Consumer Power

'Spinning Science and Silencing Scientists' on the Dangers of Glyphosate

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-02-08 02:18
February 7, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization top spinning toys colorful wood cc 1000x523.jpg

What happens when Monsanto doesn’t like what the World Health Organization (WHO) has to say about its flagship product, Roundup weedkiller?

The chemical company convinces U.S. lawmakers to hold a “smoke and mirrors” Congressional hearing, under the guise of “defending scientific integrity,” but really to undermine the unanimous determination by 17 international scientists, based on their analysis of independent, peer-reviewed science, that Roundup is  “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The hearing, which Monsanto asked Congress to hold, will be used to decide if WHO’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC)—an unbiased scientific agency charged with protecting public health by warning the public about cancer-causing chemicals—will continue to receive federal funding.

“In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review,” took place on February 6, in Washington, D.C. The hearing was held by the Science, Space and Technology (SST) Committee, and led by its chair, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Smith has been described as “the most obnoxious climate change denier in Congress”—not exactly the ideal candidate to be passing judgment on the work of serious scientists.

You can watch the entire hearing here (warning: it’s long and likely to infuriate you). If you want a more accurate assessment of how the reputations of IARC scientists are being maligned by Monsanto, read “Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science,” a report prepared for participants in the hearing by minority staff of the SST committee. And here's what the IARC had to say about the hearing.

Smith kicked off the hearing by asserting that IARC ignored the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), used no human data, deleted contrary data, manipulated data and did not follow the scientific method, was not transparent, and refused to respond to his written concerns regarding each of these points in its review of glyphosate.

According to Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman, the law firm that captured the hearing on Facebook Live, all of Rep. Smith’s assertions are false. Last July, consumer watchdog U.S. Right to Know also defended IARC against attacks, specifically those by a Reuters reporter.

Smith’s remarks were followed by four witnesses who testified before the committee. Three Republican witnesses included: Dr. Anna Lowit, senior science adviser at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Dr. Timothy Pastoor, CEO of Pastoor Science Communications; and Dr. Robert Tarone of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, all who concurred with the chairman.

As noted in this Baum Hedlund blog post, all of the SST majority witnesses have ties to Monsanto and/or the chemical industry:

Dr. Lowit was the subject of a letter from former EPA scientist, Marion Copley, to Jess Rowland questioning her manipulation of data and being under the influence of Monsanto. Robert Tarone, has acknowledged that he is a paid Monsanto consultant. Timothy Pastoor used to work for Syngenta, another glyphosate-based herbicide manufacturer like Monsanto, and spent a considerable amount of his career defending the herbicide atrazine. EFSA was caught relying upon copied and pasted Monsanto summaries of its studies—with Monsanto’s spin.”

The industry-friendly atmosphere didn’t go unnoticed. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), ranking member of the STT committee, told the committee that “if we are truly interested in defending scientific integrity, we should be doing more than simply hearing from industry-friendly scientists.” 

The saving grace of the day came from Democratic witness Dr. Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Sass addressed in her testimony a few examples of tobacco-industry tactics applied to glyphosate, and the agrochemical industry’s attack on the IARC Monographs. She also cited the “well documented public relations campaign used to soften up public opinion about the agrichemical industry and create a venue to pressure agencies to block regulations, and try to discredit and silence public health and scientific institutes that may show some harm from their profitable products.”

Committee member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore) told the committee:

“Internal Monsanto records show that company employees have ghostwritten scientific journal articles on glyphosate, attempted to orchestrate a public outcry over IARC’s glyphosate findings and have targeted specific independent scientists for attack. It is important that we review the methods and tactics that industry has used to influence this administration and attack independent scientific organizations like the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer… We must make sure any chemical review is not undone by undue industry influence or misleading scientific studies.”

Perhaps the best way to sum up the hearing is how NRDC’s Sass concluded her testimony:

“Are we willing to sell out the public’s right to know about harmful chemicals in the places we work, live, and play, just so that Monsanto Co. can sell more glyphosate?”

Time will tell. The deadline for the EPA to rule on whether to reauthorize glyphosate or phase it out is long past due.

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62,458 Pounds of Monsanto Weedkiller. In One Year. In One Small State.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-02-06 20:11
February 6, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering vtcafo1000x523.png

Vermonters are, literally, swimming in a toxic soup of glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller), atrazine, 2,4-D and other pesticides.

The use of glyphosate alone—just on Vermont dairy farms—jumped 27 percent between 2014 – 2017, according to new data released last month by Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Reporting on the data, Michael Colby, co-founder of Regeneration Vermont, wrote: 

GMO corn is now grown on more than 92,000 acres in Vermont, making it – by far – the state’s number one crop. And all of it is being grown for the state’s 135,000 cows, mostly now confined as the large, mega-dairy model increasingly takes over, seen most dramatically in Franklin and Addison counties, where “farms” are now warehousing thousands of cows.

According to Colby, the “toxic stew” of pesticides polluting Vermont’s waterways includes 34 different products. In 2016, the most heavily used was glyphosate—62,458 pounds. That’s more than double the amount used in 2014.

That’s a lot of Monsanto Roundup weedkiller dumped in a state that ranks 43rd in size. It makes for one “dirty dairy” industry.

And Ben & Jerry’s—owned by the international consumer products conglomerate, Unilever—is one of, if not the biggest player in that industry.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ben & Jerry’s: Go 100% Organic!

In July, OCA broke the news about Roundup weedkiller contamination in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the U.S. and launched our campaign to get Ben & Jerry’s to go organic.

In October, we held a joint press conference in Brussels to announce that samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in four European countries also tested positive for glyphosate. But this time, warned in advance about our plans, Ben & Jerry’s countered with its own announcement—plans to “launch glyphosate-free ice cream.”

What exactly did Ben & Jerry’s promise?

What exactly did Ben & Jerry’s promise in October? Two things.

Ben & Jerry’s said that by 2020 it would aim to eliminate glyphosate-contaminated ingredients from its supply chain—presumably by not sourcing ingredients from suppliers that use glyphosate to dry out crops before harvest.

Two, Ben & Jerry’s said that in the U.S. (not Europe) it would introduce a line of organic ice cream in 2018, amounting to 6 percent of the brand's total ice cream production in the U.S.

So far, we’ve heard no further news on either promise. But this we do know—even if the ice cream maker makes good on those promises, Vermont’s dairy farmers will still be feeding their cows GMO corn, and still polluting the state’s waterways.

