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Organic Bytes #40
Food and Consumer News Tidbits with an Edge!
9/29/2004

IN THIS ISSUE:

  • VICTORY: REVERSAL OF HEMP BAN IN NATURAL & ORGANIC FOODS!
  • OCA AND OTHERS ORGANIZING TO STOP BODY CARE LABELING FRAUD
  • QUICK NEWS TIDBITS
  • MAD DEER DISEASE THREATENS DEER HUNTERS & VENISON EATERS
  • MONSANTO'S MUTANT GRASS GETS MOWED DOWN
  • SOS--SAFEGUARDING ORGANIC STANDARDS

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VICTORY: REVERSAL OF HEMP BAN IN NATURAL & ORGANIC FOODS!
Three years ago the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced a new law banning hemp ingredients in natural and organic food products. After a long and costly legal battle, waged by the Hemp Industries Association, and bolstered by public interest plaintiffs including the Organic Consumers Association, the U.S. federal government finally backed down this week, making hemp foods, once again, legal. Hemp seed is most commonly used as a nutritional supplement in a variety of foods. It offers an ideal balance of two essential fatty acids (omega-3/omega-6). Despite Bush Administration propaganda, hemp foods contain insignificant levels of THC (tetrahyrdocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that results in psychotropic effects. In that sense, eating hemp foods does not interfere with workplace drug tests, and, in fact, the THC levels in hemp foods are below that of opiates found in poppy seeds in muffins and breads. The hemp food industry is expecting a major boom in sales as a result of the removal of the DEA's ban. It is still illegal for U.S. farmers to grow industrial hemp, even as Chinese, Canadian, and European farmers supply a rapidly growing international market for hemp food ingredients, animal feed, clothing, paper, nutritional supplements, and bio-diesel fuel. Learn more...

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OCA AND OTHERS ORGANIZING TO STOP BODY CARE LABELING FRAUD
Despite an avalanche of new body care products routinely mislabeled as "USDA Certified Organic," and a formal legal complaint filed by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) last February, the USDA National Organic Program is still not monitoring or policing organic label claims on body care products. This lack of enforcement undermines organic integrity, penalizes legitimate organic body care companies such as Dr. Bronner's, Dr. Hauschka's and Terressentials, and sows confusion and fraud in the marketplace. To put an end to this, the OCA has joined a new collaborative process, whereby objective and science-based standards for organic body care products will be hammered out by a broad task force composed of the OCA, natural and organic body care companies, scientists, and other consumer representatives. These standards will then be published by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) for organic certifiers to use in assessing the legitimacy of organic label claims on body care products. A similar NSF standardization process has been successfully implemented in the past few years on products ranging from bottled water to vitamin supplements. Share your thoughts about the direction of organic body care labeling in OCA's new web forum!

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QUICK NEWS TIDBITS
According to the New York Times, the largest corporations in the U.S. have been paying fewer taxes than ever before, since new Bush Administration tax policies were enacted. The 275 wealthiest U.S. companies generated $1.1 trillion in revenue from 2001 to 2003, but only paid taxes on half of that. More...

A Yale student cafeteria has gone organic, and in the process, has become so popular, students are actually counterfeiting IDs to eat there. More...

McDonald's restaurant profits in the UK are plummeting, due to an upswing in consumer demand for healthier foods. In an effort to regain its share of the market, the mammoth fast food chain will begin offering vegetarian options. Ian Tokelove of the UK Food Commission said McDonalds is no longer successfully fooling consumers: "McDonald's have tried to convince us that they are making their food more healthy but their salads have been shown to have more fat than a burger when you take into account the dressing." More...

Given the rise in childhood obesity and related diseases, the Seattle School Board has unanimously voted to ban soda and junk food machines in the city's 100 schools. The board also voted to increase the use of locally grown and organic foods in the school lunches. These policies are among the strongest in the nation to date. More...

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MAD DEER DISEASE THREATENS DEER HUNTERS & VENISON EATERS
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is spreading among the nation's 21 million deer at an alarming rate. Similar to Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), CWD involves the spread of mutant prion proteins which cause the infected animal or human's brain to be literally eaten away. A scarcity of research and monitoring has left the scientific community and the nation's 12 million deer hunters in a heated debate over whether or not CWD can be spread to humans. Last year, three hunters in Seattle were diagnosed with Creutzfeld Jacob Disease (the human form of the disease). Even the top scientist on CWD at the Centers for Disease Control warned deer hunters and consumers several years ago not to eat venison unless it had been tested for CWD. However most hunters are unaware of this warning and instead are listening to state game officials (whose salaries are paid by hunting licenses) and game farm operators (who routinely feed slaughterhouse waste and blood to captive deer and elk), whose mantra is "don't worry." Meanwhile in parts of Colorado, 6% of the deer are already testing positive for the fatal disease. One thing scientists do agree on is that the disease can remain dormant in the infected host's body for many years before brain wasting symptoms begin to occur. Venison consumption in Native American and rural communities is, of course, much higher than it is in urban communities, although it is estimated that over 30 million Americans consume venison every year. Learn more...

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MONSANTO'S MUTANT GRASS GETS MOWED DOWN
Monsanto and Scotts corporations ran into a major obstacle last week in their ongoing effort to force genetically engineered grass onto the market. The two companies have patented a creeping bentgrass for golf courses that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have both raised concerns that the grass's pollen could potentially spread great distances and transfer its herbicide resistant traits to other weeds, creating superweeds. Now a study from the Environmental Protection Agency has documented that pollen from these genetically engineered plants can travel as far as thirteen miles. Based upon this study and the growing clamor of public criticism, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to require a full Environmental Impact Statement on Monsanto's Frankengrass before determining whether or not it can be commercially released. Learn more...

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SOS--SAFEGUARDING ORGANIC STANDARDS
A network of environmental, consumer and trade organizations, including the OCA, has recently teamed up to "assist" the National Organic Standards Board in strengthening organic standards and closing loopholes in the National Organic Program (NOP). These loopholes are currently allowing a myriad of poorly made products to pollute the organic market and undermine the integrity of the organic label. Some examples:

  • Most consumers aren't aware that the USDA Organic Standards allow "organic" meats and dairy to be raised on factory style farms.
  • Despite organic labeling claims, nonfood products like cosmetics and fertilizers are not even being regulated by the USDA's NOP.
  • The National Organic Program says it's okay to label the dairy from a cow as "USDA Certified Organic," even if the animal has been treated with synthetic hormones and drugs for most of its life.

All of these loopholes currently exist in the standards and are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses. In October the National Organic Standards Board will be meeting to discuss some of these issues. The OCA, along with other members of this new organic standards Alliance, will be presenting preliminary recommendations to the board regarding these issues. Stay tuned to the OCA for further updates.

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