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Open Letter from OCA to Alice Waters On Opposing Toxic Sludge

Alice Waters
Chez Panisse Foundation
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709

March 23, 2010


Dear Ms. Waters,

As you know, the Organic Consumers Association, along with a number of Bay Area food, gardening, environmental, and health organizations, has recently exposed the organic fraud perpetrated by the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) when they gave away toxic sewage sludge marketed as "organic biosolids compost" to unsuspecting California gardeners, farmers and schools.  Given the work that you and the Chez Panisse Foundation have done to champion the organic, locally-grown, slow food movement in California and elsewhere, we imagine that you would want to be one of the first to unequivocally and publicly state that sewage sludge is unacceptable for farming and gardening - organic or conventional - in home gardens or in school gardens, on a small scale or in commercial agriculture. Considering that the sludge was given to several local schools for use on their educational gardens, your work with the Edible Schoolyard should especially elicit your concern.

It is shocking to us, additionally, that the SFPUC advocates "land application" - the SFPUC's euphemism for the disposal of sewage sludge on agricultural lands - and is responsible for the sullying of many Bay Area organic gardens with this false "organic compost." This is certainly in direct opposition to the standards that Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard encourage and uphold.

It is because of this behavior that it seems to us a clear conflict of interest that Francesca Vietor should serve as both the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Vice President of the SFPUC. In light of your dedication to non-GMO foods, would you have the Vice President of Monsanto as your Executive Director?  The two do not seem much dissimilar as both work for organizations that compromise the integrity of the movement for which you are both a pioneer and a leading voice.  

The Organic Consumers Association has a Bay Area and national base of over 250,000 subscribers who are waiting to hear from you on this issue.  Your response will of course have weight, and we would like to take this opportunity to ask that you personally speak out - to the people of San Francisco and the people of this country - against the growing of any foods in sewage sludge. We believe that you could be a great ally in our fight against both the narrower but very significant problem of organic fraud as well as against the immense and virtually permanent and devastating environmental repercussions that will be the result of disposing of toxic sewage sludge on America's agricultural land.

In 2000, you took a stance against GMOs by telling your food suppliers they had to stop using all GMOs and stating publicly, "Flat out, no genetic engineering."  We at the OCA applaud this position and ask that you now do the same for toxic sewage sludge: "Flat out, no toxic sewage sludge for our food!"  

For an Organic Future,


Ronnie Cummins
National Director
Organic Consumers Association