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Organic Bytes #182

By on July 16, 2009

Health, Justice and Sustainability News from the Organic Consumers Association

In This Issue

  • Quote of the Week: New Study Reveals Major Health Problems Linked to Genetically Engineered Foods
  • Alert of the Week: Support the OCA’s National Organic Standards Board Endorsements
  • Alert Update of the Week: Tell Whole Foods and UNFI: Organic Means Respecting Workers’ Rights
  • Survey of the Week: Consumers Think ‘Natural’ is Greener Than ‘Organic’
  • Related Web Forum Posting of the Week: The Debate Over ‘Natural’ Versus Organic Products - Where Do You Stand On This Issue?
  • Good News of the Week: Administration Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock
  • More Headlines of the Week

Quote of the Week

New Study Reveals Major Health Problems Linked to Genetically Engineered Foods

“We demand the systematic publication of the results of these tests, which we could only obtain on a case by case basis by taking legal action… It [the study] brings to light a significant underestimation of the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others… The health crises may be more important than the international financial crisis because of the lack of transparency of the regulators.”

Source: An alarming study published in the Journal of Biological Science this week points toward serious health hazards from genetically engineered foods and pesticides. The research, conducted by scientists from France, Italy, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S., corroborates the decade-long criticism by public interest organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth that European Food Safety bureaucrats and the U.S. FDA have used unreliable tests to assess the safety of food and products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are now found in more than 80% of (non-organic) foods sold in conventional grocery stores in the U.S., as well as the majority of animal feed in the EU.

Learn more

Alert of the Week

Support the OCA’s National Organic Standards Board Endorsements

This year, Secretary Vilsack will make the Obama Administration’s first appointments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a non-governmental advisory and supervisory board comprised of representatives of the organic community who make formal recommendations on organic standards and allowed ingredients in organic production to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

Several important topics are now under deliberation by the NOSB and the NOP, including:

-Blatant violations of national organic standards in the organic dairy sector, where leading brands (including Horizon and Aurora) continue to unfairly undercut ethical brands by utilizing cheaper, but inhumane and less nutritious, intensive confinement feedlots where cows have limited or no access to required pasture.

-Misbranding in the personal care products sector where increasing numbers of products that are laced with synthetic chemicals and not certified as organic are nonetheless being labeled or advertised as “organic”.

-Standards for organic aquaculture (fish farms) that pose environmental and food safety concerns

-The continuing controversy over which minor ingredients may be synthetic or sourced in non-organic form.

The appointment of strong organic advocates to the NOSB will help to safeguard organic integrity, allow the organic movement to speak with one voice, and reassure consumers that “USDA Organic” is the “gold standard” for nutrition, safety, humane treatment of animals and environmental sustainability.

Learn more and take action

Alert Update of the Week

Tell Whole Foods and UNFI: Organic Means Respecting Workers’ Rights

In recent weeks, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has urged the world’s largest organic and “natural” retailer and wholesaler, Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods, Inc. respectively, to prioritize certified organic food and products, support farmers and manufacturers’ transition to organic production, and to stop advertising or promoting so-called “natural” products (greenwashed conventional products) as if they were “almost as good as"or"almost organic.”

Since our founding in 1998, OCA has fought to integrate organic and Fair Trade principles, to protect the rights of workers, both in the U.S. and abroad, throughout the natural and organic supply chain, from farm workers and food processing workers, to truck drivers, warehouse packers and retail clerks in grocery stores, coffee houses, and restaurants. OCA believes that Fair Trade, health, and sustainability are the inseparable components of an organic food and farming system and a green economy. This is why the OCA and our allies are challenging industry leaders, Whole Foods and UNFI, as well as the entire organic and green community, to implement a domestic Organic and Fair Trade code of conduct that assures workers’ rights are respected.

Take action today and send the Whole Foods and UNFI’s CEOs a message that organic means supporting workers’ rights!

Learn more and take action

Survey of the Week

Consumers Think ‘Natural’ is Greener Than ‘Organic’

A new Shelton Group survey of U.S. consumers shows 31 percent of respondents believe ‘100 percent natural’ is the most desirable eco-friendly product label claim, compared to 14 percent who chose ‘100 percent organic’. According to Shelton, “Many consumers do not understand green terminology. They prefer the word ‘natural’ over the term ‘organic,’ thinking organic is more of an unregulated marketing buzzword that means the product is more expensive. In reality, the opposite is true: ‘Natural’ is the unregulated word. Organic foods must meet government standards to be certified as such.”

The survey suggests why bottom line companies like Horizon, Silk, and Peace Cereal are ditching organic ingredients, while UNFI and Whole Foods Market are failing to educate consumers and project a clear preference for certified organic goods. Instead UNFI, WFM, and others are giving prominent shelf space to so-called ‘natural’ product-lines which are cheaper and more profitable to produce and sell than “organic,” although so-called “natural” products are routinely contaminated with GMOs and synthetic chemicals, and derived from industrial agriculture and food processing practices that are polluting the environment, undermining biodiversity, destabilizing the climate, and exploiting farmers and workers.

Learn more

Related Web Forum Posting of the Week

The Debate Over ‘Natural’ vs. Organic: Where Do You Stand On This Issue?

Letter from one of our readers: “I have relied on the Organic Consumers Association to be a significant force for alternatives to an industrial food system. You have had a significant impact on helping all of us interested in choices in the food marketplace. I really take issue with the stance that certified organic is the only legitimate alternative to an industrial/global/impersonal food system. The movement which is connecting more and more consumers to think about where their food comes from, how it is produced and who profits from their food expenditures has grown rapidly as a “big tent” movement. I acknowledge that some abuse of the “natural” label occurs, but I do not believe we who are interested in alternatives to the industrial/global/impersonal food system benefit from a position which asserts that the only alternative acceptable is “certified organic.”

Learn more and join the discussion

Headlines and Articles of the Week

1) Good News of the Week
Administration Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock

“The Obama administration announced Monday that it would seek to ban many routine uses of antibiotics in farm animals in hopes of reducing the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans. In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle - done to encourage rapid growth - should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian…”
Learn more

2) Consumer Tip of the Week
“Localwashing:” Corporate America’s Latest Tactic to Co-opt Green-Minded Consumers

With Americans’ new focus on buying products made close to home, corporations are moving quickly to co-opt the term “local.” How do consumers determine what’s really local, and what is just a marketing show?
Learn more

3) Web Video of the Week:
“A Chemical Reaction,”
a new documentary film on lawn chemicals, scheduled for release in 2009, tells the story of one of the most powerful and effective community grassroots initiatives in recent history.
Watch a preview

4) Environment News of the Week:
Dow Pitching New Toxic Pesticide That Aggravates Global Warming

“Public health and environmental advocates have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny a request from Dow AgroSciences for a permit allowing it to release large amounts of sulfuryl fluoride onto farm fields in four states. The chemical is a toxic pesticide whose global warming effects are thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide…”
Learn more

5) Health News of the Week:
Nobody Knows What Nanoparticles Do - Yet They Are in Your Food, Cosmetics, and Toys

“Your sunscreen, energy drink and high-tech clothing may be among the 800-plus consumer products made with nanomaterials: those manufactured at the scale of atoms and molecules. Nanotechnology, a fast-growing global industry, is essentially unregulated. Advocates and independent scientists agree that we need to get ahead of the risks before it’s too late…”
Learn more

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