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ORGANIC VIEW

A publication of the Organic Consumers Association · www.organicconsumers.org

Spring-Summer 2006

Organics and America’s Future:
Will We Take the High Road?

Thanks to green-minded consumers such as yourself, the sixty-year reign of chemical and energy-intensive industrial agriculture in the United States appears to be drawing to a close.
Demand for natural and organic foods is booming—23% of US consumers are now buying organic products every week. In a recent poll conducted by the Hartman Group, 75% of Americans say they have begun shopping for healthier foods. Ten cents of every grocery store dollar are currently being spent on products labeled as natural or organic.

The nation’s industrial, export-driven model of food and farming has proven to be a disaster—for small farmers, the environment, farm animals, and public health. This toxic system has polluted our air and water, depleted aquifers, destroyed topsoil, released enormous amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, driven four million family farmers off the land, and ruined the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farmers overseas. It has engendered an epidemic of obesity, heart disease, food poisoning, and cancer, as well as a wide variety of reproductive, behavioral, and hormone disorders.

Strong consumer demand has created a shortage of many organic foods and ingredients in the marketplace, including dairy, citrus, and meat. The “high road” approach to meeting this enormous demand would be to change public policy so as to help North American family farmers and ranchers make the transition to organic, with an emphasis on local and regional production for local and regional markets, and fair prices and wages for farmers, farm laborers, and food and retail workers.

But food giants, such as Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Pepsi, Kraft, and Dean Foods, seem to think they have a better idea. Business as usual for them means maximizing profits by lowering organic standards, industrializing production, and outsourcing cheap foods and ingredients from overseas producers. Since country of origin labels are not required on organic (or conventional) foods in the US, consumers are left in the dark about whether or not the organic soymilk they just purchased came from US organic soybeans, produced under strict standards, or whether it came from a plantation in China, where organic standards are dubious and working conditions are abysmal.

The most glaring example of the corporate assault on organic standards is in the dairy sector, where surging consumer demand exceeds supply by 10-25%. Presently, 65% of organic milk is controlled by Horizon Organic (Dean Foods) and Aurora Organic, companies that are blatantly violating traditional organic standards by purchasing milk from large dairy feedlots where cows are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture. These same dairy feedlots are also regularly bringing in calves from industrial farms, where the animals have been weaned on blood, injected with antibiotics, and fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains.

So what can we do? Besides voting with our consumer dollars, continuing to educate the public, and pressuring companies and the USDA not to lower organic standards, we must build a much larger and better organized network of organic consumers. Over the past eight years we have learned that organic standards can be preserved and organic acreage can be expanded, but only if we are vigilant and make our voices heard, from our local districts and grocery stores to the halls of Congress. This is why OCA has opened a Washington, DC office and stepped up our lobbying activities. We now have 400,000 subscribers on our email list, and up to 30,000 visitors to our web site every day, but in order to keep Wal-Mart and the other food giants in line, we will need to become far more powerful.

As we safeguard and expand organics, we must also deal with the larger structural problems of American society. Greenhouse gas pollution, global warming, and climate chaos, left unchecked, will destroy the ability of organic farmers, or any farmers, to grow our food and fiber. The end of cheap oil means the end of affordable food as well, unless we step up our efforts to rebuild sustainable local and regional food systems. As petroleum-based farm inputs and transportation costs increase, we will no longer be able to afford energy-intensive conventional farms or billions of dollars of imported food. Ten trillion dollars in Federal debt, yearly military budgets of $550 billion, and an endless series of wars will dry up the funds we need to convert our food and farming system to organic and make our energy, manufacturing, and transportation systems sustainable.

Out-of-control technology and corporations, aided and abetted by indentured politicians, pose a clear and present danger to our health and well-being. Increased market share for organic and Fair Trade products will provide little consolation in an era of climate crisis, scarce oil, and permanent war. In response, OCA is reaching out to other public interest movements, demonstrating that we are willing to work in a holistic manner to raise consciousness over a full range of issues. No matter how you look at it, we’ve got a rough road ahead. Please join and support us in this monumental effort.

