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Organic View - Spring 2007

A Publication of the Organic Consumers Association - Membership Update - Spring 2007

Safeguard Organic StandardsBig Food & Pharma: Keeping Us In the Dark

Headlines announce the latest food poisoning scandal, prescription drug disaster, contaminated food import, legislative attack on consumers’ right-to-know, as well as multi-billion subsidies for corporate agribusiness and junk food. For those who thought corporate greed and government corruption had peaked, for those hoping that Corporate America’s long-standing war on consumer health and the environment was abating, the last six months have been mind-boggling.

Blocking Country of Origin Labels for Food

Concerns over long distance food transportation and global warming, compounded by recent food poisoning scandals linked to contaminated pet, poultry, and pig food ingredients from China, have taken away many Americans’ appetites for cheap imported foods. Shocked that the FDA is inspecting less than 1% of all imported food shipments, health-minded consumers are demanding that Congress implement mandatory Country of Origin Labels (COOL) on food. Facing polls showing that 80% of Americans want to know where their food is coming from, Congress incorporated COOL into the 2002 Farm Bill, supposedly to go into effect in September 2004. Unfortunately, corporate agribusiness, Wal-Mart, and the supermarket chains bribed an ethically impaired Congress with millions in campaign contributions to block implementation of COOL labels. As a result, Americans are buying billions of dollars of imported, uninspected foods every year, in most cases without even knowing it.

A Recent Consumer Reports Poll Shows What Consumers Think of the FDA and Big Pharma:
  • 4 of 5 Americans think big pharmaceutical companies have too much control over the FDA.
  • 96 percent believe the government should have the power to require warning labels on drugs with known safety problems. According to Consumer Reports, “Right now, the FDA must negotiate safety warning labels with a drug maker.”
  • 84 percent believe that advertisements for prescription drugs with safety concerns should be outlawed.
  • 92 percent oppose the FDA’s practice of allowing drug companies to submit only positive clinical trials of new drugs while burying negative drug trial results.
Allowing Filth and Chemical Poisons In Industrial Food

Whether we’re talking about deadly e-coli in hamburgers or spinach, imported pet food that kills pets, or the feds admitting that 78 million annual cases of food poisoning and 200,000 hospitalizations in the US are “normal,” it’s clear that our Fast Food Nation needs help. Don’t hold your breath for the House and Senate agriculture committees or the current crop of Washington bureaucrats to deal with our nation’s food safety and public health crisis. Their “solutions” are mainly to keep us in the dark about what’s in our food, how it was produced, and where it came from, and to keep doling out billions of taxpayer‘s dollars to the USDA every year to maintain business as usual. Meanwhile, Congress and their minions at the FDA work overtime to make sure that the super-profits of the big pharmaceutical, insurance, and hospital corporations stay at record levels, while Americans break the Guinness Book of Records for poor health and skyrocketing medical costs.

Forcing Irradiated, GE, and Cloned Foods on Consumers

Every poll for the past decade has shown that 80-90% of consumers want mandatory labels on GE food. Then why won't Congress give us labels? Because they know that if GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are labeled, as they are in Europe, consumers will boycott them. In a similar vein, the FDA has recently proposed new laws that will allow manufacturers to sell controversial and likely hazardous irradiated and cloned foods without labeling them, or in the case of irradiated foods, allowing companies to mislabel nuked foods as "pasteurized." Consumers are justifiably wary of foods bombarded with nuclear waste or powerful x-rays or gamma rays, since irradiation destroys essential vitamins and nutrients, creates unique radiolytic chemical compounds never before consumed by humans, and generates carcinogenic by-products such as formaldehyde and benzene. Consumers are also skittish about consuming meat, milk, or eggs from mutant animals that have been genetically engineered or cloned.

