Organic View - Autumn 2008

A Publication of the Organic Consumers Association - Membership Update - Autumn 2008

OCA Announces a new grassroots campaign

Organic Transitions

Beyond Economic Depression, Climate Change, & Peak Oil

Mobilizing organic consumers and communities to plan and implement transition strategies, with organic food and farming providing the healthy cornerstone, for a more localized and sustainable green economy

Organic TransitionsOCA is happy to announce a new grassroots-powered campaign called Organic Transitions, inspired in part by the UK's fast-growing Transition Towns movement. Organic Transitions is designed to mobilize organic consumers and local communities to start planning and implementing transition strategies to survive and thrive in the turbulent times ahead, with organic food and farming providing the healthy cornerstone for a new sustainable green economy.

First the bad, or shall we say the really bad, news. Not since the Great Depression have Americans been challenged by anything comparable to the current unfolding disaster: economic meltdown, global warming, climate chaos, escalating energy and resource costs, looming shortages, endless war, biodiversity erosion, and deteriorating public health - metastasized and abetted by a corporate elite and indentured federal government that apparently doesn't know what to do, or, worse, doesn't care. Even with likely regime change on November 4, we are in very deep trouble, according to leading scientists, economists, agronomists, and public health experts.

Fortunately a critical mass of people are waking up to the fact that we must get organized and find holistic solutions, not mere band-aids, for our crisis. Millions are heartened by the indisputable fact that organic, green, commonsense solutions for our life-or-death problems are at hand, including appropriate technology and innovative public policy and legislation. We don't have to wait for Washington bureaucrats or corporate marketers to tell us what to do.

We need to join together with our fellow citizens and begin organizing Organic Transitions committees and campaigns in our local areas, starting with local organic food buying clubs, house parties, and study and action circles.

Times are indeed grim, but certainly not hopeless. We still have a window of opportunity to take back control over our political, cultural, and economic institutions; to create millions of urban and rural green jobs; to transform our educational systems; and to make a smooth transition from fossil fuels, climate chaos, and resource wars to a renewable, peaceful, solar-based agriculture and economy. But time is of the essence.

There is no longer any doubt that we must quickly move away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas pollution if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. Likewise there is no doubt that we are quickly running out of cheap oil, and other essential resources such as water, forests, wetlands, and plant and animal biodiversity. You are likely familiar with the term Peak Oil, the notion that global oil production has peaked and will now become inexorably more expensive and scarce, even as global demand continues to rise. What you may not realize is that we stand on the cusp of Peak Everything, where nearly all of our essential natural resources are reaching their limits.

We obviously can no longer afford trillion-dollar bailouts for Wall Street speculators, nor trillion-dollar wars for oil and empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is temporarily enough food, fiber, and fuel on the planet to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone (that is, if these necessities are distributed equitably), but the days of fossil fuel-intensive, chemical-intensive agriculture, transportation, utilities, and housing are drawing to an end.

Natural gas-derived chemical fertilizers and petroleum-based pesticides, transportation, and processing are absolutely essential to supercharge America's current system of industrialized and globalized food and farming, but as economists point out, these inputs will be literally unaffordable within a decade. Chemical fertilizer and diesel costs alone have gone up 80% in the last two years, with global food costs rising comparably. Gasoline in the US now costs three dollars a gallon (over $10 a gallon in some EU nations), while natural gas for heating is $2.50. Multiply these costs by two over the next couple of years, and by four over the next decade and you get the picture.

There's a silver lining in the collapse of our energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, hyper-consumerist society. After we make the Organic Transitions we need, we may not be making as much money as we once did, or buying as many consumer products, but as we green and re-localize our economy and our politics, we're likely to be happier, healthier, and more at peace with ourselves, our local communities, and the Earth.

Please join up with the OCA as active participants in our Organic Transitions campaign. And please support us financially as we move beyond the gloom and doom of the present crisis. For more information on OCA's Organic Transitions campaign go to the OCA Organic Transitions Web Section.

