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Organic View - Winter 2000-2001 (Membership Update)

  1. Why Americans Are Voting with Forks, Knives & Wallets
  2. OCA Helps Drive Illegal GE Corn off the Market
  3. OCA Targets Starbucks on Genetically Engineered Food & Beverages
  4. OCA Leads Campaign for GE Food Resolutions
  5. OCA Joins Nader Organization to Ban Junk Food in Schools
  6. New Report Examines Commercialism in Schools
  7. FDA To Release Proposed Regulations on GE Foods
  8. Update on National Organic Standards
  9. Update on FDA Legal Petition

Why Americans Are Voting with Forks, Knives & Wallets

Cutting through the rhetoric and slick PR of yet another electoral
season, it's obvious that most politicians are still in denial about
America's food and farm crisis. When was the last time we heard a
politician in Washington (except for Ralph Nader) or in our state
capital talk about the fact that we have 76 million cases of food
poisoning a year; that 16% of all males and 13% of all women can look
forward to getting a food-related case of cancer; that 8% of our
children have food allergies; that 16% of our children are diagnosed
with behavioral or learning disabilities; that food-related
antibiotic-resistant diseases are a growing public health problem;
that the majority of the population are overweight or obese; and that
we have a literal epidemic of diet-related heart disease? Not to
mention that 30% of our topsoil is gone; that conventional farmers
spray a billion pounds of toxic pesticides and apply 12 billion
pounds of chemical fertilizers every year; that industrial
agriculture is our greatest source of water pollution and greenhouse
gas emissions; that toxic sewage sludge is routinely spread on
non-organic farms; that thousands of species are going extinct;
family farmers are going bankrupt; dead and diseased animal parts are
being fed back to animals on a massive scale; and that the nation's
slaughterhouses are filthy, disease-ridden, and inhumane.

America's organic consumers, animal protectionists, and
environmentalists have a long way to go in terms of getting organized
and making our presence felt in Washington, the state capitals, and
on Main Street. But in the meantime, even though we're short on
political candidates, millions of us have started voting everyday,
with our forks and knives, with our pocketbooks and food dollars, and
with our grassroots public education and mobilization efforts. And
with this new type of food politics, we're having a major impact, if
not yet in Washington, at least in the marketplace and in the court
of public opinion.

Organic foods are the fastest growing and most profitable segment of
American agriculture, according to USDA statistics. A February 1997
poll by the biotech giant Novartis found that 54% of US consumers
would prefer to see organic agriculture become the predominant form
of food and fiber production-as opposed to conventional,
chemical-intensive farming or agricultural biotechnology.

A June 2000 survey carried out by the National Center for Public
Policy, a conservative think tank, indicated that 69% of the
American public believe that the organic label on food products means
that they are safer and better for the environment. This is the main
reason why 10 million organic consumers will buy eight billion
dollars worth of organic food this year in the US. By 2010, at the
current rate of growth, organic will constitute 10% of US
agriculture. But of course this is not enough. In Europe trends
indicate that 30-50% of all farming may be organic by the year 2010.
More and more health and environmentally conscious Americans are
turning to organic food. And for good reason:

Concern over toxic pesticide residues. A March 1999 study by Consumer
Reports found that organic foods had little or no pesticide residues
compared to conventional produce. A 1999 study by the Environmental
Working Group found that millions of US children eating non-organic
fruits and vegetables were ingesting dangerous amounts of a variety
of pesticide neurotoxins and carcinogens.

Concern over drug residues. Organic farming prohibits the use of
antibiotics in animal feed. Recent scientific research has confirmed
the fact that antibiotics, routinely fed to factory farm animals to
make them grow faster, are creating dangerous antibiotic-resistant
pathogens which are infecting Americans who eat these animal products.

Concern over food poisoning, deadly e-Coli A 0157:H7, campylobacter,
salmonella, listeria, and other food borne diseases. The Centers for
Disease Control admit that there are at least 76 million cases of
food poisoning every year in the US. Filthy slaughterhouses,
contaminated feed, and diseased animals are commonplace in industrial
agriculture. According to government statistics, most non-organic
beef cattle are contaminated with e-Coli 0157:H7; over 90% of
chickens are tainted with campylobacter, and 30% of poultry are
infected with salmonella. There are no documented cases of organic
meat or poultry setting off food poisoning epidemics.

