Environment

No Labels, No Safety Testing, No GMO-Free Zones

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-06-23 13:03
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 22, 2015 125k_summer_2015_oca.png

Dear Supporter,

Thanks to millions of dollars in political donations, Monsanto is on the verge of closing two critical deals in Congress.

One of these deals would block every conceivable path to label or regulate GMOs foods. The other would clear the way to force unlabeled GMO foods and crops on countries that have well established GMO labeling laws and bans in place.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Monsanto is looking to buy chemical giant Syngenta, and relocate the newly-merged company to London—a move that would give the Biotech Bully unprecedented power to sue the entire U.S. government over any laws Monsanto believes will interfere with its profits.

Please donate today to help fight Monsanto’s unprecedented power grab. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

On Thursday, the Biotech Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee will hold the House’s second hearing on H.R. 1599, a bill that gets worse with each draft. H.R. 1599, once dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act has recently evolved into the “Mother of All Monsanto Protection Acts.”

If passed, H.R. 1599 will not only preempt all state (including Vermont’s) GMO labeling laws, but it will also wipe out county bans on GMO crops—a direct attack not only on Democracy, but on organic and non-GMO growers who increasingly face the risk of contamination.

But that’s not all. H.R. 1599 intends to make it impossible for food manufacturers to voluntarily tell consumers their products are GMO-free, using reliable, independent labels and standards. And it would guarantee no pre-market safety testing of GMO foods—ever.

Please donate today to help fight Monsanto’s unprecedented power grab. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

Monsanto isn’t pinning all of its hopes on H.R. 1599. The Gene Giant has been closely involved in negotiating, in secret, global trade deals intended to force other countries to open their doors to a flood of GMO foods and crops.

Today, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on whether or not to give President Obama “Trade Promotion Authority,” which is a fancy way of saying the President will be allowed to ram through Congress a trade deal that, among other things, declares GMO labeling an “unjustified trade restriction.”

And just to guarantee its right to sue the entire U.S. government over any and all GMO-related laws, Monsanto’s potential move to London would give it the rights of an-out-of-country investor to challenge the U.S. in “international tribunals.”

Monsanto’s “cover all your bases” power grab sounds too diabolical to be true. Unfortunately, the threats are not only real, they’re imminent.

We are fighting on all fronts to prevent these attacks on Democracy. But we’re realistic—we know what money can buy in Washington D.C.  And we know how deep Monsanto’s pockets are.

That’s why, even as our staff is traveling all over the country to set up meetings with key members of Congress, in their home districts, we’re also setting up the infrastructure to test foods, and humans, for GMOs and all of the toxic chemicals used to grow them.

We will use that testing to apply relentless pressure on food manufacturers to clean up their acts.

We need your support to do this work. By donating today, you’ll triple your impact, thanks to generous matching funders.

Monsanto can run. But it can’t hide. Unless we let it.

Please donate today to help fight Monsanto’s unprecedented power grab. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

Thank you!

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

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

Monsanto: You Can Run But You Can't Hide!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-06-19 21:32
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 19, 2015 oca monsanto cant hide

Dear Organic Consumer,

You’ve heard the news by now. 

Monsanto is trying to buy up fellow poison-maker Syngenta, in a scheme that involves relocating to London, and giving the merged company a brand new name.

Sorry, Monsanto. You can run. But you can’t hide!

Monsanto can't hide the fact that its flagship product, Roundup, causes cancer. Or the fact that the world doesn’t want Monsant's toxic chemical-drenched, soil-depleting crops—or Syngenta’s atrazine, Agent Orange crops, or bee-killing neonics.

Please donate today to keep Monsanto on the run—until it runs out of steam. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

It’s taken us years. But the momentum against Monsanto and the rest of the Gene and Junk Food Giants is at an all-time high.

Thanks to the World Health Organization, we now have irrefutable scientific proof of what many scientists have been saying for decades—glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, causes cancer.

And thanks to you, and millions of conscious consumers, Big Food lost $4 billion in market share last year, while sales of local, organic, healthful, nutritious food soared.

You’ve got Monsanto on the run. But forcing Monsanto to set up camp in London, under a new name, isn’t enough. We need to run Monsanto out of business. And that’s going to take a long, strong, sustained campaign. 

We’re up for it. But we need your help.