Forcing Unsafe Pharmaceutical Drugs on the Public

Deadly side effects from heavily advertised (and super-expensive) prescription drugs are now the fourth leading cause of death in the US, injuring two million and killing over 100,000 people every year. No wonder millions of Americans are turning to alternative medicine and holistic practitioners to safeguard their health. OCA has no choice but to redouble our campaigning on the labeling front, both in the marketplace and in the political arena. With truthful labels on food products, supplements, and drugs, coupled with strong organic standardsÑan army of conscious consumers can potentially drive questionable and hazardous products off the market. If the nation's 75 million organic and alternative health consumers come together as a political force, elected public officials will take heed. For your own self-defense, OCA urges you to take food and health matters into your own hands. Educate yourself. Reexamine your lifestyle. Research the alternatives. And then vote with your pocketbook and your political voice for organic food, holistic health, and a sustainable environment.

A Message from the Director

Spring greetings from the Minnesota north woods. After a long season of maddening headlines and inconvenient truths, spring has arrived, bringing a welcome burst of life and renewal. The last six months have been intense, with consumers and public interest organizations like the OCA struggling to stop powerful corporations and indentured politicians from undermining public health and destroying the environment. A fundamental principle and passion running through our work has been to safeguard organic standards and establish basic consumers' rights to know what's in our food, body care products, house and garden supplies, vitamins, and medicines, as well as to know how and where these products have been produced. To accomplish our mission we have joined forces with a wide range of family farm, fair trade, environmental, and economic justice organizations, as well as "buy local" networks, alternative health consumers, climate crisis campaigners and peace activists.

We are heartened by the fact that the threat of global warming and endless war seems to have finally penetrated the consciousness of the majority of Americans, even if most elected politicians are still in denial. Most of all, we are inspired by the world changing solutions that are emerging from the grassroots. This vast greening of society ranges all the way from the booming, yet energy efficient organic food and farming movement, to the rapidly growing solar, wind, and biomass energy sector, to the political awakening of the body politic, who are finally starting to demand a green and equitable New Deal.

OCA looks forward to making organics and green commerce the dominant paradigm in North America. With industrial agriculture and long distance food distribution and processing generating approximately 25% of all climate disrupting greenhouse gases, we have no time to lose in making locally and regionally based organic food and farming systems the norm. And of course to accomplish this monumental task, we must amplify the collective political voice of organic consumers to new levels, as well as continue to vote with our consumer dollars for health, justice, and sustainability. We, and our sister lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, look forward to working with you this year on a variety of fronts. But to safeguard organic standards and make the world a better place, we need your help. Please click here to send us a donation. Thank you so much for your support.

Regards & Solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins, OCA National Director

Frankenfoods & Crops: Challenging the Biotech Bullies

In February and March, US district courts ruled that the USDA illegally approved the commercial release of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa and open-air test plots of “Roundup Ready” bent-grass. In the alfalfa case, Judge Charles R. Breyer ordered the USDA to halt planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is done. In the case of the bent grass—which was intended for golf courses, but had escaped into a nearby National Grassland—Judge Harold Kennedy ordered the USDA to require an EIS prior to all future open air GM crop test plots.
Meanwhile, OCA has launched a vigorous campaign against the FDA’s recent proposal to allow, without labels or proper safety testing, cloned milk, meat, and eggs in the US food supply. The biotech industry wants to genetically engineer farm animals and then use cloning to produce millions of these mutants. As usual, the FDA is ignoring their own studies showing a high rate of clone deformities and suggesting human health risks. With lobbying from the OCA and the organic community, the National Organic Standards Board has told the USDA that cloned animals must not be allowed in organic products.

Monsanto and the biotech industry hope to greenwash unpopular GM crops by claiming that a new generation of gene-altered crops will generate high quality ethanol and biofuels. Soaring demand for corn to ‘feed’ scores of new corn ethanol plants across the Midwest has triggered an increase in the planting of GM corn, while several companies claim that genetically engineered grasses could produce cellulosic ethanol.

Evidence of GM crop hazards continues to mount. In January, the journal Nature reported that transgenic crop contamination is inevitable. In March, the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, published a study showing liver and kidney damage to rats fed Monsanto’s “YieldGuard Rootworm” corn. And, while there is no conclusive proof yet, some experts believe that GM crops may be involved in the recent of mass deaths of conventional honeybees. Apparently, few organic beekeepers have reported significant bee losses, and at least one study has found fewer bees in GM fields compared to organic or conventional fields.

