Whole Foods, Sewage Sludge, Toxic Cosmetics, GMOs and Organic Fraud


#216, March 18, 2010

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

Edited by Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins


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Take Action: Ask Whole Foods and UNFI to Sign the Sustainable Food Pledge

Ask Whole Foods and its main supplier, UNFI, to:

1. Cease marketing conventional food as "natural" and instead double the sales of certified organic foods and products, from one-third to two-thirds of sales by 2013.

2. Support smaller retailers and co-ops that seriously promote organics by providing UNFI's highest discounts that are currently enjoyed by Whole Foods and UNFI's conventional grocery chain customers.

3. Adopt a purchasing policy that emphasizes the sustainability of family-scale organic farms and local producers.

4. Adopt, monitor and enforce domestic fair trade standards that honor: workers' rights to a safe and healthy work environment; workers' rights to a decent standard of living; job security based on years of loyal service; and the right of workers to expeditiously choose - free from management influence or interference - union representation and collective bargaining.

5. Promote a sustainable environment that includes the human right to health care; safe, healthy and nutritional foods; and the elimination of business practices that accelerate climate change/environmental destruction.



Stop Genetically Engineered Alfalfa!

Call your Congressional representatives today! Tell them to contact USDA Secretary Vilsack and ask him to deny approval of GE Alfalfa!

Monsanto wants to sell its genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa and wants the USDA to approve its permit application, but consumers, farmers, dairies, and food companies don't want GE alfalfa plants and seeds released into the environment.

USDA's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) admits that if GE alfalfa is approved:

  • GE Contamination of non-GE and organic alfalfa crops will occur
  • GE contamination will economically impact small and family farmers
  • Foreign export markets will be at risk due to rejection of GE contaminated products
  • Farmers will be forced to use more toxic herbicides to remove old stands of alfalfa

Yet, unbelievably, USDA has decided that these impacts are insignificant! And, USDA intends to approve Monsanto's Roundup Ready™ GE alfalfa anyway.

Call your Congressional Representatives today and ask them to hold USDA accountable by contacting Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack!



OCA Needs Your Help to Spread the Organic Revolution


OCA and our international network of organic consumers and farmers understand that we have a positive life-affirming solution for the global food, health, and climate crisis: organic food, farming, and ranching. But to get out our all-important message we need your support. Please send us a tax-deductible donation today.



Digging Deeper Into San Francisco's Sludge

by John Stauber

Fifteen years ago, the Center for Media and Democracy in my book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You first exposed the deceptive PR campaign by the municipal sewage industry that has renamed toxic sewage sludge as "biosolids" to be spread on farms and gardens. Unfortunately, the scam continues to fool more people than ever, even in San Francisco which is often dubbed the country's greenest city.

I suspect that Bay area celebrity chef Alice Waters would never dump sewage sludge onto her own organic garden, nor serve food grown in sludge in her world famous natural foods restaurant Chez Panisse. The mission of her Chez Panisse Foundation is to create "edible schoolyards" where kids grow, prepare, and eat food from their own organic gardens. But Francesca Vietor, the new executive director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, is at the same time actively promoting dumping toxic sludge on gardens in her role as Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

SFPUC has been deceptively bagging toxic sewage sludge as 'organic compost' and giving it away to unsuspecting gardeners, people to whom the word 'organic' connotes the highest level of pure, toxin-free food production. On March 4, 2010, the Organic Consumers Association and dozens of San Francisco community groups protested at the mayor's office causing the city to put its sludge "compost" giveaway on hold, but only temporarily. Meanwhile, the city's Public Utilities Commission, with Francesca Vietor as Vice President, continues to defend and promote the practice of growing food in toxic sewage sludge.



Join "Sham-Poo" Actions to Stop Organic Fraud


Because of strict federal standards, certification and regulation, consumers can trust that products marked with the "USDA Organic" seal or the words "Made with Organic Ingredients" are truly organic.

But what about products that claim to be organic, but aren't marked as certified to USDA standards? This shouldn't happen. It's illegal to market uncertified products as "organic." The USDA would take action against anyone who sold fake organic food, but the National Organic Program has failed to address the rampant organic fraud in the cosmetics sector.

The Organic Consumers Association finally scored a victory in our anti- fraud Coming Clean campaign last November, when the National Organic Standards Board directed the USDA to start regulating the use of the word organic on cosmetics just like they would on food, but the USDA officials still say this isn't one of their top 10 priorities for the National Organic Program.

So, we've taken matters into our own hands. We've launched a boycott of fake organic brands, we're keeping a list of brands that are actually certified to organic standards (these are the brands we're urging our members to BUY), and we're hitting every industry trade show, green festival and USDA organic event with our Fake "Organic" Sham-Poo Bottle Parade.