Appetitie for a ChangeProtecting Human Health and the Environment

Aerial Pesticide Spraying of Urban Areas Suspended

Earlier this year, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and a number of food and farm groups sounded the alarm over aerial spraying of a hazardous moth pesticide over densely populated areas of California. Millions of people would be exposed to an aerial insecticide that had not undergone thorough safety evaluations and is designed to hang in the air 30-90 days or more.

In late June, officials announced that due to public uproar about the issue, the program would be suspended. "I know there's concern out there, and we want to be able to address that," stated A.G. Kawamura, state secretary of food and agriculture. Instead of using the toxic aerial spray, sustainable techniques of Integrated Pest Management were implemented.

Millions Against MonsantoDefending Consumer Health and Animal Welfare

Monsanto Forced to Dump Bovine Growth Hormone

After 14 years of determined campaigning, OCA and our allies have finally forced Monsanto to dump their controversial genetically engineered animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), injected into cows to force them to give more milk, and linked to increased cancer risks for humans and serious damage and fatal burn out for dairy cows. Since our founding, OCA members and supporters have generated hundreds of thousands of emails, letters and petition signatures, finally forcing Monsanto to get rid of the drug.

On August 20, Eli Lilly's Elanco agriculture division announced it was buying Monsanto's rBGH. Infamous for marketing drugs with serious and often deadly side effects like Prozac and Cialis, Eli Lilly is the world's 10th largest pharmaceutical corporation with over $18 billion dollars in annual sales. The OCA will now be joining with our allies to pressure Eli Lilly to take this dangerous and cruel drug off the market.

Stay tuned!

SOSSafeguarding Organic Standards

OCA Keeps the Pressure on USDA

After years of pressure from watchdog groups like OCA and Cornucopia Institute, the USDA has stepped up monitoring and enforcement of the National Organic Program (NOP), with a special emphasis on cheap organic imports from China. In the wake of an OCA boycott, a class-action lawsuit, and a long-standing controversy over factory-style, intensive confinement dairy feedlots supplying milk to Aurora Organic and Horizon brands, the USDA has promised to close the loopholes in federal organic dairy pasture standards this fall.

Although organic label fraud on Aurora and Horizon's dairy products - as well as a wide range of personal care products - continues, OCA emphasizes that the overwhelming majority of organic farmers, producers, and certifiers are playing by the rules. To ensure that organic certifiers and producers are maintaining the integrity of the "USDA Organic" label, OCA has again launched a petition drive to establish a professional, well-funded, and independent NOP Peer Review Board, composed of respected members of the organic community, as required by law.

Learn more and take action on OCA's All About Organics webpage:

Fighting for Food Safety

OCA Launches Kellogg's Boycott as GE Sugar Hits Supermarket Shelves

Boycott KelloggsOCA and our allies have called for a boycott of all Kellogg's products after the company refused to source only GE-free sugar. Farmers in the US began planting Monsanto's genetically engineered sugar beets on a wide scale for the first time this year. Much of this crop will be converted to table sugar and sweeteners used in cereals, candies, and other food products.

Of course, as with all genetically engineered foods in the US, none of the products containing these ingredients will be labeled as such. Roughly half of all processed foods contain sugar from sugar beets, so when these products hit grocery store shelves, millions of consumers will be exposed to yet another experimental biotech ingredient.

The environmental aspects of this Franken-crop are equally disturbing. Monsanto's RoundUp Ready Genetically Engineered Sugar Beet is designed to withstand massive doses of toxic weed killers, and studies of other comparable GE-crop varieties indicate a notable increase in pesticide use.

Take action:

Planting PeaceUniting the Sustainability, Social Justice and Peace Movements

OCA Plants Peace at the Republican National Convention

OCA's "Planting Peace" brigade actively participated in a series of rallies, street protests, and concert/teach-ins at the Republican National Convention in September, along with tens of thousands of other participants. The OCA supplied organic food and literature to musicians, volunteers, and protesters at a concert on September 2, which culminated in a massive and dramatic street march on the RNC.

