Consumer Power

Tell Congress: Consumers Want Labels on GMO Salmon!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-02-18 19:59
February 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyGenetic Engineering salmon_fish_market_ice_whole_two_1200x630.jpg

We think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was wrong to approve GMO salmon. But it did.

The least the FDA can do now is require clear labels on a genetically engineered food product that some scientists agree poses risks to human health and the environment.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

In November 2015, the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon for sale in the U.S., despite our best efforts to stop them.

So far, GMO salmon hasn’t been sold in the U.S. because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) managed to get the FDA to ban the import and sale of “frankenfish” until the agency agreed to establish labeling guidelines for it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meanwhile is working on finalizing GMO labeling rules since the passage of what became known as the "DARK Act." Those rules are shaping up just as we expected: as nothing more than a weak scheme involving QR codes and telephone numbers--and little or no useful labels for consumers.

Murkowski says that’s not good enough. So she’s reintroduced a bill to require clear labels on GMO salmon.

Murkowski has tried multiple times, without luck, to advance similar legislation. It’s only a matter of time before GMO salmon show up in U.S. stores and restaurants. Please take action today!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

Arsenic in Your Fruit Juice? Tests Say Yes.

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-13 17:49
February 13, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonFood Safety juice_fruit_pour_glass_bottle_1200x630.jpg

Are there heavy metals lurking in your fruit juice?

Yes, according to a recent analysis by Consumer Reports (CR). CR tested 45 fruit juices in four popular flavors—apple, grape, pear and fruit blends—sold in the U.S. and found “elevated levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

The levels were “concerning,” according to CR. Even more worrisome? Toxic heavy metals were found in nearly half of the juices tested.

The testing analyzed 24 national, store and private-label brands. Results included potentially harmful levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic (the type most harmful to health) and/or lead in 47 percent of juices tested.

Out of all the flavors, grape juice and juice blends had the highest average of heavy metal levels.

Toxic heavy metals are known for their silent but deadly effects. Humans are exposed to heavy metals in a variety of ways including pesticides in food, contaminated drinking water, personal care products and amalgam dental fillings.

The toxins are the most dangerous when the effects are cumulative. In other words, the more you are exposed to heavy metals, the greater the risk. According to chemist, Tunde Akinleye, who led the testing:

“In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals [cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury] many times, from many sources. We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”

CR’s test results are particularly alarming for a couple of reasons. For one, fruit juices are often marketed to children, who may be seriously harmed by heavy metal exposure even at low levels. Children who suffer chronic heavy metal exposure may experience lowered IQ, cancer, type 2 diabetes and behavioral problems, among other health issues.

Secondly, these heavy metals wouldn’t be showing up in our food and drink had our regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taken the issue more seriously.

In 2013, the FDA proposed setting a threshold of 10 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water. The move followed earlier testing by Dr. Oz and CR in 2011, which found arsenic in apple juice. About 10 percent of the samples exceeded the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water.

Regulators promised to lower the allowable limit by the end of 2018. But the FDA failed to act and the limit currently remains the same. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at CR, told CR magazine:

“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible. And we have pushed the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 3 ppb. We also believe more juices should be covered, not just apple.”

The FDA does have a set limit for lead in juice. But it’s 50 ppb, a limit CR warns is far too high. The standard for lead in bottled water is 10 times lower, at 5 ppb.

As for cadmium, the FDA has no set limit for the heavy metal in juice. That oversight is disturbing considering exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, heavy metals are not the only threat lurking in fruit juice.

Recent testing by Moms Across America found glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, in six top-selling orange juice brands: Florida’s Natural, Tropicana, Minute Maid, Starter Bros, Signature Farms and Kirkland.

Most noteworthy about this testing is that glyphosate—an herbicide linked to cancer by the World Health Organization—is turning up in products labeled “natural.”

Consumers seek out products that are labeled “natural,” because they believe those products are pesticide-free. And companies like Florida’s Natural use the word “natural” because they know consumers look for it—and will pay a premium for it.

If you expect products labeled “natural” to be free from unnatural ingredients—including agrochemicals linked to cancer—let Florida’s Natural know.

Click here to tell Florida’s Natural: Orange juice with Roundup weedkiller isn’t “natural!”

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Why the Green New Deal Needs to Include Fair Prices for Farmers

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-12 18:45
February 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization woman_farmer_tomatoes_harvest_1200x630.jpg

The Green New Deal (GND) twin resolutions, introduced February 7, 2019, call for all Americans to have access to healthy food, clean water and clean air. The GND also proposes to provide “economic security,” jobs and good wages to all who want to participate in the new green economy.

 

For consumers, healthy food (and clean water and clean air, for that matter) mean transitioning away from an industrial agriculture model that poisons our food and pollutes our environment.

 

For farmers, any promise of “economic security” must include the return to an economic agriculture model based on providing farmers a fair price for the products they produce—or as the agriculture industry calls it, “parity pricing.” Only then, will the GND fulfill its promise to clean up our food system, clean up our environment and provide a “fair and just transition for all communities and workers.”

 

How farm economics used to work

 

The three most basic priorities of any food system should be to:

 

• Grow health-promoting food for people

• Grow food through consistent, ecologically sound methods that use (and renew) limited earthly resources wisely, rather than squandering or depleting them

• Fairly compensate food growers and producers to assure their financial sustainability so they can continue to grow food and care for the land.

 

Our food and farming system used to be built around these priorities. New York organic farmer and food activist, Elizabeth Henderson explains the original economic model for food production this way:

 

Farmers received fair prices for their crops, production was controlled to prevent costly surpluses, and consumer prices remained low and stable. At the same time, the number of new farmers increased, soil and water conservation practices expanded dramatically, and overall farm debt declined. What is even more important is that this parity program was not a burden to the taxpayers…by charging interest on its storable commodity loans, made nearly $13 million between 1933 and 1952.

 

Under this model, it was possible for farmers to:

 

• Calculate the costs of growing, for example, five bushels of wheat

• Extrapolate with slight margins for contingencies (like weather) how much wheat would be grown and required

• Determine a fair baseline price

• Manage surpluses and shortfalls

 

This was a better way to compensate farmers for excess production or shortfalls. Farmers could deposit into and manage stored surpluses during times of excess production, and the public could withdraw from those surpluses in times of scarcity.  There is no real rationale for paying farmers less for shelf-stable foods simply because that food was grown during a period of high yields.

 

The long unwinding of the parity model

 

Unfortunately, beginning nearly 70 years ago, the agro-industry started disrupting this economic model. It began in the early 1950s, with a corporate takeover of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that resulted in government policies that promoted the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in agriculture, and the corporations that sell them. Over time, policy changes led to increased industry consolidation and the concentration of power—and profits—in the hands of a shrinking number of dominant corporations.