We need your help! Please, if you'd like to join a Sham-Poo Bottle Parade in your town (next stops: New York and California), contact Alexis Baden-Mayer alexis[a]organicconsumers.org.

In the meantime, hit your retailers with our Coming Clean Campaign leaflet that tells them which products to stock or drop.



Sustainable Supply Chain Coalition Presses Whole Foods Market to Support Domestic Fair Trade and Qualitatively Increase Organic Sales


At the Whole Foods Market shareholder meeting on March 8th in Vancouver, BC, OCA director Ronnie Cummins spoke on behalf of shareholders who have formed a Sustainable Supply Chain Coalition to press Whole Foods to support domestic fair trade and increase the percentage of organic products sold in their stores.

"Whole Foods is alienating its consumer base," said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of Organic Consumers Association. "Whole Foods customers will not stand for business policies that hurt workers, the environment, and dilute organic standards."

The following weekend, the Sustainable Supply Chain Coalition bird-dogged Whole Foods at the Natural Products Expo. Activists dressed as vegetables chided Whole Foods as "Bad for the Planet" because of the company's refusal to create benchmarks or timelines for its promise to increase organic sales. Whole Foods currently stocks no more than 1/3 organic products.

Whole Foods stores carry mostly "natural" foods. These foods may be free of some ingredients found in processed foods (preservatives and artificial coloring), but the production methods used to grow the ingredients are largely conventional. They may be grown from GMO seed or sprayed with pesticides. (Whole Foods doesn't exclude GMOs or pesticides from its products, but rather advocates "consumer choice" on GMOs and "fewer and safer pesticides.") The ingredients are likely fertilized with fossil-fuel derived synthetic nitrogen fertilizers or sewage sludge. And, while Whole Foods requires cattle and buffalo to be range raised for at lease 2/3 of the animal's life, animal products sold at Whole Foods are not required to come from farms with adequate pasture to absorb the animals' waste. Non-organic fertilizers and the accumulation of animal waste in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) are a major source of dangerous greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and CO2. If it weren't for these practices, farm soil would be able to sequester more than 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.



OCA Challenges Whole Foods Market to 'Walk the Talk'

At a shareholders' meeting in Vancouver, Whole Foods Market, one of the leading sellers of organic goods, was accused of misleading consumers with its labeling of products and disregarding the working conditions of the people who grow the food they sell. Here Jane Williams of Rabble interviews OCA Director Ronnie Cummins who says this is because Whole Foods founder John Mackey believes that climate change is a hoax and hates unions with a passion.



Green Patriot and OCA Expose 1,4 Dioxane in Household Products


March 12, at a press conference held adjacent to the Natural Products Expo West, the Green Patriot Working Group (GPWG), led by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman, and the Organic Consumers Association announced that Procter and Gamble (P&G) and the Green Patriot have reached an agreement in principle that P&G will reformulate its top-selling Herbal Essences brand to reduce levels of the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-dioxane. The press conference also announced new 1,4-dioxane test results for twenty laundry detergents, of which notably some of the most popular mainstream brands - including Dial, Church & Dwight Co. and Procter & Gamble - had the highest levels overall.



Video of the Week


How the Global Food Market Starves the Poor

To understand the complexities of the international food market - and how traders in Chicago can cause Africans to starve - you could get a Ph.D. in economics, or read a 400-page report from the World Bank. Or you watch this superb nine minute video, directed by Denis van Waerebeke.



Little Bytes


Resistance Resisters: It's Time to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
Another 120 species went extinct today; they were my kin. I am not going to sit back and wait for every last piece of this living world to be dismembered. I'm going to fight like hell... READ MORE

Relying on GM Crops to Battle Climate Change "Suicidal"
Vandana Shiva says, "The GM system is more about companies making money from farmers than food security." READ MORE

Monsanto Critics Get Unusual Platform
Crop biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. has the most at stake in the first of an unprecedented series of public meetings that the antitrust wing of the Justice Department is holding across the Farm Belt. READ MORE

Conflict of Interest: Ex Monsanto Lawyer Clarence Thomas to Hear Major Monsanto Case
The U.S. Supreme Court is soon to hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. If Monsanto wins, it may find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops, and to litigate conventional farmers into oblivion. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas used to work for Monsanto. Expect more in next week’s Organic Bytes. In the meantime... READ MORE

School Lunches: Where's the Broccoli?
First Lady Michelle Obama's noble fight against childhood obesity cannot be won unless members of Congress act boldly this spring and vote to give school lunches the healthy makeover that our kids deserve and desperately need. READ MORE




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