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September 17, 2009

Organic Bytes #191: Organic Integrity, "Natural" Confusion, the OCA Eco-Tour

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

In This Issue

  • Quote of the Week: Alice Waters on Edible Education
  • Victory of the Week: Eliminating Labeling Fraud in Organic Personal Care Products
  • Alert Update: OCA Confronts Whole Foods & UNFI in Boston
  • State Alert of the Week: Help Us Pass The California Transition To Organics Act Now!
  • Organic News of the Week: Organic Sales Growth Down to Seven Percent; "Natural" Claims Compete
  • Little Bytes: Organic Milk Reduces Allergies, Obamas Launch a White House Farmers Market
  • Planting Peace and Grassroots Netroots News
  • Via Organica: Visit Mexico with the OCA October 4-11!

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Alice Waters on Edible Education

"It will take money from our state and federal governments, and advocacy by our leaders, to change course on a ship this big. It won't be easy, because it can't happen just by lecturing kids on nutrition, or putting salad bars in cafeterias. Edible Education is...a way of making sure that children grow up feeling the soil with their own fingers, harvesting its bounty in the American sunshine, and watching their own hands make the kind of beautiful, inexpensive food that can nourish the body and the spirit. Only then will the next generations of Americans know that we don't just vote in the ballot box, we vote for the kind of world we want every time we choose what to eat."

- Alice Waters in her 2008 book "Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea"



Eliminating Labeling Fraud in Organic Personal Care Products

A committee of the USDA National Organic Standards Board wants to "Solve the Problem of Mislabeled Organic Personal Care." The Organic Consumers Association is very encouraged by the committee's proposal to make sure that any use of the word "organic" on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA standards for products that are "USDA Organic" or "Made With Organic Ingredients." This is what OCA's Coming Clean campaign has been pushing the USDA to do for the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the USDA has been hostile to the idea and even USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, an advocate for organic agriculture, has resisted consumer pressure on this issue. So, the long struggle for USDA enforcement of organic standards in personal care continues. The first step is getting the full NOSB to adopt the committee recommendation. The deadline for sending comments to the NOSB in advance of their November 3-5 meeting is October 19, 2009. Please take action today.


Help Defend and Support the OCA...and Win Organic Goodies!

If you make an on-line donation to the OCA we will enter your name in a drawing to win some organic goodies! Two winners will be drawn at random on Sept. 22nd and will be announced in the next issue of Organic Bytes.


Alert Update of the Week

OCA Confronts Whole Foods & UNFI in Boston

Many thanks to the thousands of you who pitched in to help us stand up to Whole Foods with your letters, words of encouragement and donations!

What started as a campaign to get Whole Foods and its principal supplier, UNFI (United Natural Foods Inc.), to sell more organics and respect workers' rights got tangled up in the health care debate when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's anti-health care op-ed spurred health care advocates to launch a boycott. Even though OCA has chosen to pressure Whole Foods and UNFI rather than call for a boycott, Whole Foods pulled us into the fray by threatening to sue OCA over the use of their logo on a petition. If you missed the ruckus last week, check out our alert here (including a link to the letter from Whole Foods' attorney):


The controversy has kicked off a spirited debate among OCA members over health care reform. An article Ronnie Cummins wrote in March 2008, "Beyond Progressive Malpractice: Taking Down Big Pharma", addresses many of the concerns raised by OCA activists. Here's an excerpt:

"The problem is clear. The solution is obvious. The trillion-dollar life or death question is whether we can overcome our sectarian divisions and mobilize grassroots power ... Can we heal the perennial split between proponents of universal health care and the alternative health movement? Can progressives and libertarians reach out to the economically disadvantaged and stressed-out majority to create a massive grassroots pressure that will literally force the politicians to do the right thing?"



The next skirmish in our campaign to get Whole Foods and UNFI to implement Fair Trade practices, to respect workers rights, and to put a priority on selling organic products (as opposed to conventional foods and products greenwashed as "natural") will take place in Boston at the Natural Products Expo East trade fair, Sept. 24-26. Please join OCA and our labor and Fair Trade allies for a picket line and rally in front of the Expo East conference hall at 9:30 AM on September 24. For more information please contact Alexis Baden-Mayer: alexis[AT]

State Alert of the Week

Help Us Pass The California Transition To Organics Act Now!

California Assembly Bill 1401, the Transition To Organics Act, will create a fund to provide financial assistance to California farmers who want to transition from conventional farming to organic farming. Assembly Bill 1401 will promote more organic farming!