 

This shifting economic model creates an uneven playing field for many of today’s farmers who come from multi-generational farming families that passed down their farmlands to successive generations. Some of these descendants—people the public knows as “organic farmers”—carried forward the centuries-old farming traditions that the policy takeover of the 1950s sought to displace. Their long-established cultivation practices (along with many new regenerative practices innovated over the last 40 years) have a dual purpose: to raise the food and to tend the land.

 

Organic regenerative farming practices accord with both nature and common sense—because if you grow food without tending the land, you will ultimately degrade the land until it can no longer grow food. It only makes sense, then, that organic farmers should receive a fair price for the goods—and ecosystem services—they provide.  Charles Walters, founder of Acres USA sums it up this way:

 

Bring back parity and farm organically—that’s the double recipe for bringing prosperity back to the farm.

 

For more on the history of parity price, read this article by organic dairy farmer Kevin Engelbert, or this interview with George Naylor, family farm advocate and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition.

 

How today’s system fails farmers

 

How exactly does the economic model of today’s industrial agriculture system predictably fail to deliver on the three baseline priorities of a healthy food system?  

 

One of the most basic tenets of a sound business model is to cover costs and provide adequate returns. Investing returns back into a business produces steady and sustainable growth. Failure to cover costs and reinvest leads to corner cutting, products of lesser quality, diminishing returns and debt.

 

Instead of giving those who supply one of humankind’s most baseline needs—food—a fair and stable price for what they grow, based on the actual costs (supplies, equipment, labor, land acquisition and management, processing, shipping, taxes, and more) the industrial agricultural system takes an undue share of the profits and entraps growers into working harder and harder, and growing more and more for less and less.

 

Here’s what happens: If farmers grow too little wheat, wheat prices go up. If they grow too much, prices go down. Instead of basing prices on the costs of production, under today’s agriculture economic model, costs are pegged to output levels. In other words, farmers are punished for producing too much food, and rewarded for producing too little.

 

If the goal of farming is to feed people, and provide a decent living for food producers, this makes no sense.

 

Today’s agricultural economic model not only fails farmers, it fails consumers and the environment.

 

Today’s model a disaster for consumers and the environment, too

 

Today’s USDA policies keep healthy food less affordable than junk food. Despite exhortations to consume more fruits and vegetables, food deserts and higher costs force many people to subsist on nutrient-poor packaged junk foods, such as chips, canned food and soda.

 

The disparity and injustice of our two-tiered food system allows those of means to consume healthy fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meat, while those of lesser income must survive on repurposed corn and GMO soy products, and “cheap” meat produced on industrial factory farms, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where animals are treated inhumanely, and fed GMO feed laced with antibiotics, growth hormones and other drugs, including some that have been banned from animal production.

 

In order to compete under today’s model, many farmers find themselves forced into the commodity system, growing monoculture crops like corn and soy which require the use of expensive and toxic pesticides and herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers—all of which pollute waterways, deplete soil organic matter and fertility, degrade the land’s ability to absorb and hold water, kill off biodiversity and contribute to global warming and desertification.

 

Green New Deal has potential to fix our broken farming system

 

A major feature of the proposed Green New Deal is the creation of a new energy economy, with new jobs. But the GND also promises the opportunity to shift to a new food and farming economy that would:

 

• Help farmers caught up in the existing system to transition to regenerative methods

• Facilitate the entrée of new, younger and more diverse populations into a more economically fair and rewarding model for food farming with mentorship from veteran farmers

• Scale up climate mitigation to meaningful levels more successfully than possible through any other means

• Increase the availability of healthy foods for all

 

By giving farmers a fair price through the GND, farmers will be recruited to the frontlines of the climate emergency—reinvesting in the land, rebuilding the soil, increasing biodiversity and growing varied types of crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and not merely commodity crops like corn and soy.

 

This is why numerous environmental, food and climate organizations support the inclusion of regenerative agriculture in the GND.

 

The GND outlines ambitious and much-needed climate goals. Those goals are attainable—but only if the final plan includes policies and programs that will promote a transition from our dominant degenerative industrial agriculture system toward an organic regenerative alternative that provides access to healthy food for all, while at the same ending farming-related soil, air and water pollution, and moving us toward net zero emissions by drawing down and sequestering carbon in healthy soil.

 

Above all, the GND’s promise of “economic security” for all must include fair prices for farmers who farm in ways that produce healthy food, heal the earth and cool the planet.

 

Alison Rose Levy writes for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

URGENT: Support Needed for Bill to Ban Pesticide that Harms Children!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-12 17:52
February 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering pesticide_spray_field_farmer_crop_row_1200x630.jpg

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowDuPont, is a neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide that’s been linked to severe birth defects, brain damage and mental disorders in children.

Yet despite these known risks, and despite new evidence suggesting that Dow knew for decades how toxic chlorpyrifos is to children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still allows chlorpyrifos to be sprayed on more than 50 fruits, vegetables and nuts, including strawberries, almonds, oranges, broccoli and apples.

If the EPA won’t do its job, it’s time for Congress to act.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act of 2019 ( H.R.230), a bill to ban chlorpyrifos.

We thought we’d finally won the battle against this pesticide when toward the end of the Obama administration, the EPA finally proposed a ban on chlorpyrifos.

But Trump’s EPA director, Scott Pruitt (who since resigned after multiple scandals), overturned the ban.

Then, in August 2018, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos within 60 days.

You’d think that would have been the end of it. But on September 24, in an effort to stall once again, the EPA asked the court to rehear the case.

While the EPA does nothing to stop the use of a pesticide the agency itself has determined is unsafe for children and farmworkers, chlorpyrifos continues to be used widely on dozens of crops.

It’s time for Congress to ban this dangerous pesticide. But that won’t happen unless we get enough cosponsors for the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act of 2019 ( H.R.230), a bill to ban chlorpyrifos.

I'm emailing you today because . . .

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-02-08 15:22
February 8, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsPolitics & Globalization gnd_blitz_map_1200x630.jpeg

Thank you for asking your members of Congress to support the Green New Deal (GND) resolutions introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.

Could you take the next step, and join others at a meeting at your Congress members’ offices? Please use this map to find and sign up for a meeting in your district. Then download this Fact Sheet and hand it to your Congress member (or their staff person) and other meeting attendees.

The GND twin resolutions were unveiled yesterday. Already, some lawmakers and media outlets are calling the GND  “unrealistic” and “unaffordable,” despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Powerful corporations—especially the fossil fuel, agribusiness, chemical and pharmaceutical industries—want to kill the GND before it can get off the ground.