Despite the evermore-obvious hazards of GM crops, 52% of US corn, 89% of soy, and 50% of canola are GM. These crops are widely used in animal feed and as ingredients in non-organic processed foods.

NUTRI-CON: The Truth About Synthetic Vitamins and Supplements

Nutri-ConConsumer Alert:Tell Companies to Stop Labeling Vitamins and Supplements Containing Synthetic Chemicals, Genetically Modified Organisms, and Nanoparticles as “Natural” “Food Based” or “Organic”

As millions of health-minded consumers understand, an organic whole foods diet is the “best medicine” to stay healthy in the toxic soup of more than 100,000 synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that surround us every day.

While organic food is undoubtedly the most important ingredient in preserving our health, the time has come to spread the beneficial effects of organics throughout the marketplace, reducing our exposure to synthetic chemicals, gmos, and nanoparticles, and driving fraudulently labeled and hazardous products off the market.

As organic consumers, moving to protect our health and ward off disease by complementing our organic food diet with vitamins and medicinal herbs, we need to make sure that there is a proper system in place to allow consumers to tell if these supplements and botanicals are truthfully labeled. We need to know which supplements are derived from organic, naturally occurring, fairly-traded plant and mineral sources (NOS) and are 100% free from synthetic chemicals, genetically modified GM) organisms, and hazardous nanoparticles.

Vitamin PillsThe Science of Natural vs. Synthetic

There is mounting scientific evidence that many if not most of the synthetic vitamins on the market today are relatively less effective in promoting and preserving health than organic whole foods and full-spectrum, naturally occurring plant-based botanicals and supplements. Even more troubling is the fact that some synthetic vitamins—A, D, E, and K for example—and supplements may actually be damaging your health if taken at higher dosages.

Mega doses of synthetic vitamins, just like pharmaceutical prescription medicines and over the counter drugs, can have serious toxic side effects, including damaging your immune system and liver, and increasing your risks for heart disease and cancer.

Studies on natural vs. synthetic vitamins have shown that synthetic vitamins are 50 to 70% less biologically active than natural vitamins. The best vitamin supplements are those with labeled potencies derived from organic, naturally-occurring, full-spectrum food extracts.

Full Spectrum vs. Isolated Vitamins

Naturally-occurring vitamins are usually obtained by taking a nutrient-rich plant source, removing the water and the fiber in a chemical-free vacuum process (e.g. filtration), and packaging it for stability. Sometimes the extract may be freeze-dried to help preserve its shelf life. The entire vitamin complex is in these ways then captured intact, retaining its functional and nutritional integrity, and a full spectrum of nutritional values the way nature intended.

Another primary difference between real full-spectrum whole-food vitamins and isolated synthetic vitamins is that real vitamins contain the essential trace minerals necessary for the vitamins’ synergistic operation.

Synthetic vitamins contain no trace minerals and must utilize the body’s own mineral reserves. Ingesting real vitamins does not require the body to deplete its own reserves of nutrients to replace any nutrients missing from the false vitamins.

Vitamion BottlesMost Vitamins Are Falsely Labeled

Besides their limited effectiveness, the majority of synthetic vitamins and supplements are falsely labeled as “natural”. Most of these products claiming to be “natural” contain synthetic chemicals and hazardous genetically engineered ingredients. Potentially even more dangerous than genetic engineering, tiny toxins called nanoparticles are also being used by some uneducated or unscrupulous companies as an ingredient in supplements and body care products. This has raised warning flags from health experts who point to numerous scientific studies where nanoparticles are found to inflict severe damage to animals in lab experiments.

Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission continue to allow the giant $21 billion US supplements industry to label products containing biotech ingredients, synthetic chemicals, and nanoparticles as “natural”, “all-natural”, “food-based,” or even “organic.”
The time has come to put an end to this fraud, to make sure that supplements and other products claiming to be “natural” or “organic” actually are.

Learn More and Take Action

Besides their limited effectiveness, the majority of synthetic vitamins and supplements are falsely labeled as “natural”. Most of these products claiming to be “natural” contain synthetic chemicals and hazardous genetically engineered ingredients. Potentially even more dangerous than genetic engineering, tiny toxins called nanoparticles are also being used by some uneducated or unscrupulous companies as an ingredient in supplements and body care products. This has raised warning flags from health experts who point to numerous scientific studies where nanoparticles are found to inflict severe damage to animals in lab experiments.

Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission continue to allow the giant $21 billion US supplements industry to label products containing biotech ingredients, synthetic chemicals, and nanoparticles as “natural”, “all-natural”, “food-based,” or even “organic.”
The time has come to put an end to this fraud, to make sure that supplements and other products claiming to be “natural” or “organic” actually are.

We invite you to circulate this information to friends and family, and to talk to your local natural foods store or coop about joining forces with the OCA in this important new campaign.
Learn More at OCA's Nutri-Con Web Page:

Congressional Update

Does a new House subcommittee on organic agriculture mean Congress is ready to reverse the damage industrial agriculture inflicts on human, animal and environmental health?

This question will be answered in the 2007-2012 Farm Bill, a massive set of subsidies and policies that will have a major impact on food and farming in the US over the next five years.

OCA is lobbying for cuts to subsidies that support genetically engineered foods, poisonous pesticides, sewage sludge fertilizers, and factory farms at the expense of poor farmers around the world who can’t compete with the artificially low price of US exports.

Billions funneled to the richest corporate farms need to be shifted to organic farming, conservation, and other sustainable agriculture practices that can stabilize the climate and preserve biodiversity.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is the direct result of fertilizer pollution caused by concentrating crop subsidies in a small portion of the Mississippi River Basin. If they received full funding, programs like the Conservation Security Program could protect our watersheds from agricultural chemicals.

Federal farm programs are often justified by the idea that they ensure US residents an affordable supply of US-grown food, but so-called “nutrition” programs like Food Stamps shortchange income-deprived people who have to find a way to eat on $3 a day.

Stay tuned to Organic Bytes for ways you can help OCA bring justice and sustainability to US agriculture policy.

Common Victories: OCA's Recent Campaigns & Success Stories

Keeping Cloned Foods Out of Organics

In December 2006, OCA broke the news that the FDA was moving to allow the sale of milk, eggs, and meat from cloned animals for human consumption. OCA’s network flooded the FDA with thousands of emails, emphasizing the lack of scientific research addressing the safety of food derived from cloned animals.

With the FDA adding insult to injury by proclaiming that cloned foods would not have to be labeled, OCA pushed the cloning controversy to the mainstream media where it was covered everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.

In late March, the USDA responded to consumer demands for “clone-free” foods and announced that food from cloned animals and their progeny would not be allowed in products labeled as “organic”.

Consumer Tip: If you want to avoid purchasing milk, eggs and meat from cloned animals, buy organic!

Driving Bovine Growth Hormone Milk Off the Market

The OCA and two of its allies (Cancer Prevention Coalition & Family Farm Defenders) filed a legal petition with the FDA on February 20, 2007 to drive rBGH off the market. The petition is based on scientific evidence linking elevated cancer risks with the consumption of milk from cows injected with rBGH, a genetically engineered hormone, banned in most of the industrialized world.

Monsanto, manufacturer of the controversial drug (Posilac), responded by filing a complaint with the FDA, demanding that scores of dairies labeling their milk as rBGH-free stop doing so. The timing was unfortunate for Monsanto, as Lake Research Partners were just concluding a nationwide survey which found that 80% of consumers want rBGH-free milk to be labeled.

Meanwhile, the list of major dairy producers, distributors, and supermarkets going rBGH-free is growing every month. Even Wal-Mart and Starbucks have indicated they are taking steps to remove rBGH-tainted milk from their stores and cafes.

Thanks to all of you who have supported OCA’s Bovine Growth Hormone boycott over the last decade. We are moving steadily closer to our goal of driving rBGH off the market.

More info here

Defending the Rights of Small Organic Farmers and Grower Coops

The USDA arbitrarily announced in April it was banning the long-standing practice of allowing small organic farmers in the developing world to be certified as a group, rather than as individuals. Group certification makes organic certification costs affordable for thousands of low-income organic farmers and coops around the world. After a major mobilization by the OCA, fair trade groups, and our allies in the organic community, the USDA reversed their decision in early May, stating that group certification will remain in place until rule making changes can be formally discussed this fall.
A ban on group certification would cut off much of the organic coffee, tea, sugar, rice, cacao, and bananas now imported into the US.

