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Alert of the Week: Join OCA’s Delegation to Cuba & Lift the Travel Ban

Alert of the Week:
Join OCA’s Delegation to Cuba & Lift the Travel Ban

Since 1990, Cuba has carried out the world’s most comprehensive and successful organic food and farming revolution, including the ongoing cultivation of over 60,000 organic urban gardens that supply 50-80% of its urban food needs (learn more). The Organic Consumers Association and our friends at Global Exchange and Food First are organizing a study delegation May 21 -29 to Cuba to see and experience firsthand how our Caribbean neighbors have survived economic depression and a life-threatening cut-off of oil and food imports by moving from chemical-intensive agriculture to nearly 100% organic and local production. And of course in the process of carrying out this organic revolution, Cubans have qualitatively improved the island’s public health, biodiversity, and environment, not to mention drastically reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas pollution. OCA invites you to join Ronnie Cummins and other leading organic food and farm activists for this once in a lifetime inspirational trip to Cuba from May 21 -29. OCA believes that the only way we can overcome our own domestic economic, food, health, energy, and climate crisis is through sharing information and “best practices” with organic practitioners and communities across the globe. This is a major reason why we are calling on Barack Obama to immediately normalize relations with Cuba. Please visit OCA’s Cuba Delegation web page for more information.
Go further! Its high time to lift travel restrictions to Cuba for ALL Americans, restore our right as citizens of the United States to travel freely, and take a giant step toward restoring our country’s reputation in Latin America and the world. Take Action: Support the Freedom of Travel Bills in the House  and Senate.

Related Web Video of the Week: Urban Food Growing in Cuba

Related Web Video of the Week:
Urban Food Growing in Cuba

Cutting off trade with Cuba forced the population to live by their own means. Over time, urban areas in place like Havana have overtaken wasted space with a vast tapestry of medicinal and food gardens. The current Cuban urban agriculture model has become one of the most sophisticated and sustainable organic farming operations in the world. Watch this clip from the BBC’s “Around the World in 80 Gardens” (2008) showing some of this innovative urban food gardening.

Organic Consumers Weekly Report from the US Capitol: NAIS & USDA Secretary Vilsack

Organic Consumers Weekly Report from the US Capitol:
NAIS & USDA Secretary Vilsack

On March 11, 2009, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on the controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS). With most of the Committee Members in favor of NAIS, the committee’s “review” of the program was used primarily to urge the USDA to act quickly to make NAIS mandatory for all farm animals–even tiny farms or backyard animal pens such as what Republican Representative Mike Conaway described as operations consisting of “one, big, fat horse.” Rep. Conaway further suggested that, if NAIS is just as important as organic (his tone of voice implied that he thought NAIS was more important than organic), the USDA could pay farmers as much as it pays them to help with organic certification costs ($750, which he didn’t seem to think was very much) to enroll in NAIS. Read more about the NAIS hearing here.
March 16, 2009, was the deadline to submit comments to the USDA regarding the standardization of NAIS. OCA submitted comments opposing NAIS from more than 10,000 of our members. In addition, we joined in comments submitted by a coalition of more than 70 organizations spearheaded by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. Read the coalition’s comments here.
On March 16, 2009, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the inaugural meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He was introduced by Iowa farmer Ron Rosmann who gave Sec. Vilsack, former Iowa Governor, bragging rights to the success of his organic corn. The corn yielded 200 bushels per acre, making it competitive with industrially-grown corn and proving that organic agriculture can feed the world. In his speech, Sec. Vilsack made no promise to support organic agriculture or any particular sustainable agriculture program, but he gave support to the movement in general terms. He drew the largest applause when he mentioned the appointment of OCA-endorsed organic advocate Kathleen Merrigan as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and talked about his USDA People’s Garden, which he said will be organic, fertilized with compost from USDA cafeteria waste, and a source of food for local food banks. Learn more and watch a video of Vilsack unveiling the People’s Garden here.
The Organic Consumers Fund is Organic Consumers Association’s allied legislative action group, lobbying on behalf of organic consumers in Washington, DC. Please consider supporting our work by joining OCF today.

Web Forum Posting of the Week: Will the New HR875 Bill in Congress Outlaw Organic Farming?

Web Forum Posting of the Week:
Will the New HR875 Bill in Congress Outlaw Organic Farming?