The only way the GND will fly, is if we build a powerful social movement to lift it up.

There’s another reason I’m asking you to attend a meeting with your member of Congress—to help us get the message out that only by using the power of organic regenerative agriculture and land restoration, can we actually achieve the GND’s ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2030-2050.

So far criticism of the GND has focused not on whether we need a GND to head off our climate crisis, but whether it’s possible to do what global scientists agree we must do to avoid catastrophe: reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 45-percent within 12 years, and by 100-percent by 2050. Some critics say we can't do it.

Those critics are right—if all we focus on is reducing emissions.

That’s why it’s critical, especially in this early stage, to get the word out that in addition to reducing emissions, we must draw down and sequester the carbon already in the atmosphere.

For the GND to accomplish its climate goals, it must spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuel use toward renewable energy, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward organic regenerative practices that draw down and sequester carbon.

For more than two decades, I’ve led OCA’s efforts to pass laws that stop factory farms (and the GMO crops that supply their feed) from polluting our air and water, and igniting a global health and global antibiotic-resistance crisis.

We’ve worked on Farm Bills to divert taxpayer-funded subsidies away from industrial agriculture, and provide more support for farmers whose practices heal soil and produce healthy food.

We’ve lobbied for state laws to ban dangerous pesticides that end up on our food and water.

Not in my lifetime, have I seen a plan that has the potential to do all of this, while at the same time providing better incomes for all workers, reviving local communities and economies, and pulling us back from the brink of a climate disaster.

I so appreciate your support so far for this transformational resolution. Please consider taking the next step, by joining a meeting in your Congressional district. And don’t forget to distribute this Fact Sheet to everyone there.

Thank you!

 

 

Ronnie Cummins

International Director

The Green New Deal Is Here. And It's Great for Food & Farming!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-07 15:48
February 7, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate gnd_green_grass_blue_sky_clouds_1200x630.jpeg

The Green New Deal (GND) has arrived! You can read the inspiring resolution here.

The GND is so good it speaks for itself. Among the several goals and projects deemed necessary to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the GND includes:

(J) removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation

Now that we’ve passed the dangerous tipping point of 350 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (we’re at 410 ppm), we have to figure out a way to draw down that CO2—or we will continue to suffer the cascading impacts of global warming even after we’ve eliminated greenhouse gas emissions.

The safest and most effective way we have of doing this is to increase the carbon content of our soils in farmland, pasture land, forests, wetlands and coastal marine ecosystems. This can be done on working lands through regenerative organic agriculture techniques that increase fertility and control pests by replacing chemicals with management practices. These include holistic planned grazing, composting, no-till, cover cropping, diverse crop mixes and rotations, and the incorporation of crops that return nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

This is the piece of the puzzle that most climate activists and legislators are unaware of. That’s why it’s so important that this is included in the GND, and why we need to get Congress to support it!

But wait—there’s more! The GND also calls for:

(G) working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—
(i) by supporting family farming;
(ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and
(iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food

This is a plan for food and farming that could solve the economic crisis facing family farmers, the diet-driven health crisis, and the climate crisis—while also addressing the pollution and soil loss caused by industrial agriculture! 

‘Supporting family farming’

We’re encouraged that “supporting family farming” is at the center of the GND’s plan to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. 

With farm prices where they are now, family farms lose money with every bite of food we take. Thousands of farms are lost each year, and the situation is probably worse than reported. 

As long as our country’s struggling family farmers teeter on the edge of foreclosure and bankruptcy, it’s going to be very difficult to prevent them from selling their land to developers or factory farms, or to get them to adopt climate-beneficial farming practices.

Any future legislation that attempts to implement the GND must begin with a program to end the loss of family farms by guaranteeing farmers fair prices from their buyers. As the National Farmers Union describes it, a fair price is “a return of the cost of production plus an opportunity for reasonable profit.” (For more on what “supporting family farming” could mean, read Elizabeth Henderson’s “Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal.”)

In addition to the sections of the resolution that are specific to agriculture and land use, the GND contains a number of mechanisms that would be useful in the transition from greenhouse gas- polluting industrial agriculture to climate-beneficial regenerative organic food and farming.

‘Millions of jobs’

The GND aims “to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.”

How many of these jobs will be in agriculture? Eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture means farming without fossil fuels on smaller farms that send food shorter distances. It means replacing off-farm inputs (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers) with management-intensive practices for fertility and pest-control. It means replacing patented seeds from companies like Monsanto with locally adapted seeds from local breeders. It means getting animals out of factory farms and onto pasture. It means trading massive gas-guzzling tractors for vehicles powered by on-farm electricity and biofuels. 

Each of these shifts will require more hands and, more importantly, more brains. Richard Heinberg estimates the shift might require as many as 50 million U.S. farmers.

Jobs, unionization & employment rights for all workers

The GND calls for treating workers right, including all workers in the food chain, by:

(H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;
(I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;
(J) strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors

It’s easy to see how this would make a difference for farm workers who are left out of many important labor protections enjoyed by most other workers in this country.

Did you know that the food system is our country’s largest—and worst—employer? According to the Food Chain Workers Alliance 2016 report:  

The U.S. food system has grown by 1.5 million more workers in the past five years and continues to be the largest employer in the country–employing a total of 21.5 million workers. That’s 14 percent, or 1 out of every 7 workers, of the nation’s workforce. At the same time, the U.S. food system is the worst employer in the country in terms of wages and working conditions, paying the lowest hourly median wage of $10. This leads to a higher rate of food insecurity for food workers compared to workers in all other industries. In fact, food workers use food stamps (SNAP benefits) at over the double the rate of all other US workers.

While most food system workers are U.S. born, a substantial number are immigrants, some of whom lack legal status. As Farm Aid reports:

Farmworker Justice estimates that 70-80 percent of farmworkers are immigrants (between half and three-quarters of whom are undocumented). The USDA however, has a slightly lower number, citing that about 60 percent of all agriculture workers are foreign born. These discrepancies speak to the veiled nature of the work, number of undocumented workers, and power inequities embedded in the industry. Crop production employs the most immigrants, as 85% of fruits and vegetables are harvested by hand.

Repairing ‘historic oppression’

The GND aims to: 

(E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’)

The “historic oppression” caused by the U.S. food system is well known. It begins with the Europeans’ theft of Western Hemisphere lands from Indigenous Nations and their enslavement of African Americans. As the Union of Concerned Scientists recently pointed out:  

The Europeans who colonized North America stole land from a tremendous diversity of peoples and communities, each with their own sophisticated understanding of how to grow food and manage landscapes that, with few exceptions, allowed them to provide for their needs without degrading the soils, rivers, and forests on which they depended.

