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November 13, 2009

Organic Bytes #199: Will Obama Walk His Talk on Organics?

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

Edited by: Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins

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Quote of the Week

Will Obama Walk His Talk on Organics?

"I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs."

-Barack Obama, campaigning for the Presidency, during an interview with Joe Klei in TIME, October 23, 2008


Alert Updates of the Week

National Organic Standards Board Votes to Crack Down on Labeling Fraud

Victory on Organic Body Care and Cosmetics Products

In a milestone victory after years of work by the OCA and the organic community to demand an end to blatant labeling fraud in the organic marketplace the National Organic Standards Board voted 12 to 1 at their November 2009 meeting to direct the USDA National Organic Program to enforce the law for organic personal care products - just as they do for organic food. This means that shampoos, body care products, and cosmetics that claim to be organic but are not certified would be forced to drop their organic label and advertising claims, or else reformulate their products (getting rid of petrochemicals and problematic synthetic ingredients) to meet "USDA Organic" or "made with organic ingredients" standards.

The Organic Consumers Association is initiating a letter-writing campaign asking the USDA to take quick action on the NOSB recommendation. While we wait for the USDA to begin enforcement actions, we're calling on consumers to boycott fake, falsely labeled organic body care brands, and instead to buy only USDA certified organic products.


Get GMO Vaccines out of Organic

Vaccines are allowed in organic animal husbandry, but genetic engineering is excluded from organic. There is one exception: genetically modified vaccines. Under current law, genetically modified vaccines must be petitioned for use and reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board to be included on the National List of allowed substances. The problem is, the USDA National Organic Program hasn't been enforcing the law. Instead of asking the USDA to enforce the law, the National Organic Standards Board is instead recommending that the USDA change the law to remove the GMO vaccine review requirement. The recommendation they passed would require non-GMO vaccines to be used whenever they are available, so it's not quite as bad as it could have been, but it would still allow any type of GMO vaccine to be used without review, as long as a certifier could be convinced that there were no non-GMO alternatives.

The Organic Consumers Association is taking action to prevent this misguided recommendation from being adopted by the USDA. We're calling on the USDA to enforce the current law, and to disallow GMO vaccines, unless there is absolutely no other alternative to saving the animal's life. The USDA should train certifiers on identifying genetically modified vaccines and preventing their use.


Victory on Organic Animal Welfare

Current organic regulations prescribe livestock living conditions which accommodate the "health" and "natural behavior" of animals. The regulations require access to the outdoors, pasture for ruminants, clean bedding, and appropriate shelter, while placing restrictions on confinement. However, many organic consumers and farmers have complained that the current regulatory language is insufficiently precise.

The National Organic Standards Board passed a recommendation last week that attempts to remedy this situation, by adding measurable standards for the treatment of animals and prohibiting practices like tail docking and debeaking (cutting off animals' tails or beaks) that hadn't been expressly addressed before. As the NOSB minority opinion points out, the recommendation isn't perfect and doesn't go far enough. For instance, it could have limited the frequency of milking for dairy cows to twice a day, and could have required certifiers to monitor the overall health of farms by keeping track of animals that die prematurely or have to be taken out of organic production.

Nevertheless, the Organic Consumers Association supported the recommendation, as we believe that it will encourage the USDA to enforce and strengthen existing laws. Please write to the USDA to ask them to do a better job of enforcing current animal welfare standards and use the new NOSB recommendation as the starting point for even stronger and better defined requirements.


Get Nanotechnology Out of Organic

Over the objections of the OCA and thousands of our members, the National Organic Standards Board decided to table the recommendation to prohibit nanotechnology in organic. The NOSB member who fills the scientist slot, Katrina Heinze of General Mills, delayed the process by insisting that the Board consider a compromise position that wouldn't exclude nanotechnology from organic altogether, but would classify it as a "synthetic" that could be petitioned for use in specific instances. Please write to the NOSB and tell them to ban untested, unlabeled and hazardous nanotechnology products and ingredients in organic.


OCA Needs Your Help to Spread the Organic Revolution


OCA and our national, now international, network of organic consumers understand that we have a positive healthy solution for the nation and the globe's food, health, economic, and climate crisis: organic food, farming, and ranching. But to get out our all-important message we need your support and your donations. For the next two weeks, our strongest ally in the organic industry, the Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap Company, will be matching your donations dollar for dollar. So please send us a tax-deductible donation today.


