Environment

Tell Congress: We Need Real Chemical Safety Standards. Oppose S.697!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-05-15 14:24
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchArea: USA

What do you get when you let the chemical industry write a “chemical safety” bill?
A bill that protects chemical companies, not consumers.

Almost 40 years after Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Americans are being exposed to tens of thousands of chemicals that have never been safety tested by the EPA. These chemicals, more than 80,000 of them, are in the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the homes we live in. 
 
It’s time for reform. But unfortunately, the bill before the U.S. Senate right now—S.697—falls far short of accomplishing real reform. 

That could have something to do with the fact that the chemical industry has spent $190 million lobbying for this bill. Democratic Sponsor Tom Udall’s (D-N.M.) campaign received $49,050 from the Chemical industry in the 2014 cycle, plus $23,500 from lobbyists employed by the American Chemistry Council. Republican sponsor David Vitter’s (R-La.) campaign received $20,600 in the 2014 cycle, and $14,300 from American Chemistry Council lobbyists.
 
Tell Congress: We Need Real Chemical Safety Standards. Oppose S.697! Read more

USDA Develops Government Certification Program that Creates Burden for Producers of Non-GMO Foods

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-05-14 17:17
All About Organics, Genetic Engineering, Millions Against MonsantoMay 14, 2015 canned-food-shelves-labels_420x280.jpg

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 14, 2015

Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090

USDA Develops Government Certification Program that Creates Burden for Producers of Non-GMO Foods

FINLAND, Minn—The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today responded to an Associated Press article reporting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a new government certification and labeling program for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

“This is yet another gift to the biotech industry,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “Instead of requiring the manufacturers of GMO foods to label their products, the USDA wants to penalize producers of non-GMO foods by making them pay for a label to prove their products are GMO-free. If we follow the biotech industry’s talking point that the cost of GMO labels would be passed on to consumers, are we now going to force consumers to pay more to avoid GMO food products—products whose safety has been called into question by hundreds of scientists and doctors? Instead of the other way around?”

Cummins continued, "We already have a good, third party independently verified non-GMO certification process in the USA, in place for over a decade. It's called 'USDA Organic' and it prohibits the use of GMOs. Furthermore, for foods in transition to USDA Organic, or foods that may have been inadvertently contaminated by GMOs, we have a lab verified and verifiable labels such as 'Non-GMO Project.'"

“Consumers, more than 90 percent of whom want mandatory GMO labeling laws, should be outraged that their tax dollars will be used to support a program that puts the burden of identifying non-GMO ingredients on food manufacturers whose products are GMO-free, while letting the manufacturers of GMO foods off the hook,” Cummins said.

From the AP:

The certification is the first of its kind and would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a "USDA Process Verified" label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

The new program mirrors the one proposed by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as part of HR 1599, the bill he is pushing on behalf of the Grocery Manufacturers Association which is intended to preempt states’ rights to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws.

“The industry’s so-far unsuccessful attempt to stop Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Act 120, from taking effect July 1, 2016, has the biotech industry-loving USDA in a panic,” said Cummins. “This unnecessary, and unfair program, will be used as a desperate ploy to convince lawmakers in those states with GMO labeling bills in play, that they do not need to pass these important consumer-protection laws.”

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

Tell Congress: Support the AWARE Act to End Animal Cruelty at the USDA

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-05-07 15:47
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchCategory: Farm Issues, Politics & GlobalizationTags: animal crueltyArea: USA

A January 20, 2015 New York Times investigative report uncovered a disturbing pattern of systematic animal cruelty, spanning decades at, the Nebraska-based U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.
 
The center, funded with $200 million in taxpayer money, is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report prompted legislators from both parties in Congress to introduce H.R. 746 (S. 388), the AWARE Act, intended to expand protections for farm animals at federal research facilities. Animals involved in scientific research enjoy basic protections under the Animal Welfare Act, but farm animals in agriculture research are exempt. The AWARE Act would close that exemption.
 
TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Support the AWARE Act to End Animal Cruelty at the USDA

 Read more

Report from the Spring NOSB Meeting: 'Organic Regulatory Theater'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-05-07 12:23
All About Organics, Farm IssuesPatrick KerriganOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 6, 2015 theater_mask_comedy_tragedy_750x500.png

Despite repeated calls by Board Chair Jean Richardson and other NOSB members for “organic unity,” the Spring 2105 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was a continuation of the confusion, conflict and undemocratic processes that marred the previous two NOSB meetings in Louisville and San Antonio.

Taking center stage this year at what Cornucopia Institute’s Mark Kastel referred to as “organic regulatory theater,” was the issue of whether or not to grant the NOSB Livestock Subcommittee’s request to increase the amount of synthetic methionine allowed in feed fed to broiler chickens certified as organic.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) submitted testimony against the Livestock Committee’s petition, along with more than 17,000 signatures on a petition calling on the NOSB to phase out the use of synthetic methionine and honor the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) requirement of year round legitimate outdoor access.

We lost (for now), thanks to a deciding—and decidedly theatrical—vote cast by a board member, via Skype, from his hospital bed. With his cohorts cheering him on.

The synthetic methionine drama will continue to unfold when NOSB members convene in Vermont, for their Fall meeting. That’s when the step-down levels of methionine, approved at the April 2010 meeting and implemented in October 2012 will sunset (or, be “retired”). The possibly good news between now and then is that the National Organic Program’s (NOP) new animal welfare standards, requiring at least two feet of space per bird, and 40 percent vegetative outdoor cover, are scheduled for release this summer.

This year’s opening scene

After a presentation by National Organic Coalition Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy, NOSB Board Chair and Consumer Representative Jean Richardson welcomed the full room on the first day of the meeting, calling on the groups assembled to “seek common ground.”

Richardson also called on the Cornucopia Institute to retract its letter demanding the replacement of the NOP’s leadership. Cornucopia’s demand was driven in part by the role NOP leadership played in the unlawful reversal, in 2013, of something called the Sunset provision. That action by NOP leadership also precipitated a lawsuit against the NOP, filed by Center for Food Safety, OCA and other allies.

The NOSB’s agenda for 2015 is ambitious—too ambitious, argued Cornucopia’s Kastel in his lead-off comments. The NOSB is scheduled to review this year more than 200 petitioned and sunsetting materials, in addition to considering broad policy issues such as GMO contamination of organic farms. It’s “a bit of a farce” to think that all of the substances will be adequately, much less thoroughly reviewed, Kastel said.

The main plot

Ambitious agenda aside, by far the most contentious issue at the April 2015 meeting centered around a petition by the NOSB’s Livestock Subcommittee asking for an increase--from  2.0 pounds per ton to 2.5 pounds per ton of feed—in the amount of synthetic methionine allowed in poultry feed fed to broiler chickens. The issue attracted by far the most number of public comments, with written commenters overwhelmingly (99.5 percent) opposed to allowing the increase.

A .5-pound increase in synthetic methionine may not seem significant. But it’s worth recalling that the substance was initially prohibited, and later allowed for inclusion on the National List in 2001, only after synthetic methionine was discovered in virtually all organic chicken feed. The NOSB approved it in 2001, but with a three-year phase out with the expectation that three years was long enough to develop alternatives. In October 2010, the Board rejected a request for an increase due to a lack of scientific evidence in support of the increase, and again in April 2011 rejected another petition requesting averaging.

But this year, Board members ignored that evidence. Board members also ignored the warnings of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the nation’s largest and oldest organic certifier in the country, on the issue of allowing organic poultry producers to “average” the amount of synthetic methionine fed to birds, over their life spans.

The idea behind averaging—which until now has been rejected by the NOSB—is that it would allow the industry to feed higher levels of synthetic methionine during certain key periods of the bird’s life, say, for instance, in the case of laying hens, during first weeks of life and during egg production periods.