Concern over food irradiation, use of toxic sewage sludge spread on
farmland, and genetic engineering. Organic certification prohibits
irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetic engineering. A 1997 poll by
CBS found 77% of Americans opposed to food irradiation, while a
recent survey by the Angus Reid polling group found the majority of
US consumers opposed to genetically engineered foods. Consumers are
especially incensed that industry and the FDA refuse to require
labeling of genetically engineered food. Numerous polls over the past
15 years have found that 80-95% of Americans want labels on
gene-altered foods, mainly so that they can avoid buying them.

Concern over the environment. Studies indicate that the
industrialization and globalization of agriculture are a leading
contributor to greenhouse gases and climate destabilization. Other
research shows an increasing percentage of municipal water supplies
are contaminated by pesticide residues, chemical fertilizers, and
sewage runoff from factory farms and feedlots.
Concern for animals & biodiversity. Factory farms and genetic
engineering are nothing less than institutionalized forms of cruelty
for farm animals. Industrial agriculture poses a mortal threat to
wildlife and the entire web of biodiversity. Only a
sustainable,decentralized, humane, and organic form of agriculture is
defensible in moral and ethical terms. The patenting of living
organisms is inherently immoral.

It's no wonder consumers are turning to organic foods while
biotechnology and agri-chemical special interests are starting to
panic. So keep in mind this post-election season that those of us who
care about food, family farms, animals, and sustainability have to
start getting more political. We've got to organize ourselves into a
powerful nationwide consumers network, which is what the Organic
Consumers Association is trying to do. We must stand up and make our
voices heard. We need to keep on voting every day-with our forks,
knives, and pocketbooks.

OCA Helps Drive Illegal GE Corn off the Market
But the Biotech Industry and Government Are Still Up to their Old Tricks

Agricultural biotechnology suffered a serious blow this fall, when
the OCA's national coalition, the Genetically Engineered Food Alert
(GEFA), broke the news that an illegal, likely allergenic variety
(Cry9C) of genetically engineered (GE) corn called StarLink was an
ingredient in a number of US consumer food products. The
headline-grabbing scandal forced the recall of over 300 major brands
including Kraft/Taco Bell, Safeway, and Mission Foods.
In 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency had approved the
commercial cultivation of StarLink corn-spliced with the powerful Bt
toxin (bacillus thuringiensis)-but only for animal feed. Developed by
a subsidiary of the French-German biotechnology conglomerate Aventis,
StarLink corn was prohibited in human food products because of fears
that this controversial Cry9C variety (50 to 100 times more potent
than other Bt-spliced varieties of corn) could set off food allergies
in humans.

The Wall Street Journal reported November 3 that the recall of
StarLink corn could ultimately cost Aventis and the food industry up
to one billion dollars. Over a dozen consumers filed a class-action
lawsuit alleging that they were poisoned by food products containing
StarLink corn. Farmers began making preparations to sue Aventis, who
failed to inform thousands of growers that StarLink was not supposed
to get into the food chain. Even Cargill, the largest grain
distributor in the world, was threatening to sue Aventis. By
late-November the controversy had spread overseas, with Japan,
America's largest overseas customer, halting almost all corn imports.

Sometime after December 1, the EPA is expected to reverse itself and
declare that StarLInk corn is indeed safe for human consumption. This
will undoubtedly please Aventis, giant grain exporters, and the
biotechnology industry, but this move is unlikely to meet the
approval of America's increasingly skeptical consumers.

The StarLink scandal has brought home the realization to American
consumers, perhaps for the first time, that the nation's supermarkets
are filled with an extensive inventory of untested, unlabeled,
genetically engineered foods. Critics of GE food have warned for
years that splicing foreign proteins into common food products,
proteins which in most cases humans have never eaten before, can set
off dangerous food allergies-with symptoms ranging from fever,
rashes, diarrhea, and respiratory problems to anaphylactic shock and
sudden death. The FDA admits that eight percent of all US children
are now plagued by food allergies, and that the situation is growing
worse. Nutritionists warn of a suspected link between food allergies
and asthma. Even the staid New England Journal of Medicine warned in
its March 14, 1996 issue that unlabeled genetically engineered foods
are "uncertain, unpredictable, and untestable."