Cleaning Up the Organic Personal Care Product Industry

Consumer Tip

Don’t buy so-called organic products that aren’t really organic. Boycott the following dairy brands supplied by Horizon Organic or Aurora:
  • Costco’s Kirkland Signature
  • Safeway’s O Organics
  • Publix’s High Meadows
  • Giant’s Natures Promise
  • Wild Oats’ Dairy
    Woodstock Farms milk
  • Horizon Organic
  • As well as two leading organic soy products, Silk and White Wave, owned by Horizon’s parent company, Dean Foods.

For the past three years, OCA has been at the forefront of cleaning up a “natural” body care and cosmetics industry that is plagued with fraudulent “organic” labeling. One aspect of our Coming Clean campaign has been to work closely with a panel of experts in developing a new set of standards for organic body care products. These standards are currently in draft form and should be ready for public input later this year.

To help us clarify organic standards for body care products, OCA has conducted a survey of over 5,000 organic consumers. We also, in conjunction with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap Company, sued the USDA to force them to allow body care companies with 100% food grade organic ingredients to display the “USDA Organic” seal on their products.

In the wake of our lawsuit, we are happy to see an ever-growing number of body care products acquire the “USDA Organic” seal. This is the true “gold standard” of organic personal care products. Products bearing that seal meet or surpass the organic standards set for food, so you can rest assured, as a consumer, that the personal care product you are purchasing is truly organic, if it has the “USDA Organic” seal.

Please visit the bodycare section of OCA's website for a full list of products meeting these stringent criteria.

Boycotting Factory Farmed “Organic” Dairy

The OCA continues its boycott of milk and dairy produced on factory farms and labeled as “organic”. Thousands of consumers have joined the boycott, as well as many co-ops and natural food stores. Dean Foods, the parent company of one of the targets of the OCA boycott (Horizon) has recently announced a 12% drop in its stock.

Consumers expect that organic milk is produced by cows who graze on pasture throughout the growing season, and have been raised since birth under organic regulations. In contrast, on these factory farm feedlots, thousands of dairy cows are kept in intensive confinement and given little or no access to pasture.

Learn more at the SOS section of the OCA website.

Member Comments

Thanks for your help to make our world a better place -Karina, Key Biscayne, FL

I really care about food safety and sustainability and appreciate that OCA is monitoring these issues. Stephanie, Roseville, CA

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You are the best source of important news that I have. Great work! Daniel, Beaverton, OR

I read your newsletter and was amazed at all you are doing. I will continue to support you in the future. Colleen, Oneota, NY

OCA, You’re doing wonderful work. I thank you… the Earth thanks you. Terry, Cambridge, MA

Thanks you are a blessing to our society. Marc, Davie, FL

I consider the OCA a very important resource, and I’m happy to be able to contribute. Sharon, East Windsor, NJ

I love the humor in the newsletters. Your presentation of information is interesting and informative - we think your organization is awesome! Martha, Juneau, AK

Your newsletter is wonderful. I try to take action often based on the links you provide. Diana in Sacramento, CA

Thanks for drawing attention to the FDA & USDA gone wild! Keep up the great work! Nora, Gainesville, FL

Bravo! Rufus, Bristol, TN

You perform a vital service for all of us. Charlene in Brooklyn, NY

Planting Peace

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. - Jimi Hendrix

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

OCA Staff

Mary Anselment · Office Manager
Alexis Baden-Meyer · Lobbyist
Ronnie Cummins · National Director
Adam Eidinger · Media Coordinator
Wayne Frame · Accountant
Jack Klee - Mexico Office
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Nick Lethert · Graphic & Web Design
Craig Minowa · Environmental Scientist
Madeline Nelson · Office Assistant
Casey Oppenheim · General Counsel
Honor Schauland · Content Management
Matt Tyler · Web Master
Steve Urow · Systems Programmer
Liz Welch · Illustration, Outreach
Rose Welch · General Manager

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