And it’s not just Vermont—Ben & Jerry’s sources dairy in western states, too—all from non-organic industrial dairy farms.

Why are we picking on Ben & Jerry’s?

We’ve heard from a lot of you that Ben & Jerry’s isn’t the worst company out there, and after all, the company does so many “good” things.

Maybe true. But Ben & Jerry’s has no rival when it comes to creating the false impression that the company cares deeply about the environment and social responsibility.

There’s nothing environmentally friendly or socially responsible about dumping 62,459 pounds of glyphosate into Vermont’s waterways and soil.

Ben & Jerry’s knows this. The company also knows that 73 percent of consumers seek out products associated with the word “natural.” And 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay a premium for companies they believe are “socially responsible.”

Ben & Jerry’s became a top-selling brand in the $78-billion ice cream industry because by creating the phony impression that the company cares about the same things you do.

This same top-selling brand—which generates massive profits for Unilever at the expense of people in Vermont and other states—could turn the dairy industry around by announcing a 100-percent transition to organic.

If only.

Campaign update: Where are we now?

We continue to pressure Ben & Jerry’s to live up to its promises of social and environmental responsibility.

Six other organizations joined us in gathering over 200k signatures petitioning Ben & Jerry’s to go organic.

About 150 businesses and NGOs have signed this letter to Ben & Jerry’s.

Many of you have asked your natural food store or co-op to stop selling Ben & Jerry’s. Some of you have reported back that you were successful—your store agreed to #DumpBenandJerrys!

And many of you have signed our petition asking National Co-Op Grocers to stop pushing Ben & Jerry’s.

If you haven’t yet joined in the Ben & Jerry’s campaign, or you want to do more, here’s a list of actions you can take:

•    Sign the petition to Ben & Jerry’s

•    Sign the petition to National Co-Op Grocers

•    Check this list to see if your natural food store or co-op sells Ben & Jerry’s. If it does, send this letter to the store manager.

•    Let us know what you learn about your local store

•    Download this  flyer and hand it out in front of your local Ben & Jerry’s retailer

•    Download this glyphosate fact sheet and share it widely

•    Make a tax-deductible donation to support our campaign asking Ben & Jerry's to go organic.

Companies that market themselves as “green” and socially responsible ought to be held accountable for profiting from those marketing claims. And when those companies are as big as Ben & Jerry’s, they ought to use their profits and power to actually make the world a better place—instead of just talking about it.


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Et Tu, Newsweek? Another Media Outlet Caves to Monsanto's Minions

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-31 20:09
January 31, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Health Issues roadsignquestionmark1000x523.png

Henry Miller is at it again.

Miller is the well-known Monsanto mouthpiece who earlier this year was discredited by the New York Times for getting Forbes magazine to publish an “opinion” piece under his name—a piece that was ghostwritten by Monsanto.

Miller has just written a new hit piece on the organic industry.

That in and of itself doesn’t surprise us. What does surprise us is that Newsweek published the piece—despite knowing all about Miller’s shady ties to Monsanto.

Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Miller, described by the Times as “an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops,” had asked Monsanto to draft an opinion piece for him—a piece he then persuaded Forbes magazine to publish under his own name.

On January 19, an op-ed titled “The Campaign for Organic Food is a Deceitful, Expensive Scam,” showed up on the pages of Newsweek magazine, under Miller’s name.

Stacy Malkan, co-director of US Right to Know fired back in her piece, “Monsanto’s Fingerprints All Over Newsweek’s Hit on Organic Food.”

In her in-depth exposé of Miller, Malkan reports that she complained to Newsweek’s opinion editor, Nicholas Wapshott, pointing out that Miller has been widely discredited for trying to pass of Monsanto’s propaganda as his own work.

Here’s what Wapshott wrote in an email to Malkan:

I understand that you and Miller have a long history of dispute on this topic. He flatly denies your assertions.

Wow. Really? Newsweek is going to bat for a Monsanto shill, regardless of his murky reputation? 

Truth be told, Monsanto was the master of fake news long before fake news was a thing.

For decades, the St. Louis-based biotech company has enlisted the services of expensive (and slick) PR firms to feed the public and the media lies about everything from how the company improves farmers’ lives, to how its Roundup® weedkiller is “safe,” to how GMO crops increase yields and reduce the need for pesticides.

As consumers wised up, as credible independent scientists dug deeper into the risks associated with glyphosate and Roundup®, and as the media started asking tougher questions, Monsanto was forced to up its smoke-and-mirrors game in order to counter the negative PR.

One of Monsanto’s most effective propaganda strategies has been to identify people who on the surface appear to have the right scientific credentials, then collaborate with them behind the scenes to promote Monsanto’s script as their own, independently researched opinions.

Miller is one of those people. And his latest “scientific opinion” is that organic food is a scam.

There’s so much wrong with Miller’s hit piece on organics, and Newsweek’s willingness to publish it, that we hardly know where to begin.

Thankfully, Malkan details all the reasons Newsweek should have rejected Miller’s piece, even if Miller’s scandalous past hadn’t already been exposed.  Here are just a few:

Miller cited pesticide industry sources, not independent science, to claim that organic farming is “actually more harmful to the environment” than conventional agriculture,

• Those same pesticide industry sources included an inaccurate claim by Jay Byrne, former director of corporate communications for Monsanto, that organic allies spent $2.5 billion in one year campaigning against genetically engineered foods in North America. Miller included that figure in his op-ed, without revealing Byrne’s ties to Monsanto.

• ​Miller tries to discredit the work of New York Times’ reporter Danny Hakim, without disclosing that it was Hakim who exposed Miller’s Monsanto ghostwriting scandal.

Wapshott has an impressive resumé. We could understand if he slipped up when it came to doing his due diligence on Miller before agreeing to run his op-ed.

But we don’t understand how, given all the evidence, why Wapshott is still defending Miller.

A recent survey revealed that the top three reasons consumers choose organic—to avoid pesticides, to avoid GMOs and for better nutrition—are health-related. Consumers form their opinions about organic vs. industrial chemical food by doing their own research—relying on credible, independent science and news reports.

Smart consumers have long distrusted Miller and his ilk.

Now Newsweek has given them a reason to distrust its editorial judgment.

If you want to give Newsweek Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott a piece of your mind, join in the fun here. 

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

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Tell Newsweek’s Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott: Discredited Monsanto Shills Have No Place on Newsweek’s Opinion Page!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-31 19:51
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSafeguard Organic Standards#Resist and #RegenerateCategory: All About Organics, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

By now everyone’s heard of “fake news.” But there’s another equally insidious form of journalism: fake opinions.