Coming Clean: Protecting Consumers from Deceptive Labels on Organic Body Care Products
Over the past two years, OCA has been working closely with a National Sanitations Foundation (NSF) taskforce to establish new organic standards for body care products. Currently, the only organic body care products that are regulated by USDA are those derived from 100% agricultural ingredients that bear the “USDA Organic” seal. In other words, if you see a body care product on the store shelf that claims to be “organic” and does not have the USDA seal, there’s no way for you, as a consumer, to know how much (or how little) organic content is actually in that product.
Only a few body care brands, at this point in time, have been able to earn the USDA Organic seal—Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps being the most prominent—although a number of companies are reformulating their products so as to be able to meet the current standards for 95-100% organic.

The process of creating organic body care standards has been difficult, at times, with a number of companies attempting to make these standards as lenient as possible, in order to maximize profits. We are optimistic that the final proposed regulations will be strict enough to safeguard public health, promote organic agriculture, and create market incentives for more natural and pure products. For more information, see the Coming Clean section on our website.
www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/

A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Standing at the Crossroads

As the season turns, we find ourselves standing at a crossroads of enormous peril, and great possibility. The good news is that hundreds of millions of consumers, farmers, and socially responsible businesses across the planet are steadily making their way along a path of health, justice, and sustainability—with organic production and Fair Trade leading the way. These lifestyle and marketplace alternatives are becoming mainstream. Even bottom line corporations like Kraft, General Mills, Nike, and Wal-Mart claim they want to “go organic.”

The bad news is that corporate greed and self-destructive public policies are still the norm. Indentured government and out-of-control corporations have engendered a frightening storm of chaotic weather, diminished oil supplies, war, pollution, junk food, dangerous unregulated technologies (such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology), and increasing global poverty. This “profits before people and the planet” mentality lies behind the current move by large corporations and supermarket chains to take over the organic sector, industrialize production, lower standards (allowing factory farms and synthetic substances in organics), and import billions of dollars of so-called organic foods from overseas “sweatshops in the fields” such as China.

Increased market share for organic, Fair Trade, and green products in an era of endless war and climate chaos will provide little consolation. We are in a race against time to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases and global conflict, and to turn our nation and the global community toward health and sustainability. This great turning will require, as OCA Policy Board member Vandana Shiva puts it, embracing “ancient concepts of living together… connected to the Earth locally and globally… reintegrating human activities into the Earth’s ecological processes and limits.”

But this turning also requires us to collectively raise our political voices, and get organized, from Main Street to the Middle East. In this issue of Organic View we are happy to provide you with a report on our efforts and successes over the past six months, as well as a preview of our future plans.

Now, more than ever, we need your financial help to continue our work. In order to maneuver around the roadblocks of the special interests, safeguard organic standards, and build up a critical mass for health, justice, and sustainability, we need to raise $200,000 in our summer fundraising drive. Please send us a tax-deductible donation. Thank you for your support.
Regards & Solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins,
OCA National Director

Organics and Fair Trade: Bringing It All Together

Consumer demand for certified Fair Trade products, including coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, and rice, continues to grow in the United States and abroad. Hundreds of college campuses, hospitals, churches, and workplace cafeterias across the country are now serving Fair Trade coffee. Even corporations like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s are getting into the act.

OCA made a national splash on Valentines Day with a flash animation, Slammed, encouraging consumers to switch to organic and Fair Trade flowers and chocolate. Thousands of people downloaded OCA’s animation and sent letters to chocolate giants such as Nestle and Mars, demanding an end to exploitation and slave labor in the conventional chocolate industry.

Meanwhile, anti-sweatshop and organic activists continue to work together to transform local government purchasing policies and contracts, redirecting public tax dollars and local revenues into products and services that embody health, sustainability, and Fair Trade. After OCA and our allies convinced San Francisco officials to pass a landmark SweatFree “hybrid” purchasing ordinance last fall, mandating the purchase of SweatFree, organic, fair trade, and local products, community activists across the country took notice. Building on San Francisco’s success, OCA and others are investigating the possibility of passing similar laws in other cities nationwide.

esponding to grassroots initiatives, Maine’s Governor John Baldacci, architect of Maine’s SweatFree purchasing policy, is calling on state governors to pass and fund similar laws to redirect billions of dollars from off-shore sweatshops to local and regional businesses providing a living wage and humane working conditions.