Besides expecting the EPA to reverse itself and declare that StarLink
corn is safe for humans after all, we also expect the FDA to release
proposed federal regulations for genetically engineered foods by the
end of the year.. These forthcoming regulations (no safety-testing,
no labeling, no required liability insurance coverage) will no doubt
please the biotech industry and America's food giants, but again will
only fuel the fires of resistance on the part of consumers. Analysts
predict little or no change in this policy whether Bush or Gore
inhabits the White House.

Once the FDA publish their proposed rules on genetic engineering
there will likely be a 75 day public comment period. The OCA, joined
by its allies across the country, will encourage thousands of
consumers across the US to write, fax, or email the FDA-demanding a
moratorium on all GE foods and crops until they are properly
safety-tested, labeled, and insured. Stay tuned to BioDemocracy News
and our website <www.purefood.org> for further developments.

OCA Targets Starbucks on Genetically Engineered Food & Beverages

Give me a Fair Trade organic coffee mocha, but hold the genetically
engineered milk or chocolate, please.

Since July 1999, the OCA has been asking consumers to contact the
Starbucks corporation to ask them to stop using milk and dairy
products derived from cows injected with Monsanto's controversial
recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and to guarantee that their
baked goods and chocolate do not contain genetically engineered
ingredients (GE soy, corn, cotton seed, or canola). While some
Starbucks outlets are using rBGH-free dairies as their primary milk
suppliers, most are not. Although Starbucks now sells Fair Trade
coffee beans in bulk, they are not yet brewing it.

We want Starbucks to start brewing coffee which is certified as Fair
Trade and shade grown (90% of shade grown coffee is organic) and to
make a pledge that they will never use genetically engineered coffee
beans (which are currently being field tested by biotech companies).

Please call or fax or email Starbucks. Tell them to ban rBGH milk, to
guarantee that their chocolate and baked goods are GE-free, and to
start brewing organic Fair Trade coffee. Tell them you'll take your
business elsewhere if they can't give you a written assurance on
these matters. Their toll-free telephone number is 800-235-2883.
Their fax number is 206-447-3432. You can send them an email by going
to their website <www.starbucks.com>

OCA Leads Campaign for GE Food Resolutions

A series of anti-genetic engineering resolutions are being passed by
City Councils all across the US, unnerving the ag-biotech industry
and sending a message to American politicians that GE foods and crops
are becoming a "hot button" issue.

Most recently, City Councils in Ann Arbor, Minneapolis, and
Cleveland, passed resolutions calling on the FDA to require mandatory
labeling and safety-testing for GE foods and crops, while the Boulder
City Council passed a law prohibiting the growing of GE crops on land
owned by the city. These resolutions come in the wake of similar
moves by city authorities in San Francisco, Boston and Austin, Texas.

The Minneapolis resolution, signed on August 30, not only calls for a
moratorium on GE foods, but recommends that city authorities begin
purchasing organic foods for city contracts, a move also under
consideration by San Francisco officials.

OCA Joins Nader Organization to Ban Junk Food in Schools

Organic Consumers Association has teamed up with Commercial Alert to
convince public schools to stop promoting junk food and bad nutrition
to our schoolchildren. Commercial Alert, founded by Ralph Nader, is a
national network of people who oppose the excesses of commercialism,
advertising and marketing. It is coordinating a nationwide grassroots
campaign to kick junk food peddlers and advertisers out of our public
schools. In July, Organic Consumers Association, Commercial Alert,
public health professionals, children's advocates, and others sent a
letter to Senate and House Agriculture Committee Chairmen Richard
Lugar (R-IN) and Larry Combest, (R-TX) and Ranking Members Tom Harkin
(D-IA) and Charles Stenholm (D-TX), asking them to get the public
schools to stop promoting junk food to children. The letter says that
in thousands of schools "corporations and school administrators have
joined together to market high-calorie, caffeinated, high-sugar candy
and soda pop to impressionable children," which contradicts the
purposes of the National School Lunch Program. The letter is at
<http://www.essential.org/alert/junkfood/aglet.html>.

Please tell your Members of Congress to stop the public schools from
marketing junk food and to ensure that schools carry out the
healthful intent of the National School Lunch Act.
The Congressional switchboard phone is 202-225-3121. To find the fax
numbers and e-mail addresses of Members of Congress, see
<http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html>.

What you can say to your Members of Congress:

1. The public schools are aggressively promoting junk food and bad
nutrition to impressionable schoolchildren.
2. Congress should stop the public schools from marketing junk food,
and ensure that schools carry out the healthful intent of the
National School Lunch Act.
3. Congress should require the public schools, in exchange for
receiving federal funds for school lunches and other educational
programs, not to advertise, sell or promote junk food to school
children.
4. School lunch programs should be converted to healthier menus using
organic ingredients.