Fake opinions are opinion pieces, or op-eds, published under the name of someone who purports to be an “independent” scientist, expert or academic, but who is actually spreading propaganda for companies like Monsanto—and usually being paid to do it.

Henry I. Miller, a well-known mouthpiece for Monsanto, is a master of fake opinions.

And Newsweek just published his latest.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Newsweek’s Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott: Discredited Monsanto Shills Have No Place on Newsweek’s Opinion Page! Read more

Iowans Fight Back Against Factory Farms--So Can You

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-31 19:03
January 31, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics, Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range sunflower sun summer yellow cc 1000x523.jpg

Ready for some inspiration? Check out this video of a press conference that took place earlier this month in Iowa.

The conference begins with the powerful voice of Diane Rosenberg, executive director of Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JCFN). JCFN is a member of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, a coalition of 27 state, community and national organizations that addresses everything that’s wrong with factory farms, or as Big Ag calls them, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Rosenberg said:

“We are pro agriculture. We support responsible, respectful and regenerative livestock production that poses no harm to communities and the environment. And we call for a moratorium on new and expanding CAFOs until there are less than 100 water impairments in Iowa. We are here today to support and announce a slate of bills introduced by Sen. David Johnson to close many of the loopholes that weaken protections for people and the environment from factory farms.”

After Rosenberg spoke, a local farmer whose family farm is under threat thanks to two new CAFOs in her neighborhood, explained how her community did everything to stop these factory farms, but “the system in Iowa failed us. The DNR regulations failed us. All we want is clean air and water. We want to continue to live on our family farms.”

After a few more community members shared their personal stories, Iowa state Rep. Sharon Steckman explained how “Iowa has more hogs than North Carolina and Minnesota combined. More than 23 million hogs producing 10 billion gallons of liquid manure a year. That is enough manure to equal what is produced in the UK, France and Canada combined.”

She told the crowd that the state needs to get a handle on Iowa’s water quality and the matrix before any new construction can be considered.

Another speaker spoke passionately of how in a few short years he’s witnessed the loss of 94 percent of independent pig farmers:

“In its place we have explosive growth of industrial feeding operations moving in, which has caused massive health, environmental and quality of life issues across the state and we’re looking at hundreds of thousands, if not millions of hogs, increasing every year. They are saying maybe 30 million by 2020. Enough is enough.”

The video concludes with an enduring speech by Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO.

“We are here today to support Sen. Johnson and Rep. Steckman, and moving forward to protect the waters of this state. Iowa will not be a sacrifice state. We are not guinea pigs for industrial agriculture to continue to practice harmful impacts on our environment. Let’s work together as Iowans to constructively move forward with responsible agriculture to protect our public health and protect our state.”

Inspired? Want to get involved? Want to help Iowans and family farmers in all states where CAFO’s pollute the environment?

Here’s how: Boycott factory farms.

As Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, wrote last year:

Boycott factory-farm meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. We need to stop the overconsumption of CAFO meat and animal products in general. Americans consume on the average 10 ounces a day of meat, whereas natural health experts recommend three, none of which should come from factory farms.

Factory farming, a trillion-dollar industry, is the lynchpin of the GMO industry and the primary driver of deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, water pollution and global warming.”

Watch the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture’s press conference

Read Ronnie Cummin’s blog on boycotting factory farms

Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from Organic Consumers Association.

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Degeneration Nation 2018: The Darkest Hour

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-31 16:22
Environment & ClimateRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJanuary 31, 2018 earthsunspace1000x523.png

“They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn.” - Bob Dylan, 1975, “Blood on the Tracks”

The darkest hour: degeneration

Welcome to Degeneration Nation 2018. The frightening truth is that our “profit-at-any-cost” economy and global empire, run by and for the one percent and multi-national corporations, aided and abetted by an out-of-control Congress and White House, is threatening our very survival.  

Our system of democracy, global co-existence, our physical and mental health, and the health of the living Earth—our climate, soils, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and oceans—is rapidly degenerating. The rhythms of nature—the atmosphere, the soil carbon cycle, the water cycle and the climate—are unraveling.

Which is more frightening? The destruction of the environment and the climate that sustain human civilization as we have known it? Or the collapse of democracy and the rise of endless war and fascism?

Even though many are still either in denial or preoccupied by the daily struggle for survival, the most serious threat that humans have ever encountered in our 150,000-year evolution is global warming and severe climate change.

A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels. We must eliminate destructive food, farming and land-use practices. And we must draw down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through enhanced natural photosynthesis (regenerative food, farming, and land use), to return us to 350 parts-per-million (ppm), or better yet to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.

According to the majority of climate scientists we are fast approaching the point of no return, whereby global warming and climate change will morph into runaway global warming, melting of the polar ice-caps, catastrophic sea rise, evermore deadly forest fires, climate chaos, global crop failures, famine, and societal disintegration. This point of no return could arrive as soon as 25 years from now—that is if we don’t stop releasing greenhouse gases and start drawing down “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils through regenerative food, farming and land use.

As world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen wrote: 

“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm…”

Global warming you ask? But what about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea or Iran? What about Trump’s recently reported statement that a strategic terrorist attack in the U.S would likely enable the Republicans to maintain control of Congress in 2018?

What about the fact that 62 million Americans actually voted for Donald Trump in November 2016 (65 million voted for Hillary and 92 million were too disgusted or demoralized to vote at all), and that most of these 62 million people still support him?

Or how about the Harvard-University of Melbourne study that found “the share of Americans who think that rule by the armed forces would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing rose from one in 16 in 1995 to one in six in 2014?”

What about increasing police brutality, misogyny, homophobia, racism, threats against immigrants, mass deportations, drug addiction, a crumbling infrastructure, and rampant unemployment and poverty?

And what about public health? A recent Rand Corporation study that found that 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more of these illnesses; and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the $3.5 trillion that people are handing over to Big Pharma and the medical industrial complex?

What about the U.S.’s endless, now trillion-dollar wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and a dozen other countries?

It’s not just the U.S. and North America that have degenerated to unprecedented levels.

Up until now most of global civil society, rather than united in a common global campaign to reverse climate change, deteriorating public health, poverty, forced migration and war, remains divided by national borders, ethnic identities, single- or limited-issue organizing, and class and gender divisions.

The rise of authoritarian and fascist regimes, and the weakening of a common sense of purpose, cooperation and solidarity have brought us to a dangerous precipice.