Beginning in the 1600s, [destructive European-style agriculture] was powered by forced labor: first with indentured servants from Europe, then increasingly with the labor of enslaved African people. … Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, sharecropping kept profits flowing while prolonging the servitude of many formerly enslaved people. At the same time, the footprint of colonial agriculture spread west along with a flood of settlers, enabled by the violent displacement of indigenous people, and extending the footprint of destructive agricultural practices.

The U.S. has never compensated Native Americans or African Americans for these crimes, and the impact has only been exacerbated. As Leah Penniman writes in “Farming While Black” (you can read a free excerpt here):

About 24 million Americans live under food apartheid, in which it’s difficult to impossible to access affordable, healthy food. This trend is not race-neutral. White neighborhoods have an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly Black communities. This lack of access to nutritious food has dire consequences for our communities. Incidences of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are on the rise in all populations, but the greatest increases have occurred among people of color, especially African Americans and Native Americans. 

Brutal racism—maiming, lynching, burning, deportation, economic violence, legal violence— ensured that our roots would not spread deeply and securely. In 1910, at the height of Black land ownership, 16 million acres of farmland—14 percent of the total—was owned and cultivated by Black families. Now less than 1 percent of farms are Black-owned.

Our Black ancestors were forced, tricked, and scared off land until 6.5 million of them migrated to the urban North in the largest migration in US history. This was no accident. Just as the US government sanctioned the slaughter of buffalo to drive Native Americans off their land, so did the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Housing Administration deny access to farm credit and other resources to any Black person who joined the NAACP, registered to vote, or signed any petition pertaining to civil rights. When Carver’s methods helped Black farmers be successful enough to pay off their debts, their white landlords responded by beating them almost to death, burning down their houses, and driving them off their land.

In her book, Penniman lists a number of policies the Northeast Farmers of Color Network has proposed to end racism in the food system. The policies serve five goals: 1) Real Food for Our People; 2) Dignity for Farm Workers; 3) Community-Based Farmer Training; 4) Economic Viability for Farmers; and 5) Reparations for Stolen Land and Wealth.

The GND resolution lays out a plan that has the potential to accomplish all of the these goals. But it’s success ultimately depends on us. Without a social movement to give it power and direction, the GND will fail. Please check out these actions you can take to help garner support for the GND.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch Sue Pilgrim's Pride for Deceptive Advertising

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-07 13:17
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social JusticeOrganic Consumers AssociationFebruary 7, 2019 chick_chicken_close_up_beak_1200x630.jpg

Nonprofits allege poultry producer’s factory farm practices are inhumane and environmentally irresponsible

CONTACT:

Darcey Rakestraw, (202) 683-2467], drakestraw@fwwatch.org
Katherine Paul, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org
Sarah Pickering, (424) 305-0165 sarahp@animalequality.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 7, 2019 - Food & Water Watch and Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have sued Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. for deceptive marketing and advertising of Pilgrim’s Pride chicken products. The suit was brought in D.C. Superior Court, under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Nonprofits Food & Water Watch and OCA, represented by Richman Law Group and Animal Equality, allege that Pilgrim’s falsely claims that the birds used in its products are fed “only natural ingredients,” “treated humanely” and produced in an environmentally responsible way, when in fact Pilgrim’s systematically raises, transports and slaughters chickens in inhumane factory-farm conditions that include the routine use of antibiotics, synthetic chemical disinfectants, genetically modified crops growth-promoting drugs, and other unnatural substances.

“Pilgrim’s Pride is using slick marketing tactics to deceive consumers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “There is nothing natural, humane or environmentally responsible about its operations. Pilgrim’s Pride looks after its profits—not the planet.”

Ronnie Cummins, OCA international director, said: “When consumers read that Pilgrim's chickens are fed 'only natural ingredients' they don't expect those ingredients to include antibiotics, genetically modified grains or growth-promoting drugs. Consumers also don't expect a 'humanely raised' bird to have lived its life crammed into a disease-ridden warehouse with no access to the outdoors. It's time for Pilgrim's to clean up its act, or come clean on its marketing claims."

The groups also accuse Pilgrim’s of  the abuse of chickens by Pilgrim’s Pride contractors and employees, the use of toxic chemicals and the emission of large amounts of pollutants, and the use of artificially selected fast-growing, breast-heavy chicken breeds that have chronic and debilitating health conditions.

Complaint available on request.

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers. Visit www.organicconsumers.org.

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Running Dry: New Strategies for Conserving Water on the Colorado

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-06 20:08
Environment & ClimateJim RobbinsYale Environment 360January 31, 2019https://e360.yale.edu/features/running-dry-new-strategies-for-conserving-water-on-the-colorado colorado_river_water_canyon_landscape_12000x630.jpg

From the air, the Grand Valley Water Users Association canal — 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep — tracks a serpentine 55-mile-long path across the mountain-ringed landscape of Mesa County, Colorado. It’s a line that separates parched, hard-baked desert and an agricultural nirvana of vast peach and apple orchards and swaying fields of alfalfa.

The future of this thin brown line that keeps the badlands of the Colorado desert at bay, however, is growing more uncertain by the day.

Since 2000, the snow that blankets the Colorado Rockies each winter — the source of most of the river’s water — has tapered off considerably. Last year it was less than half of normal. So far, the farmers here have gotten their share of water, but this year could bring the first emergency declaration by water administrators. That would mean that some “junior” water users — those whose allocations came later — may have to forego their share in favor of senior users.

A New Generation of Carbon Farmers: Organic, Grass-Fed Ranch Connects Young Women to Agriculture

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-06 16:40
February 6, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate woman_farm_ranch_cows_field_ag_1200x630.jpg

For millennia, women have played a central role in farming and ranching communities. Today, a new generation of women are taking on new roles of carbon farmers and ranchers managers.

 

In the U.S., there are more than 900,000 women farmers, according to data collected in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  That means women constitute 31 percent of the agricultural sector, and contribute upwards of $12 billion to America’s economy.

 

Historically, men have been considered a better fit for work in the agriculture field, work often characterized as rugged and ruthless. But as regenerative agriculture becomes more popular, women are bringing unique strengths to the field.

 

At San Juan Ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a woman’s kindness and affinity for animals is viewed as a key component in producing humanely raised livestock. The 4,000-acre ranch, owned and operated by Julie Sullivan and George Whitten, is a certified organic, 100-percent grass-fed beef ranch that doubles as a teaching center. Sullivan told the Colorado Springs Gazette:

 

“I think a deep relationship (with the land and animals) really appeals to the young women who want to go into agriculture, or at least the young women that come here. I think that they’re looking for a way for their life to have meaning, for a way to feel their strength and their capacity inside the context of a relationship.”