On the national level, the Organic Consumers Association is working with a broad-based coalition called the Domestic Fair Trade Working Group to develop a new set of standards and certification for foods and products that are both organic and “Fair Made” or Fair Trade. This new label and certification system will alert consumers to give preference to products that are not only healthy and organic, but also guaranteed to provide a Fair Deal for workers up and down the production and supply chain. In addition, this organic & Fair Made label can serve as an insurance policy, should USDA Organic standards degenerate beyond acceptable levels. Current USDA Organic standards require neither equitable labor practices nor Fair Trade prices and wages, which is a major reason why big companies jumping into organics are routinely canceling orders from North American farmers, and instead importing cheap products from China, where sweatshops in the fields and factories are the norm.

OCA Turns Up the Heat in Congress

Besides working to maintain strict organic standards, OCA’s Washington office and our allied lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, have developed a full legislative agenda to protect and expand organic agriculture.

Among our lobbying priorities is Organic Fair Share, which calls for a fair share of USDA subsidies and funds for organic and transition to organic programs. Organics generate $15 billion annually, or 2.5% of all grocery store sales, but receive little or no federal support. In 2005, non-organic farmers, mainly large farms, gobbled up $25 billion in federal crop subsidies, while organic farmers got less than $5 million. An Organic Fair Share of subsidies should amount to at least $500 million. With a yearly budget of $90 billion (our tax dollars), the USDA can afford a Fair Share for organics and help thousands of American farmers make the transition to organic so we can meet our growing appetite for organic food and fiber.

Other legislative priorities include:
  • Enlisting 100 co-sponsors for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bill for mandatory labeling of GE foods (HR 5269).

  • Pressuring Congress to reauthorize a 2002 law requiring mandatory “country of origin” labels for food.

  • Working to reform the 2007-2012 Farm Bill so as to cut billions of dollars in wasteful “pork-barrel” subsidies for factory farms and GE crops and use these funds to help family farmers adopt renewable energy practices, develop local and regional markets, and convert to organic.

  • Supporting increased allocations for food stamps so that low-income families can afford to buy organic food.

OCA Campaign Progress Reports
January - June 2006

Stopping Chemical Industry Experiments on Children

Late 2005—early 2006 · OCA alerted our nationwide network to a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation allowing industry to carry out experiments, using toxic pesticides and chemicals, on children. After a barrage of 15,000 letters from OCA, and thousands more from our allies, the EPA’s own Union of Scientists came out against the rule. Reacting to the growing backlash, EPA administrators announced they would ban chemical testing on children. Unfortunately, after the media reported this change in policy, and public attention turned elsewhere, EPA bureaucrats reinstated similar language into the proposed regulation. The battle continues. www.organicconsumers.org/epa6.cfm

Eliminating Toxic Pesticide Spraying on Public Lands

January 2006 · OCA members and supporters sent over 20,000 emails to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), protesting a federal plan to spray massive amounts of pesticides, including known developmental and reproductive toxins, on 932,000 acres of public lands, including National Monuments and Conservation areas. In the wake of this controversy, the BLM delayed its final decision on spraying pesticides until the fall of 2006. OCA will continue pressuring the BLM in the meantime. www.organicconsumers.org/blm.htm

Banning a Cancer Causing Pesticide - Methyl Iodide

February, 2006 · OCA generated thousands of letters and phone calls to the EPA opposing the proposed use of the carcinogenic pesticide methyl iodide. In January, the EPA had indicated it would allow farmers to apply up to 400 pounds of the carcinogenic chemical to each acre. Methyl iodide is especially hazardous, vaporizing quickly and drifting over large distances. Reacting to widespread media coverage and public pressure, EPA backed off on legalizing the pesticide.
www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_258.cfm