Will global civil society wake up in time, break down the walls and issue silos that divide us, connect the dots between all of our burning issues, and unite across borders in a common global campaign for survival and regeneration?

Beyond the darkest hour: regeneration

The good news is that there are a number of positive signs that people in the Americas, and all over the world, especially the youth, are waking up. These signs include:

An emerging world view or ideology is replacing the traditional paradigms of “unlimited growth” or “sustainability.” It’s called "Regeneration." This new paradigm, unlike the outdated ideologies of corporate capitalism or state socialism, has the power to unite the global grassroots—farmers, consumers, businesses and policymakers—in a joint campaign to reverse climate change and restore the environment. Regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with 100-percent renewable energy, scaled up globally on the Earth’s 22 billion acres of farmland, rangeland, wetlands and forests, has the potential to not only mitigate, but to actually reverse global warming. Regenerative farming and land use can do this by drawing down through enhanced photosynthesis the 200 billion tons of excess carbon lodged in the atmosphere and sequestering it in our living soils and biota.  At the same time, this global regeneration can dramatically reduce conflict and rural poverty among the world’s 3.5 billion small farmers and rural villagers. Regenerative food and farming, focused on revitalizing soil and plant health, and on improving the economic situation of the world’s small farmers and rural villagers, also has the power to clean up the environment and qualitatively improve the nutritional density and quality of our foods, thereby eliminating the major causes of malnutrition, chronic disease and toxic exposure.

• Every nation in the world, except for the Trump administration in Washington, D.C., has signed onto the Paris Climate Treaty to move to zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050. Many nations have also signed on to the “4 for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative, a bold international policy initiative to draw down enough excess atmospheric carbon through regenerative food, farming and land-use practices to not only mitigate, but actually reverse, global warming.

• Renewable energy has begun to replace fossil fuels. It is now cheaper to invest in wind and solar than to build new coal plants. Soon it will be more profitable to install solar and wind power than to keep existing fossil fuel plants running. Electric cars and trucks will likely replace gas-powered vehicles within the next few decades. Investors and public institutions are starting to divest billions, and eventually trillions, of dollars from the fossil fuel industry.

• A critical mass of the global grassroots is starting to wake up and resist—North, South, East, and West—organizing politically, slowly but surely developing climate-friendly and equitable solutions to our most pressing problems: climate, poverty, war, deteriorating public health, forced migration, unemployment and political corruption. In the U.S., progressive and radical forces, led by youth, women and minorities, will likely soon sweep the majority of corrupt politicians from office, not only in the nation’s 40,000 cities, towns and counties, but at the federal level as well. Similar trends are emerging in dozens of other countries as well, even in repressive dictatorships such as China, Russia and Iran. The bottom line is that people all over the world are fed up with corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen. There is no future for the youth, nor for any of us without fundamental change and regeneration.

• Polls now indicate that the most popular national politician in the U.S. today is democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who will likely run and be elected President of the U.S. in 2020. Similarly polls indicate that Lopez Obrador, with politics similar to Sanders, will be elected President of Mexico in July 2018. Similar progressive leaders are emerging in many countries, many of them youth, women, and minorities.

The darkest hour is indeed before the dawn. We’ve hit bottom here in the U.S., and in most of the countries of the world. The situation is dire. Time is short. But there’s still time to turn things around. For information on the emerging Regeneration International movement click here.

Join the growing U.S. network of citizen lobbyists pushing for regenerative policies—Citizens Regeneration Lobby. 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Pollan: Consumer Boycotts Are 'Achilles Heel of American Capitalism.'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-24 21:59
January 24, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationFarm Issues, Politics & Globalization barn winter snow red field farm cc 1000x523.jpg

Trump has dumped family farmers.

That’s right, President Trump, who once claimed he’s “fighting for our farmers,” is passing policies that mostly benefit the big agribusiness corporations—not small farmers, and certainly not rural communities.

Robert Reich, professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, recently sat down with Michael Pollan to discuss food and agriculture policy and inequality under the Trump administration. He also talked about how far food corporations will go to protect their brands’ images.

Pollan, a food policy expert and author of several books including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” didn’t mince words when it comes to Trump’s impact on food and ag policy, or where the president’s loyalties lie. Pollan explained how Trump is rolling back anything initiated under the Obama administration, including Michelle Obama’s standards for school lunch. So instead of nutritionists deciding what kids should eat, we’re back to allowing the food companies to decide.

So basically, we’re back to anything industry wants, Pollan said.

Pollan pointed out the irony in Trump’s agricultural initiatives, noting that the rural vote helped get him elected, but now he’s taking steps that will be a disaster for American farmers. He talked at length about NAFTA and how if Trump pulls out of this trade agreement it will greatly impact the industrial farming industry.

Pollan didn’t discuss the impact NAFTA has on small, independent and/or organic farmers or workers, but dairy farmer Jim Goodman from Wonewoc, Wisconsin, sure did in this recent blog post. He sums it up this way:

“Anyone who supports the continuation of NAFTA without questioning who actually benefits really has no concern for the best interests of farmers or workers in the U.S., Canada or Mexico.”

After talking a lot about what’s gone wrong with our food system, Reich shifted the conversation in a more positive direction, asking Pollan what gives him hope. Pollan said he’s “taking a lot of encouragement from some new developments in the labor movement around food.” He spoke about the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their Fair Food Program that has helped Florida tomato growers obtain humane wages and safe working conditions.

In explaining how the program got started, Pollan said:

“They tried negotiating with the growers, they got nowhere. They marched across Florida, they got nowhere. They had a hunger strike, they got nowhere.”

Finally, Lucas Benitez, a farmworker who helped start the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said, as Pollan related:

“Then we found the door in the castle wall. That door was the brand of the big companies, the consumer-facing big companies, that bought the tomatoes from the growers, everybody from Whole Foods to McDonalds and Burger King, and they went after the brands with boycotts and threats of boycotts. What they did was they created a pledge, called the Fair Food Pledge and they basically said you will sign this or we will shame you. One by one all the big brands in food signed it. And it’s working.”

Reich and Pollan agreed that big companies are spending a fortune on brand image and, now more than ever, if you organize or threaten a consumer boycott you can have a real impact. Pollan said:

“It’s the Achilles heel of American capitalism. They are not afraid of the government anymore, but they are afraid of their consumers attacking their brand.”

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) works to protect consumers' right to safe, healthful food, a just food and farming system and an environment rich in biodiversity and free of pollutants. Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA.

