Organic View - Volume 1 Number 17
An e-mail publication of the Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association is affiliated with the
BioDemocracy Campaign. To subscribe to BioDemocracy - a free
e-mail publication on genetic engineering and other adverse
effects of industrial agriculture, go to: www.purefood.org

v.1 n.17 November 12, 1999

Contents

1. 47 Members of Congress Call On FDA To Label Genetically
Engineered Foods

2. Rep. Kucinich Introduces Labeling Bill For GE Foods
3. FDA Overwhelmed on GE Food Hearings
4. OCA Sends Letter to USDA Supporting Cost-Share Program
5. Is Chemical Farming Making Food Less Nutritious? Organic
Gardening Asks USDA

6. International Organic Certification Moves Forward
7. Update from the Field
8. Important Recent Articles

1. 47 Members of Congress Call On FDA To Label Genetically Engineered Foods

A letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling
for the labeling of genetically engineered foods was signed
by a bi-partisan group of 48 Members of Congress last week.
OCA was active in calling for volunteers and supporters
nationwide to contact their Member of Congress to sign on to
the letter circulated by US Representative David Bonior
(D-MI). OCA would like to thank all of you who contacted
your elected representatives in support of this important
letter.

The signers of the letter called on the FDA to enforce the
labeling provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic
Act which are intended to ensure that consumers are provided
thorough information and are not misled about the
characteristics of their food. These provisions require the
FDA to label genetically engineered or modified foods.

OCA joined a diverse alliance of religious, farm, consumer
and environmental organizations in calling for Members of
Congress to sign on to this letter. Other organizations
supporting the Bonior letter included: Adrian Dominican
Sisters, American Corn Growers Association, Catholic
Healthcare West, Center for Food Safety, Citizens for
Health, Consumers Choice Council, Consumers Union, Friends
of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy,
Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet, National Family
Farm Coalition, The Natural Law Party, Organic Consumers
Association, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists,
U.S. PIRG, and Women's Cancer Research Center

FDA is already facing a lawsuit challenging its failure to
require pre-market safety testing, labeling and full
environmental review. The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance
for Bio-Integrity, Center for Food Safety, scientists, and
members of major religious organizations.

For a copy of the letter to the FDA, and to see if your
Member of Congress signed on to it, go to the Friends of the
Earth Website: www.foe.org/safefood

2. Rep. Kucinich Introduces Labeling Bill

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), along with 20
co-sponsors, announced that they will introduce legislation
in the US Congress that would require the labeling of
genetically engineered foods. The legislation comes on the
heels of a letter signed by 47 Members of Congress to the
FDA (See above article), and before a series of three public
hearings by the FDA (See below article) to explain its
policy on genetically engineered foods.

The "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act" will
call for mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered
foods on the market. Four Republicans joined 16 Democrats in
sponsoring the bill. The bill will be assigned to House
committees for review in January
2000. The bill is expected to face overwhelming opposition
from the biotech industry.

As required by the bill, the label would read: "United
States government notice: This product contains genetically
engineered material, or was produced with a genetically
engineered material."

Poll after poll shows that between 80 and 95 percent of
American consumers want genetically engineered foods to be
labeled. Most American consumers eat unlabeled genetically
engineered foods every day, including canola, corn,
soybeans, and potatoes. An estimated 35 percent of the
soyabean harvest and a quarter of the US corn crop is grown
from genetically engineered seed.

3. FDA Overwhelmed on GMO Hearings

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being inundated
with citizens wishing to speak at their three public
hearings on genetically engineered foods. The agency appears
to be overwhelmed by the public response and is trying a
variety of tactics to prevent the hearings from becoming too
volatile.

The hearings begin in Chicago on Nov. 18, followed by
Washington, D.C., on November 30, and Oakland, Calif., on
December 13. OCA will have representatives at all three
hearings.

The FDA has experienced problems in setting up the Chicago
meeting where reportedly over 900 citizens have signed up to
speak. As a result, the agency has moved the location of the
meeting from its original room that holds around 100 people
to the much larger Ralph Metcalf Federal Building at 77 West
Jackson Boulevard. This room is still too small however, and
many of those who have signed up to speak will be shuffled
off to watch the hearing on satellite TV at the Mariott
Hotel on N. Michigan Avenue. At press time, the agency is
considering adding yet another viewing site for additional
overflow.

Meanwhile, activists in Chicago are planning a major rally
in front of the federal building starting at 11:30. Similar
activity is expected at the other two hearing sites.

For those who cannot attend the hearings, it is important to
submit written comments to the FDA. Those comments should
demand that 1) the agency require rigorous pre-market safety
testing that prove genetically engineered foods are safe;
and 2) that all genetically engineered crops on the market
should have thorough and prominent labeling.