In last week’s issue of Organic Bytes, the OCA had a story entitled “Internet Myth of the Week: Congress To Pass Bill That Will Outlaw Organic Farming?”  The article focused on our stance on a new controversial bill in congress: HR875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. There’s been a lot of hype circulating the internet about the possible ramifications of the bill, and the OCA felt it was necessary to weigh in on the issue. Linn Cohen-Cole, the most vocal opponent of HR 875, and the person who initially shared her concerns about the bill with the OCA, responded to our article in Organic Bytes last week with deep concerns. We’ve posted her main points in our web forum for our readers to discuss.
OCA has taken a middle-ground position on HR875. We think food safety legislation is needed. We’d like to see factory farming stopped along with the practices of confining animals, feeding them slaughterhouse waste and manure, and not letting cows eat grass. These practices would virtually eliminate mad cow, salmonella and E. coli. HR 875 doesn’t do this, but it does make food recalls mandatory and allows for civil penalties, two important tools the government could use against the factory farms that are making us sick.

Read more about the HR875 Debate and Discuss

Food Safety News of the Week: Baby Formula Testing Project

Food Safety News of the Week:
Baby Formula Testing Project: Is America’s Baby Formula Tainted with Antibiotics?

NaturalCheck, a company dedicated to helping people ensure that food is healthy, safe and natural, is looking for 20 volunteers to provide samples of milk-based baby formula for testing.  The project will test for the presence of antibiotics given to dairy cows, but supposedly not allowed in consumer milk products. “News of baby formula contaminated with melamine last year made us wonder if there are other chemicals in milk and milk products,” said Larry Bohlen, President of NaturalCheck.  Scientists are concerned that antibiotic residues in milk could cause bacteria to become resistant to the same antibiotics used to treat people when they are seriously ill. This OCA/NaturalCheck project company needs volunteers from all over the country to send in samples of baby formula because there are so many brands nationwide. In return, testing will be conducted for free and results will be shared with volunteers, as well as the general public.
Learn more

Sustainability News of the Week: Salt Water Elixir May Be New ‘Miracle Liquid’

Sustainability News of the Week:
Salt Water Elixir May Be New ‘Miracle Liquid’

A “new” product is being dubbed the latest “miracle liquid”. It’s a degreaser, it cleans windows, it’s nontoxic, it combats food pathogens, and it’s so safe you can drink it. It’s electrolyzed salt water, and people around the world are swearing by it. Housekeepers at hotels, like the Sheraton in Santa Monica, CA, say they were skeptical at first, since it doesn’t foam, make suds or stink, but they say it is cleaning up their toughest messes while sparing their lungs from the usual toxic cleaners. In Japan, they are using it to fill their swimming pools, because it’s safer than chlorine and it costs about a penny per gallon to make. The drawback is a very short shelf-life, but some are saying this could be the elixir of the future. Minnesota food scientist Joellen Feirtag said she was skeptical, but now encourages food processors to use the water, because it kills E. coli, salmonella, listeria and other food pathogens. Yet it’s gentle enough to soothe sunburns and acne. “This sounds too good to be true, which is really the biggest problem,” said Feirtag. “But it’s only a matter of time before this becomes mainstream.”
Learn more

Headlines and Articles of the Week


Headlines 1) Buying Organic is Well Worth the Cost Even When Times are Tough:
“Organic food is now the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture. In 2007, the value of retail sales from organic food was estimated at more than $20 billion.  The industry is expected to grow at a rate of 18 percent per year until 2010, making organic food sales one of the fastest growing sectors in the generally sagging U.S. economy…”
2) Farming Chemicals Cause Kidney Failure for Thousands of Farmworkers:
“More than 3,000 workers at a sugar plant owned by Nicaragua’s most powerful company have died from chronic renal failure since 1990 and a victims’ group says another 5,000 workers have since developed the condition for the company’s use of agrochemicals…”
3) Eleven North Sea Islands Become Living Laboratories for a Waste-free Environment:
“The islands from six countries will follow a “cradle-to-cradle” philosophy, which calls for using renewable energy and products made from materials that can be endlessly reused or organically decomposed…”
4) Aspartame/NutraSweet: The History of the Aspartame Controversy
5) James Hansen: Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Death Factories–Close Them!
Let OCA sift through the media smog and bring you the top new and analysis of the day. The OCA website has 10 or more news articles posted each day, and a library of over 40,000 articles covering issues including health, justice, food and farming, politics, and the environment. Bookmark