Victory of the Week

New York Times Echoes OCA's Charges Against Biotech and Sewage Sludge Advocate Siddiqui

"The White House has nominated Mr. Siddiqui for the position of chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative. He is presently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont. That job doesn't seem to square with the Obama administration's professed interest in more sustainable, less chemically dependent approaches to agriculture.

"Nor does much of the rest of Mr. Siddiqui's résumé. The White House has touted his role in the first phase of developing national organic standards. But those standards, as they first emerged in draft form in the Clinton years, were notoriously loose about allowing genetically engineered crops and the use of sewage-sludge fertilizers to be labeled as 'organic.'"

OCA press release? No, it's actually the New York Times editorial page.


Art Project of the Week

The Organic Answer to Climate Change Art Project

With just over a month to go before the critical UN climate talks in Copenhagen, we're trying to spread the word about organic agriculture's amazing potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester climate-destabilizing CO2 in the soil.

OCA is joining the 1Sky Campaign's "Make Art for Climate" project that brings people together to decorate large pieces of cloth with images conveying the urgency around climate change and the need for positive solutions.

If you send our Washington, DC, office an artwork on cloth, OCA Political Director Alexis Baden-Mayer will incorporate your art into a large banner for use in public actions and demonstrations. Prior to the start of the Copenhagen Summit on December 7, the art pieces will be delivered in DC to the Obama administration and key Senate offices. This DC delivery will be complemented by public actions and similar art deliveries to local Senate offices across the country from December 1-4, all aimed at drawing media attention to the need for President Obama and the Senate to take bold action on climate.

To get involved contact alexis{at} or mail your artwork to 1858 Mintwood Place, NW #4, Washington, DC, 20009.

Video of the Week

Stop Gambling on Hunger

Remember when gas was over $4 a gallon? Remember the global food crisis that resulted in dozens of food riots around the world and plunged over 100 million people around the world into hunger?

These crises where not caused by shortages of oil or food. Instead they were caused by massive bets made on Wall Street. A large portion of the higher prices were brought on by the same thing that caused the global economic crisis - market deregulation. While we had to pay more for our gas and food, fat cat investors made a bundle.

Watch this video to learn how speculators brought about last year's food and oil bubbles and how we can get Wall Street to stop gambling on hunger.


Book of the Week

Poisoned Profits, The Toxic Assault on Our Children

Philip Shabecoff, former chief environmental correspondent for the New York Times, and Alice Shabecoff, former executive director of the National Consumers League, contend that there is a link between corporate pollution and the high percentage of the children being born with or developing health problems.

With indisputable data, the Shabecoffs reveal that the children of baby boomers ― the first to be raised in a truly "toxified world" ― have higher rates of birth defects, asthma, cancer, autism and a frightening range of other neurological illnesses from ADHD to mental retardation, and other serious chronic illnesses compared to previous generations.

They reveal that one out of two pregnancies fails to come to term or results in a less than healthy child and that premature births and infertility are on the rise as this generation matures.

You can watch a BookTV event with the authors, read Alice's new blog postings on, and browse information on the victims and perpetrators of toxic pollution at


1) BPA: Chemicals in Our Food and Bodies
Your body likely contains a hazardous chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that United States factories now use in everything from plastic bootle and food can liners to epoxies ― to the tune of six pounds per American per year.

2) Grocers Irked to Find Out Soy Milk Nonorganic
Organic food shoppers are making a rude discovery at their grocers' refrigerated display case. White Wave Silk Soymilk is no longer Organic.

3) Transgenic High-Lysine Corn Withdrawn After EU Raises Safety Questions
A Monsanto/Cargill joint venture has quietly withdrawn its application for high-lysine transgenic corn after EU regulators on the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) GMO panel raised questions about its safety for human consumption.

4) What Kind of Agriculture do We Need in an Era of Climate Change?
The challenge is to design an agriculture that adapts and responds to changes in climate, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This challenge can be met through biodiverse, agro-ecologically-based farming.

5) The Nitrogen Fix: Breaking a Costly Addiction
A single patent a century ago changed the world, and now, in the 21st century, Homo sapiens and the world we dominate have an addiction. Call it the nitrogen fix.

Planting Peace and Grassroots Netroots News

Kucinich: Why I Voted NO

Robert Jensen on War, Ecological Crises, and the Quest for Justice

Global Oil Supply 'Far Worse Than Admitted'

Watch 'Rethink Afghanistan' and Tell Congress to Get Out!

Government by the Rich: 237 Millionaires in the U.S. Congress


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