Please donate today to keep Monsanto on the run—until it runs out of steam. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here

Over the next few months, OCA will continue to:

• Test for glyphosate, neonicotinoids, atrazine, metachlor and other toxic chemical residues in humans, drinking water and foods, and will widely publicize the results of our testing, which we’ll use to pressure the EPA, FDA and USDA;

• Mobilize a massive grassroots campaign against Rep. Mike Pompeo’s bill (H.R. 1599) to overturn and preempt state GMO labeling laws and state and local bans on GMO crops, prevent companies from voluntary labeling, further weaken GMO crop regulations and guarantee GMO foods are never subjected to long-term safety testing; 

• Pressure food manufacturers and retailers on the issue of truth and transparency in labeling, including calling for boycotts of companies like Starbucks that support toxic factory farms by refusing to switch to organic; and

• Research and fund organic, regenerative, scalable agriculture projects that have the potential to replaced our toxic, inhumane industrial factory farms.

• Organize a mass rally and March Against Monsanto in Washington, DC on October 17, with Vandana Shiva as keynote speaker, preceded the day before (World Food Day) with a major press conference at the National Press Club.

It's an ambitious agenda. But it's also a life-or-death agenda.

It’s your agenda. And we’ll need your help.

Please donate today to keep Monsanto on the run—until it runs out of steam. Your donation by midnight June 30, will be tripled, thanks to matching donations by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here

Thank you!

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

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

Tell Vermont Gov. Shumlin: Thank You for Standing up to Monsanto and Big Food!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-06-18 16:12
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) recently sent a letter to Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin, complaining about Vermont’s GMO labeling law, exaggerating the implications of the law and implying that some (junk) food companies may stop selling their products in Vermont if the law is enacted.
 
So far, Vermont is the only state that has passed a strong, stand-alone GMO labeling law. Maine and Connecticut have passed laws, but they are ineffective, as they require four or five additional (and in the case of Maine, contiguous) New England states to pass similar laws in order for theirs to take effect.
 
Polls show that more than 90 percent of America’s consumers want labels on GMO foods—yet Vermont lawmakers, and their Governor, are the only ones who have had the courage to take on Monsanto and Big Food, who followed through on their threats to sue the state.
 
TAKE ACTION: Tell Vermont Gov. Shumlin: Thank You for Standing up to Monsanto and Big Food! After you sign our letter to Gov. Shumlin, please post a "thank you" on his Facebook page.
 Read more

The Crisis: Regeneration or Degeneration?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-06-18 12:16
Environment & ClimateRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 17, 2015 bean seedling

‘If governments won’t solve the climate, hunger, health, and democracy crises, then the people will.‘ - Dr.Vandana Shiva, speaking at the founding meeting of Regeneration International, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, June 8, 2015

When literally billions of people, the 99 percent, are hungry or struggling to survive with justice and dignity; when the majority of the global body politic are threatened and assaulted by a toxic environment and food system; when hundreds of millions are overwhelmed with chronic health problems; battered by floods, droughts, and weather extremes; when endless wars and land grabs for water, land and strategic resources spiral out of control; When indentured politicians, corporations and the mass media conspire to stamp out the last vestiges of democracy in order to force a “Business-as-Usual” paradigm down our throats, it’s time for a change, Big Change.

It’s time to move beyond degenerate ethics, farming land use, energy policies, politics and economics. It’s time to move beyond “too little, too late” mitigation and sustainability strategies.

It’s time to inspire and mobilize a mighty global army of Regenerators, before it’s too late.

Connecting the dots

Melting polar ice caps, dying oceans, global warming? The corporate take-over of governments, commerce and the world food supply? The loss of the world’s fertile, life-sustaining soil and biodiversity, along with the loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge?

Dis-empowed, exploited people, overwhelmed by the challenges of everyday survival, don’t have the luxury of connecting the dots between all the issues and focusing on the Big Picture. It’s the job of Regenerators to globalize the struggle, to globalize hope and connect the dots between issues, communities and constituencies. Our guiding principle must be that everyone, everywhere can potentially be energized and mobilized, i.e. regenerated, by a “Do-it-Yourself Movement” that “tells it like it is,” that moves beyond mere mitigation, and instead offers a global roadmap and a holistic menu of regenerative solutions to our most pressing food, farming, health, climate, political and economic problems.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate . . . our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, is directly connected to the soil, biodiversity, and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems.  

Regenerative organic farming and land use can move us back into balance, back to a stable climate.

The regenerative bottom line for survival and well-being is that we must not only move away from oil, coal, gas and nuclear energy toward renewable sources of energy. We must also move several hundred billion tons of excess, climate- destabilizing carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil, where it belongs.