OCA's Planting Peace campaign is designed to build a powerful synergy between the peace movement, the climate crisis movement, and the organic community. Throughout the week, despite tear-gas, police dragnets, and intimidation (heavily-armed police at one point pointed their guns and threatened OCA's lawyer and Political Director, Alexis Baden-Meyer), OCA staff and volunteers spread the positive message that a local, energy-efficient, and Fair Trade system of organic food and farming represents a lifesaving cure for America's current systemic food, health, climate, economic and energy crisis.

Preserving Organic Integrity

OCA Study and California Attorney General Expose 'Organic' Fraud

Coming Clean CampaignReacting in part to a March 2008 study released by the OCA, the Attorney General of California has filed a major lawsuit against misleadingly labeled 'organic' and 'natural' body care and household-cleaning product companies, including Avalon and Whole Foods Market, whose products were found to have high levels of the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane.

Under California's "Proposition 65" consumer products that contain toxic levels of 1,4 Dioxane must have warning labels stating they may cause cancer. The lawsuit is a major positive step forwards in OCA's Coming Clean campaign, which has focused on cleaning up the organic body care market for the past five years. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap Company and the OCA have also filed a parallel lawsuit.

Organic Transitions in Your Community

Youth Farm GreensTaking the First Steps

Organic Transitions groups, inspired by the fast-growing Transition Towns movements in the UK, and post-carbon or Community Solutions groups in the US, are local grassroots committees in rural areas or small towns, or neighborhood groups in urban areas, dedicated to developing ideas and actions for survival and positive sustainability in the new era of economic recession, energy scarcity (Peak Oil), and climate change.

OCA uses the term Organic Transitions to describe this community self-reliance movement to emphasize the idea that transition plans and actions will arise naturally or organically from the grassroots participants in each area, as well as to stress the fact that local and regional organic food and farming networks (including urban gardening and micro-farming) and buying clubs will provide the essential cornerstone for our new post-peak oil economy. OCA's goal is to help organize Organic Transition (OT) or Community Solutions committees in all 50 states and 3200 counties across the US (as well as Canada and Mexico). In areas where there are already groups working on community transitions plans and action, OCA's strategy will be to join up with and strengthen these preexisting groups. The first steps in this process are the following:

  • Go to the OCA website to find background articles, books, videos and a list of Transition or Community Solutions groups in your area.
  • Read up on Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Organic Transitions/Community Solutions, utilizing OCA recommended materials.
  • Contact the Organic Consumers Association by telephone: 218-226-4164 or email us for advice or coaching on how to join a pre-existing Community Solutions group in your area or how to start a new Organic Transitions committee.
  • Work with your assigned OCA Organic Transitions coach to help organize a community House Party or potluck in your area, using one of our recommended videos (The End of Suburbia or The Power of Community), to generate discussion and possible action, such as the formation of an Organic Transitions Buying Club.
  • Following the basic steps listed in the book, The Transitions Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, as well as advice from your OCA coach, set up an Organic Transitions study, research, and action group.
Organic Consumers Lobbying & Political Advocacy

The 2008 Elections & Beyond

If elected public officials are going to rise to the occasion and address our current quintuple Crisis of economic recession, peak oil, deteriorating public health, climate change, and endless war, they're going to need a proverbial kick in the butt from the OCA and nation's 50 million organic consumers.

CapitolThey must hear from us, their constituents, that we reject business as usual and false solutions, such as trillion-dollar, no-strings-attached bailouts of the money speculators, trillion-dollar wars for oil, genetically engineered crops, factory farms, biofuels, Big Pharma-dictated health care, and so-called clean coal or nuclear power. The undeniable truth is that we need a 21st Century New Deal. We need, among other policy changes, a radical Organic Transition from our current unsustainable overconsumption of fossil fuels and non-renewable resources, to the re-localization, re-regionalization, and re-solarization of food and energy production - coupled with a nationwide program of preventive medicine and green jobs. We need to bailout the American economy and our broken-down system of food and farming, not the greedy and reckless millionaires on Wall Street nor the military contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater.

