A publication of the Organic Consumers Association - www.organicconsumers.org
Putting Organics on the Table
The Good News
Over the past six months, organic food and farming and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), crossed the tipping point from being a "fringe" or alternative movement into a powerful influence in the minds of millions of Americans. Our new mainstream clout is a direct result of decades of grassroots public education and campaigning, informing and inspiring millions of organic and ethically-minded consumers to reject industrial agriculture and out-of-control technology and commerce, and instead to vote with their dollars for health, justice, and sustainability.
Our movement's growing economic power is reflected in booming sales, not only in the organic food sector ($18 billion), but also in organic clothing ($850 million), organic body care ($800 million), organic nutritional supplements, pet food, and lawn care ($750 million), alternative and complimentary medicine ($30 billion), alternative books and DVDs, and in billions of dollars invested in other green products and services, ranging from hybrid cars (500,000 now on the road), renewable energy, mass transportation, eco-banking, and socially responsible mutual funds. This undeniable greening of consumer consciousness, the "Organic Boom," has generated unprecedented media coverage, from national TV, to the covers of Time and Business Week, reinforced with a steady stream of articles in nearly every major newspaper in the country.
Since January, OCA staff have been interviewed over 700 times by the media. We've been able to get our message out to millions on national TV and radio, as well as the foreign press, providing a steady stream of positive news and editorial comment for both the mass and alternative media.
To get our full message, tune in to OCA's comprehensive and inspiring website, updated daily. Over a million readers visit our website every month. Please check us out and bookmark our site for regular visits.
The Not So Good News
T?his Thanksgiving, more Americans than ever will be sitting down to a holiday dinner that is healthy and organic. Many will be enjoying organic food that is locally or regionally produced as well. Thanks to the ethical integrity of the overwhelming majority of the nation's organic farmers, producers, and retailers, we can still trust the organic label, with a few notable exceptions: Horizon and Aurora Organic dairy products; cheap soybeans and other imports from China; body care companies that have trademarked the word "organic" or "organics" in their name or label.
It is not the USDA or big companies that we have to thank for preserving strict organic standards; but rather organic watchdogs such as the OCA and the Cornucopia Institute, backed up by the vigilance of millions of highly conscious organic consumers like yourself. For eight years we have successfully fought back every time the USDA and industry lobbyists have tried to lower standards.
We have reached a crucial turning point. The huge demand for organic products, combined with a lack of government support to help American family farmers make the transition to organic, is putting organic integrity at risk. The USDA sucks up 100 billion of our tax dollars every year, while allocating a paltry one million dollars in "Cost Share" programs to help conventional farmers go organic. With demand exceeding what US organic farmers now produce, powerful new players with freshly-painted organic facades are expanding supply by bending the rules (for example labeling the milk from industrial feedlot dairies as organic) and bringing in cheap organic products from producers in countries such as China and Brazil, where organic standards are dubious at best, and labor and environmental exploitation are the norm.
Last year, a full 10% of all organic sales were imports, despite the insanity of transporting "organic" foods and fiber halfway around the world -- belching greenhouse gases all the way -- when we could be producing these high-value foods in our own local areas.
Giant food corporations (Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg's, Dole, Dean Foods, Heinz, Coca-Cola) and retail chains are moving to take over the alternative food and farming system we have worked so hard to build. Big Box chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco promise to significantly undercut the current prices of organic food that we buy in our local natural food stores and coops.
Cheaper prices sound great, until you realize that this Wal-Martization of organics depends upon lowering standards, buying from industrial-sized producers rather than family-scale farmers, and importing cheap sub-standard organic products from overseas.
We must stop this. Please support OCA in our efforts to preserve organic integrity and to "keep organic organic".
A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR
Organics in a Time of Crisis
Autumn greetings from the Organic Consumers Association. By the time you receive this Organic View, the long-awaited November elections will be over. Hopefully, a new, more ethical crop of legislators will move our troubled country away from the self-destructive, indeed frightening, path we've been traveling. In particular, we hope a new Congress will finally put organics and related life or death issues, like climate change and world peace, on the table, and redirect a fair share of the USDA's annual $100 billion budget to help US family farmers make the transition to organic, develop local markets, and adopt soil conservation and renewable energy practices on their farms.