 

For more than a decade, Sullivan and Whitten have hired interns or apprentices through the Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program. The interns work full time on the ranch for one year, learning about holistic management, animal husbandry, planned grazing, herding, ranch infrastructure maintenance, soil health, cover cropping, low-stress livestock handling, organic certification and the process for finishing grass-fed cattle. According to Quivira’s website:

 

Apprentices emerge from the program with tangible skills, both technical and interpersonal, that are essential for successful employment in sustainable agriculture, and for eventual ownership and management of their own operation.

 

The majority of interns hired to work at San Juan Ranch thus far have been women. In the beginning, Whitten was hesitant to hire women because he was unsure of their willingness to tackle some of the grittier parts of ranching. Again, from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

 

“Ranching communities have always had really strong women outside doing ranch work, but often those were people that either their husband had died or there were no sons in the family. George just didn’t think that young women would want to be covered in blood and puss and do branding and do castrating and want to lay underneath the truck and get oil in their face. It just hadn’t been his personal experience that women would want to do sort of some of that dirty messy part of ranching.”

 

Whitten, however, changed his mind—and his view of the role women play on the ranch—after their first female hire.

 

Among the women apprentices at San Juan Ranch is 25-year-old Morgan Atkinson, an Idaho native whose love for the great outdoors led to an interest in western land management and ranching and grazing practices. Growing up, Atkinson spent summers working at her family’s local grocery store. It was through this experience, as well as her education in environmental science, that Atkinson developed an interest in the way landscapes are used to produce food. She realized that maintaining a healthy ecosystem is key to producing healthy food, healthy soil and healthy animals. Atkinson says:

 

“Being raised in a small community taught me the necessity of supporting the local farmer we knew rather than blindly buying food unaware of where it was coming from. Because we are a local and independent grocery store, we rely on the same kind of local support and reciprocity. When I became independently interested in agriculture, I recognized that these ideas were already ingrained in my values."

 

By connecting young women to ranching and organic regenerative agriculture, San Juan Ranch is helping to build a new generation of carbon farmers with an emphasis on animal welfare. The cows at the ranch are 100-percent grass-fed, and when finished, are mainly sold wholesale through Sweet Grass Cooperative, a co-op co-founded by Sullivan and Whitten that’s comprised of small, sustainable ranchers.

 

With more than 30 years of experience in holistic management, Whitten understands the symbiotic relationship between purposeful cattle grazing and the carbon-sequestering potential of healthy grasslands. Through cover cropping and holistic grazing, the land at San Juan Ranch remains productive despite enduring severe droughts and other unpredictable climate change-driven weather patterns.

 

The ranch also partners with organic farmers who raise green cover crops as grazing forage. Grazing cattle on these fields allows ranchers to increase soil carbon and improve soil structure, while also finishing the cattle on high-quality forage.

 

Want to help increase the number of livestock farmers in your area raising grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and poultry? Ask your representatives in Congress to be original cosponsors of the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act and the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act. Click here to learn more.

 

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Neonic Pesticide May Become More Toxic in Tap Water

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-05 19:17
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesJennifer SassNational Resource Defense CouncilFebruary 4, 2019https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-sass/neonic-pesticide-may-become-more-toxic-tap-water tap_water_faucet_bathroom_1200x630.jpg

Yet again, our government scientists—the oft neglected but so important brain trust of our Nation—bring the public some very important new data. Pesticide water monitoring experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) paired up with scientists from the University of Iowa in a federally-funded collaboration to track neonicotinoid pesticides or “neonics” in tap water, including the potential to form chlorinated disinfection byproducts (DBPs) from the pesticides and their metabolites that may be more toxic than the original compounds. And, the news isn’t good.

Following up on previous research finding neonicotinoids in tap water (Klarich et al 2017), the scientists now explore whether the neonic compounds or their metabolites that are generated in the environment are transformed into disinfection byproducts during common, important drinking water treatment processes used to protect public health, such as chlorination (Klarich Wong et al 2019). This paper is the first report of two known metabolites of imidacloprid in tap water; desnitro-imidacloprid and imidacloprid-urea. This is especially concerning because desnitro-imidacloprid is about 319 times more toxic to mammals than imidacloprid, so even much lower levels could be harmful.

In addition to discovering the presence of the two metabolites in tap water, the authors demonstrate the likelihood that these metabolites are further transformed to a new form of neonic-derived chlorinated disinfection byproduct during routine water treatment processes. The scientists simulated the conditions that would occur during realistic drinking water conditions, to show under laboratory conditions that chlorinated chemicals are produced.

These new chlorinated contaminants are untested, untracked, and potentially harmful. In other words, their potential impacts on human health could be a big deal! Other types of disinfection byproducts in drinking water are highly toxic, linked to a risk of cancer and birth defects.

Those potential harms could also be a big deal risk-wise because neonics are the most widely used insecticides on the market. EPA and other regulatory agencies have disregarding the potential for neonics to harm vertebrates, because their mechanism of toxicity was thought to be insect-selective. Unfortunately, this caused a regulatory blind-spot in the harm they do to beneficial insects like bees, and aquatic invertebrate species that provide a critical food source for amphibians, fish and other aquatic vertebrates. The reason the metabolites (for example, desnitro-imidacloprid) raise a red flag is that science now demonstrates that the insect-selective toxicity is altered, causing them to be more toxic to vertebrates including people and other mammals.

See USGS Pesticide Use Maps for the most current information, but note USGS's disclaimer that beginning in 2015 the data reports no longer include seed treatment uses of pesticides; for the neonics this represents somewhere around 90% of total pounds of neonic pesticides used in agriculture—a very serious under-reporting. See below for imidacloprid (note the drop-off since 2015 due to failure to include seed treatments)

The study report authors note that although the chlorinated disinfection byproducts derived from neonics have an unknown toxicity profile, it is possible that they may be more toxic than the parent compound. Thus, the authors recommend in the article that the “greater potential toxicity and frequent presence in these water samples of neonicotinoid metabolites demonstrates the need to consider their fate and persistence in drinking water treatment systems (ex. during chlorination and other treatment processes) and their potential effects on human health” (p. 7). NRDC agrees! That’s why we are asking EPA to include all the neonic metabolites and chlorinated products in its human health risk assessment of the neonic pesticides, due later this year.

In addition to surface water and drinking water contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found neonics inside fruits and vegetables, where they can’t be simply be washed off due to their systemic nature. And, emerging science suggests a link with neonic exposure and potential disorders including neurobehavioral impairments in animal studies, and Autism-like effects in prenatally exposed children (see my blog for details).