CCOF called the “averaging” scheme too complicated, and said it would be nearly impossible to verify or enforce.

The subplot

OCA’s position on synthetic methionine has consistently been that the real issue is non-enforcement of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) requirement for year-round outdoor access—a requirement ignored by large organic factory farms which produce the vast majority of organic chickens in the U.S.  Instead of providing birds access to the outdoors and real pastures, organic factory farms confine their birds in warehouses, where they are deprived of a natural diet that provides at least some of the methionine required to keep the birds healthy.

Many groups submitted comments at the Spring NOSB meeting in support of OCA’s position. PCC Natural Market’s Trudy Bialic argued that the allowance of unnecessary texturizing synthetic additives, along with animal welfare standards that don’t meet consumers’ expectations, are leading to the erosion not only of organic livestock product sales, but are also having a negative impact on organic sales in other departments. Bialic also noted how frequently consumer concerns are belittled by NOSB members.

Excellent comments were presented in defense of previous NOSB actions that moved the industry toward the long-stated goal of phasing out synthetic methionine, including the 2010 NOSB meeting in which the stepdown of MET levels in feed rations were approved 12-2, and the averaging of feed levels over the life of the chicken was voted down 12-2.

In my role representing OCA, I pointed out that the European Union (EU) does not allow synthetic methionine in organic poultry diets. Instead, organic farmers raise traditional breeds of chickens that live longer and require lower amounts of methionine in their diets. The EU also requires more space per bird, fewer birds per house, and greater access to the outdoors.

At one point in the testimony, Calvin Walker, an NOSB Consumer advocate, was cut off by Livestock Subcommittee Chair Tracy Favre, while attempting to testify to the importance of NOSB respecting previous Board precedence, the original intent behind allowing synthetic methionine on the National List, the lack of new scientific evidence, lack of new independent information, lack of a consensus among stakeholders, and failure to address the issue of expiration date.

When it came time for representatives of the poultry industry to speak, it was clear that the industry is desperately clinging to the indefinite use of synthetic methionine (for the health of chickens, they say, though it’s well-known that synthetic methionine is also a growth promoter).

Let the real drama begin

Public comments closed late Tuesday evening. That’s when things got interesting. Word quickly spread that NOSB handler/processor representative Harold Austin of Zirkle Fruit Company had fallen after the meeting and broken his hip.  That raised the question: How would the Board manage the vote on synthetic methionine with Austin, rumored to be the key vote, in the hospital?

As it turned out, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Austin didn’t vote on any of the 20-plus voting issues on Wednesday, including matters on the Handling Subcommittee, of which he’s Chair.

Yet on Thursday he was able to vote, by Skype, on the synthetic methionine issue.

With great fanfare throughout the room, urged on by the passionate cheerleading of Board Chair Jean Richardson, Austin was Skyped into the meeting from his hospital bed, in the nick of time, between physical therapy sessions. His argument? We should feed more synthetic methionine “for the welfare of the chickens.”

Richardson made a point to announce that USDA Office of general Counsel had been contacted, and that it had been determined that it was legal for Austin to participate from a remote location.

NOSB farmer representative Colehour Bondera called a point of order on the legality of remote voting, citing the wording and page number of Robert’s Rules requiring Board members to be present for vote unless previously allowed in their bylaws. But the NOP ignored the rules, and allowed the testimony.

With the unlawful approval of Austin’s remote vote, the majority had the 10 votes needed to approve the petitioned increase of synthetic methionine using averaging.

In the end, the final outcome came as no surprise. Moments after allowing averaging of synthetic methionine feed over the life of the bird, on a 10-4 vote, followed by the approval of the requested 2.5 pounds per bird for broiler chickens, on a 10-4 vote, the Board shamelessly voted unanimously, in what was clearly just an empty resolution intended to appease those opposed, that synthetic methionine should be phased out!

The synthetic methionine drama will continue to unfold at the fall NOSB meeting in Vermont, when the methionine stepdown levels approved at the 2010 meeting are scheduled sunset.

Sampling of comments submitted by OCA petition signers

Here are a few of the many excellent comments submitted by organic consumers who signed the OCA petition asking the NOSB to phase out the use of synthetic methionine in chicken feed.

I want to be sure that organic labels mean truly organic, without synthetic methionine.  As a breast cancer survivor, my diet needs to be without growth-promoting supplements.  I urge you to please maintain truly organic standards.

My niece can't eat eggs from the store because they trigger her migraines.  Eggs that don't trigger her migraines are from chickens that are raised naturally.  Think about that.  Also, being humane to farm animals and letting them roam out on grass pastures is how they are meant to live.

Organic chicken means free range on pastures, natural growth rate and chemical free birds. STOP using chemicals to promote the chickens growth or LABEL correctly stating the use of chemicals so the product IS NOT ORGANIC!

Keep ALL synthetics out of organic, please.  We organic farmers do our best to be as organic (and truly natural) as possible.  Support us.

Just follow the organic standards please.

ORGANIC CHICKENS should NOT be housed INSIDE with synthetic diets....THAT IS NOT WHAT ORGANIC BUYERS EXPECT AND IS NOT RIGHT.  Next to Organic disclose that the chickens are kept indoors without access to pasture...and are fed synthetic diets.  NO ONE WOULD BUY YOUR ORGANIC chickens.

Find testimony from the NOSB meeting

Patrick Kerrigan is retail education coordinator for the Organic Consumers Association.

 

NOSB, organic chicken, synthetic methionine

Deadline May 8: Tell the USDA to Put Grass-Fed on MyPlate

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-05-06 21:33
Belong to campaign: Organic TransitionsCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesArea: USA

This year, the DGAC recommended that Americans eat less red meat—partly for health reasons, but also out of concerns about the environmental impact of raising beef.

We’re agree with the DGAC that it is important for USDA and HHS to factor sustainability issues into the new Dietary Guidelines. But we’re also concerned that they’ve left out a key factor in that equation—the difference between conventional beef production, which includes over-grazing of lands and “finishing” of cattle by feeding GMO grains in feedlots, and beef produced by farmers who raise cattle on grass, using rotational grazing methods that actually improve the environment.

TAKE ACTION BY FRIDAY MAY 8: Tell the USDA to Put Grass-Fed on MyPlate!Read more

OCA Applauds Ruling by Federal Judge in Favor of Vermont GMO Labeling Law, Moves Forward to Enact GMO Labeling in Maine

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-04-28 19:18
Genetic EngineeringApril 27, 2015 corn sunset

Photo Credit: Daan Heijnen via Compfight cc

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2015
    
CONTACT:
Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090

Augusta, Maine—The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) issued this statement today in response to yesterday’s ruling by a federal judge in Vermont clearing the way for the state’s GMO labeling law to take effect in July 2016:

“This landmark ruling not only paves the way for Vermont’s GMO labeling law to take effect on schedule, July 1, 2016, but more importantly it signals that the courts agree that states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

“This ruling also bodes well for GMO labeling bills that are moving through other state legislatures, including Maine, where a public hearing on Maine’s LD 991 is scheduled for April 30,” Cummins said.

LD 991 would remove the stipulation from the Maine’s existing GMO labeling law, passed in 2013, that requires four additional contiguous states to also pass similar laws, before Maine’s law can be enacted. Some Maine lawmakers have suggested that it’s too soon to remove that stipulation, and that the legislature should instead wait until a ruling on the constitutionality of Vermont’s law.

Yesterday, Judge Christina Reiss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, issued an 84-page ruling that denied the effort by the food industry, represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the International Dairy Foods Association, to block implementation of Vermont’s H.112. 

According to news reports, a lawyer with the Vermont state attorney general's office, said key aspects of Reiss’s ruling appear favorable to the state, in particular the argument that the lowest level of scrutiny applies to the law, requiring the state to only show that the genetic engineering label is “reasonably related” to the state’s interests.

