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ORGANIC BYTES #110: 5/31/2007

Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!
Written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins

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Monsanto & Big Food Attack Local Rights to Regulate Food and Crops

Monsanto CartoonSince 1998, the biotech industry and industrial food corporations have unsuccessfully tried to take away local and states' rights to ban or regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other controversial foods and crops. For example, OCA and other public interest groups successfully generated a mass outcry in 2006 that blocked the passage of the National Uniformity for Food Act.

This highly unpopular bill would have nullified 200 food safety and food labeling laws across the U.S. Failing to suppress grassroots control over food safety laws and labels in the last session of Congress, industry has now called on their friends in the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry to slip a similar poison pill into an obscure section of the voluminous 2007-2012 Farm Bill.

The provision would give the White House appointed Secretary of Agriculture the power to eliminate local or state food and farming laws, such as those in four California counties banning genetically engineered crops, and set an an ominous precedent undermining states' rights.

Tell Congress to repeal this provision before it becomes law:

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Venezuela Moves to Ban Frankencrops

Monsanto's plans to grow 500,000 acres of genetically engineered crops in Venezuela have been thwarted by the nation's popular President, Hugo Chavez. According to Chavez, when he learned about Monsanto's Plans, "I ordered an end to the project. This project is terminated." Chavez is now encouraging Venezuela's national legislature to pass some of the most sweeping restrictions on genetically modified organisms in the entire Western Hemisphere.

OCA's Boycott of Horizon Continues as Company's Stock Plummets

Boycott HorizonApril marked the one year anniversary of OCA's boycott of factory farmed dairy products produced by Horizon Organic and Aurora. Ninety-six percent of Organic Bytes readers, in an online survey in 2006, voted to launch a boycott of so-called "USDA Organic" brands sourcing dairy products from intensive confinement feedlots where the cows have little or no access to pasture, and where many of the calves have been purchased from conventional farms.

A loophole in the USDA Organic Standards has allowed two companies, Horizon and Aurora, to buy their milk from "organic" factory farms where as many as 10,000 cows are packed into feedlots. Although Horizon claims the OCA boycott has not affected sales, Executive Gregg Engles recently admitted to investors that profits for the year have been much lower than projected. The company's stock market price has recently dropped 11 percent.

In addition Wal-Mart, Wild Oats, Safeway, Costco, Woodstock Farms, Publix, and other private label vendors of Aurora's feedlot milk are coming under increasing criticism from consumers.

Learn more about this campaign and take part in the boycott:

Planet's Population is Now More Urban than Rural

Population Cartoon"So far, cities are getting whatever resource needs that can be had from rural areas. But given global rural impoverishment, the rural-urban question for the future is not just what rural people and places can do for the world's new urban majority. Rather, what can the urban majority do for poor rural people and the resources upon which cities depend for existence? The sustainable future of the new urban world may well depend upon the answer."

-Dr. Ron Wimberley, Professor of Sociology at NC, addressing the fact that as of May 23, 2007, the world's population for the first time is primarily urban.

Learn more:

Cancer-Causing Benzene in Soda Drinks

Sodas Found to Contain Carcinogenic Benzene:
  • Safeway Select Diet Orange
  • AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage
  • Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange
  • Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  • Crush Pineapple

Benzene Soda ParodyThe problem of cancer causing benzene turning up in sodas seems to pop up in the U.S. with alarming regularity.

Last week, the FDA reported that it tested 100 sodas and found unacceptable levels of the known carcinogen in five of the drinks. Some of these drinks had benzene levels nearly 100 times that which is considered safe by the EPA for drinking water. The toxin is formed when a soda manufacturer uses two ingredients that can react to form benzene: ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate.

Soda companies found to have dangerous levels of benzene have vowed to reformulate their drinks. In the meantime, boycott the beverages listed here and consider avoiding any soda with the "toxic two" ingredients, found in an astoundingly high number of popular drinks. (As a note, beverages labeled as "organic" cannot contain these ingredients.)

Learn more:

Watch Michael Moore's Interview and Take Action for Universal Health Care

Michael MooreIf you've been reading OCA's Health Page you're aware of the sorry state of the nation's health care system. In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked our system (which is the most expensive in the world) 37th, just after war-torn and drug-ravaged Columbia.

In the last seven years, with cuts in employee health benefits and miserly HMO coverage, things have only gotten worse. A 2007 report by the Commonwealth Fund ranks the US last among other rich countries in health care access, patient safety, efficiency, and equity, despite the fact that it spends twice as much on health care. This is the subject of Michael Moore's new documentary, Sicko.

The difference between the US and countries with better health outcomes? Universal health care.

Watch this short interview with Moore and take action for universal health care:

Green Consumers Can't Find Green Goods

A new Hartman Group survey indicates that consumers have generated a greater demand for green and sustainably produced products than the market is able to provide. While the vast majority of consumers say they want to purchase a wide variety of products from companies with sustainability ethics, relatively few consumers actually know where to find those products.


Online Green ShoppingWEB TIP OF THE WEEK
Online Shopping for the Green-minded

Although finding sustainably made products in your local strip-mall may be difficult, there are an increasing number of independently owned retailers, coops and online businesses where you can research and/or buy green products from green companies.

The Organic Consumers Association has teamed up with to bring you one of the world's largest directories of green and organic businesses. Buy Green, Sell Green, Be Green.

Find Green Products and Services in Your Area and nationwide.

Canadians Make it Official: Tea is Good for You

Tea is good for you!Last week, the Canadian government officially deemed tea (black, green and oolong) as having medicinal qualities.

Although the news of tea's health benefits may not seem surprising, this story becomes particularly noteworthy when put in the context of the sheer difficulty of convincing U.S. & Canadian governments to acknowledge specific health benefits of herbs.

After reviewing hundreds of studies conducted over the past few decades, the Canadian government stated there is enough evidence to prove that these particular teas are stimulants, support cardiovascular health and are an important dietary source of antioxidants.

Tea is second only to water as the healthiest beverage choice, according to healthy beverage guidelines that were developed by a panel of American nutrition experts and published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition.

According to experts like Dr. Carol Greenwood, a Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, "Tea is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the diet."

The U.S. FDA has rejected petitions similar to what Canada approved this week, saying there is no evidence supporting these herbal health claims.

Learn more:

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