In addition to including all relevant neonic metabolites in its risk assessment, EPA should also assess the cumulative risks from all the neonic pesticides and their toxic metabolites together. It is alarming that EPA seems to have no plan for conducting a cumulative risk assessment for this toxic and persistent class of pesticides.

The scientific evidence of harm is piling up—EPA must pay attention!

Posted with permission from National Resource Defense Council.

Exciting News! Time to Take Action on the #GreenNewDeal!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-02-01 19:12
February 1, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerPolitics & Globalization farm_barn_sunrise_agriculture_field_1200x630.jpg

We never thought we’d see the day when the climate movement joined with the movements for food and farming, and economic and social justice, to put forward a comprehensive solution to the climate crisis that calls for both halting fossil fuel emissions and drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere.

But . . . this day is dawning under the banner of the #GreenNewDeal (GND). And this week is your opportunity to get involved.

We’re joining two allied calls to action and we hope you will, too.

First, if you haven’t already, please sign up to attend or host a #GreenNewDeal watch party on February 5!

We just heard from the Sunrise Movement that so far, about 400 watch parties have been scheduled. We’re thrilled to report 226 OCA members have signed up to host or attend!

That’s great news. It means that the food movement will have a strong presence at these events!

To that end, here’s a fact sheet on food, farming and the GND. Please download, print and distribute widely at your February 5 watch party.

If you haven’t already, read this in-depth explanation of why the GND is so important for the food and farming movement.

Want to connect with other OCAers who are volunteering to support the GND? Join this google group.

Second, demand that your Representative fight for a Green New Deal: Sign up to organize or attend an event in your community from Feb. 4 - 8!

OCA is proud to have joined over 600 groups across the U.S. calling on the new Congress to take strong action on climate as one part of GND.

From February 4-8, this national movement for Real Climate Leadership will ramp up our call for a strong GND by publicly calling on every representative to support these 5 demands:

• Halt all new fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure, and subsidies, and transition power generation to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 or sooner

• Rapidly decarbonize the agriculture and transportation sectors, and expand access to public transportation

• Ensure a fair & just transition, led by impacted workers and communities, including low income and communities of color, without relying on corporate schemes or market-based mechanisms

• Uphold indigenous rights

• Pass a national jobs guarantee, creating good jobs with collective bargaining and family-sustaining wages.

Our actions have already changed the debate on climate politics and helped make the GND a reality. Not only is the Green New Deal about to be officially submitted to Congress as a joint resolution introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), but agriculture is increasingly recognized to be an essential component. (Read Ronnie Cummins’ “A Call for the Food & Farming Movement to Get Behind the Green New Deal,” and Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s “A Green New Deal Must Include Food & Farming).”

It is critical that we get as many members of Congress as possible to support the GND. If you haven’t already, please ask your member of Congress to get on board with the GND!

Again, thanks so much for getting involved. The GND is our best hope for a healthier future!

And the Hits Just Keep Coming: More Bad News for Monsanto

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-01-31 00:49
January 30, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization monsantosign1000x523.jpg

Photo credit: Gustave Deghilage, Flickr

In a few weeks, Monsanto will go on trial again. And when it does, the pesticide-maker won’t be able to suppress evidence that the company ghostwrote scientific studies and otherwise tried to influence scientists and regulators in an attempt to hide the potential health risks of its flagship product, Roundup weedkiller.

This week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, the federal judge in San Francisco overseeing 620 cases involving Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and cancer victims, ruled that the evidence could be introduced in the upcoming trial. According to a Reuters report, Chhabria said the documents were “super relevant.”

Chhabria’s ruling almost guarantees that the documents in question will play a role when, on February 25, a jury in San Francisco Federal Court, begins hearing the case of Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto. Hardeman alleges that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

Hardeman’s case follows the August 10, 2018, $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) awarded to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who also sued Monsanto for causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto’s appeal of the $78-million judgment is still pending.

There are more than 9,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court. Reuters reported in November that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann called the lawsuits "nuisances." But the company’s stock took a big hit after the jury sided with Johnson, so shareholders probably aren’t thrilled with Chhabria’s ruling this week.

Meanwhile, in other bad news for Monsanto . . .

Here are a couple more developments that probably have Bayer wishing it never got tangled up with Monsanto:

• Although we're still awaiting official confirmation, word on the street is that Costco will discontinue retail sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers. Moms Across America reports that the product will not be on Costco shelves this spring. If true, this is a big deal that could lead other retailers, such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Walmart to follow suit. 

• On January 15, a French court banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360 to professional gardeners and farmers in France. The ruling came less than a month after France banned all pesticides from public green spaces, and also banned over-the-counter sales of pesticides to home gardeners.

The court cited the failure of France’s food and environmental safety agency ANSES to weigh the potential safety risks of Roundup Pro 360, when the agency reauthorized its use, in March 2017.

• A new study published in Environmental Research and Public health reveals a link between premature death from Parkinson’s disease and exposure to glyphosate and paraquat. Glyphosate had previously been linked to Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.

The study analyzed people in Washington State living near land used for agricultural purposes. The authors said they hope their work “contributes to the wider discussion on the need to amend current pesticide regulations and public health policies.” The noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on glyphosate application are based on a risk assessment process that was conducted over 30 years ago.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

#MonsantoTrial

Take Action to Save America's Pollinators!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-01-29 14:59
January 29, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering bee_sunflower_butterfly_1200x630.jpg

Now that the federal government has reopened, it’s time to talk to your U.S. Representatives and Senators about what you’d like them to accomplish this year.

We hope you’ll put the Save America’s Pollinators Act at the top of your list.

TAKE ACTION: The Save America’s Pollinators Act will soon be reintroduced. Ask your members of Congress to be original cosponsors of this important bill!

If you’ve been following OCA’s Save the Bees campaign, you’ve seen the recent headlines.

The increasing use of pesticides is a ticking time bomb for all insects, including pollinators. Declining insect populations could soon have dire consequences, not just for insects but for all the animals and plants that rely on them—from insect-eating birds, shrews, lizards and frogs, to the 120 pollinated U.S. crops worth more than $15 billion annually.

“If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse,” warns Dr. David Goulson of Sussex University, UK, one of the scientists behind a study showing a “horrific decline” in the flying insect populations of Germany’s nature reserves. Seventy-five percent of the insects in those areas have disappeared in the past 25 years.

Ultimately, the collapse of insect populations foretells what Goulson described as “ecological Armageddon.”