Your past efforts in support of AB 1401 helped it to pass the California Legislature with bipartisan support on September 10, 2009! AB 1401 is now on Governor Schwarzenegger's desk for his signature, or veto. Your action is needed RIGHT NOW to help convince Governor Schwarzenegger to sign AB 1401 into law!


Organic News of the Week

Organic Sales Growth Down to Seven Percent in '09; "Natural" Claims Compete

The "natural" food phenomenon worries many in the organic industry. So-called "natural" products aren't regulated and don't have to meet any special standards, so they can be marketed more cheaply than genuine certified organic food. Many formerly organic brands are trying to fool consumers into thinking natural and organic are the same.

Early this year, for instance, WhiteWave Foods added "natural" Silk soy milk to its line of organic products. This summer, WhiteWave (a unit of Dean Foods) broadened its Horizon line of organic products with its first "natural" offering: Little Blends, a yogurt for toddlers. In August, it began test-marketing Milk Breakers, a six-ounce single serving of "natural" milk with added protein.

This year, for the first time since at least 2004, sales of “natural” foods and beverages will likely grow at a faster rate than sales of organic foods, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

The organic industry is fighting back. In September, Organic Valley will debut an online calculator that lets consumers see how many chemicals they avoid by using organic milk.

“We’re holding on when some other sectors are sinking,” says Theresa Marquez, chief marketing executive for Organic Valley. “Our future is organic.”



1) Chemicals in Our Diets Lead to Obesity
Most people don't think about how chemicals in their diets affect their weight or weight loss efforts. But the man-made chemicals you consume on a regular basis can play a big role in whether you're fat or not - even if those chemicals don't contain a single calorie.

2) Organic Milk Linked to Fewer Allergies Including Eczema and Asthma
A recent Dutch study suggests that children are one-third less likely to suffer from allergies before age two if they’re raised on organic dairy products.

3) Organic Foods Are Now ‘Mainstream’, Says USDA
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service said: “Organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by a majority of Americans.”

4) Thoughts on the Legacy of Norman Borlaug
This was the man who arguably did more than any other to nurture the era of monocrops, GM foods and the intensive use of petrochemical pesticides and fertilisers. He may have saved a billion people from imminent starvation, but he planted the seed for future woes.

5) The Obama White House Launches a Farmers Market
Fresh Farm Markets will be operating a market from 3-7 pm on Thursdays through October near the White House. Eighteen local farmer-producers will sell fruits, vegetables, pasture-raised meats and eggs, cheese and baked goods.

News from our Planting Peace Campaign and the Grassroots Netroots Alliance

Planting Peace and the Grassroots Netroots Alliance are networks of organic and socially responsible activists who wish to put an end to war and military madness and green and re-localize the global economy. We are addressing the inter-related issues of health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy through a multi-issue platform. There is absolutely no way we're going to have a healthy, organic future without fundamental cultural transformation and political change. With this goal in mind, we bring you the following news:


The fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our unhealthy, junk food diets. READ MORE


New film "Split Estates" documents a unfolding tragedy, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health. WATCH


New film "Earth Days" looks back to the dawn of the modern environmental movement — from its post-war rustlings in the 1950s and the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, to the 1970 Earth Day celebration and the subsequent growth of environmental action. WATCH


The apparent congressional unease over a troop escalation comes near Friday’s eight-year anniversary of the vote authorizing the attack on Afghanistan. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks to Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy on his recent trip to Afghanistan and CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin. WATCH


Radio show "The State We're In" covers our right to complain. Adam Eidinger explains why he believes that "protest is the lubricant of democracy." WATCH

Visit Mexico with OCA staff in October!

OCA invites our members and subscribers to join us on an enjoyable and inspirational organic food and farming eco-tour Oct. 4-11, hosted by our Mexican sister organization Via Organica, based in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

We have several spaces left and are offering a discounted price of $850 for the week of workshops, tours to area organic farms, restaurants, stores, and green-building projects. At the Via Organica farm school and resort meet Mexican activists and savor gourmet organic meals and beverages, swim in our thermal pool, hike and bike and enjoy the cultural attractions of the nearby UN-designated world heritage site of San Miguel de Allende. OCA Director Ronnie Cummins will lead the tour.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about organic farming, share ideas, have fun, and support the OCA. Check out our tours website and sign up now!


[[State]] - Get Involved Locally

  • Learn more about OCA related action alerts and other news in [[State]] here.
  • Join [[State]] discussion groups in our forum.
  • Post events in [[State]] on our community calendar.

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