Organic View 1.13 September 14, 1999

Organic View - An e-mail publication of the Organic
Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association is affiliated with the
Campaign for Food Safety

v.1 n.13 September 14, 1999

1. Berkeley Schools Go Organic. How Did They Do It?
Consumers Reports Finds Genetically Engineered Foods on Supermarket Shelves
Action Alert - USDA Continues to Support Terminator Technology
Organic Mulch Cuts Pesticide Runoff, USDA Finds
Important Recent Articles

1. Berkeley Schools Go Organic. How Did They Do It?

When the Berkeley, California school system approved a plan
to introduce organic food in its lunch program, it made
headlines in newspapers from Washington, DC to Los Angeles.
The groundbreaking effort to bring organic food and
agriculture directly to students was the culmination of over
three years of hard work to improve the quality of food in
the cafeteria.

Besides offering organic options, the Berkeley school
district plan bans the use of genetically engineered foods,
irradiated foods, and dairy products from cows injected with
the recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Other goals of
the district's plan include establishing a child nutrition
advisory committee and eliminating food additives and
high-fat, high-sugar snacks and entrees.

According to Jered Lawson, coordinator at Berkeley Food
Systems Project, critical to the success of the Berkeley
project is establishing organic gardens at every school in
the district. Students will be able to grow, prepare and eat
their harvest. Administrators hope to defray some of the
added expense of purchasing organic foods by growing 25% of
the produce on the campuses themselves. Eleven of Berkeley's
16 schools already have gardens, most notably the Edible
School Yard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, created
by the famed California chef of Chez Panisse - Alice Waters.

Under the plan, students will still have the option to eat
other foods in the school cafeteria, including turkey hot
dogs and hamburgers, burritos and vegetarian dishes. But
according to Lawson, the organic oranges and organic after
school snacks are already a big hit.

Berkeley's organic program, to be phased in over the next
several years, is truly revolutionary - unlike any in the
country. How did they do it?

Like most innovative programs at schools, it began with
interested parents. Three years ago, concerned parent Ray
Couture walked into the office of the Berkeley School
Superintendent and demanded that the nutritional content of
the food served to students be improved. The conversation
resulted in a parent/administrator task force established
during the school year 1996-1997. The task force worked with
the local Center for Ecoliteracy to establish the Berkeley
Food Systems Project. Well-known former California State
Assemblyman Tom Bates' involvement added credibility to the

The district also benefited from a three-year $175,000 grant
from the US Department of Agriculture's Community Foods
Security Program
(, which
helped start the district's organic gardens and establish a
food policy for the district.

Of course, Berkeley also benefits greatly from its
geographic location. The school district is close to
year-round organic farms in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino
counties, so fresh food is easier to find during winter

The Berkeley program has also drawn heavily on other school
programs from around the country that connect children with
the food they eat. Also in California, Santa Monica schools
have experimented with a Farmers Market salad bar. Schools
in three other states -- Vermont, North Carolina and Florida
-- also were granted funds from the USDA's Community Foods
Security Program.

And Food Works in Montpelier, VT has developed a simple
how-to resource guide detailing how to create beautiful and
practical food, herb and flower gardens with children. To
order the guide, call (800) 360-1515, or e-mail:

More information about the Berkeley schools organic program
will be up on the web in a few months at:

2. Consumers Reports Finds Genetically Engineered Foods on
Supermarket Shelves

Tests published in the September issue of Consumer Reports
reveal that a host of everyday groceries contain ingredients
made from genetically engineered crops. Products testing
positive include baby formulas, tortilla chips, drink mixes,
taco shells, veggie burgers and muffin mix.

Consumer Reports shopped at grocery stores throughout the
country and bought a variety of processed foods containing
corn or soybeans, ingredients most likely to be genetically
engineered. None of the foods bought by Consumers Reports
were labeled as genetically engineered, but DNA analysis
showed genetically engineered ingredients in:

* Three powdered infant formulas: Enfamil ProSobee, Soy
Formula, Similac Isomil Soy Formula, and Nestle Carnation;
* Alsoy;
* Several soy burger products, including Boca Burger Chef,
Max's Favorite, Morningstar Farms Better 'n Burgers, and
Green Giant Harvest Burgers (now called Morningstar Farms
Harvest Burgers). McDonald's McVeggie Burgers also showed GE
* Ovaltine Malt powdered beverage mix;
* Bac-Os Bacon Flavor bits;
* Bravos Tortilla Chips Nacho Nacho!
* Old El Paso 12 Taco Shells
* Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Only three years following the first large-scale commercial
harvest, genetically engineered crops cover one-fourth of
U.S. cropland--more than 90 million acres--according to 1999
industry estimates. That includes more than 35 percent of
all corn, almost 55 percent of all soybeans, and nearly half
of all cotton. None of the genetically engineered crops and
foods are required to be labeled.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Glickman told
Consumer Reports, ``Frankly, if the consumers demand
labeling--even if we think it doesn't convey a lot of good
stuff--we're probably going to end up with a labeling

But any labeling that does not specify which
foods/ingredients are genetically modified, and what foreign
genes have been inserted is virtually useless to consumers.

