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November 19, 2009

Organic Bytes #200: The Organic Answer to Hunger, Climate Change, and Slavery

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

Edited by: Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins

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Outrage of the Week

San Francisco Giving Away Toxic Sewage Sludge to Backyard Gardeners and Schools and Calling it "Organic Fertilizer"

With toxic municipal sewage sludge being spread over tens of thousands of non-organic farms and ranches across the U.S., and sold in garden supply stores - often falsely labeled as "organic" fertilizer - OCA is about to launch a major campaign against the sewage sludge industry. But before we launch this campaign we need to respond to the current outrage in the so-called "Green City" of San Francisco, where the city is giving away toxic sewage sludge to backyard gardeners, farmers, and schools, under the guise of it being "organic fertilizer."


Use the following Action Alert and tell San Francisco to stop endangering schoolchildren and backyard gardeners and dragging organic integrity through the toxic sludge!


Then please call and/or fax and email the SF Public Utilities Commission and Mayor Gavin Newsom's office and give them a piece of your mind:

SFPUC: (415) 554-3155
Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160

If you're in San Francisco, please attend the public meeting tonight (Thursday, Nov. 19) at the SFPUC office (1155 Market St.) from 5:30-7:30 and let them know what you think of this toxic scandal.

Quote of the Week

The Organic Answer to Hunger

"We reaffirm that our ecological food provision actually feeds the large majority of people all over the world in both rural and urban areas (more than 75%). Our practices focus on food for people, not profit for corporations. It is healthy, diverse, localized, and cools the planet."

"... Our practices, because they prioritise feeding people locally, minimize waste and losses of food and do not create the damage caused by industrial production systems. Peasant agriculture is resilient and can adapt to and mitigate climate change..."

"We call for a reframing of research, using participatory methods, that will support our ecological model of food provision. We are the innovators building on our knowledge and skills. We rehabilitate local seeds systems and livestock breeds and fish/aquatic species for a changing climate..."

"... We commit to shorten distances between food provider and consumer. We will strengthen urban food movements and advance urban and peri-urban agriculture. We will reclaim the language of food emphasising nutrition and diversity in diets that exclude meat provided from industrial systems."

-From the People's Food Sovereignty Now! Declaration, November 2009


Alert Updates of the Week

Stop Obama's Monsanto Men, Siddiqui and Shah

Democracy Now! Reports on the Growing Stop Siddiqui Campaign

President Obama's nominee for the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the office of the US Trade Representative, Islam Siddiqui is currently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, and Dow Chemical. He was previously a lobbyist for CropLife and also served in the US Department of Agriculture under President Clinton and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. A coalition of over eighty environmental, family farm and consumer advocacy organizations, including the Organic Consumers Association, have sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging them to reject his nomination.

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.


Oppose Obama's Nomination of Rajiv Shah to Head USAID

Rajiv Shah, currently the USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist, has been nominated by President Obama to lead USAID.

Shah is on the board of directors for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and was the director of the Gates Foundation's Agriculture Development program. AGRA and the Gates Foundation have been criticized for working closely with Monsanto and its non-profit research arm, the Danforth Center.

In his short tenure at the USDA, Shah has used the connections he made at the Gates Foundation, where he facilitated $37 million in grants for genetic engineering, to fill the USDA's Research, Education and Economics mission area with biotech scientists and advocates.

He has used his USDA post to fund and champion genetic engineering and other novel technologies. In a report to Congress earlier this year on programs delivered by his mission area, Shah emphasized technology over ecology, saying, "We can build on tremendous recent scientific discoveries - incredible advances in sequencing plant and animal genomes, and the beginnings of being able to understand what those sequences actually mean. We have new and powerful tools in biotechnology and nanotechnology."


Viva Organica! Celebrating 200 Issues, Enter to Win a Free Accommodation and Tour at the Via Organica Ranch in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!


In celebration of the 200th edition of Organic Bytes, the OCA is offering a chance to win a free visit to the Via Organica ranch in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

Everyone who donates over $50 in the next week will have their name entered in a drawing to win a free tour and stay at El Rancho, during the time slot of your choice (airfare not included).

You can find out more information about the tour here, including pictures and dates.


Update on Climate Art Project

Submissions Due November 29, 2009

Thanks to the many of you who have let us know you're considering helping OCA participate in the 1Sky Campaign's "Make Art for Climate" project!