Genetic engineers are working on Frankenbees in an effort to give honey bees resistance to the insecticides that are currently killing them, but this is just as scary. Here’s what Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the UK conservation charity Buglife, thinks of that idea:

Do we want to take honey bees into such a dark place? It would mean that the countryside becomes a living hell for any pollinator that isn’t a honey bee. They will be sprayed to death. It just moves us closer to the collapse of the natural ecosystem. Perhaps people forget that honey bees do not pollinate every flower. Our wild plants will disappear and we end up with a world where only the rich can afford pollinated food. A world where pollination is only available to those who can afford it, where many people have no access to fruit, is truly terrifying and will lead to massive societal pressures. It begins to look like something out of “Blade Runner.” We lose the beauty and wonder and we expose ourselves and other animals to risks needlessly.

Should we do something about insect apocapylpse? Or just keep trying to genetically engineer honey bees to survive it?

If you’re in favor of the former, please ask your representatives in Congress to become original cosponsors of the Save America’s Pollinators Act when it is reintroduced this year.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Save America’s Pollinators Act!

New Study Confirms: Degenerative Food & Farming System Poses Mortal Threat

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-01-28 20:20
Environment & Climate, Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJanuary 28, 2019 red_blue_tractor_farm_crop_field_spray_sun_1200x630.jpg

A new study calling for a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

The study, the result of three years of work by 26 commissioners from several countries, was released this week by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.  Boyd Swinburn, a University of Auckland professor and co-chair of the commission, as reported by Channel News Asia, said:

"Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories. In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy."

According to the report, nearly a billion people are hungry and another 2 billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Boyd said that malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition and obesity, is by far the biggest cause of ill health and premature death globally, and that both are expected to be made “significantly worse” by climate change.

A familiar, but welcome call for reform

We have long called for the reform of our degenerative industrial agriculture system. We’ve drawn attention to the impact of industrial agriculture on global warming and deteriorating health. And we’ve highlighted the remarkable potential for organic regenerative agriculture to naturally draw down and sequester carbon, through nature’s own photosynthesis.

We’ve also called on global policymakers to connect the dots between degenerative agriculture, poor health and climate change.

We’ve said all along that the influence of self-serving corporations over policy is largely to blame for U.S. and global policymakers’ collective failure to address our degenerative food and farming system, and the devastation that system has wrought on human health and the environment.

This latest study comes at a time when climate scientists have sounded their most urgent and alarming warnings to date. It also comes at a time of keen interest in a Green New Deal, whose backers are calling for nothing less than radical solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.

Degeneration Nation: the frightening truth

Welcome to Degeneration Nation, where the frightening truth is this: Big Food companies, fast food chains, chemical and seed giants such as Bayer/Monsanto, and corporate agribusiness, aided and abetted by indentured politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties, are slowly but surely poisoning us with unhealthy, nutrient-deficient, contaminated food.

The pesticides, GMOs, hormone disruptors and antibiotic residues in non-organic produce, grains and meat, coupled with the excessive sugar, salt and bad fats in the processed foods and beverages that make up the majority of the American diet, have supersized and degenerated the body politic. An epidemic of chronic diseases directly related to our toxic food and environment has spread across the U.S. and much of the world.

The overwhelming evidence is that human health is seriously deteriorating, and that the underlying causes of this health crisis are directly related not only to our highly toxic industrial practices, but also to our degenerate food, farming and land-management practices.

In the agricultural sector alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies more than 1,400 pesticides and 1,800 so-called “inerts” chemicals in use, in addition to a toxic stew of animal drugs, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers and GMOs. Few of these have been properly tested, singly or in combination, for safety.

The public health and economic consequences of our degraded environment and food system are alarming. A recent Rand Corporation study 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; and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. health care spending of $3.5 trillion.  

One out of every two Americans will get cancer at least once in their lifetime. According to recent research, U.S. men born in 1960 have a lifetime cancer risk of 53.5 percent. For women, it’s 47.5 percent.  

Seventy percent of U.S. drinking water is contaminated with Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, while 93 percent of consumers now have traces of this toxic poison (active ingredient glyphosate) in our urine.  

The authors of “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” report that one in 13 U.S. children have serious food allergies; 6 - 24 percent have serious intestinal problems; 20 percent are obese; 60 percent have chronic headaches; 20 percent suffer from mental disorders and depression. One in every 41 boys and one in every 68 girls are now diagnosed with autism.

Beyond destroying our health, chemical and fossil fuel-intensive factory farms and GMO monocultures are polluting our water and air, degrading our soils, forests and wetlands, killing off biodiversity and heating up the planet.

The delicate rhythms of nature—the Earth’s carbon cycle circulating between the atmosphere, oceans, soils and forests, the water or hydrological cycle and the climate—are unraveling.

Cook organic, not the planet

The Lancet Obesity Commission study is clear: Climate change, obesity and poor nutrition can all be linked in some way to the mass production of processed, nutrient-poor food. This is an idea that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

When most people think about climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the impact of fossil fuels—our non-renewable fossil fuel-based energy system for transportation and for utilities and manufacturing, including the construction and the heating and cooling of our homes, offices and buildings.

What few people understand is that a full 44-57 percent of all global GHG emissions are generated by chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive industrial farm production, food processing, packaging, refrigeration, transportation and destructive land-use practices, such as deforestation, heavy plowing, lack of cover crops and wetlands destruction.  

Let’s take a closer look at the 44-57 percent of human GHG emissions coming from our industrial, GMO, factory farm food system, and compare how transitioning to regenerative food, farming and land-management practices would not only drastically reduce these emissions, but actually draw down excess atmospheric carbon and sequester it in our soils, trees and wetlands—and in the process, produce more nutrient-dense, chemical-free food.

Direct use of oil and gas in farming: 11 to 15 percent

Most climate analysts agree that fossil fuel use on farms and ranches, including chemical farm inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), is responsible for at least 11-15 percent of all global CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Most of these emissions come from the use of fossil fuel-powered farm and irrigation equipment and petroleum-derived chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

In addition, the excess manure generated by factory farms, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as the industry calls them, releases significant quantities of methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and the oceans.

How can we reduce these on-farm emissions? By converting chemical- and energy-intensive farms to organic and regenerative crop production and planned rotational grazing and free range livestock production. This will require a combination of conscious consumers and farmers working together, on a local-to-global scale to reject factory farm, GMO, chemically tainted, highly processed food, and radical changes in public policy and investment practices.

Food- and farming-derived deforestation: 15 to 18 percent

Global “land use change” or deforestation is generally recognized as contributing to approximately 20 percent of all GHG emissions over the past 200 years.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that expansion of agriculture, especially for export crops such as GMO soybeans (primarily for animal feed) in Latin America, or palm oil (for biofuels and processed food) in Asia, accounts for 70-90 percent of global deforestation.

Worldwide, industrial agriculture is pushing into grasslands, wetlands and forests, destroying what were previously carbon-sequestering forests and grasslands. Food and farming’s contribution to deforestation thus accounts for 15-18 percent of global GHG emissions.