How do we do this?

Spreading the word

Although we don’t have the time or the space to go into great detail now, I, and others have begun to describe in detail how regenerative food, farming and land use practices, scaled up to the global level, can fix the climate and supercharge soil fertility and food nutrition over the next two decades.

In order to survive we must all become evangelists of Regeneration. We must explain the basic principles and practices of soil regeneration and natural carbon sequestration to everyone who will listen.

As Michael Pollan, North America’s most prominent food author, explains:

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.
 

By all accounts, our planet is in deep trouble, and headed for worse. Sustaining a dying planet or mitigating catastrophic climate change is not an option. We must change the conversation about the climate crisis from “mitigation” to “reversing” global warming, by organically regenerating the soil, grasslands and forests. Even if the world moves to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and “sustains” or stabilizes atmospheric CO2 at 480-500 ppm, we will still desperately need to remove 100 ppm or more of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to avert runaway global warming, mass starvation, and chaos.

A Movement is launched

In the first week of June, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and our global allies organized the founding meeting of Regeneration International, a global alliance designed to supercharge the global grassroots, the network of networks trying to feed the world and reverse climate change through regenerative organic food and farming.

The meeting took place in the spectacular rainforest area near the still-active Arenal Volcano on a tropical Biodynamic organic farm in Costa Rica, attended by scientists, activists, farmers, environmentalists and business leaders, representing non-profits, universities and corporations from 21 nations.

Sixty global leaders participated in an intensive three days of workshops, presentations and late-into-the-night conversations. We shared ideas, (organic) food, and the common belief that so far, our governments, healthcare systems and global non-profits are failing us when it comes to real solutions to climate change, hunger, health and economic security.

We shared a sense of urgency, and a spirit of hope.

Urgency because, behind the scenes, many climate-change ”experts”  admit that if we achieved zero carbon emissions tomorrow, we’d still go over the climate-disaster cliff. As evidence, one presenter quoted NOAA Senior Scientist, Susan Solomon:

The severity of damaging human-induced climate change depends not only on the magnitude of the change but also on the potential for irreversibility. This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop.

A spirit of hope, because, as the farmers, activists and scientists among us confirmed, we actually do have the capacity to reverse climate change, and eliminate global poverty, hunger, health, economic injustice and environmental devastation.  The answer lies in the soil—in promoting organic, regenerative agriculture and land use that sequesters carbon, produces higher yields of more nutritious foods, and strengthens local economies.

Regeneration International—next steps

With a formal steering committee composed of Vandana Shiva (India writer and activist) Hans Herren (Millenium Institute), Andre Leu (IFOAM/Organics International), Steve Rye (Mercola.com), Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), and Tom Newmark (The Carbon Underground), Regeneration International has embarked on a wide range of activities, including the global mapping of regenerative activists and campaigns, best practices, alternative and mass media contacts, a translations bureau, a global media and communications team, and a science peer review committee.

Activities over the next six months will include a mass March Against Monsanto protest and rally in Washington, D.C. on the day after World Food Day, October 17; participation in the alternative climate summit in Paris December 1-10; and the drawing up of national Regeneration Charters in every country following the Paris Summit.

We left the first Regeneration International conference energized, and ready to start regenerating.

We agreed on a plan to expand on the existing science around carbon sequestration through organic regenerative agriculture, and to reach out far and wide to the global scientific community, to connect scientists all over the world.

We agreed on a plan to mobilize farmers and activists globally, to advance regenerative organic farming and grazing practices and techniques, and to share best practices for adapting techniques to different climates and cultures.

We are developing a global media and communications plan, to counter the corporate-funded messages that focus almost exclusively on industrial, GMO agriculture as a solution to world hunger, and emissions reduction as the solution to global warming. Our plan will promote the science around the relationship between nutritionally sound food and health, and around carbon sequestration through organic, regenerative agriculture.

Plans are being developed, test projects are under way, commitments have been made, energy is high, and urgency is on all of our minds.

Because we are running out of time.

In his book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, David Montgomery writes that the history of dirt suggests that how people treat their soil can impose a life span on civilizations, that Rome didn’t so much as fall, but crumble:

A common lesson of the ancient empires of the Old and New Worlds is that even innovative adaptations cannot make up for a lack of fertile soil to sustain increased productivity. As long as people take care of their land, the land can sustain them.”