Defending State Food Safety Labeling Laws

March 8, 2006 · Despite vast public opposition, including 50,000 calls and letters from the OCA, the House of Representatives passed a controversial industry-backed “National Food Uniformity Act”, which would eliminate over 200 state food safety labeling laws. The law would take away local government and states’ power to require food safety labels on foods or beverages that are likely to cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. The bill would also prevent local municipalities and states from passing laws requiring that genetically engineered foods and ingredients be labeled. In order to become law, the bill will now have to go to the Senate for a vote. As we go to press, it appears we have created so much controversy that the bill will not pass in the Senate. www.organicconsumers.org/rd/labeling.cfm

Safeguarding Organic Standards

March 2006 · Organic Bytes (OCA’s electronic newsletter) subscribers voted 96% to 4% in an online survey to launch a boycott against two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), supplier to Wal-Mart and many natural food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private label organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats, and others. Horizon and Aurora, who together control up to 65% of the organic dairy market, are blatantly violating traditional organic standards by purchasing the majority of their milk from factory-style dairy feedlots where cows are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture. These same giant dairy feedlots are continuously importing calves from conventional farms, where the animals have been weaned on blood, fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains, and dosed with antibiotics. From last fall through the present, OCA has submitted over 50,000 petitions signed by organic consumers to the NOSB, calling on the USDA National Organic Program to put an end to these practices. After widespread media coverage generated by OCA and the Cornucopia Institute, millions of consumers are being alerted to this issue. A growing number of natural food stores and coops have begun to pull these bogus organic dairy products from their shelves. www.organicconsumers.org/nosb2.htm

Organizing Against Genetically Engineered Food

For eight years, OCA has campaigned steadfastly against GE foods and crops, educating the media and the public about how gene-spliced foods pose serious hazards to public health and the environment. Over the past year we’ve been trying to stop the biotech industry and the Farm Bureau from ramming through “Monsanto Preemption” laws in several states. These laws take away the rights of local and county governments to ban GE crops. Joint efforts with our allies have stopped preemption legislation in a number of states, including California, North Carolina, and Nebraska, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, these anti-consumer laws have passed in 15 other states. Determined to turn the tide, OCA has decided to pressure Congress to pass a mandatory labeling law for GE foods, similar to the law in effect in the European Union. In the EU, mandatory labeling has basically driven GE foods and foods off the market. A recent USDA poll found that 83% of Americans support mandatory labels for GE food. Although the labeling bill, HR 5269, The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on May 2, 2006, is not likely to pass Congress this session, OCA has pledged to enlist over 100 co-sponsors for the bill over the next year. www.organicconsumers.org/gelink.html

Pressuring Starbucks on Fair Trade, rBGH

June 19-25, 2006 · OCA will be organizing a nationwide week of protests and leafleting at Starbucks coffee shops, calling on the corporation to ban genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone milk from its cafes and to brew organic and Fair Trade coffee on a regular basis.
www.organicconsumers.org/Starbucks/index.htm

Coming Clean: Protecting Consumers
from Deceptive Labels on Organic Body Care Products

Over the past two years, OCA has been working closely with a National Sanitations Foundation (NSF) taskforce to establish new organic standards for body care products. Currently, the only organic body care products that are regulated by USDA are those derived from 100% agricultural ingredients that bear the “USDA Organic” seal. In other words, if you see a body care product on the store shelf that claims to be “organic” and does not have the USDA seal, there’s no way for you, as a consumer, to know how much (or how little) organic content is actually in that product.
Only a few body care brands, at this point in time, have been able to earn the USDA Organic seal—Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps being the most prominent—although a number of companies are reformulating their products so as to be able to meet the current standards for 95-100% organic.

The process of creating organic body care standards has been difficult, at times, with a number of companies attempting to make these standards as lenient as possible, in order to maximize profits. We are optimistic that the final proposed regulations will be strict enough to safeguard public health, promote organic agriculture, and create market incentives for more natural and pure products. For more information, see the Coming Clean section on our website.
www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/

CORPORATE TAKEOVER?