“While Vermont’s legal battle is not yet over, this ruling represents a tremendous victory for not only the citizens of Vermont, but the entire GMO labeling movement,” Cummins said.

The OCA was a key player in GMO labeling initiatives in California (2012), Washington State (2013) and Oregon (2014), in addition to providing financial and staff resources for several years up until the passage of Vermont’s H.112.

Currently, the OCA is supporting LD 991 in Maine, as well as efforts to pass GMO labeling laws in other New England states, including Massachusetts.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

vermont, gmo labeling, GMO, lawsuit

World’s First Public Testing for Monsanto’s Glyphosate Begins Today

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-04-23 12:00
Food Safety, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationApril 21, 2015 Glyphosate Testing Feature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2015

Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090

World’s First Public Testing for Monsanto’s Glyphosate Begins Today

OCA Joins Feed The World Project to Offer Testing that Could Lead to a Ban on Roundup Herbicide

FINLAND, Minn.—The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today, in conjunction with the Feed The World Project, launched the world’s first glyphosate testing for the general public. The project, with specific focus on women and children in the U.S., is offering the first-ever validated public LC/MS/MS glyphosate testing for urine, water and soon breast milk.

“For decades now, the public has been exposed, unknowingly and against their will, to glyphosate, despite mounting evidence that this key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is harmful to human health and the environment,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “Monsanto has been given a free pass to expose the public to this dangerous chemical, because individuals, until now, been unable to go to their doctor’s office or local water testing company to find out if the chemical has accumulated in their bodies, or is present in their drinking water.

“The testing OCA, Feed The World and many other organizations will begin offering today will allow everyone who wants to know whether or not, and to what extent, they personally have been exposed to glyphosate. We expect that once the public learns how widespread the exposure has been, and how it has personally invaded their bodies and homes—in the context of the recent report from the World Health Organization that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen—public pressure will eventually force governments worldwide to finally ban Roundup.”

The OCA and Feed The World hope the testing will convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban glyphosate, which is currently up for review in 2015. The goal of the testing is to inform the public and promote a worldwide ban of glyphosate.

According to a recent New York Times report, the EPA first declared glyphosate a human carcinogen in 1985, but later, under pressure from the biotech agency, reversed that decision.

Late last year, a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative said that the USDA does not test food for glyphosate residues because it is “too expensive.”

A growing number of scientists are risking attack by the biotech industry by releasing studies that link glyphosate to cancer, kidney and liver failure, birth defects, infertility, increased risk of allergies and digestive orders, among other chronic illnesses.

“We hope that at the very least, states—and eventually the federal government—will require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, 84 percent of which are grown with glyphosate and likely contain glyphosate residues,” Cummins said. “But ultimately, this dangerous chemical must be banned.”

In 2013, El Salvador banned glyphosate after the chemical was linked to the deaths of thousands of agricultural workers, from chronic kidney disease.

For information on how to order testing, click here.

Sources:

Feed The World Press Release

Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate, World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer

The Case for Banning Monsanto's Roundup, Dr. Jeffrey Ritterman

Weed Killer, Long Cleared, Is Doubted, New York Times

USDA Report Says Pesticide Residues in Food Nothing to Fear, Reuters

El Salvador Government Bans Roundup over Deadly Kidney Disease

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

 

glyphosate testing, roundup

Mother Earth Day 2015: Regenerating the Soil and Reversing Global Warming

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-04-22 16:00
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationApril 20, 2015 Luz harvesting

“The elimination of fossil fuels for all but the most limited and essential purposes is necessary but not sufficient to allow our descendants a fair chance for a healthy and prosperous future. Enhancing carbon biosequestration in terrestrial ecosystems is also essential.”  Wayne A. White, Biosequestration and Ecological Diversity p.118 (CRC Press 2013)

The standard gloom and doom discourse surrounding global warming and climate change has infected the body politic with a severe case of depression and disempowerment. So starting today April 22, embracing what the United Nations has designated as the “Year of the Soil,” let’s look at our planetary crisis from an entirely different, and more hopeful perspective.

The good news is that the global grassroots, farmers and consumers united, can reverse our suicidal “business as usual” food, farming, energy, and land use practices. Harnessing the awesome power of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and reforestation, we can literally suck down enough excess (50-100 ppm of CO2) heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and naturally sequester it in our plants, trees and soils.  Regenerative Agriculture and Earth Repair practices can not only mitigate, but also, in combination with drastic reductions (80-90 percent) of fossil fuel emissions in our food and farming, transportation, housing, utilities, and industrial sectors, actually reverse global warming.

Regenerative Agriculture and Forestry

If you’ve never heard about the amazing potential of regenerative agriculture and land use practices to naturally sequester a critical mass of CO2 in the soil and forests, you’re not alone. One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks. Changing our food and farming systems, along with changing our “business as usual” political system and energy policies, is the key to our survival and well-being.

Transforming and regenerating our planet’s 28 billion acres of cropland, grassland and forests, as well as urban areas of the planet, is the challenge—not only for Mother Earth Day 2015, but for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Global Organic Regeneration and Earth Repair is the key to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our current unsustainable food, farming and deforestation practices (which now produce the majority of greenhouse gas emissions).

Regenerative Earth Repair is the absolute prerequisite for ramping up plant and forest photosynthesis and sequestering in the soil several hundred billion tons of excess atmospheric CO2 over the next two decades.

A global campaign of Earth Repair and Regeneration can buy us the precious time we need to move away from fossil fuels to a global economy based upon renewable energy. Global Regeneration will dramatically improve soil fertility, crop yields, soil water retention, crop resilience, and food quality, thereby helping to mitigate and reverse global poverty, malnutrition and deteriorating public health.

Before we look how we can sequester up to 200 percent of current human greenhouse gas emissions through regenerating the planet’s croplands (four billion acres), pastures and rangelands (14 billion acres), and forests (10 billion acres), let’s look at what Michael Pollan, the U.S.’s most influential writer on food and farming, has to say about plant photosynthesis, regenerative grazing, and carbon sequestration:

Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed… that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us...

This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil,in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

A recent article in the Guardian summarizes Regenerative Agriculture:

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff.

With these basic concepts of photosynthesis and Regenerative Agriculture in mind, what do we need to do?

(1) Regenerate croplands, eliminate GMOs, pesticides, monocultures, chemical fertilizers, and tillage. If we can mobilize the global grassroots to promote and adopt regenerative organic agricultural practices (“organic and beyond”) on the Earth’s four billion acres of cultivated farmland, we can drastically reduce our use of fossil fuel inputs and slash greenhouse gas emissions; produce healthier, climate-resistant crops and nutrient-dense food; and meanwhile sequester large amounts of carbon in our degraded, de-carbonized soils. Our agricultural soils have lost 25-75 percent of the soil carbon they once had before the onslaught of unsustainable agricultural practices.

As the must-read 2014 Rodale Institute White Paper explains:

In practical terms, regenerative organic agriculture is foremost an organic system refraining from the use of synthetic pesticides and inputs, which disrupt soil life, and fossil-fuel dependent nitrogen fertilizer, which is responsible for the majority of anthropogenic N2O emissions. It is a system designed to build soil health.

Regenerative organic agriculture is comprised of organic practices including (at a minimum): cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation. Conservation tillage, while not yet widely used in organic systems, is a regenerative organic practice integral to soil-carbon sequestration.

As the Rodale research indicates, and is echoed by numerous other field trials across the globe, Regenerative Organic practices on cultivated farmlands across the world can, over the next few decades sequester 40 percent of current human greenhouse gas emissions.

