Organic Bytes
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Passengers at a train station

Ridin’ on this Train

There are so many reasons to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a global trade pact still being negotiated, that it’s hard to know where to start.

A recent report by Friends of the Earth—Europe lays out some of those reasons. And at the top of their list is this: If the TTIP passes, it will force weaker standards on EU farmers, effectively allowing for more genetically engineered crops and factory farms to flourish there.

According to the report:

Civil society groups and farming organisations have expressed concern that the TTIP will lead to the further intensification and corporate concentration of agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic. Consumer and environmental protection may suffer too, because both US government and producer organisations are openly calling for the EU to weaken protection in areas such as the approval of GM foods, pesticide safety rules and the bans on hormones and pathogen washes in meat production.

Greenpeace trade expert Juergen Knirsch doesn’t have much good to say about the TTIP either:

“If TTIP is agreed, the US government will always get its way. In fact, the EU will progressively weaken its standards and safeguards to suit the US, and any plan to better protect our environment and health would be neutralised before it hits the democratic scrutiny of the European Parliament.” 

The U.S. needs to clean up its act when it comes to our degenerative food and farming system. And we certainly shouldn’t be forcing our bad habits on other countries. Because after all, we have a stake in what happens outside our own boundaries. We’re all part of one ecosystem—an ecosystem in trouble. And the worse it gets, the worse it is for all of us.

After all, we’re all ridin’ on this train.

Read the report 

Sunny sky through trees

Trees. Who Knew?

In 2007, McDonald’s UK approached UK-based Benchmark Holdings with a challenge. It seems that nearly a decade prior, the fast-food chain had made a commitment to use only free-range eggs.

But the plan hadn’t generated the consumer excitement or “producer benefits” McDonald’s had hoped for.

So, after doing some research, Benchmark suggested— trees.

What we found was that our ordinary chicken’s ancestor was a South East Asian jungle fowl. It lived and flourished under the canopy of trees. This varied environment allowed the chicken to have and do what it wanted—some shade and protection from predators, elevation and opportunities to perch, the covered ground to scratch and peck for food and dust bathe to keep its feathers clean.

The environment in the South East Asian forest is a far cry from how chickens live in most of today’s conventional and free-range egg production systems. In principle, the free-range system is closest by allowing chickens access to the outdoor. But what we found was that most free-range farmers reported that their chickens hardly used the range. It turned out they spent most of their time inside, or hovering right outside the door, rather than wander out into the field.

So McDonald’s UK got busy planting trees on all the farms that supply free-range eggs to their restaurants. What happened?

We found that being out more and venturing further afield means that the laying hens don’t peck at each other as much, which in turn improves the welfare of the flock. For the first time, we also showed that this improves the productivity of the flock. We found that the provision of trees on the range reduces the mortality in the flock. We also found that planting trees on a minimum of 5% of the range lowered the numbers of ‘egg seconds’—which due to their lower eggshell quality are worth 30% less than grade A eggs—subsequently boosting the farmers’ income.

And oh-by-the-way, the trees also boosted “the soil and the wider environment through reduced nutrient leaching and carbon sequestration, as well as providing opportunities for multiple incomes off the land through agroforestry or combining egg production with growing nut trees or fruit orchards.”

Watch the video 

Several falling alarm clocks

Counting Down

It’s been more than four years since a dedicated group of activists hatched a plan to launch a GMO labeling ballot initiative in California. And almost four years since they—all of us—lost that campaign, by the slimmest of margins.

We picked ourselves up, and went on to fight again. In Washington State, in 2013. In Oregon, in 2014. Both times, we lost, barely. Wildly outspent. But never demoralized.

Then, in May 2014, Vermont’s legislature passed the first GMO labeling law with any teeth in it. 

Monsanto promptly sued. The court hasn’t issued a final ruling, but a judge in the case refused Monsanto’s request for an injunction.

Now, here we are. One month away from Vermont’s law kicking in. Labels already showing up on a wide range of products—not just in Vermont stores, but everywhere. 

Vermont’s win was a win for all of us—because all of us rolled up our sleeves and pitched in. We followed every move Vermont activists made. Every roadblock Monsanto threw up.

We are so close. But our opponents in Congress have vowed to preempt Vermont’s law, permanently, if they can.

The next 30 days are critical. 

We didn’t come this far without you. We won’t get over the finish line without your help.

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our GMO labeling legislative efforts)

Support OCA’s Regeneration International Project (tax-deductible, helps support our work on organic regenerative agriculture and climate change)

Baby chick walking in the sun

Playing Chicken

You probably don’t eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken. And you may not recognize the Sanderson Farms brand of chicken, unless you live in certain regions of the country, especially the Northeast and Southeast. 

But whether or not you buy chicken from either of these two companies, they both pose a threat to your health. Because both companies refuse to stop using chickens pumped full of antibiotics—which makes them both contributors to the rising problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control revealing, 23,000 people in the U.S. alone die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Another two million get sick from antibiotic-resistant infections.

A 2015 report commissioned by the UK government estimates that by 2050, the annual global death toll from antibiotic resistant disease will reach 10 million, and the global cost for treatment will be around $100 trillion.

And just last week, the Washington Post reported that “for the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could mean ‘the end of the road for antibiotics.”

