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Organic Bytes #141: 8/14/2008

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

Consumer and Farmer Victory!

Monsanto Finally Forced to Dump rBGH

The Miracles of MonsantoMonsanto announced on August 6 it will "divest" or sell off its controversial genetically engineered animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).

Monsanto's divestment of rBGH is a direct result of 14 years of determined opposition by organic consumer, public interest, and family farmer groups. Since its founding, the Organic Consumers Association has campaigned against this cruel and dangerous drug, pointing out to organic and health-minded consumers that rBGH-tainted dairy products pose unacceptable dangers to humans from increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1. OCA's "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign has generated over a quarter million emails and petition signatures on the topic of rBGH, helping make rBGH one of the most controversial food products in the world.

Learn more:

Millions Against monsantoWe'd like to thank you and all our allies for taking part in this 14-year campaign and helping to bring one of the world's largest and most powerful corporations to its knees. Now let's break Monsanto's stranglehold over seeds and take away their mandate to force-feed genetically engineered food to an unwilling public. Help us push through federal legislation to require mandatory labeling and safety-testing of GMOs (genetically modified organisms.)

Contact us with any other campaign ideas you may have:
Learn more about the Millions Against Monsanto campaign:

Animal Welfare Victory!

Court Rules Common Factory Farm Practices Are Inhumane

CowsA landmark unanimous vote by the New Jersey Supreme Court will require more humane treatment of animals on factory farms. The case was originally brought to the Supreme Court by a coalition of organizations led by Farm Sanctuary, including the Organic Consumers Association.

The decision, which is the first of its kind, could cause a domino-effect across the U.S. The court ruled that widespread factory farm practices, such as "tail-docking" or cutting off the tails of cattle, cannot be considered "humane" simply because they are considered "routine". Many states have a similar exemption to their cruelty code for "common" practices.

The court's decision means these factory farm abuses will be reassessed, and if they are considered inhumane, they will be banned. "This decision will protect thousands of animals in New Jersey, and also calls into question some of the worst factory farm abuses practiced throughout the country," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for The Humane Society of the United States.

Learn more:

Safeguarding Organic Standards:

OCA Calls for Review Board to Monitor the USDA Organic Program

It's Organic IllustrationLast week, Organic Bytes reported on the USDA's August 5 announcement that half of the accredited organic certifiers under investigation failed the agency's recent audits. The USDA audit report, combined with two recent food safety recalls of tainted organic ginger and beef sent shockwaves through the organic industry.

After years of pressure from watchdog groups like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), the Cornucopia Institute, and others, the USDA has finally acknowledged publicly that there are problems in its monitoring and enforcement of the National Organic Program (NOP). In responding to the media over the USDA's audits, and recent food safety recalls by Whole Foods Markets and others of Chinese organic ginger and e-coli tainted organic beef, the OCA has emphasized that the overwhelming majority of organic farmers, producers, and certifiers are indeed "playing by the rules," but we need to stop unscrupulous certifiers and USDA bureaucrats from allowing U.S. factory farm dairy feedlots (operated by or selling to Aurora and Horizon Organic),  Chinese importers, and body care companies from labeling their products as "organic" when in fact they are not.

We need a professional, well-funded and independent NOP Peer Review Board, composed of respected members of the organic community, as required by law, and we need it now.

Learn more and take action:

dancingThere Are No Victories Without You

Our hard-fought victories are common victories, made possible by readers, like you, who make tax deductible donations to further our work. 

Without your donations, OCA's work would not possible. In today's economic and political climate, nonprofit organizations, like the OCA, need your support, more than ever.

With your support we'll continue, not only to write about problems and their solutions, but move pro-actively to make positive change a reality.

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Locally known locally grownWeb Video of the Week

Good Food - A new documentary about the growing local sustainable food movement.

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xray with cel phoneHealth Tip of the Week:

Precautionary Advice for Cell Phone Use

The World Health Organization has been compiling data on the health risks of electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones, but the release of the report has been delayed for over two years.

In the meantime, many nations have sought to protect their citizens by issuing their own recommendations for cell phone use, including an announcement in Canada last week.