(2) Regenerate grasslands and pasture lands, eliminate factory farms. Even more encouraging, as Rodale and others, including Quivira Coalition and the Savory Institute, point out, by adopting regenerative grazing practices on the earth’s seriously degraded 14 billion acres of pastureland and grassland (there is 3.5 times as much pasture land and rangeland on the Earth as there is cultivated farmland), we can eventually sequester an additional 71 percent of all current greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words by eliminating inhumane, unhealthy and heavily polluting factory farms or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), which now produce 2/3 of all global meat and animal products, and by putting billions of the Earth’s 70 billion farm animals back on the land, we can regenerate, through planned rotational “mob” grazing, and the production of grass fed beef and dairy, and pasture-based pork and poultry, the 14 billion acres of rangeland and pastureland that are our most strategic “sink” or depository for excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

Last year Dr. Richard Teague of Texas A&M explained the principles of planned rotational (“mob”) grazing to a House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources (June 25, 2014):

The key to sustaining and regenerating ecosystem function in rangelands is actively managing for reduction of bare ground, promoting the most beneficial and productive plants by grazing moderately over the whole landscape, and providing adequate recovery to grazed plants…

Regenerative grazing and pasturing on a global scale will require the dismantling of the entire factory farm system, freeing billions of farm animals from their animal prisons or CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and putting them back out onto the land to graze and forage where they belong. Once CAFO and GMO crop subsidies are reduced and removed, and once the pent-up market demand for healthier, more humanely produced meat, dairy and eggs can be harnessed, the factory farm/GMO industrial food and farming system will begin to collapse.

With billions of animals released from intensive confinement (including freeing herbivores from unnatural, unhealthy GMO grain diets), marketplace pressure will encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt herd management strategies that replicate natural or wild herd habits. This involves herbivores rotationally grazing only the top grasses of small pastures, for short periods of time, defecating and urinating and forcing the stubble into the topsoil. After the grasses recover, then the herd or flocks are returned for a few days to harvest the most nutritious grasses again. With omnivores (pigs and chickens), free range or pasturing practices will similarly restore animal and soil health as well.

The current factory farm system takes the naturally grazing cattle off pasture to enormous feedlots to fatten them up with corn, soybeans, cotton seed cake, cotton gin trash, sludge-fertilized hay, and waste industrial products. Cows, sheep, and other herbivores are not grain, GMO, or garbage eaters by choice. Their preferred foods are mixed grasses.

Regenerative grazing is not something new, but rather a rediscovery of the beneficial animal welfare and environmental practices that were “normal” (buffalo and elk on the grasslands of the US, wildebeest herds in Africa, communal grazing practices worldwide) before the advent of industrial farming and CAFOs.

One very important benefit of grass-fed beef, sheep, goats and dairy, and pastured poultry and pigs—a benefit which is already starting to drive consumers away from factory farmed foods—is that grass-fed or pastured animal products are qualitatively healthier than CAFO products, higher in Omega 3 and “good” fats, and lower in animal drug residues and harmful fats that clog arteries, destroy gut health and cause cancer.

(3) Regenerate forests and wetlands, end deforestation. By halting unsustainable land use and deforestation of the planet’s remaining 10 billion acres of forest (deforestation is now responsible for a full 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions), by re-planting species-appropriate trees on five billion deforested rural and urban acres, by incorporating sustainable forest management practices on existing forests, and by integrating agro-forestry practices on existing farms and ranches (and restoring wetlands), we can drastically reduce carbon emissions while sequestering billions of tons of excess carbon in our forest lands and in reforested rural and urban environments.

As permaculture author Michal Pilarski explains in his “Carbon Sequestration Proposal for the World,” we can reverse global warming by:

I.    Reforestation/Afforestation of 5 billion acres worldwide = 150 billion tons of carbon sequestration.

II.    Earth repair and improved ecosystem management of existing forests and all other terrestrial ecosystems = 100 billion tons of carbon sequestration.

Earth repair and reforestation of our cities, forests, marshes, savannas, grasslands, steppes, and deserts could eventually add up to a total of 250 billion tons of carbon sequestered. This translates into removing over 100 ppm of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and putting it into the soil and forests. This level of carbon sequestration would bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to where they were in the early 1800s, if carried out in combination with slashing human-caused carbon emissions.

According to biosequestration expert, Wayne White, if we could just stop all tropical deforestation, and maintain the health of our forests, the increased photosynthesis of this massive forest growth would sequester a full 69 percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions. (Biosequestration and Ecological Diversity p. 93)

Too many forests have been degraded, or clear-cut, or over-grazed and even over-fertilized with nitrogen. Too much land has been developed, exploited, and then abandoned. The solutions to our forest crisis are similar to organic farming solutions. We need to practice sustainable forestry management strategies that restore the mycorrhizal and other forest fungi, and replant clear-cut areas with high-density, species-appropriate plantings. We need to manage this reforestation, including thinning and pest control. We need to avoid the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers because they damage fungi and other microorganisms, which are the foundations of a successful reforestation program. With reforestation and restoration of the forest floor microorganisms, our forests will be able to sequester billions of tons of carbon.

Critics of the Earth Repair strategy

A number of critics of our Earth Repair strategy have told me and other regeneration activists that we should not talk about natural sequestration of CO2 in the soil, nor the enormous Regenerative potential of organic food, farming,and forestry, because this “positive talk” will distract people from the main task at hand, drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions and taking down King Coal and Big Oil.

Of course we need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, extractivism and overconsumption into conservation, sustainable living and renewable energy. We must all become climate hawks and radical conservationists. But we must also become advocates of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Forest/Land Use.

Unite the Food, Forest, and Climate Movements

The large and growing anti-GMO, organic food, and natural health movement in the U.S., for example, of which I am a part, must begin to think of ourselves as climate and food activists, not just advocates for natural health, small farmers/ranchers, animals and food justice. Given that the GMO, factory farm and industrial food and farming system seen as a whole (production, chemical crop inputs, processing, transportation, waste, emissions, deforestation, biofuel/ethanol production) is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even the transportation, utilities, housing and industry sectors, climate activists need to start thinking of ourselves as food activists as well.

There will be no organic food, nor food whatsoever, on a burnt planet. Nor will there ever be a 90-percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution without a transformation of our food and farming and land use practices, both in North America and globally.

We must begin to connect the dots between fossil fuels, global warming and related issues, including world hunger, poverty, unemployment, toxic food and farming, extractivism, land grabbing, biodiversity, ocean destruction, deforestation, resource wars, and deteriorating public health. As we regenerate the soil and forests, and make organic and grass-fed food and fiber the norm, rather than just the alternative, we will simultaneously develop our collective capacity to address all of the globe’s interrelated problems.

Breaking through the silos of single-issue campaigning and limited constituency organizing (“my issue is more important than your issue”), we will be able to expand our global grassroots Movement to include everyone who cares about climate, health, justice, jobs, sustainability, peace and democracy.

Some pessimists argue that the Global South (China, India, Africa, Asia, Latin America), where most of the world’s population lives, is too preoccupied with moving beyond poverty and creating jobs, to put a priority on reversing global warming, reducing emissions, and natural sequestration.

But the extraordinary thing about de-industrializing food and farming, restoring grasslands and reversing deforestation—moving several hundred billion tons of carbon back from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests—is that this Organic Regeneration will not only reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, but will also stimulate hundreds of millions of rural (and urban) jobs, while qualitatively increasing soil fertility, water retention, farm yields and food quality.

Earth Repair holds the potential not only to restore forests and grasslands, recharge aquifers, restore and normalize rainfall, but also to address and eliminate rural malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and hunger. Regenerative agriculture and land use—which will require both enormous political struggle and unprecedented marketplace pressure—will lead to healthy soils, healthy forests, healthy climate, healthy food, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy societies.