If we take this enlightened path, we can satisfy the booming demand for organic products with real organic food, produced and transported sustainably, instead of allowing industrial farms and Big Box chains to degrade organic standards. To put the brakes on the importation of cheap, but often bogus, organic food from China and other nations halfway across the globe, we are pressuring Congress to implement Country of Origin Labeling, so that consumers can vote with their pocketbooks for organic foods produced in the US.
As I write this, OCA is involved in a growing national boycott against two organic dairy giants, Horizon and Aurora Organic, to stop these companies and the retail chains they supply (Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, Wild Oats, and Publix) from labeling milk from factory farms as organic.
Our goal is nothing less than to drive these companies to the negotiating table, and thereby teach the food giants a lesson: organic integrity is not for sale. While defending standards, OCA is also actively working with complimentary movements to address our common concerns of health, justice, and sustainability. To stimulate positive political change, our sister lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, has been circulating an Organic Consumers Political Candidate Survey across the country. (See below). In addition, OCA is stepping up efforts against genetic engineering and industrial farms, and launching a new campaign against the use of hazardous nanotechnology particles in food, nutritional supplements, and body care products.
OCA continues to grow, with 400,000 subscribers to our newsletter, and a million visitors to our website each month. To safeguard organic standards and make the world a better place, we need your help now. Please send us a tax-deductible donation. Thank you so much for your support.
Regards & Solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins, OCA National Director
Organic Consumers Survey for Elected Public Officials
You can send this survey to your elected officials by visiting the
Organic Consumers Fund Website
1 Do you think organic agriculture should receive a fair share (at least 2.5%) of government resources spent on agriculture?
2 Do you support strict standards for processed foods, dairy, and body care products that are labeled or marketed as organic?
3 Do you support more aggressive government action to assess the harms of pesticides, take harmful pesticides off the market, and hold companies responsible for diseases and environmental damage caused by pesticides?
4 Should people have the right to pass consumer safety laws at the state or local level that require food labels to include information on dangerous ingredients?
5a Do you support Country of Origin labels and other labeling that helps consumers choose Made in the USA and local products?
5b Do you support government action to help US farmers develop local and regional markets and to reduce non-renewable energy use on their farms?
6a Do you support mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients?
6b Do you support mandatory pre-market safety testing for all genetically modified foods and crops?
7 Do you support universal testing for Mad Cow disease and a ban on feeding slaughterhouse waste to farm animals?
8 Do you support a restructuring of trade-distorting US farm subsidies?
9 Do you support a significant shift in US farm subsidies to help family farmers and ranchers make the transition to organic?
10 Do you support a significant shift in subsidies to help US farmers adopt conservation and renewable energy practices on farms?
11 Do you support increases for Food Stamps, the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) Farmers' Market Nutrition Program and other programs to help low-income Americans buy organic food?
12 Do you support universal health care with a preventive focus and a major emphasis on better nutrition?
13 Do you support an 80% reduction (by 2050) in climate destabilizing greenhouse gas pollution?
14 Do you support ending the Iraq war and redirecting funds from the $500 billion annual military spending in the US toward greening the US economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and converting US agriculture to organic practices?
15 Do you support requiring electronic voting machines to produce voter-verified paper records and election officials to use these records to conduct mandatory audits of election results?
16 Do you support eliminating the distorting effect of special interest money on our elections and politicians by requiring full public funding for all federal, state, and local elections?
17 Do you support legislation to prevent internet companies from rigging the system to serve only the highest-paying users and discriminate against users they don't like?
For more information, visit: www.organicconsumersfund.org
OCA Campaign Progress Reports July - November2006
Boycott of Bogus "Organic" Milk Spreads Across US
In April, OCA network members voted 96% to 4% in an online poll to launch a boycott of two leading organic dairy brands and distributors, Horizon Organic (a division of Dean Foods, the largest dairy conglomerate in the world) and Aurora Organic, for mislabeling their products as "USDA Organic." All of Aurora's, and much of Horizon's, "organic" milk is coming from industrial dairy feedlots, where the cows routinely have been imported from conventional dairies and have little or no access to pasture. Since April, tens of thousands of consumers and a growing number of co-ops and natural food stores have joined the boycott. In addition, OCA is calling for a boycott of Horizon's sister soy brands -- Silk soymilk and White Wave tofu -- which have begun turning away from US organic farmers, and instead importing cheap organic soybeans from China and Brazil, where labor rights and environmental standards are routinely violated.
