Organic Bytes
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Standing up to what
can only be described as an army of riot police, highway patrol, and county
sheriffs, representatives of US family farm groups symbolically dumped
bushels of genetically engineered corn at last week’s World Conference
on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, CA . Joined by approximately
3,000 spirited consumer, environmental, and Fair Trade activists, members
of the National Family Farm Coalition marched and participated in rallies
and teach-ins in Sacramento, denouncing genetically engineered crops and
USDA policies that promote the corporate takeover of our food supply.
According to California dairy farmer Walter Kessler, “Family farmers have
suffered significant economic losses from the use of GE products, but
the truth about GE crops and their impacts on family farmers is being
buried in the slick multi-million dollar public relations campaign being
waged by the biotechnology industry and promoted by the USDA.”

The Organic Consumers
Association was in the thick of the action at Sacramento, staging a colorful
protest and press conference outside a Safeway supermarket on June 24,
featuring costumed performers including Dr. Monsanto, Captain Organic,
and George Bush. Before a bank of TV cameras and news photographers, under
the watchful eyes of a dozen police patrol cars, the OCA demonstrated,
with both science and satire, that neither humans nor canines will willingly
consume Frankenfoods. The Sacramento teach-ins and protests were a warm
up for the September WTO meetings in Cancun Mexico, where 150,000 people
are expected to rally against worldwide GMO contamination and corporate-powered

Attend the WTO teach-ins
and protests in Cancun on an escorted delegation with Ronnie Cummins and
the OCA:


“Agricultural biotechnology
in its present form is a vast scientific and commercial error. The people
who have invested their money, time and reputations in it cannot afford
to admit this. Unfortunately, they will not be the ones that end up paying
the heaviest price for their incompetence, greed and hubris. As usual,
the bill will be met by those least able to afford it, and the currency
in which it will be denominated will not be dollars or euros alone, but
the health and livelihoods of human beings and the environment in which
we live.” “Planting Lies” by Steve McGiffen, an environmental adviser
to members of the European Parliament


New York City school
officials are getting rid of junk food machines and many cafeteria menu
items, in response to an obesity epidemic among youth. In addition, sugar,
fat and salt will be trimmed from the city’s 800,000 daily lunches. A
U.S. Center for Disease Control study showed that 20 percent of elementary
kids are unhealthily overweight. In poor neighborhoods, 15 percent of
the total population has diabetes, which can be caused by poor diet.


The McDonald’s chain,
responding to pressure from public interest groups such as the Union of
Concerned Scientists, announced last week that they will begin to phase-out
the purchase of meat products laced with antibiotics (a standard practice
on non-organic farms). The announcement is in response to warnings of
how the routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock is leading to antibiotic
resistance in humans. According to the USDA, McDonald’s move could lead
to a significant shift in livestock management practices, given that McDonald’s
is one of the largest purchasers of beef, chicken and pork in the U.S.
Seventy percent of all antibiotics in American are used in animal feeds,
but of course this practice is prohibited on organic farms.


Anthony Trewavas and
his colleagues at Cambridge University have mixed the genes of a jellyfish
and potato, creating a new potato that they say can help conserve water.
Apparently a farmer can hold a black light up to the plant, and if it
glows, it means it needs water.


Last week, a bipartisan
(yes, that means both Republicans and Democrats) legislative gathering
proved that Congress can occasionally do something right, in this case
forming a new U.S. Congressional Organic Agriculture Caucus. “The formation
of this Caucus is a major step towards getting organic farmers their fair
share of federal agricultural resources,” said Bob Scowcroft, Executive
Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation . “Organic farmers
and their supporters should call their representatives and ask them to
join the Caucus. When it comes to Capitol Hill, there is strength in numbers.”

Get Involved:


As you know, last
month, the Bush Administration filed a complaint against the EU, based
on the fact that he doesn’t think it’s fair that European consumers don’t
want to eat genetically engineered foods. This has caused tremendous friction
between European leaders and the U.S. To make matters worse, Bush cracked
a sarcastic joke while visiting European leaders this week. According
to ABC News, while leaders were leaving the conference hall for a break,
Bush added insult to injury by sneering “Let’s go eat some genetically
modified food for lunch!” More info: ABC News Online 6/26/2003


In the process of
transporting honeybees from Iowa to Wisconsin, a truck driver lost control
of his vehicle and rolled his trailer. The driver was not hurt, but over
25 million honeybees escaped into the area, forcing residents to strongly
consider adjusting the amount of time they plan on spending outdoors this
summer. Source: KMBC- TV9 6/12/2003


According to the New
York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally decided
to research the toxicity issues associated with the common practice of
using sewer sludge as fertilizer on conventional farms. The decision was
sparked by a recent catastrophe on a family farm in Georgia, where hundreds
of cows died from eating hay that was fertilized by sewer sludge. Andy
McElmurray, the owner of the farm said the cows wasted away, due to toxic
pollutants within the sludge that ultimately ended up in the plants. “They
wouldn’t respond to antibiotics. They wouldn’t respond to IV fluids. They
wouldn’t respond to anything. They just ended up dying.” he said. EPA
scientists, including Dr. David Lewis, who won the agency’s top science
award in 2000, are gravely concerned about sewer sludge contaminating
the nation’s food supply. “To me, of all the environmental issues, this
is Mount Everest,” said Dr. Lewis. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent
Times story incorrectly stated that sewage sludge was used by organic
farmers. Although the USDA tried to degrade organic standards in 1998,
by allowing sewage sludge to be used on organic farms, a mass consumer
backlash forced the USDA to back off on this issue.

Read all about it:


Switzerland may be
the first nation in the world to ban genetically modified crops and foods
by popular vote. A petition with well over 100,000 signatures was recently
submitted to the Swiss government, thereby mandating that the issue be
placed on the general election ballots. Although Syngenta, a Swiss based
biotech corporation has promised to sway the vote in its favor, with a
heavily financed pro-GMO campaign, polls show that over 70% of Swiss citizens
refuse to eat genetically engineered foods.