As 350.org and other climate campaigners point out, we’ve got to force the fossil fuel corporados and Wall Street banksters to leave 2/3 or more of the remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground. We can basically burn 825 billion tons more of fossil fuels out of the 2.785 trillion remaining, but no more, according to scientific consensus, before we reach the point of no return, whereby climate change morphs into climate catastrophe.

To stay within our carbon budget, we’ve got to stop the fracking, the tar sands, the pipelines, the bomb trains, King Coal, and nuclear madness.

But we’ve got to do more than just protest, resist and divest. We must shut down King Coal and Big Oil’s greenhouse gas pollution, yes; but we must also suck down and naturally sequester over the next 20 years, several hundred billion tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases through the qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, ranching and land use.  

We must make peace with the living Earth and restore our biotic community.

According to scientific consensus, soon to be formally ratified by the nations of the world at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, fossil fuel emissions—now spewing out 8.5 billion tons of carbon annually (i.e. 32.3 billion tons of CO2 in 2013 and again in 2014) into the atmosphere and the oceans—must peak and go to zero by 2050. Unfortunately, even if every country moves to zero emissions by 2050, we will still find ourselves way past the danger zone at 480 ppm or higher of CO2.  Only a mass global campaign of Regenerative Agriculture and land use, combined with dismantling the Fossil Fuel Empire, will suffice.

So who will actually carry out this global campaign of Earth Repair and Organic Regeneration? Of course we must continue, and, in fact vastly increase, our pressure on governments and corporations to change public policies and marketplace practices. But in order to overturn “business as usual” we’re going to have to inspire and mobilize a vastly larger climate change coalition than the one we have now. Food climate and economic justice advocates must unite our forces so we can educate and mobilize a massive grassroots army of Earth Regenerators: three billion small farmers and rural villagers, ranchers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, urban agriculturalists, and indigenous communities—aided and abetted by several billion conscious consumers and urban activists.

We don’t have the time or space here for a full Earth Repair strategy, but here are five things we can start to do immediately on this Mother Earth Day 2015:

(1)    Educate yourself, your friends, and your family on the basic principles of Earth Repair      and Regenerative Organic Agriculture. Here’s an annotated bibliography to help you get started.

(2)    Join an activist organization dealing with food and farming, forest preservation or climate. If you’re already an activist, get your group to connect the dots between fossil fuel emissions reduction and natural carbon sequestration.

(3)    Boycott all GMO, chemical-intensive and CAFO foods. Purchase organic and 100-percent grass-fed or pastured products. Push the organic community top go beyond the minimum standards of “USDA Organic” to food and farming practices that are climate-friendly, re-localized and regenerative, as well as organic.

(4)    Support the organizations that are educating and agitating for regenerative agriculture and land use. These groups include:

Organic Consumers Organization, The Carbon Underground, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), Navdanya,  Institute  for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Rodale Institute, Quivira Coalition, The Savory Institute, and others.

(5)    Change the climate conversation from gloom and doom to one of positive solutions. We’ve got 20 years left to turn things around, but we need to start our Regeneration International campaign now, Mother Earth Day 2015.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico sister organization, Via Organica.

 

 

regenerative agriculture, climate change

GMO Awareness Campaign Continues

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-04-21 18:02
Food Safety, Genetic Engineering, OCA in the NewsDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comApril 18, 2015http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/04/19/gmo-awareness-campaign-continues.aspx org_v_gmo_tomato.png

Ronnie Cummins, founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), is a long-time leader in promoting labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods. About four years ago, we joined forces to develop the Health Liberty alliance, with the aim to push this agenda forward.

Many may know of my involvement with GMO labelling but not realize that it was Ronnie who suggested we make use of state ballot initiatives—an option that was not widely known or utilized—to get genetically modified organisms (GMOs) labeled in the US.

I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost" the vote, not only in California, but also in subsequent ballot initiatives in Washington (2013) and Oregon (2014).

But we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness among people who didn't even realize there were genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food.

With each ballot initiative we also got closer and closer to winning. We lost by a mere 800 votes or so in Oregon last year. In the final analysis, the only reason we lost was because industry spent well over 100 million dollars against those initiatives, and succeeded in confusing enough voters to where they narrowly won.

90 Percent of Americans Now Want GMO Labeling

Through the publicity generated from those ballot initiatives, millions of Americans were alerted to the fact that there's something in their food they don't know anything about, and according to the latest poll, over 90 percent of the public definitely do want to know what's in their food.

"The problem is that the federal government, and certainly corporate agribusiness and Big Food companies, still don't want us to know, because they know that once we are informed about what's in our food, they're going to have to change," Ronnie says.

"Lately, big food companies like McDonalds have backed down saying, 'I guess we won't use genetically engineered potatoes after all for our French fries.' We've seen Tyson say, 'Well, I guess we will get these antibiotics out.'

I think we're right on the cusp of a new era where consumers are starting to understand that we have a right to know what's in our food. We better know what's in our food! We better pay attention to that because it's impacting our health in a very serious way.

Right now we have an epidemic of chronic disease across the country. It's getting worse and worse and it's directly related to toxins in the environment, our food, and our water."

We May Be Losing Battles, But We're Winning the War

Ever since GE foods and crops came on the market a little over two decades ago, GE crops have spread all over the country, and GE soybeans, corn, cottonseed oil, canola, and sugar beets are now in most of the non-organic processed foods you find in supermarkets or grocery stores.

This despite the fact that, from the very beginning, there were suspicions they might not be safe. Today, such misgivings have grown even stronger, as the pesticides used on them have been found to be far more hazardous than previously thought.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently reclassified glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—as a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A).

Recent research has also found that Roundup (the actual formulation of Roundup, not just glyphosate in isolation) alters disease-causing bacteria's response to commonly used antibiotics, including tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, thereby raising resistance to drugs used in medicine.

"But we could never get the government to pay attention, because the government is obviously more interested in what the chemical industry and the big agricultural companies have to say than what their constituents have to say," Ronnie notes.

"Four years ago, we decided to utilize this hundred-year-old tactic, the state ballot initiative process, to go around the federal government. Basically, put it to a vote of the citizens...

Because we knew... that once these genetically engineered foods and food ingredients are labeled, consumers don't want to buy them, grocery stores won't sell them, restaurants won't serve them, and farmers won't grow them. If we can't get the government to act, we'll have to act as our own government.

This battle for the right to know and the right to choose is not just about genetic engineering; it's about our entire food supply and really our entire environment.

Things like bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic bottles and flame retardants in furniture, these are all part of the same sad situation, which is that corporations with the connivance of federal regulators and politicians have cut corners with safety and with environmental sustainability in order to make more money.

It's our job as consumers to stand up for our rights. If the federal government has become completely beholden to the special interest, we're going to have to use whatever tool we can.

Whether it's a local county ban on a practice like a factory farm or growing genetically engineered crops, or whether it's a state law as Vermont passed last May 2014 to require labeling of genetically engineered foods."

To help you avoid GE foods and the pesticides their sprayed with, I've partnered with Naturally Savvy to create a fantastic Non-GMO Challenge that can help you identify GMOs on a product label and remove them from your diet.

Video of kIQM0NnYqzU

Ready for GMO Labels, Hillary?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-04-16 14:40
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: All About Organics, Genetic Engineering, Millions Against MonsantoArea: USA

It’s official. Hillary Clinton is running for president. 
 
She’s also an official supporter of Monsanto and GMO crops—unless we convince her to listen to the more than 90 percent of Americans (and voters) who have made it clear we want labels on foods containing GMOs.
 
We already know from her speech to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in San Diego in June 2014, that Hillary supports genetic engineering. But she's so far managed to dodge the question of whether or not she supports state GMO labeling laws  or the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, a bill recently reintroduced in Congress, that would preempt state GMO labeling laws. Or whether she supports the Boxer-DeFazio bill for mandatory labeling of GMOs.
 