Thanks to the participation of organic consumers across the US, OCA's Horizon/Aurora boycott is steadily gaining strength. News of the boycott and controversy over "industrial organic" have been broadcast by national TV, New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, Business Week, and the Associated Press, among others. Horizon officials admit that the OCA boycott is causing them major problems. OCA's goal in the boycott is to turn up the heat on Horizon and Aurora and drive them to the negotiating table. If we can force one or both of these organic giants into meeting our demands, and signing a legally-binding agreement, we will not only preserve strict standards, but also teach an important lesson to all of the corporate food giants and industrial scale farm interests who have aggressively pushed their way into the organic arena: organic integrity is not for sale.
OCA Steps Up Campaign Against Gene-Altered "Frankenfoods"
Two recent pollution disasters have rocked the biotech industry.
In late August, an experimental variety of genetically engineered (GE) grass escaped from its test plot and began spreading uncontrollably in the wild. Government scientists admit the grass could kill off native grasses and irreversibly damage the ecosystem.
In September, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced that the US supply of long grain rice had been contaminated by an illegal GE variety of rice, patented by Bayer. Shortly thereafter, Japan, EU, and other major buyers banned or restricted imports of US rice, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for US rice farmers.
For over eight years, OCA has campaigned for a ban or moratorium on all GE foods, trees, and crops. We are currently lobbying for federal legislation, similar to laws already in effect in the EU that would put the brakes on this out-of-control industry.
For more information, see the genetic engineering section of the OCA website:
Resistance Gaining Critical Mass Against "Gene Foods"
?Although the US government has approved the cultivation of GE wheat, sugar beets, flax, potatoes, fish, and rice, pressure from the OCA and allied consumer and farm groups around the world has convinced the biotech industry to hold off indefinitely on releasing these varieties commercially.
A series of USDA and industry polls have found that 80-95% of Americans support mandatory labels for GE food, mainly so they can avoid buying these products. The OCA is working to recruit over 100 Congressional co-sponsors for a 2007 bill that would require GE foods to be labeled and safety tested.
?India has announced a ban on the introduction of any new GE crops, due to the devastation that Monsanto's GE cotton has brought to the nation's farmers, 20,000 of whom have committed suicide.
With organic milk sales booming, the largest dairy distributors and retailers in the US have begun a massive shift away from milk produced with Monsanto's genetically engineered rBGH.
OCA's rBGH Boycott Takes Hold After a Decade
For over a decade, the OCA and its predecessor, the Pure Food Campaign, have waged a campaign to educate consumers about the serious human and animal health hazards of Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and to pressure dairy companies to stop injecting their cows with this dangerous drug.
In June, the journal Dairy Food and Market Analyst reported that retail and dairy giants Wal-Mart and Dean Foods have begun pressuring suppliers for rBGH-free milk, in response to increasing consumer demand. In October, Vermont's Secretary of Agriculture called on the state's farmers to completely stop using rBGH.
The synthetic hormone rBGH -- banned worldwide on organic farms -- is a genetically engineered drug designed to force dairy cows to produce more milk. The controversial hormone has been banned in Europe, Canada, and Japan, due to its links to increased risks for breast and colon cancer and antibiotic resistance. Despite rBGH's obvious threat to human health, 12% of US dairy cows, especially on factory-style farms, continue to be injected with the drug.
On a related note, despite years of pressure from the OCA, Starbucks is still serving coffee drinks across the country that are laced with cheap rBGH milk. Another good reason to patronize local, independently owned coffee shops that offer organic and Fair Trade alternatives.
Industrial Hemp Ban on the Way Out
The OCA and its allies recently came close to bringing industrial hemp farming back to the US for the first time in 70 years. A recent Bill (AB 1147) in California would have given the state's farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, which is currently used in numerous products, including hemp foods, body care products, plastics, oils, and linens. The Bill was passed with a strong majority by both the California Senate and Assembly, but in early October, it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. OCA and our allies in the hemp movement will work to reintroduce this bill in 2007.
"Good News" Headlines
The OCA has been successfully waging a number of campaigns in 2006 to
safeguard organic standards and to promote health, justice and sustainability.
In addition to the campaign news discussed in this issue of Organic
here are some of other "Good News" headlines we've
generated or reported on in 2006.
For more information on these stories, see our Organic Bytes webpage.