We are excited to be able to spread the word about organic agriculture's amazing potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester climate-destabilizing CO2 in the soil as the world turns its attention to the Copenhagen climate talks.

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. The art pieces will be delivered in DC to the Obama administration and key Senate offices on December 4, 2009.

If we receive your work by November 29, 2009, it can also be displayed at Mobilization for Climate Justice events in DC. We are commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the November 30, 1999, Seattle WTO protests and will put the global justice perspective on climate change at the fore as we celebrate the local struggles for self-determination that connected in a worldwide movement against corporate globalization in the 1990s.

OCA's contribution to N30 DC events will include a demonstration inspired by Vandana Shiva's book Soil Not Oil. To learn more about N30 events go to:

To get involved contact alexis{at} or mail your artwork to:

1858 Mintwood Place, NW #4
Washington, DC, 20009.

Video of the Week

Fair Food: Farm to Table

"Fair Food: Field to Table" is a multimedia presentation promoting a more socially just food system in the U.S.

Through the stories and voices of farmworkers, growers, businesses and fair food advocates, viewers learn about the harsh realities of farmworker conditions and, more importantly, the promise of improved farm labor practices in American agriculture. The growing movement for "fair food" is tapping into rising consumer demand for food produced in accordance with their values.

The presentation consists of three parts:

PART 1: Take a glimpse into the current reality of farmworker conditions in the U.S.

PART 2: Meet farmers around the country who are providing good farm labor conditions and "doing well by doing good."

PART 3: Hear from advocates and businesses at the forefront of this growing movement.


BookS of the Week

The Value of Nothing (Video Preview)

Oscar Wilde observed, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." Raj Patel's book, The Value of Nothing, shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system.


Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Slideshow)

  • As levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to increase, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that Earth's average temperature will rise 1.1-6.4˚C during this century.
  • Our current trajectory is already outpacing these projections.
  • For every 1˚C rise in temperature above the norm, yields of wheat, rice, and corn drop 10 percent.
  • The glaciers feeding rivers like the Yellow, Yangtze, Ganges, and Indus, which provide critical irrigation water, are disappearing at accelerating rates.
  • The United States has been converting more and more corn into fuel for cars; yet the grain needed to fill an SUV's 25 gallon tank once with ethanol could feed one person for an entire year.
  • World grain and soybean prices tripled from mid-2006 to mid-2008, causing riots and unrest in dozens of countries.
  • More than 1 billion people in the world are suffering from hunger.
  • In an effort to ensure their own food security, some affluent food importing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, China, and South Korea, have begun buying or leasing land abroad to grow their own food.
  • It was food shortages that led to the collapse of many ancient civilizations.



1) Biotech Crops Cause Big Jump in Pesticide Use
The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton has promoted increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more chemical residues in foods.

2) We Are All in Denial About Catastrophic Climate Change
What we can do about climate catastrophe: local self-sufficiency and sustainability, steady-state no-impact economics, eco-restoration, and rational birth reduction.

3) BPA and Male Sexual Problems
Men handling BPA were four times as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and seven times as likely to have difficulty with ejaculation. The workers studied did not have to spend years in the factory to develop problems - sexual dysfunction began in new workers after just months on the job.

4) Why We Need Bees and More People Becoming Organic Beekeepers
When an living organism is exposed to a mixture of chemicals, every component contributes to the overall effect, no matter how minute their concentration. The only sane answer to our ignorance in the use of these toxic compounds is to stop using these chemicals, not only in our hives, but in our everyday lives.

5) There's a Better Way to Feed the World
In the United States the social and health costs of pesticides reach 8 billion dollars a year. These costs include human poisonings, elimination of pollinators and other beneficial insects, fish and wildlife losses, and so on. We're losing 33 percent of our crops to pests before harvest, despite the fact that we are putting about 1 billion pounds of pesticides into the U.S. environment every year. That percentage is exactly the same as what was being lost in 1942 before large-scale use of pesticides.

Planting Peace and Grassroots Netroots News

Senator Bernie Sanders: Health Care for All Americans

Obama's Strongest Supporters Suffering Most in Recession, Elites Thrive

The Only Way to Stop Global Warming is for Rich Nations to Pay for the Damage They've Done

Ask President Obama for Full Mental Healthcare for Veterans and Soldiers

Did Big Oil Win the War in Iraq?


[[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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