Love her or hate her, you know that Hillary stands a good chance of being the next president of the United States. 
 
It’s time to think big. It’s time to make this a campaign issue. It’s time to demand that Hillary tell us where she stands on GMO labeling. 
 
It’s time to tell Hillary where you stand.Read more

Don’t Let Congress ‘Fast-Track’ Dangerous Trade Deals

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-04-15 06:46
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Fair Trade & Social Justice, Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationTags: Democracytrade agreementsTPPArea: USA

Corporations like Monsanto are pressing the President and Congress to fast-track international trade deals—deals that would allow corporations to sue entire countries in order to get what they want.

If these deals are rammed through Congress, without scrutiny or debate, countries could lose their right to, among other things, regulate factory farms and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Tell Congress: Don’t ‘fast-track’ undemocratic international trade deals! Then, follow-up with a phone call and tell your lawmakers that you oppose fast-track. Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.Read more

Boycott Egg-Land's Best & Land O' Lakes Eggs

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-04-09 13:00
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsTags: organic farmingorganic factory farmsArea: USA

Buying organic eggs is a good way to fight factory farming—but only if you buy eggs from organic farms that raise their hens on pasture.
 
Unfortunately, there are a lot of so-called “organic” eggs on grocery shelves that come from farms that operate more like factories, than farms—despite the pretty pictures on their labels.
 
Which national organic brands are the worst offenders? Egg-Land’s Best® and Land O’ Lakes® brands, along with many organic private-label store brands, according to a recent Cornucopia Institute investigation of the organic egg industry.
 
Based on animal welfare issues, and the fact that these brands come from farms that feed their chickens synthetic methionine, we’re calling on all consumers to boycott Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’Lakes organic eggs. We also advise consumers to steer clear of store brand organic eggs.
 
Find out how to avoid these brands, and learn more about the big organic producers that own the brands—their crimes against animals, and their dismal track records when it comes to following the USDA’s National Organic Program’s rules for organic egg production.

 

Buying organic eggs is a good way to fight factory farming--but only if you buy eggs from organic farms that raise their hens on pasture.

In a recent investigation of the organic egg industry, the Cornucopia Institute used aerial photography to document the troubling fact that the biggest companies producing organic eggs don’t even give their hens access to the outdoors (a requirement of the federal organic regulations), let alone pasture. 

Instead, these corporate agribusinesses confine their egg-laying hens by the tens, or even hundreds of thousands, in huge warehouses. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’Lakes you’re boycotting their “organic” eggs until they stop producing them on factory farms. - See more at: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16199#sthash.8TV1ZXwe.dpufRead more

Ask Your Congress Member to Support the Boxer-DeFazio Mandatory GMO Labeling Bill

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-04-02 21:59
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) have reintroduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, a federal bill that would require mandatory labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We need to make certain every member of the U.S. House and Senate knows that that the only federal solution to the GMO labeling debate, is a solution that requires mandatory not voluntary, labeling of GMOs.

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Congress Member to Support the Boxer-DeFazio Mandatory GMO Labeling BillRead more

Factory Farm Meat: Why Vegetarians, Ranchers and Conscious Omnivores Need to Unite

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-04-01 14:36
Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 31, 2015 calf.jpg

Photo: pixabay

For the first time since the advent of industrial agriculture, the federal government is considering advising Americans to eat “less red and processed meat.”

That advice is the outcome of studies conducted by an independent panel of “experts” which was asked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for recommended changes to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The February 19 “eat less red and processed meat” pronouncement by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was reported widely in mainstream media. It set off a heated debate about whether or not consumers should eat meat, a debate that included the standard name-calling by factory farm front groups, including the Farm Bureau, denouncing consumers and environmentalists (and their alleged pawns on the DGAC) for being “anti-meat” and “anti-farmer.”

Unfortunately in its recommendations, the DGAC didn’t really come out and tell us the whole truth, which would go something like this: “Americans should eat less, or rather no red and processed meat from filthy, inhumane factory farms or feedlots, where the animals are cruelly crammed together and routinely fed a diet of herbicide-drenched, genetically engineered grains, supplemented by a witch’s brew of antibiotics, artificial hormones, steroids, blood, manure and slaughterhouse waste, contributing to a deadly public health epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption and food allergies.”

If the DGAC had really told us the truth about America’s red meat horror show (95 percent of our red meat comes from these Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs), we’d be having a conversation about how we can get rid of factory farms, instead of a rather abstract debate on the ethics of eating meat.

With a real debate we could conceivably start to change the self-destructive purchasing and eating habits (the average American carnivore consumes nine ounces or more of toxic CAFO meat and animal products daily) of most Americans. Instead we are having a slightly more high-volume replay of the same old debate, whereby vegetarians and vegans, constituting approximately 5 percent of the population, tell the other 95 percent, who are omnivores, to stop eating meat. Nothing much ever comes of that particular debate, which leaves thousands of hard-working, conscientious ranchers, and millions of health-, environment- and humane-minded omnivores, out of the conversation.

I say thousands of “hard-working, conscientious,” ranchers are being left out of the conversation because I know lots of them.

North American cattle ranchers, for the most part, have no love for Cargill, Tyson, Monsanto, JBS, Smithfield, Elanco (animal drugs) or McDonald’s. Most of these ranchers practice traditional animal husbandry, conscientiously taking care of their animals from birth. They graze their cattle free-range on grass, as nature intended, before they’re forced to sell these heretofore-healthy animals at rock-bottom prices to the monopolistic meat cartel.

Before these hapless creatures are dragged away to hell, to be fattened up on GMO grains and drugged up in America’s CAFOs, their meat is high in beneficial Omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acids (LA), and low in “bad” fats.

Unfortunately by the time their abused and contaminated carcasses arrive, all neatly packaged, at your local supermarket, restaurant or school cafeteria, the meat is low in Omega 3 and good “fats,” and routinely tainted by harmful bacteria, not to mention pesticide, steroid and antibiotic residues. What was once a healthy food has now become a literal poison that clogs up your veins, makes you fat, and heightens your risk of heart attack or cancer.

I mention millions of “health-, environment-, and humane-minded” consumers being left out of the “meat versus no meat” conversation because, as director of the two million-strong, Organic Consumers Association, I talk and exchange emails with conscious consumers every day.

No organic consumer, vegetarian or omnivore I’ve ever encountered consciously supports the cruelty of intensive confinement for farm animals. Nor do they support feeding herbivores genetically engineered, herbicide-drenched grains, mixed with slaughterhouse waste. No one supports dosing factory farmed animals with antibiotics and hormones that then end up in your kid’s hamburger at school (unless it’s organic or 100-percent grass-fed.)

No one in their right mind, or at least no one who has ever experienced a factory farm first-hand or even read a book or watched a video about what’s going on, supports CAFOs. That’s why corporate agribusiness is working overtime to pass state “Ag Gag” laws making it a crime to take photos of CAFOs. That’s why the beef cartel and Big Food spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep you in the dark about CAFOs, about whether or not your food contains genetically engineered ingredients, and about the country-of-origin of your food.

If CAFO meat and animal products had to be labeled (a proposition I support wholeheartedly), the entire factory farm industry would collapse. If CAFO meat had to be labeled, not only in grocery stores but also in restaurants,

McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and the rest would immediately be on the phone, contacting ranchers directly to buy their grass-fed, healthy, free- range beef.

Before we go any further, let’s identify the real culprits in this CAFO horror show.

Four multi-billion dollar transnational companies—Tyson JBS, Cargill and Smithfield—produce about 85 percent of the factory farm meat in the U.S., making it difficult for ranchers to sell their livestock to anyone but the Big Four. And of course these same Big Four companies, along with their front groups such as the North American Meat Institute, are lobbying the government to ditch the 2015 dietary guidelines to “eat less red and processed meat” recommendation because they understand what that recommendation will do to their bottom lines.