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TAKE ACTION: Save the Bees! Ban Neonics!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-24 17:09
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSave the BeesCategory: Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesArea: USA

The cause of the massive bee die-offs that commercial beekeepers reported this year—and every year since 2006— is no longer a mystery.

The neonicotinoid insecticides sold by Bayer and Syngenta, and used by Monsanto to coat their genetically engineered seeds, are killing pollinators. 

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT FEBRUARY 20: Tell the EPA to Ban Neonics!Read more

EPA Knows It Should Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides--But Will It?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-24 17:04
January 24, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate, Farm Issues deadbees1000x523.png

As Leonard Cohen famously sang, everybody knows.

Everybody, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), knows that neonicotinoid pesticides harm bees. 

But here’s a part of the story you may have missed: Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta coat their GMO corn seeds with neonics, then charge farmers extra for them—even though studies show that neonic-coated seeds provide no real benefit to farmers. 

Why do farmers pay extra for seeds that have no extra benefit? Because the biotech companies that have a monopoly on GMO seeds offer only neonic-coated seeds.

That’s not good for farmers. Or bees.

It’s also not good for humans, when neonics end up in our water and food.

After Obama’s EPA admitted that neonics kill bees the agency began work on a docket that could be used to restrict the use of neonics.

But just before passing the baton to Trump, the EPA walked back an earlier proposal for mandatory rules on how neonics can be used while honeybees are pollinating crops.

Trump’s EPA is doing more of the same, acknowledging scientific evidence that birds can die from eating neonic-treated seeds, while tipping the scales toward supposed benefits to farmers.

A decade into the colony collapse crisis, politicians on both sides know better than to pretend there’s nothing wrong with neonics. But will they do anything about it?

So far, Trump’s EPA has taken every opportunity to side with industry, including chemical and biotech companies, willfully ignoring the consequences for human health and the environment.

All the more reason to keep up the pressure. Please let the EPA know, by midnight February 20, that you support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, by signing this petition.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is OCA’s political director. Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA.


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Tell the National Co-Op Grocers to #DumpBenandJerrys!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-17 23:12
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSafeguard Organic StandardsDump Dirty DairyCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

We love natural food co-ops.

Natural food co-ops usually do a good job of stocking organic and avoiding GMO, pesticide-drenched and factory-farm food.

So, we were surprised to learn that, even after we revealed that Ben & Jerry’s contained potentially dangerous levels of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, there were still a significant number of natural food co-ops selling Ben & Jerry’s.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the National Co-Op Grocers to #DumpBenandJerrys!Read more

Bugs and Farmers: Changing the World

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-17 20:41
January 17, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Farm Issues ladybug insect flight leaf red green cc 1000x523.jpg

Bugs—and farmers—are shaping the entire world.

That’s the message, or at least part of the message, Jonathan Lundgren delivered in his TEDxBrookings talk on regenerative farming: “A Six-legged March Toward Regenerative Agriculture.”

Lundgren explains how insects, through small individual actions, aggregate and synergize with one another to shape the entire world.

Lundgren, an agroecologist, entomologist, farmer and beekeeper, has always studied bugs. But his love for insects recently took him down a new path when he started hanging out with farmers.

The farmers Lundgren is talking about are regenerative farmers, farmers who, just like the insects he studies, are changing the world.

Farmers who “are taking their farms and rebuilding the natural resource base while producing foods.” Farmers who are “reinventing the system” because “sustainable agriculture isn’t going to cut it anymore.”

Lundgren says thousands of farmers who are part of the regenerative agriculture movement focus on rebuilding soil, while conserving biodiversity on their farms and producing nutrient dense food, profitably.

“Instead of compartmentalizing each aspect of the farm,” he says, “they are combining them into a systems-level perspective.”

Though these farmers have varied practices, Lundgren says that they are unified in certain principals, including:

• No tillage

• Never leave bare soil

• Encourage plant biodiversity

• Integrate livestock with their crops

Lundgren connects the dots between how we currently produce our food and major environmental and health issues, including climate change, pollution, degradation of rural communities, human health problems and biodiversity loss.

Those are big problems. Fortunately, as Lundgren makes clear during his nearly 14-minute talk, we have a solution. To put it simply: Regenerative farmers are boldly “solving planetary-scale problems with our food system.”

Video of A Six-legged March Toward Regenerative Agriculture | Jonathan Lundgren | TEDxBrookings

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller Destroys Life in Humans and Our Soils

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-17 17:52
January 17, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering red farm tractor pesticide herbicide spray field monsanto roundup cc 1000x523.jpg

We’re only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.

We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our “second brain,” plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function, and regulating our immune systems. 

Similar to animals, plants and soil, our bodies contain trillions of microbes—microscopic living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa. The microbes in each person’s body are unique, but not random. They colonize in the body, beginning from birth, depending on the microbes passed on by the mother. Over our lifetimes, they evolve according to our unique exposure to the outside world in order to protect us from disease such as cancer, diabetes and even autism.

What happens when our microbial community is disturbed? New research suggests that exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, may alter the human microbiome, leaving us more vulnerable to sickness and disease.

A second new study suggests that the most widely used herbicide on the planet—Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller—could be causing more damage to our gut microbiome and overall health than we thought. Not only does the weedkiller contain glyphosate, but in its complete formulation, it also contains toxic levels of heavy metals, including arsenic.

Glyphosate and its unintended effects

A new study shows that Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller, which we already know damages healthy soil microbial activity, also damages the gut microbiome of rats.

The study, published by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen, France, raises new alarms about glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world despite mountains of research pointing to the weedkiller’s damaging impacts on human and environmental health.

Glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Roundup®, is destructive to the environment. A recent article by GM Watch details the editor of No-Till Farmer, a magazine that advocates for the use GM crops and glyphosate herbicides in no-till systems, is changing his thinking.

John Dobberstein, No-Till Farmer’s senior editor, recently wrote that “there may be trouble on the horizon for glyphosate,” citing research showing that glyphosate lingers in the soil—and in high amounts—long after it has been applied.

Citing other researches, including Robert Kremer, a retired research microbiologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri, Dobberstein wrote that glyphosate quietly lingers in soil years after it’s been sprayed, damaging non-target crops and suppressing beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, which help plants obtain nutrients from the soil while offering protection against disease.

The herbicide also harms beneficial soil organisms such as small insects and earthworms, while leaving behind chemical residues that wind up in our waterways, Dobberstein wrote, as reported by GM Watch.

Microbes prove their value in humans

While some microbes cause disease, the majority of these cells assist us with everyday processes, such as digesting food and keeping harmful bacteria at bay.