Long distance food transport and industrial farming and processing methods that rely on huge inputs of natural gas fertilizers and petroleum-based pesticides aren't healthy for consumers, farm workers, animals, or the environment. And, with rising energy prices, they're not so cheap anymore either. That's one of the reasons retail food prices have risen 10.5% in the last year. America's industrial farm system uses a full 19% of our entire energy resources and generates 37% of our climate destabilizing greenhouse gases. In the coming era of Peak Oil and climate change we have no choice but to adopt healthier, carbon-neutral, energy-efficient farming and consumer practices.

Going organic and producing food locally and regionally is the only way to ensure an abundant and sustainable supply of healthy, affordable food into the future. That's why the Grassroots Netroots Alliance has put the Organic Consumers Fund's most important causes at the center of its 2008 questionnaire for candidates and elected officials.

The GNA survey asks politicians whether they support a transition to more local organic food production, a switch from fossil fuels and nuclear power, a rapid increase in energy conservation, and a massive investment in wind, solar, and geothermal production. Since March, voters have been sending the 2008 Grassroots Netroots Alliance survey to their elected officials and candidates. As of the end of September, 65,330 voter requests to fill out the survey had been sent to 6,406 local, state and federal politicians, and 307 politicians from 50 states had answered the call to fill out the survey.

You can read the results, and (after November 4, 2008) find out which candidates won the election at:

As we go to press, Michael Pollan has just published an inspiring, comprehensive article in the New York Times about the fundamental changes we need to make in our US food and farming system. Pollan's suggestions for public policy changes incorporate much of what we've been saying for years, and thus basically represent the Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund's lobbying agenda for 2009. You can read Michael Pollan's article on the OCA website at:

A Message From the Director

Autumn greetings from the national office of the Organic Consumers Association.

Up north here on the shores of Lake Superior, just below the Canadian border, the brilliant fall colors are fading. Signs of transition are everywhere. Migrating hawks and geese are moving across the sky. Salmon and whitefish are spawning in the rivers and lakes, depositing their eggs. Whitetail deer are moving down closer to shore. Snow is in the air and everyone is preparing for the long winter ahead. By the time you get this newsletter, the long, exhausting election season will be over. Even with expected regime change in Washington and many of our state legislatures, people are worried, very worried, about the state of the economy and the state of the world.

As I sit here at my desk, I am worried as well, about the economy, the energy and climate crisis, and bloody wars for oil and empire. On a personal level I am profoundly worried about the future that lies ahead for my ten year-old son and his entire generation. We stand at the crossroads. We will either rise to the occasion, over the next weeks, months, years, and decade, and organize, community-by-community, and region-by-region, what we at the OCA call Organic Transitions, or civilization will continue to unravel.

Millions are waking up. The proverbial Doomsday clock is ticking. What time is it? Now. Time to roll up our sleeves and make a New Deal. Time to rebuild and green our food and farming systems and our communities. Time to clean up the toxins, educate our youth, take care of the disadvantaged, and heal the sickness and psychological illness that permeates our nation. Time to plant peace and cooperation - from Main Street to the Middle East.

I give you my pledge that the OCA will accompany you on this journey. While struggling to safeguard high standards in the growing organic and green sectors of the economy, we will continue to expand our public education, grassroots lobbying, and campaign activities. We will begin to seed and nurture Organic Transition committees in all 50 states and 3200 counties, starting with new organic buying clubs, educational forums, house parties, and study and action circles.

One last concern. OCA needs your help. For the first time in ten years, grassroots donations to the OCA and our allies have been falling. For those with low or fixed incomes, you can help us out in other ways, by forwarding our articles and action alerts or getting involved in local activities. But for those of you who can afford to do so, please send a tax-deductible donation, online or by phone or mail.

Thank you so much for your support.

Regards & Solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins, OCA National Director

Resources on Organic Transition

by Honor Schauland, OCA

I am trying to reduce my household energy consumption, live more frugally and eat more locally and sustainably. This is something I've been working on for a while now. There are a lot of resources out there for people like me, both online and in print, in fact there are so many they're a little hard to wade through.