Lawsuit Forces EPA to Phase Out Dangerous Pesticide
Survey: Quarter of US Consumers Now Buy Organic
Boycott of Horizon Generates National Publicity
New York City Bans Trans-Fats
Hospitals Move Toward Organic
Fast Food Chains Going Organic
Organic Consumer Political Candidate Survey Spreads
Junk Food Sodas Booted Out of Schools
OCA Supports Senator's Request to Ban Aspartame
rBGH on its Way Out
Schools Go Green
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Can You Trust Organic Label Claims on Body Care Products?
Consumers are seeing through the hype when it comes to determining which "organic" body care products are legitimate and which are falsely labeled. OCA's Coming Clean campaign is designed to eliminate labeling fraud and to highlight genuine organic body care products that are on the market.
OCA and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps filed a successful lawsuit against the USDA last year, demanding that the government allow organic body care products with 95-100% certified organic ingredients to carry the "USDA Organic" symbol. Prior to this, consumers had no way of distinguishing the difference between a product that was misleadingly labeled as "organic" (while consisting of conventional synthetic ingredients) and a product that was truly made of organic ingredients.
Since the lawsuit was won, a number of body care companies have stepped forward with products that meet the strict requirements of 95-100% organic. At the same time, organic consumers are realizing that without that "USDA Organic" symbol on body care products, it's impossible to know exactly what percentage of genuine organic ingredients are actually contained in the product.
At present, nearly 500 organic businesses have signed on in support of OCA's Coming Clean campaign. The OCA has been working with a National Sanitation Foundation task force of organic body care experts with a goal of establishing a secondary standard that could ultimately put a damper on the current practice of mislabeling conventional body care products as "organic." In the meantime, look for the "USDA Organic" seal when purchasing organic body care products. If you don't see the seal, you might be getting ripped off.
Stay tuned: www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare
Organic Food & Farming: Turning Up the Heat on Politicians
OCA's Washington DC office and our allied lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, are stepping up efforts in Congress and with the nation's state legislatures. Our goal is to translate the marketplace clout of millions of organic consumers into grassroots political power and progressive policy changes. We especially need to turn up the heat on elected public officials to redirect a significant portion of the billions they currently hand out, in subsidies to energy and chemical-intensive industrial farms, to expand and strengthen the organic and transition to organic sector.
Specifically, we want elected public officials to direct a "Fair Share" of our tax dollars to meet the booming demand for organic and locally produced food -- by helping thousands of family farmers make the transition to organic, adopt conservation and renewable energy practices on their farms, and develop local and regional markets for organic products in schools, hospitals, workplace cafeterias, and nursing homes. We also want an increased emphasis on "Organic Justice," making organic information and products more readily available in low-income communities.
OCA Goes Local: Become a State News Scout or Editor
OCA's comprehensive website has just gotten better. We've added 50 new state sections to the website for state and local news, listings of coming events, Action Alerts, and directories and links to public interest organizations and green businesses.
To facilitate this, we have enlisted "Volunteer News Scouts" to send us appropriate materials and/or post these materials directly on our site.
If you'd like to become an OCA News Scout or State Editor, please call our office (218-226-4164) or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiny Toxins - Shoppers Guide to Nanotechnology
On March 31, 2006, twelve people in Germany were rushed to the hospital with serious respiratory problems after using a bathroom cleaning product called "Magic Nano." The incident generated major media coverage in Europe and sparked a long overdue debate over the hazardous practice of placing tiny (unlabeled and untested) nanoparticles (a nano is one-billionth of a meter) in a broad range of consumer products including cosmetics and sunscreen products, nutritional supplements, seeds, pesticides, foods, beverages, and food packaging.
It is a little-known fact that nanoparticles have already been laced into over 200 products on the market. Nano-Industry leaders such as Kraft, Bayer, Monsanto, and L'Oreal boast that commercial sales of nano-products will reach $2.6 trillion by 2014. Among the consumer products containing nanoparticles are more than 30 cosmetics and body care products, as well as dozens of food, beverage, and nutritional supplement ingredients. As Ronnie Cummins of the OCA recently told the New York Times (10/10/06), "Nanotechnology is ten times scarier than genetic engineering."