According to an article published this month by, 70 to 80 percent of your immune function resides within your gastrointestinal tract, or “gut.” Poor gut health is associated with autism, behavioral disorders, diabetes, gene expression and obesity.

If, as this recent article in the Atlantic claims, “The microbial community in the ground is as important as the one in our guts,” then the new Séralini study doesn’t bode well for us humans—especially if we keep dousing the world’s soils with glyphosate, and consuming glyphosate-contaminated foods.

Arsenic and old Monsanto

As if there aren’t enough reasons to be worried about glyphosate, one more reason emerged last week when scientists reported that glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup®, contain toxic levels of heavy metals, including arsenic.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® has been the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy. Documents recently made public as a result of multiple lawsuits filed against Monsanto by people who blame exposure to Roundup® for their non-Hodgkin lymphoma suggest Monsanto has known for decades about the health risks related to glyphosate.

Some countries have banned its use.

But as the authors of this latest study point out, glyphosate is not the only ingredient in herbicides like Roundup®—it’s one of multiple ingredients. Those other ingredients make glyphosate-based herbicides even more dangerous than we thought—and should lead to a global ban on all glyphosate-based herbicides.

According to Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini, one of the authors of the study:

These results show that the declarations of glyphosate as the active principle for toxicity are scientifically wrong, and that the toxicity assessment is also erroneous: glyphosate is tested alone for long-term health effects at regulatory level but the formulants – which are composed of toxic petroleum residues and arsenic – are not tested over the long term. We call for the immediate transparent and public release of the formulations and above all of any health tests conducted on them. The acceptable levels of glyphosate residues in food and drinks should be divided immediately by a factor of at least 1,000 because of these hidden poisons. Glyphosate-based herbicides should be banned.

Will the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree? And follow the lead of countries like France and Germany that have proposed countrywide bans on glyphosate?

We can only hope.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with these and other issues, sign up for OCA’s newsletter.


Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-01-11 19:21
January 11, 2018 bytes_banner2.gif

Ask Your Natural Food Store or Co-Op to Dump Ben & Jerry's Until They Go 100% Organic

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-01-11 16:34
January 11, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering bj1000x523.png

This week (Jan. 8, 2018) Ben & Jerry’s proudly announced its 10 best-selling ice cream flavors in 2017.

Seven of those best-selling flavors made OCA’s list, too—our list of flavors that tested positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® weed-killer.

By now, most conscious consumers know that Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s has been scamming consumers with its claims of caring about the environment and getting money out of politics. 

You can’t claim to care about the environment, and still source your milk from farmers that use pesticide-drenched GMO grains to feed their cows.

You can’t claim to care about the environment if your supply chain is a major source of water pollution—a fact that sticks taxpayers will a big fat clean-up bill.

You can’t claim to care about getting money out of politics (no matter how much free ice cream you promise) if your dairy farmers are buying all their seeds and toxic chemicals from Monsanto—a company that spends millions to buy off politicians and regulators.

On its website, Ben & Jerry’s claims to care about climate justice. Specifically, the company says:

We live in a world where the effects of climate change are increasingly real; from melting ice caps to rampant forest fires, it can no longer be denied that man-made carbon pollution is affecting our fragile planet. The scientific evidence is settled; global warming is real and already impacting people around the world. The question now is, “What are we doing about it?”

We’ve got an answer for that question: Stop supporting degenerative agriculture that contributes heavily to global warming. And start supporting organic regenerative agriculture instead.

We’re not buying Ben & Jerry’s long list of greenwashing claims.

We’re also not buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Unfortunately, a lot of retail stores—including natural health stores and food co-ops—are still buying, and selling, Ben & Jerry’s.

That’s why we’ve been asking consumers to ask their favorite stores to dump Ben & Jerry’s until the Unilever-owned brand commits to going 100% organic.

And it’s starting to work.

Case in point: One of our members recently reported asking Feather River Food Co-Op in Portola, California, to stop stocking Ben & Jerry’s. She spoke with a store employee, and here’s what she reported back:

This store had never carried Ben and Jerry's ice cream until a sale flyer came out from their main co-op supplier, NCG, (National Co-operative Grocers) listing Ben and Jerry's pumpkin cheesecake ice cream as a sale item on the flyer. She and her assistant decided to stock a small supply of just that flavor for the sale ad. Soon she was hearing from customers (besides me) that there were problems with Ben and Jerry's Ice cream company, perhaps even more than the glyphosate. Soon they pulled the three that were left. She has told me they do not plan to sell this product in the future. I hope someone from OCA has contacted the NCG.

That’s what we call a victory. Now we need to replicate that victory all over the country.

Want to help? It’s easy. Check out this list of natural food stores and co-ops. If your local store is listed, please deliver this letter to the store asking it to dump Ben & Jerry’s! Then if you can, please fill out this form to let us know what the store said.

Let’s get every natural food store and food co-op to stop selling Ben & Jerry’s—even if we have to do it one by one!

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. Sign up here for updates on the Ben & Jerry’s campaign and other news and alerts from OCA. 

'Big Organic' Egg Producers Poised to Feather their Nests if USDA Scuttles Animal Welfare Rule

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-01-11 14:58
January 11, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety house sparrow feather beak bird cc 1000x523.jpg

If nutritional quality and animal welfare issues factor into your egg-buying decisions, get ready for more bad news out of the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA plans to ditch rules, finalized under the Obama Administration, that would have required organic egg producers to provide hens with more space and more outdoor access.

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) Rule was the result of a 14-year effort by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to tighten up animal welfare rules for organic egg producers.

The OLPP was set to be enacted in January 2017. But under the incoming Trump administration’s regulatory freeze, the rule was delayed multiple times. Now the USDA wants to throw it out completely.

If the agency succeeds, organic egg producers won’t have to follow updated animal welfare rules—rules that the industry fought for, and that consumers overwhelmingly support. 

Why would the USDA get rid of this law? To help “Big Organic” egg producers who already routinely ignore existing animal welfare standards keep pocketing higher profits.

If the OLPP is thrown out, “fake organic” egg producers will get to keep their production costs low. This will allow them to continue underselling smaller organic producers who follow the rules. At the same time, they capture a big share of the organic egg market by selling their eggs under the USDA Organic seal.

In other words, it’s a great way to feather their nests.

These practices not only make it more difficult for smaller organic egg farmers to compete, they also cheat consumers who believe certified organic means higher animal welfare standards. Instead consumers are unknowingly buying eggs from producers who run nothing more than industrial-scale operations indistinguishable from factory farms apart from the type of feed they use. The result are eggs of inferior nutritional quality. (Studies show that authentic certified organic eggs have a deeper yoke color which translates into higher the levels of Vitamin A, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and beta carotene).