It’s a widely reported fact that one of the primary reasons antibiotics that once helped save lives are now ineffective is the over-use of antibiotics by factory farms. And KFC, one of the world’s largest fast-food chicken restaurants, and Sanderson Farms, one the third largest poultry producers in the U.S., are partly to blame.

It’s time for these two industry leaders to stop playing chicken with antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

TAKE ACTION: Tell KFC: ‘Just Say No’ to antibiotics in chicken! 

Please also fill out KFC’s customer feedback form 

Call KFC at 1-800-225-5532

Post on KFC’s Facebook page 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Sanderson Farms to end the reckless use of antibiotics in its poultry factory farms!

Please also fill out Sanderson’s customer feedback form 

Call Sanderson Farms at 1-800-844-4030

Post on Sanderson Farms Facebook page  

Illustration of human bones

Selling Fear

If you’re worried about thinning bones, or bone fractures, you probably have Big Food and Big Pharma to thank for keeping you up at night.

For decades, these two industries have used scare tactics to convince the general population that they’re bones are at risk—and that they, and they alone, have the answers to your thinning bone problems.
But the healthy bone “solutions” peddled by Big Food and Big Pharma have in most cases proven healthier for corporate profits, than for consumers’ bones. And some of those “solutions” have actually contributed to thinning bones.

Writing for OCA, Martha Rosenberg explains that 20 years ago, the dairy industry announced a fictitious “calcium crisis” caused by too many young people drinking beverages other than milk. And how the industry’s “Milk: It Does a Body Good” campaign was founded on lies. (Not that we recommend kids drink soda instead of milk—that’s a whole other story).

Rosenberg also outlines Big Pharma’s hugely profitable 40-year scam that used famous women, like model Lauren Hutton, Meredith Vieira from the Today show, former Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd and actress Sally Field, to peddle bone drugs—drugs later proven not only ineffective, but dangerous.

Read the article 

Chickens inside an egg

Happy Chickens, Nutritious Eggs

There are lots of reasons you buy organic eggs. You want to support organic farmers. You assume the birds are treated better than those in factory farms. You figure there’s less impact on the environment.

And if you also believe organic eggs are probably better for your health, you’re right—assuming the eggs come from hens raised organically, on pastures. 

According to the USDA-funded National Center for Appropriate Technology’s report, “Pastured Poultry Nutrition and Forages,” eggs from grass-fed flocks “tend to have less cholesterol, more vitamins A and E, multiplied Omega-3 content, and a healthier ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s,” while “the results of poultry meat production on pasture are similar.”

But did you know that most of the “organic” eggs and poultry produced in the U.S. come from large-scale factory farms, where the birds are cooped up indoors? From “organic” egg and poultry operations that don’t even follow the minimum standards set by the National Organic Program (NOP), much less let their chickens roam, and feed, outdoors?

The Cornucopia Institute spent a year researching the organic egg business to produce a scorecard that rates 136 different name brand and private-label eggs. Only 22 of the 136 are “truly pastured.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) is trying to fix this problem, by cracking down on the organic industry’s rotten eggs. But unfortunately, the NOP is proposing that “outdoors” can be as little as two square feet per bird of bare dirt and concrete.

Thanks to the nearly 20,000 of you who asked Congress to let the NOP proceed with its plan to crack down on the big “organic” egg and poultry operations, we’ve dodged a bullet—members of the Ag Appropriations Committee were unable to push through an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal 2017 which would have killed the NOP proposal before the USDA even got the chance to even review the comments by the June 13 deadline.

Now, we just need the NOP to get real by making—and enforcing—a rule that actually requires birds to be raised on real pastures.

TAKE ACTION: DEADLINE midnight June 13: Tell the NOP, bare dirt and concrete aren’t organic! 

Text ‘chick’ to 97779 to sign the petition

Man with blue question marks

Six Questions

Monsanto may not be the largest company in the world. Or the worst. But the St. Louis, Mo. biotech giant has become the poster child for all that’s wrong with our industrial food and farming system.

With 21,000 employees in 66 countries and $15 billion in revenue, Monsanto is a biotech industry heavyweight. The St. Louis, Mo.-based monopolizer of seeds is the poster child for an industry that is the source of at least one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and is largely responsible for the depletion of soil, water and biodiversity. Not to mention the company’s marginalization—and sometimes terrorization—of millions of small farmers. 

Since the early 20th century, Monsanto has marketed highly toxic products that have contaminated the environment and permanently sickened or killed thousands of people around the world. In a rare exception, Monsanto was recently ordered to pay $46.5 million to compensate victims of its PCB poisoning. Sometimes the company settles out of court, to avoid having to admit to any “wrongdoing.”

But for the most part, thanks to the multinational’s powerful influence over U.S. politicians, Monsanto has been able to poison with impunity.

It’s time for the citizens of the world to fight back. On October 15 and 16, in The Hague, Netherlands—the International City of Peace and Justice—a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from witnesses, represented by legitimate lawyers, who have been harmed by Monsanto.

In their preparation for the citizens’ tribunal, and during witness testimony, the judges will consider six questions that are relevant not just in relation to Monsanto, but to all companies involved in shaping the future of agriculture. 

Read the blog post

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Sign up your organization to endorse the Monsanto Tribunal 

Submit witness testimony claims (at)

Donate to support the Monsanto Tribunal 

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