A growing number of toxicologists are concerned that not enough research has been done to ensure the safety of the growing number of nano-products already on the market. The unique properties that make nanotech particles and products potentially valuable, in terms of chemical solubility and reactivity, may also make their toxicity unpredictable. Industry and our out-of-control regulatory agencies (FDA, USDA, EPA) appear to have decided that the best way to test out these tiny toxins is to use consumers as human guinea pigs.
Specifically, nanoparticles are so small (one nano is 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), researchers have found they can get past the mucus membranes in the nose and invade the walls of the lungs. Nanoparticles can also get into the brain via the olfactory nerve and can work into the blood stream by penetrating through the skin. This ability to travel through the skin is exactly why so many cosmetic companies are falling in love with nanotechnology. The nanoparticles can carry things like vitamin A or sunscreen to the deeper parts of the skin. Problematically, that also means those tiny particles are carrying synthetic preservatives and other toxic ingredients directly into the bloodstream.
Much like unlabeled GE ingredients, this process has turned millions of consumers into guinea pigs.
Linda Katz, director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Cosmetics and Colors, admits the agency has no nano-specific regulations -- cosmetics manufacturers aren't required to tell the agency if they're using nanotech. The FDA only investigates cosmetics if safety questions emerge after a product is on the market, because there is no pre-marketing approval process for cosmetics formulations.
OCA and our allies are currently organizing a national and international consumer education, boycott, and lobbying campaign to demand a moratorium on nanoparticles in consumer products, unless they can be properly safety-tested and labeled. In the meantime, we will push for a formal ban on nanoparticles in all products labeled as organic. For dozens of articles on this topic, go to our website, www.OrganicConsumers.org and type in the search word "nano."
Cosmetic Companies Using Potentially Harmful Nanoparticles
AmerElite - Applied Therapeutics - Barneys New York - Bergdorf Goodman - Beyond Skin Science - Blue Lizard - BABY Sunscreen - Cell Rx - Chanel - ColorScience - Crown Laboratories, Inc. - Dermatone - Dermazone Solutions - Enprani - Image Skin Care - Innovative Skincare - International Cosmeceuticals - Keys Soap - Lancome - Lion Corporation - L'Oreal - MOXIE - Nanogen Products - NuCelle Inc. - Osmotics - Pureology - RBC - Life Sciences, Inc. - Rosacea Care - Sircuit Cosmeceuticals, Inc. - SkinCeuticals - Skin Rx Solutions - Smith & Nephew - Soxton Enterprise - StriVectin - UNICO Enterprises - Zelens - Zotos International, Inc.
Every generation needs a new revolution - Thomas Jefferson
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OCA POLICY ADVISORY BOARD
Ronnie Cummins - OCA National Director
Will Allen - Organic Farmer, VT
Maude Barlow - Council of Canadians
Jay Feldman - Beyond Pesticides
Jim & Rebecca Goodman - Organic Farmers, WI
Jean Halloran - Consumers Union
Tim Hermach - Native Forest Council
Julia Butterfly Hill - Forest Activist & Author
Annie Hoy - Ashland Community Food Store, OR
Mika Iba - Food & Farming Activist, Japan
Pat Kerrigan - Emergency Food Shelf, MN
John Kinsman - Family Farm Defenders
Al Krebs - Agribusiness Examiner
Bruce Krug - Dairy Farmer, NY
Howard Lyman - Voice For A Viable Future
Victor Menotti - Int'l Forum on Globalization
Frances Moore-Lappé - Author & Activist
Robin Seydel - La Montanita Co-op, NM
Vandana Shiva - Author & Activist, India
John Stauber - Center for Media & Democracy
Ronnie Cummins - National Director
Rose Welch - General Manager
Craig Minowa - Environmental Scientist
Ryan Zinn - National Campaign Director
Loranda McLeete - Office Manager
Steve Urow - Web Master
Mary Anselment - Database Manager
Adam Eidinger - Media Coordinator
Alexis Baden-Meyer - Lobbyist
Katya Kruglak - National Field Organizer
Honor Schauland - Member Services
Matt Tyler - Web Tech
Nancy Anselment-Olson - Database
Charlene Birdseye - Data Entry
Casey Oppenheim - General Counsel
Michael Greger - MD - Mad Cow Consultant
Will Allen - Cotton Project Consultant
Danila Oder - Irradiation Consultant
Liz Welch - Illustration, Outreach
Nick Lethert - Graphic & Web Design