My personal favorite is Mother Earth News. I have a subscription, and I save past issues for reference, but they also have everything on their website, so those of us who are trying to divest ourselves of piles of dusty magazines should really take advantage of this. Other good magazines along similar lines are Countryside Magazine, Backwoods Home Magazine, Grit, and Backyard Poultry, all with resources online as well. And of course I also use OCA's website and search engine quite a bit.

There are also inspiring books and videos available. The Foxfire Books and Rodale's Organic Gardening books are classics, and there are many other books out there to help guide us such as The Transitions Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices and Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty. Some good DVDs outlining the dark issues we are facing and why we need to make changes include The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, An Inconvenient Truth, What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, and, on the solutions-oriented side, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, Kilowatt Ours, Seeds in the City, and The Greening of Cuba. Of course, there are many other books, films, websites and publications that I haven't yet had the opportunity to take in. Do some research on the Internet, or check your local library. You’ll be surprised how many resources you’ll turn up.

I haven't yet touched on the most important resource of all: your community. Personal and community connections are what will help us get through the changes ahead. Find out what kind of food and other items are produced in your area and what you can offer in return for them. For example, I keep chickens in my backyard, and I have traded my chickens’ meat and eggs for everything from mechanical work on my car to homemade maple sugar. Being able to do this is satisfying. Not only that, but I know that in the future I could ask these folks to teach me about their skills, just as they could ask me to teach them about mine. So these relationships not only help each of us out and build community, but they also insure long-term security by allowing knowledge and skills to pass from person to person. Once these relationships are established there are other possibilities. A group of people can form an effective organic buying club, cooperative or other exchange system to provide themselves with food or other goods. These kinds of community relationships are the key for transitioning to a post-carbon future.

Member Comments

Keep up the good work -I appreciate your integrity and truth. -Melanie in WA

We love you guys and gals!! Thanks and keep doing what you're doing. -Christie and Kevin in CA

when you hear the bloodhounds barking, keep on going! -Alexis in NY

Thank you so much for your tireless efforts in keeping organic food - just that - organic!
-Lisa in MD

I'm extremely happy to support your excellent work - thank you so much for all OCA does. -Clair in OR

You are wonderful… all about grassroots democracy and common-sense justice, feeding our children and caring for our fellow creatures.
-Abby in TN

I love Organic Bytes. Thank you for keeping me informed! -Alyce in FL

Blessings to you for all the work you do for our Mother Earth, animals and our fellow human beings! -Judy in WI

Thanks for another great email newsletter. Especially for the QAI certification of ginger alert. I just bought a bottle of Morton & Bassett's ground ginger, also QAI certified, and have sent them an inquiry about its country of origin. -Dan in CA

Thanks for being an advocate for all of us… your work is so necessary and urgently needed. We are in trouble!!! I wish that I could give more but times are REALLY hard. Keep on doing what you're doing… it works. -Randy in Maine

  • 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
  • Bruce Krug - Dairy Farmer, NY
  • Howard Lyman - Voice For A Viable Future
  • Judith McGeary - Organic Farmer, TX
  • Victor Menotti - Int'l Forum on Globalization
  • Frances Moore-Lappe - Author & Activist
  • Jill Richardson -
  • Robin Seydel - La Montanita Co-op, NM
  • Vandana Shiva - Author & Activist, India
  • John Stauber - Center for Media & Democracy
  • Mary Anselment - Office Manager
  • Alexis Baden-Meyer - Lobbyist
  • Ronnie Cummins - National Director
  • Wayne Frame - Accountant
  • Andrew Flanagan - Web Editor
  • Amy Gardner - Data Coordinator
  • Jack Klee - Mexico Office
  • Nick Lethert - Graphic & Web Design
  • Craig Minowa - Environmental Scientist
  • Casey Oppenheim - General Counsel
  • Alejandro Ramirez - Mexico Office
  • Honor Schauland - Content Management
  • Chris Smith - OCA Intern
  • Steve Urow - Systems Programmer
  • Liz Welch - Illustration, Outreach
  • Rose Welch - General Manager
  • Ryan Zinn - Field Organizer
Organic Collage
"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction." -Albert Einstein
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