What you can do in your community:
1. Find out if your local public schools sell junk food to schoolchildren.
2. Find out if your public schools advertise junk food to children.
About 12,000 schools show Channel One, a televised in-school
marketing program that aggressively advertises junk food to captive
audiences of 8 million schoolchildren. Some schools also have
marketing deals with soda companies such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
3. If your public schools sell or advertise junk food, ask your local
school board members and school administrators to get rid of the junk
food and junk food ads, Channel One, Coke and Pepsi.

For more information about the marketing of junk food to
schoolchildren and Commercial Alert's campaign to stop it: visit
Commercial Alert's website at <http://www.essential.org/alert/> or
send email to <gary@essential.org>
write or call: Gary Ruskin/Commercial Alert 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW
Suite 3A Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202 296-2787 Fax 202 833-2406

New Report Examines Commercialism in Schools

Recognizing that the nation's 47.2 million students are an
increasingly lucrative target market for consumer product companies,
school districts are often willing to join with corporations. A new
report released by the General Accounting Office begins: "In-school
marketing has become a growing industry. Some marketing professionals
are increasingly targeting children in schools, companies are
becoming known for their success in negotiating contracts between
school districts and beverage companies, and both educators and
corporate managers are attending conferences to learn how to increase
revenue from in-school marketing for their schools and companies."
About 25 percent of the nation's middle schools and high schools now
show Channel One, a broadcast of news features and commercials, in
their classrooms, and about 200 school districts have signed
exclusive contracts with soft-drink companies to sell their beverages
in schools. And in at least one case, students using computers in
classrooms were offered incentives to enter personal data - names,
addresses, information on personal habits - which would then be sold
to advertisers. Full story:
<http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/14/business/14SCHO.html> See also:
Why The Whine: How Corporations Prey on Our Children
<http://www.mothering.com/SpecialArticles/Issue97/whine.htm>

FDA To Release Proposed Regulations on GE Foods

Over the next 30 to 60 days the Food and Drug Administration is
expected to publish proposed federal regulations on genetically
engineered foods and crops. According to our sources in Washington,
these forthcoming regulations will require neither pre-market
safety-testing nor mandatory labeling of genetically engineered
foods-ignoring the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Analysts predict little or no change in this "no labeling, no
safety-testing" policy whether Bush or Gore inhabits the White House.

Once the FDA publishes its proposed rules on genetic engineering
there will likely be a 75 day public comment period. The OCA, joined
by its allies across the country, will encourage thousands of
consumers across the US to write, fax, or email the FDA demanding a
moratorium on all GE foods and crops until or unless they are
properly safety-tested, labeled, and insured.

Stay tuned to BioDemocracy News and our website
http://www.purefood.org for further developments.

Update on National Organic Standards

Now that the USDA comment period on the second set of proposed
federal regulations on National Organic Standards has ended, what
should organic consumers do? We need to remain vigilant.

According to Reuters news agency, the USDA received over 40,000
comments. Most of the comments at the USDA website
<www.ams.usda.gov/nop> basically correspond with the position of the
OCA (see BioDemocracy News 25 & 26) and the coalition that we're part
of
(the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture): that the
proposed rules need to be tightened up, not loosened. According to
the USDA, the final regulations on organic foods will be published
sometime near the first of the year (2001) in the Federal Register.
The final rules will come into force approximately 12 months after
publication. If the final rules do not meet the expectations of the
OCA and the organic community once they are published, we'll have to
either sue the USDA in Federal Court or join the organic community
and come up with our own label and standards.

In the meantime stay tuned to our website http://www.purefood.org and
our electronic newsletter, BioDemocracy News, for further
developments.

Update on FDA Legal Petition

Currently, we are utilizing our Food Agenda 2000-2010 petition drive
to generate thousands of citizen comments in support of a legal
petition filed on March 21, 2000 to the FDA by the Center for Food
Safety, OCA, and 50 other groups to pull all genetically engineered
crops and foods off the market and subject them to rigorous
safety-testing (Docket #OOP-1211/CP1). Over 50,000 comments have been
submitted. See the Food Agenda leaflet can be found on the our web
site http://www.purefood.org, just waiting to be copied, reprinted,
and freely distributed.

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