As Consumer Reports' wrote, "If US consumers want to avoid
(genetically engineered) food, their only option is to buy
organic products.''

3. Action Alert - USDA Continues to Support Terminator

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to use
taxpayer dollars to further promote the highly controversial
genetically engineered "Terminator" technology, according to
the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI).
Terminator technology has been condemned by farmers
worldwide because it renders saved seed sterile, forcing
farmers to buy commercial seeds year after year. The
potential for "seed sterilization" traits to spread to other
surrounding plants directly threatens biodiversity.
Additionally, the technology gives the biotech industry a
further stranglehold over smaller, family farmers.

The Terminator technology has yet to be commercialized. But
it was our taxpayer dollars that helped develop this
devastating new technology. The original patent is jointly
owned by the USDA and a Monsanto subsidiary, Delta & Pine
Land Co. The USDA is currently in negotiations to turn over
the full license to produce Terminator technology to Delta &
Pine Land Co.

According to RAFI, every major seed and agrochemical
enterprise is developing its own version of suicide seeds.
These technologies are extremely dangerous because they will
erode farmer control and decision-making in agriculture and
increase dependence on a handful of giant agrochemical
corporations. Over 1.4 billion people, primarily poor
farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America depend on
farmsaved seed as their primary seed source. If they can't
save seed, they can't continue to adapt crops to their
unique farming environment.

Despite widespread opposition to the Terminator technology,
the USDA is continuing to fund additional Terminator
research at Purdue University (Indiana). RAFI is asking
concerned citizens to write, phone, fax, or e-mail USDA
Secretary Dan Glickman at: USDA, 200A Whitten Bldg., 1400
Independence Ave., SW. Washington, DC 20250; Phone:
202-720-3631; Fax: 202-720-2166. E-mail:

Tell Secretary Glickman (copy your letters to your Members
of Congress) to immediately stop spending taxpayer dollars
on research associated with the "Terminator" technology, and

** Abandon all research on genetic seed sterilization;
** Develop a policy prohibiting the use of public research
dollars on Terminator technologies;
** Use public research dollars to support plant breeding for
sustainable agriculture.

For detailed analyses of Terminator and Traitor
technologies, see RAFI's website:

4. Organic Mulch Cuts Pesticide Runoff, USDA Finds

Growing vegetables with an organic mulch, hairy vetch--a
legume-- instead of plastic mulch cut pesticide losses by as
much as 90 percent in experiments in Maryland performed by
the US Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research
Service. The organic vetch also greatly reduced water runoff
and sediment losses.

The Chesapeake Bay and its aquatic organisms have long been
threatened by polluted runoff from farms, lawns, golf
courses, streets, septic tanks and other sources. And on the
Bay's Delmarva peninsula, runoff from vegetable fields may
contribute to endangering shellfish such as shrimp, clams
and oysters. The new findings point to ways to reduce this

Polyethylene mulch is used to conserve soil moisture and
control weeds on about 4,600 acres of tomato and floral
crops in Northhampton and Accomack counties, Virginia, that
make up Virginia's eastern shore. Runoff increases, however,
because plastic covers 50 to 75 percent of the fields.
Pesticides that aren't absorbed into the soil can be removed
easily from the plastic
surface by rain.

In a three-year collaborative study, ARS chemist Cathleen
Hapeman and her co-workers grew tomato plants in both
plastic-covered and hairy vetch mulch plots at the agency's
Beltsville, Md., Agricultural Research Center. They measured
the runoff and its sediment and pesticide concentrations.
Compared to the plastic-covered plots, the vetch-mulch plots
lost about two to 10
times less water, 10 times less soil and, on average, 10
times less pesticides.

5. Important Recent Articles

Below are the titles and links to several important articles
published in the last week on issues related to organic food
and food safety. These articles can be found on the website
of our affiliated organization, the Campaign for Food Safety

9-12 - US Grain Farmers Are in a Panic About GE Crops as
Harvest Season Approaches
Food War Claims Its Casualties -

9-9 - Opposition to GE Crops Mounts in Latin America -

9-8 - Genes Are Changed But Not The Label -

9-8 - Newsweek Story on "Frankenstein Foods" -

9-7 - American Medical Association Announces it Will Revise
its Policy on Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods

8-29 - Analysts for Deutsche Bank Predict That the Public
and Investors Will Reject Agricultural Biotechnology

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