Ancient civilizations never came face-to-face with global warming. Today, global warming is in our face. And according to a growing number of scientists, we are running out of time.

Will we regenerate our soils, our food, our health, our economies, and our spirits? Or will we continue to degenerate, to stumble down the path toward destruction?

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

ACT NOW: States' Rights to Label GMOs in Danger!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-06-17 19:14
Organic Consumers AssociationJune 15, 2015 stopmonsanto.png URGENT CALL TO ACTION!

Congress has begun hearings on the DARK Act (H.R. 1599), a bill that would strip states of the right to pass GMO labeling laws. More on the DARK Act here.

TAKE ACTION: Call Congress TODAY! 202-224-3121 (Tips for calling) 

TAKE ACTION: We need you to organize a meeting and rally at your U.S. Representative's district office to ask them to reject the DARK Act!

These are the members of the Biotech Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, where the first vote on HR 1599 will likely take place.

California: Jeff Denham (CA-10, 202-225-4540)
Florida: Ted Yoho (FL-03, 202-225-5744)
Gwen Graham (FL-2, 202-225-5235)
Georgia: Austin Scott (GA-08, 202-225-6531)
Illinois: Rodney Davis (IL-13, 202-225-2371)
Massachusetts: Jim McGovern (MA-2, 202-225-6101)
Michigan: John Moolenaar (MI-04, 202-225-3561)
New Hampshire: Ann Kuster (NH-2, 202-225-5206)
Gwen Graham (FL-2, 202-225-5235)
New York: Chris Gibson (NY-19, 202-225-5614)
Ohio: Marcia Fudge (OH-11, 202-225-7032)
Pennsylvania: Glenn Thompson (PA-05, 202-225-5121)
Washington: Suzan Delbene (WA-1, 202-225-6311)
Dan Newhouse (WA-04, 202-225-5816)

These are the members of Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who still need to be met with.

California: Tony Cardenas (202-225-6131)
Florida: Gus Bilirakis (202-225-5755, June 29)
Indiana: Larry Bucshon (202-225-4636), Susan Brooks (202-225-2276)
Kentucky: Brett Guthrie (202-225-3501, DARK Act co-sponsor)
Ed Whitfield (202-225-3115, DARK Act co-sponsor)
Michigan: Fred Upton (202-225-3761, $5k from Monsanto)
Missouri: Billy Long (202-225-6536, DARK Act co-sponsor, $7.5k from Monsanto)
North Carolina: Renee Ellmers (202-225-4531, DARK Act co-sponsor, $5k from Monsanto)
G. K. Butterfield (202-225-3101, DARK Act co-sponsor, $2.5k from Monsanto)
New Mexico: Ben Ray Lujan (202-225-6190)
New York: Chris Collins (202-225-5265)
Oregon: Kurt Schrader (202-225-5711, DARK Act co-sponsor)
Pennsylvania: Tim Murphy (202-225-2301, June 29)
Joe Pitts (202-225-2411, June 24)
Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn (202-225-2811, $2.5k from Monsanto)
Texas: Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (202-225-7772)
Joe Barton (202-225-2002)
Gene Green (202-225-1688)
Washington: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (202-225-2006)

Not a resident in the district of one of these U.S. Representatives? No problem. ALL members of Congress need to hear from their constituents. See list below for meetings and rallies that are already scheduled.

Here's what you need to do to get started:

1. Contact one of the district offices for your U.S. Representative and ask for a meeting with their staff in the next few weeks. If you can't get a meeting, you can still hold a rally outside the district office and invite the media.

2. Email us at campaigns@organicconsumers.org to let us know about the meeting and we'll get the word out to our supporters in your district.

3. Print an 11x17 poster for your Congressperson and take it to the meeting or rally. Download 11x17 posters here. If you're Congressperson doesn't have a poster on this page, email us and we'll make one.

4. Contact us at 218-226-4164 if you need coaching on discussing the DARK Act, states' rights to label GMOs, and why we need mandatory, not voluntary, GMO labeling laws with your Representative's staff. DARK Act fact sheet here.

5. We'll also send out a media advisory out to local press about your meeting or rally to help generate media coverage.

You can use these links to identify your member of Congress, and find out if he/she is on the House Agriculture or Energy & Commerce committees, where the next votes will take place.