Better nutrition and better animal welfare standards aren’t the only benefit for consumers who buy authentic certified organic eggs. Organic eggs produced by ethical farms where hens have real access to pasture, including organic regenerative poultry systems, have far less impact on the environment than those that come from factory farm-type egg operations that pollute with impunity.

Who are the “Big Organic” egg producers? Cal-Maine Foods and Herbruck’s, which was the subject of a Washington Post exposé last year. Herbruck’s sells some of its eggs under the Eggland’s Best brand. But the bulk of the eggs sold by these producers end up on store shelves under private label (store brand) names.

In fact, most retail grocery chains that sell "organic" eggs under their own label (think Aldi’s Simply Nature, Whole Foods 365 Organic, Trader Joe’s, Kroger Simple Truth, Costco, Walmart, etc.) get their eggs from huge factory farm-type operations that routinely violate USDA National Organic Program (NOP) rules.

Lobbyists for the Cal-Maine and Herbruck’s claim they’ll have to get out of the organic market if the new OLPP rule is allowed to stand. Christopher Nichols, third-generation egg farmer in California told the Los Angeles Times that’s bunk:

“Don’t let them fool you. They knew darn well that they were building these buildings out of compliance. And they knew that when this day came, that they were going to have to face this decision. But they probably figured that they had the money and the political muscle to overrule it.”

Smaller producers, Nichols told the LA Times, “just don’t have that.”

Is there still time to keep the USDA from scuttling the new rule? Maybe.

The USDA reopened a 30-day comment period. Consumers and others have until January 17 to tell the USDA to enact the OLPP. You can comment here. Please also take action here.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Alexis Baden-Mayer is OCA’s political director. Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA.

Source Author 2: Alexis Baden-Mayer

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT JANUARY 17: Stop Trump’s Attack on Organic’s Animal Welfare Rules!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-01-09 21:49
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Do you buy organic eggs? 

If so, we hope you buy them from a local farmer or from a grocery store that stocks “pasture-raised” organic. 

If not, the hens that laid your organic eggs were probably confined at the rate of three chickens-per-square-ft. of floor space, in a huge poultry barn housing hundreds of thousands of birds. Those birds likely never set foot outdoors, much less saw the light of day.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT JANUARY 17: Stop Trump’s Attack on Organic’s Animal Welfare Rules! Read more

Let's Make 2018 the Year We Rise Up and Regenerate!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-01-05 14:08
January 5, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate hand fist flower plant power cc 1000x523.png

“...the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” – Wendell Berry, “The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays”

It was a soil scientist who reminded me recently of something we self-obsessed humans often forget: We don’t need to worry about saving the planet. The planet will save itself.

Planet Earth will survive in one form or another, no matter what damage we humans inflict on it. The question is, will we survive with it?

Or will we destroy Earth’s ability to sustain life, all life, as we know it?

We had that conversation sitting around a table in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where about 100 people from 22 countries gathered in September for the second Regeneration International (RI) General Assembly. We were there to evaluate what the group had accomplished since our last gathering in June 2015, when we launched RI, and what we wanted—and needed—to do next.

We came from different organizations, different countries, different backgrounds. We were scientists, farmers, activists, business leaders, policy wonks, writers.

Our concerns ranged from environmental pollution, health, food safety and food sovereignty to economic and social justice, the global refugee crisis and global warming.

We had come together to renew our commitment to the one movement that we believe has the power to address all our individual and collective concerns, the movement that holds the most hope for resolving the multiple and deepening global crises of hunger, poverty, crumbling political systems and climate change.

The Regeneration Movement. The movement that begins with healing our most critical resources—soil, water, air—through better farming and land management practices. And ends with healing our local communities and global societies and restoring climate stability.

A movement by any other name

When the founders (Organic Consumers Association is a founding partner) of RI first came together to formalize the organization, we struggled with the word “regeneration.” It was too long. Not memorable. No sex appeal.

In the end, we decided it was the right word. Turns out, it was also the right time.

The word—and the movement—have taken off far faster than we anticipated, and spread farther than we dared hope.

Increasing numbers of farmers, consumers, environmental and animal welfare activists, economists and scientists are talking about the potential power of regeneration.

Many aren’t just talking, they’re doing.

In the U.S. where industrial agriculture has dominated (and degenerated) for far too long, a growing number of farmers are reclaiming their independence by returning to their roots.

It’s happening In Nebraska. In Colorado. In Iowa. In California. 

In Maine, Wolfe’s Neck Farm, recently renamed Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment, has not only gone regenerative, it has hired a scientist who's developing tools to measure how much carbon the farm is sequestering through its soil-management practices.

Consumers and citizen activists are directly and indirectly supporting organic, regenerative agriculture more than ever before.

Last year saw the citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas, fed up with factory farms ruining their communities, take on Tyson, one of the largest factory farm operators (and largest polluters). They shut down Tyson's project.

In Nebraska, a group of citizen activists who support regeneration, with help from the Nebraska Farmers Union, are working to keep a giant Costco factory farm out of their state.

Activists and politicians in Iowa and Wisconsin are calling for moratoriums on the construction of new industrial factory farms.

An Idaho court just ruled against industrial agriculture by striking down most parts of an Idaho “ag-gag” law prohibiting undercover investigations at livestock facilities aimed at exposing animal abuse and violations of environmental laws.

At the federal level, despite the current pro-corporation administration, lawmakers are proposing new laws and programs to help more farmers transition from industrial to organic regenerative agriculture.

In an effort to fix the Farm Bill in a big way, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has introduced the Food & Farm Act. The bill focuses on programs designed to promote healthy food and reduce industrial agriculture's impact on the environment by providing greater assistance to producers of organic and regenerative food.

Representatives Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), recognizing that organic farming equals economic prosperity for struggling rural communities, recently introduced the Organic Farmers Access Act.  

On the policy level, OCA has always and will continue to advocate for policy reforms that shift agricultural subsidies and appropriations away from industrial monoculture commodity crop farming and industrial meat and dairy production toward support for farmers transitioning to an organic regenerative paradigm that improves public health, revives strong local economies, renews biodiversity, reduces environmental pollution and restores climate stability.

But we'll need an engaged consumer and citizen base to make this movement a success.

Consumers will drive the transition to regeneration

Concerns about chronic illness and rampant obesity have a growing number of consumers looking to change their diets.