Here in the U.S., the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute recently posted a useful list of tips to limit harmful health impacts of cell phones:

  1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies.
  2. Use hands-free ear pieces or speakerphone.
  3. Make sure the back of the phone is pointing away from your body so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from you rather than through you.
  4. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure.
  5. Don't sleep near your phone unless it is off, particularly if you are pregnant.
See full list of tips here:

Quick Tidbit:

Cloning Your Pet

woamn and puppySome of the world's first clones to be sold commercially are pets.

A South Korean biotech company sold cloned puppies to Bernann McKinney in the UK for $50,000. The puppies were exact clones of the woman's deceased pit bull, named Booger. McKinney had to sell her house to pay for the clones, but according to McKinney, "I had to make sacrifices and I dream of the day, some day, when everyone can afford to clone their pet."

Modern-day commercial cloning isn't just for pets. The FDA has also approved livestock cloning as safe for the food supply. Fortunately, for the most part, cloning animals is still too expensive to have an immediate affect on the food supply. Stay tuned to Organic Bytes for all of your cloning news... for all of your cloning news... for all of your cloning news...

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open mouthOrganic Bytes Readers Talk Back:

What Are the Safest Sunscreens?

Here is a reader's comment regarding the Environmental Working Group's list of the "safest" sunscreens, as posted in Organic Bytes #140:

Reader Comment: "Sun Screen is fine if you intend to spend many hours out at midday or at high altitude, and it does reduce sun-damage and aging. However, it is important to remember that humans evolved under the sun - even pasty white northerners - and that we NEED sun on our skin to be healthy. Sun disinfects our skin, and it triggers the manufacture of Vitamin D, which is necessary for healthy bones and an effective immune system.

Only people with genetic predilection to melanoma should use sunscreen all the time and avoid the sun - the rest of us should spend an hour a day in light shade or morning or evening sunshine, preferably exercising! If you must be out in strong sunlight, use a hat or umbrella, and cover up with lightweight high SPF clothing. Avoid burning, though a light tan on exposed skin is protective against melanoma."

OCA's Response: We strongly agree and have addressed this same point in previous issues of Organic Bytes. We'd also like to note that although we typically stand behind the Environmental Working Group's analysis of product safety, it has come to our attention that the first product on their list, Keys Soap Solar Rx Therapeutic Sunblock, actually contains nano-materials, particles so tiny they can go through your skin. The OCA thinks these products should be labeled and regulated as potentially dangerous.

Post your comments and questions about Organic Bytes in the OCA web forum:

dog and paperTop Headlines of the Week

Posted from Newsletters and Websites We Like

Let OCA sift through the media smog and bring you the top new and analysis of the day. The OCA website has 20 or more news articles posted each day, covering issues including health, justice, food and farming, politics, and the environment.

With over thirty thousand visitors per day, is a valuable resource for consumers, activists, and journalists. Please Bookmark as your daily source of news, analysis and inspiration.

  1. Burgers or Biofuel?: The Role of Animal Feeding in Global Warming (The Nation)
  2. How the Big Environmental Groups Have Failed the Grassroots (Sourcewatch)
  3. Why Buying Local Needs to Include Buying Organic (Grist)
  4. Bottled Water's Shocking Impacts and the Growing Opposition (Alternet)
  5. Will the Economic Bust Stifle Organic Food? (Chewswise)

Organic Consumers in Your State

OCA logoThrough the Organic Consumers Fund's Grassroots Netroots Alliance project, voters are pressing the politicians to support strict organic standards, mandatory labels for genetically engineered food, and the conversion of U.S. farmland to organic.

Find out who's answering the call in your state by clicking here:
On the same page, you'll find a listing of state campaigns for health, justice and sustainability in all 50 states.

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Organic Valley: 1,266 Family Farms Strong

Organic Valley FarmersWe think it's a simple truth. The earth's most delicious, most healthful foods are made when farmers work in harmony with nature. That's how this farmer-owned co-op produces organic milk, organic cheese, organic butter, organic eggs, organic juice, organic soy beverages, organic produce, and organic meats. Working with nature is what inspired our original seven farmers to form an organic farming cooperative in 1988. Today our membership has grown to over 1200 family farms, and our high standards shine through in our delicious, award-winning, certified organic foods.

Explore our website and join Farm Friends to become part of the organic movement!

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