To submit comments, and send them to your Representatives
and Senators, go to the Center for Food Safety's website:
www.foodsafetynow.org

To submit comments by mail, send them to: Docket Management
Branch HFA-305, [Docket No. 99N-4282], Food & Drug
Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane Room 1061, Rockville, MD
20852
Or comments can be registered at: www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets

4. OCA Sends Letter to USDA Supporting Cost-Share Program

OCA signed a letter last month, along with over 45 other
organizations, to the USDA calling for the upcoming national
organic standards to include a cost-share program for
organic farmers. The cost-share program would be designed
for small organic farmers in order to offset the costs of
organic certification and encourage the participation of
more farmers in the organic certification program.

Without a strong cost-share program, a majority of current
organic farmers would not be able to be certified due to the
fees and other expenses associated with the certification
process under the next proposed national organic standards.
The USDA is expected to come out with its next round of
proposed national standards for organic food early next
year.

The state of Minnesota passed first state cost-share program
to help organic farmers. (See Organic View, v. 16 for more
about the MN program)

5. Is Chemical Farming Making Food Less Nutritious, Organic
Gardening Asks USDA

Several recent studies indicate that the vitamin and mineral
content of US and British food may be declining, according
to Organic Gardening Magazine's November/December issue. The
magazine has sent a letter to the US Department of
Agriculture asking that the agency respond to what appears
to be a growing body of evidence on the harmful effects of
industrial agriculture.

In its letter, Organic Gardening cites the following
alarming new research:

* In an analysis of USDA nutrient data from 1975 to 1997,
the Kushi Institute of Becket, MA found that the average
calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables declined 27 percent;
iron levels dropped 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent,
and vitamin C levels 30 percent.
* A similar analysis of British nutrient data from 1930 to
1980 published in the British Food Journal found that in 20
vegetables, the average calcium content had declined 19
percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent.
* A 1999 study out of the University of Wisconsin found that
three decades of the overuse of nitrogen in US farming has
destroyed much of the soil's fertility, causing it to age
the equivalent of 5,000 years.
* A new US Geological Survey report indicates that acid rain
is depleting soil calcium levels in at least 10 eastern
states, interfering with forest growth and weakening trees'
resistance to insects.

The Organic Gardening letter concludes, "Mr. Secretary, what
is going on here? Why do nutrient levels in our food appear
to be declining? Is the drop linked to preventable factors,
such as American agriculture's overuse of acidic nitrogen
fertilizers and the effects of acid rain? Surely you must
want to know the answers to these questions as much as we
do. Will you ask your top scientists to give us some direct
answers that we can share with the readers of our magazine?"

To read to the whole letter, go to:
http://www.organicgardening.com/articles/article2.html

6. International Organic Certification Moves Forward


Certification bodies accredited by the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
Accreditation Program have taken an important step forward
by signing a multilateral agreement (MLA) among all members.

For the first time in the history of the organic food
movement, there will be an official agreement among 14 of
the world's most recognized and reputable organic
certification organizations, allowing quality organically
certified product to flow easily worldwide. The
organizations expected to sign the MLA are AIAB (Italy),
Argencert (Argentina), Bioagricoop (Italy), Bio-Gro
(New Zealand), Bolicert (Bolivia), California Certified
Organic Farmers (CCOF, USA), Farm Verified Organic
(FVO,USA), Instituto Biodinamico (IBD, Brazil), KRAV (
Sweden), National Association Sustainable Agriculture
Australia ( NASAA, Australia), Naturland-Verband (Germany),
Oregon Tilth (OTCO, USA), Organic Growers and Buyers
Association (OGBA, USA) and Soil Association Certification
Ltd (UK).

"It is a giant step forward for worldwide harmonization,"
says Robert Simmons, International Manager for Verified
Organic. "It will facilitate trade and the ease of
certification transfer, while enhancing each accredited
certifier's ability to provide a high quality guarantee of
organic production for consumers."

IFOAM is the worldwide umbrella organization of the organic
agriculture movement, with over 700 member organizations and
institutions in over 100 countries all over the world. IFOAM
is committed to a holistic approach to the development of
organic farming systems including maintenance of a
sustainable environment and respect for the needs of
humanity.

7. Update from the Field


OCA is making waves in the Bay Area. This month, Simon
Harris, our California Field Organizer, started working
full-time. He is already on the ground organizing in coops
and on the streets. The response to our work in California
has been overwhelmingly positive. In just 15 days, he has
started organizing projects in 14 coops across the state.
He is also the key volunteer coordinator for the Rally
Against Genetically Engineered Foods being held on December
18, the same day as the FDA hearing in Oakland. Please
contact Simon Harris at simon@organicconsumers.org to get
involved in OCA activities in California.

8. Important Recent Articles

Below are the titles and links to interesting articles
published recently on issues related to organic food and
food safety. These articles can be found on the website of
our affiliated organization, the BioDemocracy Campaign
(www.purefood.org)

11-12 - Health Hazards of GMO Yeast in Breads and Beer
http://www.purefood.org/ge/devioddna.cfm

11-10 - Organic Booming in Great Britain -
http://www.purefood.org/Organic/growthgb.cfm

11-3 - Reassessing Ecological Risks of Genetically Altered
Plants - http://www.purefood.org/ge/ecohazards.cfm


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