Consumer demand is behind record sales of organic food in the U.S. and in other countries. But as consumers demand better quality and greater transparency, they’re taking a more critical look at what organic means, and whether a product lives up to what has always been considered the gold standard—USDA organic.

Many organic producers do adhere to those standards. Unfortunately, some don’t. Skepticism about “Big Organic” has led some consumers to look for more local suppliers, including farms they can inspect in person, in their own communities.

Distrust of big organic brands has also led to the creation of new certifications and standards for consumers who want to support regenerative producers. A collaborative effort with the Rodale Institute and other groups produced the new Regenerative Organic Standard (ROC). The Savory Institute recently announced its new Land to Market (L2M) Program. And earlier last year, the American Grassfed Association announced new standards for grass-fed dairy products.

As more consumers demand higher standards, brands will have to respond. After all, when McDonald’s starts talking “regeneration” it signals a recognition—and validation—of consumers’ changing preferences.

Exercising our purchasing power to move markets toward regeneration is one way consumers can propel the Regeneration Movement forward. We can also support policy change, at the local, state and federal levels, that supports the transition to regenerative agriculture.

But it will take more than that to scale up regeneration fast enough to restore Earth’s health. It will take actively engaging in building the movement in our own communities—a call-to-action that both OCA and RI will emphasize and prioritize in 2018. (Sign up here for more information).

The future of the Regeneration Movement depends on all of us. Will we rise to the occasion?

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International Steering Committee. Sign up here for news and more articles by Ronnie.

Tell Your Congress Members: Organic Food & Farming = Rural Prosperity

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-03 21:43
Belong to campaign: Regenerative AgricultureSafeguard Organic Standards#Resist and #RegenerateCategory: All About Organics, Farm IssuesArea: USA

Most consumers think of organic food as being better for their health, and organic farming being better for the environment. But there’s another good reason to support organic food and farming: It’s better for rural economies and communities.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your member of Congress to help regenerate rural economies by co-sponsoring H.R. 4671, the Organic Farmers Access Act. Read more

Can’t Think of a Better Way to Start the New Year

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-01-03 21:15
January 3, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Farm Issues farmveg1000x523.png

What better way to start the new year than by focusing on renewal and regeneration—in this case, the regeneration of America’s struggling rural economies through support for organic food and farmers.

The stark reality is this: The rural communities that the vast majority of us depend on to grow our food suffer some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S.

The nonprofit Feeding America reports that 75 percent of U.S. counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are in rural areas. And 86 percent of the counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity are rural.

The statistics for rural farmers are even more bleak.  A 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture—farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters—commit suicide at a rate higher than any other occupation. The study said the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.

How do we turn these numbers around? How do we provide hope for rural farmers and communities?

One way is to take our farming system back from corporate agribusiness and return it to local farmers—by providing assistance and incentives to help those farmers transition to regenerative organic farming methods and build local and regional food hubs.

More support for local regenerative organic food and farming systems means better food, better health, a cleaner environment—and healthier local economies.

Please take a minute today to ask your member of Congress to help regenerate rural economies by co-sponsoring H.R. 4671, the Organic Farmers Access Act. 

And from all of us at OCA, here’s to a healthy, regenerative New Year!

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA. 

Organic Consumers Association Response to Bigelow Statement Regarding Our Lawsuit Alleging Bigelow’s ‘All Natural’ Labeling Deceives Consumers

Organic consumers - Fri, 2017-12-22 21:30
December 22, 2017Katherine PaulAll About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Genetic Engineering, OCA in the News bigelow tea box 1000x523

On December 15, 2017, we filed suit against R.C. Bigelow, Inc., makers of Bigelow brand tea products, after tests revealed the presence of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup® weedkiller in Bigelow tea products.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington D.C. under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act, alleges that Bigelow miseleads consumers by labeling its tea product "All Natural" and marketing its brand as "socially responsible" when the products contain glyphosate.

In response, Bigelow posted a statement on its website. Here is our response to that statement.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) stands by our claim that Bigelow tea products contain glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller, and that any product labeled “All Natural” should be free of all pesticide and herbicide residues, as this is what consumers expect.

To Bigelow’s claim that “Every test conducted on our teas has consistently shown we have zero of this herbicide in our cup of tea,” our response is:

1. Bigelow does not state the methodology used in its third-party testing, therefore we do not know at what level of sensitivity Bigelow tests its tea. The tests OCA relied on use the most sophisticated testing methodology currently available, High-Pressure Liquid Spectroscopy (LC-MS/MS), designed to detect levels of glyphosate and AMPA (a metabolite of glyphosate) at levels lower than those set by government agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Using this methodology, an independent lab detected 0.38 ppm of glyphosate in Bigelow tea products.

2. While the EPA establishes what it has determines to be “safe allowable levels” of glyphosate, emerging science suggests that the levels set by the EPA, an agency that relies heavily on industry’s claims rather than independent science, are unsafe.
For example, this report published January 2017 reveals that low doses of glyphosate have been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, suggesting that there is no “safe” level of glyphosate. Also, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health links chronic, ultra-low dose exposure to glyphosate in drinking water to adverse impacts on the health of liver and kidneys. Glyphosate has also been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, infertility and, even in very low doses, to hormone disruption. 

The EPA "safe" levels also don't take into account the cumulative effect of exposure to glyphosate, which we know is found widely in both food and drinking water. Studies have shown that glyphosate bioaccumlates in the human body. Nor does the EPA differentiate between "safe" levels for adults vs. children. More background on glyphosate and human illness can be found here.
 3. Bigelow states that there is “zero” glyphosate in “our cup of tea.” Bigelow does not state how its lab tests for glyphosate in a cup of tea, where tea and any other chemicals included with it are diluted by water. 

4. As our lawsuit states, only Bigelow and its suppliers know the exact source of glyphosate in its products.

5. OCA does not seek to “scare” consumers, but rather to inform consumers and to advocate on their behalf for truthful labeling and marketing of products. A 2014 Consumer Reports poll  found that 66 percent of consumers believe a product labeled “natural” has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms, and 86 percent believe that it should mean those things.

OCA, along with Beyond Pesticides and Moms Across America filed a similar lawsuit, in August 2016, against General Mills, the maker of Nature Valley granola bars. Although General Mills asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit, the courts ruled against General Mills motion to dismiss in Julyy 2017. That lawsuit is now proceeding through the courts.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. For updates on this and other OCA campaigns, sign up here for our online newsletter.