly-traded.

Read all about it on the Organic Consumers Association website

The results of a recently released study conducted by Harvard Medical School are bringing the American Dairy Association and the USDA to a state of panic. This extensive study indicates that there is likely a direct connection between consuming rBGH-tainted milk and cancer risk. Researchers monitored 1,000 test subjects and found that those who drank the most milk had higher levels of the hormone IGF-1. Since cows injected with Monsanto's controversial genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone contain significantly higher levels of IGF-1, this is bad news for Monsanto and the factory style dairy farms injecting their cows with rBGH across the country. IGF-1, a potent tumor promoter, is known to increase the risk of prostate, colon, lung and breast cancer. The results of this research amplify previous studies that have suggested negative health impacts from ingesting rBGH-tainted milk and dairy products. rBGH is a genetically engineered hormone injected into 15% of US dairy cows to force them to give more milk. It is banned in every industrialized nation in the world, except for the U.S. Read all about it! Reuters: Sept.10, 2002

Genetically engineered crops are causing an economic disaster for farmers in the U.S. So says a new report released by Britain's Soil Association. The report is a massive compilation of data showing GE crops have cost American taxpayers $12 billion in farm subsidies in the past three years. "Within a few years of the introduction of GM crops, almost the entire $300 million annual US maize exports to the EU had disappeared, and the US share of the soya market had decreased," the report said. In addition, the study says that GE crops have lead to an increased use of pesticides, while resulting in overall lower crop yields.

Read all about it! Reuters: Sept. 17, 2002

The September 30 issue of Newsweek highlights the economic boom of organic foods. The issue underlines some new statistics about this flourishing market: 40% of consumers now buy organic at least occasionally, and sales are expected to top $11 billion this year. The organic food market is increasing by an astounding 15-20% each year. Organic dairy is growing at an average rate of 98% every two years. According to the article, consumers are buying organic for better health, a cleaner environment AND flavor. "Sophisticated chefs have responded in droves, many now serving only fresh, seasonal food from small local growers," stated the Newsweek piece. The article also discusses the ever-growing problem of toxic pesticides. "There is no question they're killing off wildlife, endangering farmworkers and degrading the soil and water that life itself depends on," wrote Newsweek. So can organics save the day? According to Newsweek, "an organic ethic could be the very key to our survival."

Read all about it! Newsweek: Sept. 30, 2002

In late September, Starbucks was hit hard by protests held at over 300 of its designer coffee shops around the world. Why all the hoopla? While Starbucks celebrates record profits, the farmers that supply the company with coffee beans are undergoing an economic crisis. Starbucks reaps its profits by paying around 50 cents for a pound of coffee and selling it for around $11. In the meantime, some 25 million coffee farmers and their families are struggling to afford food and unable to buy medicine. The Organic Consumers Association, Global Exchange and thousands of concerned consumers have been pressuring Starbucks to help alleviate this problem via Fair Trade certified coffee. Fair Trade offers farmers a minimum of $1.26 per pound of coffee and supports sustainable agricultural practices. Starbucks touts a socially-responsible image and claims to already be a supportive of Fair Trade coffee. In actuality, only 1/10 of 1% of the company's total annual purchases of coffee beans are actually Fair Trade.

Read all about it! Alternet: Sept 20, 2002

It shocks most consumers to hear that 70% of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients. These controversial GE foods slip unbeknownst into consumers' shopping carts, simply because there's no law that states they need to be labeled as such. That may be changing soon in Oregon, as it is the first state in the U.S. to get a GE labeling initiative on the ballot. The GE giant, Monsanto, fears labeling will result in lowered sales of its products, so they've formed a coalition to help influence the vote. Monsanto and its allies plan on spending an astronomical $6 million to fight this Oregon initiative. Ironically, the message of their costly campaign is that labeling these products for consumers will be too expensive. They've titled their multi-million dollar campaign "The Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law". Whether or not voters get suckered by this gold-plated brainwashing campaign will be determined in November's election.

Read all about it! Post Dispatch Washington Bureau: Sept.15, 2002


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