But what the Big Four fear even more is the thought of consumers waking up to the horrors of factory farms, and the filthy, contaminated meat that comes out of these animal prisons.

Fortunately, demand for healthier, sustainably raised grass-fed beef is growing rapidly. Here in Minneapolis-St. Paul where I spend a good part of the year, there are now over 100 restaurants that offer grass-fed beef on their menus. Local co-ops and natural food grocery stores are barely able to keep up with the increasing consumer demand.

But unfortunately 95 percent of beef today still comes from factory farms and feedlots. Meanwhile most of the 100-percent grass-fed meat sold at restaurants such as Chipotle or Carl’s Jr. (a popular chain on the West Coast) is imported from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and Argentina, rather than produced here in the US. Why? It’s not because consumers don’t want healthier, more humanely raised 100-percent grass fed beef. It’s because Cargill and Big Food have monopolized the market by brainwashing the public into believing that cheap CAFO meat is OK, while controlling nearly all of the meat processing plants in the country.

The time has come to shift the American diet away from unhealthy, inhumane, GMO factory farmed food. But as Kendra Kimbirauskas of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) pointed out at her TEDx talk in New York City recently, we, conscious consumers and farmers, “need to get on common ground” and stop “in-fighting over whether to eat ethical meat, go meat-free, or advocate for bigger cages…” As Kimbirauskas emphasizes, we need to enlist environmentalists in our anti-CAFO campaigning as well.

“As long as animals are in factory farms, they are polluting our environment”… And, Kimbirauskas added, “Those most impacted by the problem (farmers and rural people adjacent to CAFOs) need to be most visible in the fight to change It.”

Meat (along with eggs and dairy products) from factory farms is literally killing people with diet-related diseases. Factory farms are a disaster, not only for the animals, but also for the communities where manure and chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute the air, the soil, streams, lakes, rivers and drinking water.

Factory farms and the GMO farms that supply them with animal feed are a disaster for the climate as well, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases, including CO2, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The grasslands that support grass-fed beef, on the other hand, if grazed properly, sequester CO2 from the air and put it in the soil, while drastically reducing or eliminating altogether methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

It’s time to stop fighting among ourselves about whether or not to eat meat. Americans need to boycott all factory farmed meat and animal products. Period.

Beyond boycotting CAFO products, if consumers care about their health and the health of the planet, we need to reduce our consumption of sustainable grass-fed animal products to approximately three or four ounces a day (not nine ounces a day, the current average).

We are what we eat. We must get rid of factory farms and put the Earth’s billions of confined farm animals back outside on the land, grazing and foraging, where they belong.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico-based affiliate, Via Organica.

 

#LabelGMOsNewEngland!

Organic consumers - Sat, 2015-03-28 14:55
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 27, 2015 labelgmosnewengland_115k.png

Dear Organic Consumer,

It’s been a big news week for the GMO labeling movement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that Roundup causes cancer. 

The New York Times reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has known this all along, but failed to act.

And Congress just reintroduced a bill, written by Monsanto and Big Food, intended to take away your right to know about GMOs. Permanently.

An anonymous donor in New England has stepped up with a matching funds offer that expires March 31. Can you help us raise another $110,000 to meet our goal of $200,000 by March 31 to fund GMO labeling in Maine, and in other New England states, including Massachusetts? Details on how to donate online, by check or by phone here.

Never has it been more urgent to get labels on GMO foods. 

And never has it been more obvious that the federal government has no intention of protecting consumers from the risks associated with GMO foods—including the fact that nearly all of them are grown with glyphosate, a known carcinogen.

It’s up to us. We have to act before it’s too late.

Late last week, WHO released its findings that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, “probably” causes cancer.

Days later, a new report surfaced that linked to official EPA documents showing that in 1985, the EPA classified glyphosate as a Class C carcinogen. Six years later, just about the time former Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor got himself installed in a key position at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the EPA reversed that decision.

Thanks to the FDA, in the early 1990s GMOs were (illegally, according to some experts) classified as “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO foods and “Generally Recognized as Safe”—a classification that exempts them from any pre-market safety testing.

Since then, a long list of credible scientists have challenged the safety of GMO foods. But this much is irrefutable: Monsanto’s glyphosate is the cornerstone of GMO crops (whether those crops go into human food products, animal feed or biofuels). Glyphosate causes cancer. And the FDA, EPA and USDA have failed to protect us from what they’ve known all along is a cancer-causing toxin, widely used on our food, and prevalent in our drinking water.

Monsanto and Big Food have spent millions to corrupt the political process, manipulate the mass media and keep consumers in the dark. They would like nothing more than for us to give up this fight.

Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to ramp up the pressure, and take a stand for consumer and states’ rights. 

Our lives depend on it. Because while you may not drop dead instantly after eating glyphosate-drenched GMO foods, Monsanto’s chemicals linger in your body, quietly waiting for an opportunity.

We’re grateful for the generosity of our anonymous New England donor. Please help us make the most of this generous offer by donating today to run strong GMO labeling campaigns in Maine, Massachusetts and other New England states.

Congress will have a much more difficult time ramming through their bill to preempt states’ rights to label GMOs, if we can pass a few more strong state laws asap.

Donations made to the Organic Consumers Fund, our 501(c) 4 lobbying arm, are not tax-deductible. If you want to support the grassroots advocacy and education campaigns in these states, you can make a tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)3 here.

Thank you!

 ·

 

 ·

Ronnie Cummins
National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

 


 

P.S. According to a news report this week, the EPA classified Monsanto’s glyphosate as a carcinogen in 1985—and then reversed that decision, under pressure from the biotech industry. Please donate today to pass strong GMO labeling laws.  Your donation today will be matched by a generous anonymous donor in New England.  Thank you!

Sorry, Monsanto. The Science Is on Our Side, Not Yours

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-03-26 12:59
March 24, 2015Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering not_a_science_experiment.jpg

A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO). (Long story).

During the course of our conversation, when we touched on the subject of the science behind the debate over whether or not GMOs are “safe” (me arguing that there’s no scientific consensus) Enright said, “Then you must not believe in climate change, either.” 

I glossed over that accusation, though it struck me as odd. And random. Until less than a week later, on March 9 (2015), an article appeared in the Guardian under this headline: “The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.”

That’s when I realized what I should have known. Enright’s comment wasn’t random at all. It’s just a new twist on an old talking point—from an industry on the verge of crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of new credible, scientific evidence exposing not only the dangers of GMO crops and the toxic chemicals used to grow them, but the extent to which both Monsanto and U.S. government agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA have covered up those dangers. (Side note: Turns out the authors of the Guardian piece all have ties to, surprise, the biotech industry).

Here are just a few examples of the latest reports, articles and books exposing the dangers of GMOs, Big Ag’s toxic chemicals and evidence of a decades-long cover-up to keep consumers in the dark.

•    New study: World Health Organization declares glyphosate a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision was reported in The Lancet Oncology, on Friday, March 20 (2015). Predictably, Monsanto went on the attack, demanding the study be retracted.

•    New study: Roundup causes antibiotic resistance in bacteria. In the first study of its kind, a research lead by a team from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand says that commonly used herbicides, including the world’s most used herbicide Roundup, can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. Cause for concern? You bet, when nearly 2 million people die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections.  

•    New article: “GMO Science Deniers: Monsanto and the USDA,” points out what we all learned in third-grade science (but what Monsanto and the USDA refuse to acknowledge): That plants evolve to adapt to their environment, with the stronger ones winning out. Hence the fact that over time, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops have bred a new generation of superweeds. Yet, incredibly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bought into Monsanto’s anti-science claim that the continuous use of Roundup, over time, would not produce evolving Roundup-resistant weeds. Of course, that’s exactly what’s happened.