Find your representative

Find out if your Congress member serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Find out if your Congress member serves on the House Committee of Agriculture

Find out of your Congress member is already a sponsor of the DARK Act (H.R. 1599)

Download a poster to bring to the rally

CALENDAR: 2015 Stop the DARK Act Meetings and Rallies

June 29: Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Wesley Chapel, FL)

June 29: Rep. Murphy (Mt. Lebanon, PA)

June 29: Rep. Doyle (Pittsburgh, PA)

June 24: Rep. Pitts (Lancaster, PA)

June 23: Rep. McKinley (Morgantown, WV)

June 19: Rep. Griffith (Christiansburg, VA)

June 18: Rep. Sarbanes (Annapolis, MD)

June 17: Rep. Lance (Westfield, NJ)

June 17: Rep. Pallone (New Brunswick, NJ)

June 16: Rep. Engle (Bronx, NY)

June 15: Rep. Shimkus (Danville, IL)

June 9: Rep. Kennedy (Newton, MA)

June 4: Rep. Kinzinger (Rockford, IL)

Mary 28: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Chicago, IL)

May 26: Rep. Kathy Castor (Tampa Bay, FL)

 

Tell Costco: Please Don’t Sell GMO Salmon, Ever!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-06-04 13:23
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Millions Against MonsantoArea: USA

Thanks to consumer pressure, more than 60 grocery retailers across the U.S., including the #1 and #2 grocers, Kroger and Safeway, have committed to either not selling GMO salmon, or to at least labeling it, if they do choose to sell it.

Conspicuously absent from that list? Costco.

The U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) could approve AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage GMO salmon any day now, despite the 1.8 million comments the agency has received from the public and from scientists who warn of the environmental and health risks posed by this “frankenfish.”

Once GMO salmon is approved, it will be sold in stores, with no label to distinguish it from non-GMO salmon.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Costco: Please don’t sell GMO salmon, ever!Read more

Tell Congress: No Fast-Tracked Trade Deals for Monsanto!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-05-29 14:46
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Monsanto hates democracy. That’s why it loves the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), trade deals that have been negotiated mostly in secret, by corporations like Monsanto, and that are in danger of being passed without due democratic process.

What’s in the trade deals for Monsanto? Plenty—including a provision to override GMO labeling laws, here in the U.S., and in countries that have had these laws in place for years. So it’s no wonder Monsanto has joined with hundreds of other corporations, and sadly, President Obama, to push Congress to “fast-track” these corporation-friendly trade deals using something called “Trade Promotion Authority.”

Take Action! Call your Congress members today and ask them to reject the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority Bill and its Monsanto Protection Provision!Read more

Chipotle Makes a Sound Business Decision

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-05-28 17:00
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 27, 2015 Judy at Chipotle

Editor’s note: This article was written at the request of USA Today, which published it as an “opposing view” on May 17, 2015. USA Today took the same position as most of the rest of the corporate media, which is that by providing a product that consumers want, the restaurant chain is “pandering to ignorance.”

Since when does the mainstream media, in a country that worships at the altar of capitalism and the free market, launch a coordinated attack against a company for selling a product consumers want?

When that company dares to cross the powerful biotech industry. How else to explain the unprecedented negative coverage aimed at Chipotle’s, merely because the successful restaurant chain will eliminate GMO foods from its menu?

The biotech industry has a long history of discrediting scientists who challenge the safety of GMOs. That intimidation campaign worked well, until consumers themselves connected the dots between GMO foods (and the toxic chemicals used to grow them), and health concerns. Once consumers demanded labels on GMO foods, the biotech industry responded with a multi-million dollar PR campaign. Yet despite spending millions to influence the media, and millions more to prevent laws requiring labels on products the industry claims are safe, Monsanto has lost the hearts and minds of consumers. Latest polls show that 93 percent of Americans support mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

Chipotle has made a sound business decision. That decision has forced the biotech industry to stoop to a new low: vilifying businesses. Sadly, the mainstream media appears all too happy (manipulated?) to go along with the attack.

Only in the U.S. does the biotech industry wield such power. That power is arguably having a negative effect on the free market here. Take McDonalds. In the U.S., the fast-food chain is in trouble. Yet in the UK (and other countries), where McDonald’s is GMO-free, the chain is profitable.

In March, World Health Organization cancer researchers concluded that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is a “probable” carcinogen. In 1985, EPA scientists drew the same conclusion. According to hundreds of scientists worldwide, there is no consensus on the safety of GMO foods.

A growing number of consumers don’t want GMO foods. Chipotle is responding to that demand.

Biotech’s attack on Chipotle is an act of desperation. Mainstream media’s complicity is a failure of the institution of journalism.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.  

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