Some have said they welcome major corporate investment in the natural food market, as vindication of the value of natural foods. We should be concerned, however, that control of the natural foods industry by fewer companies will result in multinational corporate control of organic acreage and marketing, forcing out smaller regional/family suppliers, reducing competition, leading to weakened organic standards… We have already seen the political effects of media integration—once there were thousands of independent radio stations and daily papers, now there are a handful of TV networks and newspaper chains owned by these same corporations. -Paul Glover - www.corporganics.org

Organic Industry Structure Chart · compiled by Phil Howard, PhD

Additional information from Cyber-Help for Organic Farmers: www.certifiedorganic.bc.ca/rcbtoa/
and from Who Owns Organic?: www.rafiusa.org/pubs/OrganicReport.pdf

Planting Peace

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety. -Aesop · 6th Century BC

OCA MEMBERS RESPOND…

Thank you for all the work you do to ensure that safe, healthy and sustainable practices have a place to flourish on the earth! -Kathleen · South Lake Tahoe, CA

Keep up the good work! I deeply believe in what you are doing. Judy · Pulaski, WI

Thank you for ALL the HARD work! Please use this money toward the fight to keep organic foods and products TRULY organic! Blessings! Marce · Grand Marais, MN

Thank you for leading the way on this important issue. Linda · Huntsville, AL

Please use this money to protect the organic standards. We need to keep the power of that decision with the consumer, not the government. -Elizabeth · Takoma Park, MD

We can’t give up! Thanks for all you do! Michele · Fountain Valley, CA

I am proud to be a member of this grassroots organization. Thanks for keeping me informed and keep up the great work. Robin · Idledale, CO

Although I live in South Africa, I believe what you are doing affects the whole planet, and I thank you for it. Wray · Cape Town, South Africa

Thanks for all the hard and excellent work you all do. It’s absolutely liberating to know this site exists and is helping save our planet. Emily · Skagway, AK

Thank you for fighting for all of us who seek and believe in real food and sustainability and not poisoning our environment or our food. Anne · Massachusetts

I appreciate your organization so much. When I can I will donate more, and I always forward your emails to friends… Christina · Dallas, T

How to Donate to the OCA

3 WAYS TO GIVE:
  • Online: www.organicconsumers.org/donations.htm
  • Phone: 218-226-4164
  • Mail: Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland, MN 55603

OCA POLICY ADVISORY BOARD

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
Al Krebs · Agribusiness Examiner
Bruce Krug · Dairy Farmer, NY
Howard Lyman · Voice For A Viable Future
Victor Menotti · Int’l Forum on Globalization
Frances Moore-Lappé · Author & Activist
Robin Seydel · La Montanita Co-op, NM
Vandana Shiva · Author & Activist, India
John Stauber · Center for Media & Democracy

OCA STAFF

Ronnie Cummins · National Director
Rose Welch · General Manager
Craig Minowa · Environmental Scientist
Ryan Zinn · National Campaign Director
Loranda McLeete · Office Manager
Steve Urow · Web Master
Mary Anselment · Database Manager
Adam Eidinger · Media Coordinator
Alexis Baden-Meyer · Lobbyist
Katya Kruglak · National Field Organizer
Amy Gardner · Member Services Coordinator
Honor Schauland · Member Services
David Welch · Field Organizer
Matt Tyler · Field Organizer
Judy Linman · Field Organizer
Nancy Anselment-Olson · Database
Charlene Birdseye · Data Entry
Casey Oppenheim · General Counsel
Michael Greger · MD · Mad Cow Consultant
Will Allen · Cotton Project Consultant
Danila Oder · Irradiation Consultant
Liz Welch · Graphic Design
Nick Lethert · Graphic & Web Design

Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive - Finland, MN 55603

www.organicconsumers.org

FREE ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER

OCA publishes a free electronic weekly newsletter, Organic Bytes, with summaries of recent news stories from our website, along with Action Alerts, quotations, and graphics. Sign up for a free subscription at the top right column of our homepage.

Past issues are available in html or print-ready PDF for your use, copyright free, at
www.organicconsumers.org/publications.cfm