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Organic Bytes #143: 8/28/2008

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

FDA OKs Irradiated Lettuce and Spinach

Rather than dealing with the problems inherent in a disease-ridden factory-farmed food system, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in mid-September it will allow the irradiation of lettuce and spinach. Food irradiation is the controversial practice of bombarding food with high levels of x-rays (ionizing radiation) in order to destroy disease causing pathogens. Unfortunately, in the process of irradiation, other hazards arise, like the creation of toxic free radicals, vitamin and nutrient loss, and the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.

Radura Symbol
A product bearing
the Radura symbol
has been irradiated.

While irradiated lettuce and spinach must be labeled in supermarkets, there are currently no labeling requirements whatsoever for restaurants, schools, hospitals, or nursing homes serving irradiated produce or other nuked foods such as beef. Over the past decade, OCA and our allies in the organic community have prevented corporate agribusiness and the nuclear industry from contaminating organic standards. Food irradiation is prohibited on any product labeled as "organic." There is currently a 30 day comment period for the FDA's new rule.

Tell the FDA to clean-up industrial feedlots instead of irradiating our food
Hopeful News of the Week

What's the Beef?Obama Backs OCA & UFW's Call for "Natural Beef" Supplier to Recognize Workers' Rights

Following alerts and petitions circulated by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, Barack Obama has sent a letter urging Beef Northwest Feeders in Oregon to engage in collective bargaining and contract negotiations with its farm workers. Beef Northwest is refusing to acknowledge a vote its workers took earlier this summer to form a union. Obama called on the company to recognize the desire of the employees' rights to form a union and to negotiate with them in good faith.

The OCA has pressured Beef Northwest to recognize the rights of its workers to form a union, and has asked Whole Foods Market (WFM), the major purchaser of "natural beef" that is finished at the Beef Northwest factory farm, to intervene. Unfortunately, the head of WFM, John Mackey, has been vocal over the years in his opposition to unions, in spite of company PR expressing support for Fair Trade.

Learn more and take action here.

CelebratingThere 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 be 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.

Donate Now!
Essay of the Week

Victory Gardens Symbolize a New Age

Plant a Victory Garden"We have had enough of the old ways of thinking, and we are here to take back control of our lives, our health, our resources, and our futures. We are resisting the control of destructive governmental and corporate forces. We are developing an energy and enthusiasm that characterizes new values, new ways of living, new survival techniques, and new experiences."

"A garden that symbolizes our part in this evolution is a challenge and a source of immense hope. If a family or group is able to achieve this, others will follow, and the movement will grow. In a time of famine for many and threatened famine for many others, the victory garden is an indication of a new way the earth can be made more fruitful. We must have a vision."

Read Barbara L. Minton's full essay here.
Government Plunder of the Week

BeeEPA Sued for Bee Colony Collapse Cover-Up

Over the past two years, beekeepers have reported an alarming and potentially catastrophic loss of bees from their hives ranging anywhere from 30-90 percent. This "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD) isn't just a problem for beekeepers and farmers, but for consumers as well, since bee pollination is essential for crop production. The USDA claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food is dependant on bee pollination. Experts have been researching CCD and have linked the die-off to a number of likely culprits.

One of the likely killers is a new pesticide, clothianidin, approved by the EPA in 2003. Germany and France have banned this type of pesticide to protect their bee population.  In the U.S., clothianidin was approved after Bayer CropScience, the chemical's maker, submitted required studies to the EPA regarding the chemical's impact on bees and the environment. Now the EPA is suspiciously and illegally refusing to release these public documents. To expose this cover-up and hopefully to save the bees, last week the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the agency.

Learn more here.
Tip of the Week

How Do You Know Which Sweet Corn is Genetically Modified?

Child eating cornAn Organic Bytes reader sent us the following question: "It's harvest time, and corn is everywhere, including my local farm stand. I asked the farmer's wife if their corn was non-GMO, and she didn't seem to know. Could you shed some light on this in the next newsletter--whether most sweet corn for human consumption is GMO or not?"

OCA's Response: More than 70% of the corn grown in the U.S. is now genetically modified, but the overwhelming majority of this corn is grown for animal feed and ethanol. Among the marketing problems for the biotech companies is the fact that GMO "sweet corn" doesn't taste very good. The bottom line is that there is very little genetically engineered sweet corn being grown in the U.S. at the present time, so it is highly unlikely you will be running into this "Frankencorn" at your local farmer's market or natural food store.

Most farmers who grow GMO crops that re-seed, like corn, are aware that they are growing genetically engineered varieties, because Monsanto and the other GMO seed giants require a legal contract to be signed which prohibits the farmer from saving their seeds. And of course we can all be thankful (and vigilant) that genetic engineering is prohibited under national organic standards. In short, support your local and organic farmers and enjoy this year's sweet corn harvest!

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

dog with newspaperTop Headlines of the Week

  1. Transition Culture: Beyond the Gloom & Doom of Peak Oil, Permanent War, and Climate Chaos
  2. Food, Fuel and Water Crises Converging
  3. How Cities Across the World Are Promoting Urban Agriculture
  4. Exposure to Certain Pesticides During Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Overweight Children
  5. Monsanto's Roundup & GE Cotton Spawn Pigweed Epidemic in America's Cotton Fields

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.
GNA Alert and Video of the Week

Green Jobs Now

GNAOn September 27, 2008, the Organic Consumers Association is taking part in Green Jobs Now: A Day to Build the New Economy. We’ll be doing Green Jobs Now actions at organic farms, farmers markets, community gardens, food co-ops, and community supported agriculture projects to show elected officials and 2008 candidates that we're ready for green jobs in organic food and farming now!

Check out the Organic Consumers Association's Polar Bears for Green Jobs video and take action!
U.S. Film Debut

The World According to Monsanto

Anti-Monsanto logoThis must-see film exposes why Monsanto—who races to genetically engineer (and patent) the world's food supply—has become the world's poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology. This landmark documentary plays Friday through Monday, August 29-Sept 1, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco Screening hosted by Jeffrey M. Smith, international best selling author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, who will also premiere his short film about Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone,

Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!.
Learn more here.
Mobilizing 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.

OCA Action CenterSign-Up For OCA's Action Alerts

Support Our Supporters

Organic Valley: 1,266 Family Farms Strong

We 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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Knowledge is power!

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