•    New book: Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public, exposes how the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) disregarded the warnings of its own scientists in order to foster the biotech industry’s agenda. According to author Steven Druker, the FDA broke U.S. food safety laws when the agency made a blanket presumption that GE foods qualified to be categorized "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS). And they did it in order to push GMOs into the market with no pre-market safety testing.

•    New book: Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA, written by a former (1979-2004) employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), documents the EPA’s “corruption and misuse of science and public trust.” According to author E.G. Vallianatos, the EPA allowed our lands and waters to be poisoned with more toxic chemicals, including glyphosate, than ever, while turning a blind eye to the consequences.

•    New report: “Seedy Business: What Big Food is hiding with Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs,” exposes Big Food’s long history of manipulating the media, policymakers and public opinion with $100-million worth of sleazy public relations tactics.

That’s just a smattering of the latest science—from scientists who have nothing to gain and everything to lose, based on Monsanto’s history of aggressively discrediting and scientist who dares to challenge GMOs—that should have every consumer in this country asking, “What’s going on here?”

Of course the industry response to the latest accusations concerning both its products and its desperate attempt to keep consumers in the dark, has been the same old same old: deny, deny, deny. All the while pretending to be incredulous that anyone would question its motives. This from an industry that (among other crimes) for nearly 40 years, knowingly poisoned a community in Alabama by dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills, according to 2002 article that said:

And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents—many emblazoned with warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy”—show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew.

One final comment on the climate-denier talking point. How ironic that Enright and the biotech industry would pretend to side with the scientists sounding the alarm on global warming—when the largest contributor to global warming is industrial agriculture, with its GMO monoculture crops. Anyone serious about global warming knows that our best hope is to ditch our chemical-intensive, soil-destroying industrial agriculture and replace it with organic, regenerative farming practices that restore the soil’s ability to capture carbon.

That’s a talking point we can all get behind.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s Cancer-Causing Roundup Herbicide

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-03-24 18:07
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is probably causing cancer in humans. 

That’s according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) panel of cancer experts, which published its latest review of the cancer risks of glyphosate on March 20, 2015. 

The timing of this new report couldn’t be better. Why? Glyphosate is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has the power to ban its use in Roundup, or anywhere else.

Monsanto has already rushed to attack this latest science, published by credible international scientists at WHO. Just as the Gene Giant has attacked every credible independent scientist in the past. 

And it’s no wonder. Monsanto’s $6 billion in annual sales of glyphosate are at stake.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s Cancer-Causing Roundup HerbicideRead more

Statement on WHO’s Findings that Monsanto’s Glyphosate Is ‘Probably Carcinogenic’

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-03-20 21:07
Environment & Climate, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 18, 2015 roundup.jpg

Jeepersmedia via Flickr cc

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2015

Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090;

FINLAND, Minn.—A new report published today in the journal Lancet Oncology says Monsanto’s Roundup is a “probable carcinogen.”

The report originated from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the France-based cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Organic Consumers Association issued the following statement by Ronnie Cummins, international director.

“This latest finding, which links Monsanto’s Roundup to non-Hodgkins lymphoma and lung cancer is not the first to make these links, but it is one of the strongest indictments of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.

Monsanto has already rushed to attack this science, as they have attacked every credible independent scientist in the past. At what point will U.S. regulators start believing the scientists, instead of pandering to Monsanto?

Glyphosate is up for review this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Now is the time for the EPA to take action and once and for all ban this dangerous chemical that is making people sick, and polluting our environment.

The OCA calls on the U.S. EPA to do its job: Ban glyphosate now."

Roundup is the number one herbicide used in the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not test foods for glyphosate residues because it says it’s “too expensive.”

In 2013, the EPA recently raised the allowed limits of glyphosate residue on fruits and vegetables.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

Maine Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Remove Trigger Clause from GMO Labeling Law

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-03-19 17:22
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 18, 2015 ME-DC Protest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2015

Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090; Zach Lingley, Preti Flaherty, 207-902-0179, ZLingley@Preti.com.

Maine Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Remove Trigger Clause from GMO Labeling Law

OCA Leading Grassroots Coalition behind Bill that Has Widespread Bi-Partisan and Grassroots Support

AUGUSTA, Maine—Lawmakers from both parties joined with concerned citizens and representatives from several non-profits at the Maine State House today, March 19, to roll out a landmark initiative that would place Maine at the forefront of the food safety movement.

“Mainers overwhelmingly support the right to know if the food they put on the dinner table every night contains genetically modified organisms. Sixty-seven countries that represent sixty-five percent of the world’s population have already embraced transparency through GMO labelling. We believe that Maine is ready to lead the nation and adopt this common-sense requirement to ensure that we have a choice in the types of foods we decide to feed to our children,” said Katherine Paul, a resident of Freeport, Maine, and associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA is a consumer advocacy group that promotes food safety initiatives on behalf of more than one million consumers, including 25,000 network members in Maine.

LD 991 would require foods distributed in Maine to include a label if genetically modified organisms were used to produce the final product.

“Take a look at any food product that you see in the grocery store. There are labels that show nutritional facts such as total calories, sugars, and carbohydrates, labels that indicate measurements, like the number of ounces in a soda, and in many cases, bottle deposit information for several different states, not to mention constant re-branding for marketing purposes. Opponents of this bill contend that labeling will place a hardship on producers. But this argument simply fails to pass the straight-faced test,” said Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, the bill’s lead sponsor.

In 2013, Maine legislators passed a law that would require labeling for foods that contain genetically modified organisms, but only if five contiguous states passed a similar requirement first. This effectively allows Maine to be held hostage on this issue until New Hampshire decides to pass a similar law.

Rep. Deb Sanderson R- Chelsea said: “As Mainers, I’m sure we can all agree that this is a decision we do not need New Hampshire to make for us. The right to know what is in our food is a decades-old ideal that started with President Kennedy’s Consumer Bill of Rights in 1962. It is high time that Maine adjust its laws to apply to 21st century bio-engineering practices.”

Legislators from all four caucuses have joined forces in sponsoring this initiative that is part of a growing national movement towards a more cognitive approach to healthy food practices. On Thursday, some categorized the lack of a labeling requirement as an “inside job” by big agriculture.

Rep. Dustin White, R-Washburn, one of Maine’s youngest legislators at age 23, echoed those sentiments: “The millennial generation, my generation, has to step forward and stop the cycle of nepotism that has seen big agriculture become intertwined with big government at nearly all levels. This is a common sense initiative. You’ve heard the numbers—97 percent of people support the right to know-why is this even up for debate?

“Poll after poll indicates that consumers want to know what’s in their food – especially if it includes ingredients from GMO crops,” said Heather Spalding, deputy director of MOFGA. “Ninety-seven percent of Mainers want to know. This bill will provide Maine legislators another opportunity to learn even more about GMOs in food and agriculture, and consider options for a speedier implementation of Maine’s landmark GMO labeling law.”

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

 

 

 

Don't Let Tyson and the other Meat Giants Write the U.S. Dietary Regulations!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-03-17 19:35
Belong to campaign: Cook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesArea: USA

According to new recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), Americans should eat “less red and processed meat.” For two reasons. One, too much red and processed meat is unhealthy. And two, the production of red and processed meat is bad for the environment.

We agree that Americans should eat less meat in general, including less red meat. We also agree that red and processed meat—when that meat comes from factory farms—is bad for your health, bad for the environment and has no place in the American diet. However, red meat derived from animals raised on pasture, using sustainable rotational grazing practices, is not only good for your health (when eaten in moderation), but also improves the environment.

Who isn’t siding with the new recommendations?

The four factory-farm companies that produce nearly all of the meat eaten in the U.S.—Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill and Smithfield—because those companies don’t want the new dietary guidelines to cut into their sales.

 Read more