Over the next 50 years we need to preserve the forests we have left, and plant and nurture a trillion or more new trees. Since the areas of tropical forest deforestation are also the areas of greatest poverty and unemployment, reforestation and forest restoration can provide several hundred million jobs to those local residents and forest dwellers who need them most.

Food transport/food miles: 5 to 6 percent

Globally it is generally agreed that transportation accounts for 20-25 percent of all GHG emissions. According to the ETC group, “we can conservatively estimate that the transportation of food accounts for a quarter of global GHG emissions linked to transportation, or 5-6 percent of all global GHG emissions.” In the U.S. it is commonly estimated that the average food item in your grocery store or restaurant has travelled 1,500 miles before it reaches its final destination. Multi-ingredient processed foods, burn up even more food miles.

If we are to significantly reduce global emissions we will need to drastically reduce the food miles and carbon footprint of our food purchases and focus on fresh non-processed or minimally processed and packaged food produced locally and regionally, including food produced through urban agriculture. Before the second World War most food consumed in the U.S. and other industrialized nations came from a 100-mile radius of where people lived. During the Second World War, 40-50 percent of all food consumed by Americans came from urban “Victory Gardens,” while 30 percent of all food in Great Britain similarly came from urban gardens.

Food processing/packaging: 8 to 10 percent

Food processing has become a major part of the industrial food chain. In the U.S. , the overwhelming majority of food purchased in grocery stores or restaurants (70 percent) is processed food.  

ETC group states that the “ . . . transformation of foods into ready-made meals, snacks and beverages requires an enormous amount of energy, mostly in the form of carbon. So does the packaging and canning of these foods. Processing and packaging enables the food industry to stack the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores with hundreds of different formats and brands, but it also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions—some 8 to 10 percent of the global total.”

More and more consumers are recognizing that highly processed food, whether served at home or in fast food restaurants is bad for our health, and that wasteful packaging, misleading advertising and plastic bags and packages are harmful both to our health (especially children’s health) and to our environment, including the oceans.

This awareness has caused a boom in sales of fresh organic produce and animal products in natural and organic food stores and farmer’s markets. Many cities and even entire nations are now moving toward banning plastic bags. Unfortunately, U.S. consumers still spend almost half of their food dollars eating in restaurants and fast food outlets where highly processed, packaged foods dominate the menu. Similarly, in schools and cafeterias pre-cooked processed foods delivered by food service conglomerates have displayed hand-cooked meals prepared from fresh ingredients.

If we are to reduce the 8-10 percent of global fossil fuel emissions coming from food processing and packaging we will need to get back to healthy, organic, regionally produced foods, cooked from scratch with natural ingredients. This will not only benefit our health but will also be better for the health of the climate and the environment.

Food refrigeration & retail: 2 to 4 percent

Approximately 15 percent of all global electricity consumption is for cooling and refrigeration. Of course global food sourcing depends upon keeping fresh produce and animal products cold.

As ETC group says: “Considering that cooling is responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and that leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of GHGs, we can safely say that the refrigeration of foods accounts for some 1-2 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. The retailing of foods accounts for another 1-2 percent.”

Again, reducing our food miles, buying locally and regionally—this is not only good for the planet, but good for our health and the economic well-being of our local farmers and ranchers as well. Until the electricity grid is converted over to renewable energy, food refrigeration, and refrigeration in general (especially air conditioning), will continue to belch out an unsustainable amount of greenhouse gases.

In the meantime we can all do our part, not only by turning down our thermostats, but by buying fresh foods produced locally and regionally, pressuring politicians to require local purchasing for schools and institutions, or better yet, by growing some of our own.

Throwing food into landfills instead of composting 3 to 4 percent

Our industrial food and farming system currently discards 30-50 percent of all the crops and the food that is produced. Not only is this a prodigious waste of the fossil fuel energy and labor involved in producing this food, but the food waste itself generally ends up in garbage dumps and landfills, (rather than being converted into compost) releasing substantial amounts of methane and other GHGs.

Quoting again from ETC Group: “Between 3.5-4.5 percent of global GHG emissions come from waste, and over 90 percent of these are produced by materials originating within the food system.”

Our planet has five pools or repositories where greenhouse gases are absorbed and stored: the oceans, the atmosphere, the soils, vegetation (plants, especially perennial plants, grasses, and forests) and hydrocarbon deposits.

Our global challenge over the next 25 years is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans, leave the remaining fossil fuels (oil, coal, uranium, and natural gas) in the ground, and move a critical mass of excess atmospheric carbon (250 billion tons of carbon) back into the soil, by transitioning to regenerative food, farming and land-use practices. By doing this we will not only be able to reverse global warming—we’ll also produce healthier food and healthier people.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Watch the #GreenNewDeal Livestream. And Invite Your Friends!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-01-24 17:24
January 24, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsPolitics & Globalization hand_holding_bright_earth_planet_gnd_1200x630.jpg

Want to know what all the #GreenNewDeal (GND) buzz is about?

Want to know why we’re mobilizing the food and farming movement to support the GND—and how you can help?

Find out by watching the GND livestream on February 5, and by reading my message below.

Leaders of the Sunrise Movement are asking people to attend or host a livestream watch party on February 5. OCA staff members have all signed up—and we hope you will, too!

Sign up to attend a watch party.

Sign up to host a watch party. It’s easy to do. There’s even a step-by-step guide. You can choose to make your party public so others can join, or private with just your friends.

Let us know if you plan to host or attend a watch party. We’ll email you additional materials about why the GND matters to the food & farming movement.

What to expect on February 5

On February 5, leaders of the Sunrise Movement will share the in-depth details of their 2019 campaign to make the GND a reality. They’ll share lots of resources to help you explain the GND to your family and friends, and how it could transform our economy and our lives.

What exactly is the GND? Right now, it’s a set of ambitious goals aimed at addressing global warming and income inequality, in part by rapidly transitioning to a fossil fuel-free economy while at the same time guaranteeing everyone who wants one a job and a living wage.

Proponents of the GND envision 2019 as a year of building public and political support for the GND’s goals, while also bringing together experts in science, technology, policy and economics to design a broad range of policies and programs to implement those goals.

In 2020, Congress would turn those policies and programs into legislation.

Why do we want you, a food activist, to get involved?

We’re totally on board with the GND’s goal of shifting the U.S. to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible, and achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

But here’s the thing. We believe the only way to actually achieve net zero emissions by 2030 is to both reduce emissions and draw down the CO2 already in the atmosphere. And the best way to draw down and sequester carbon? Organic and regenerative farming and land-use practices.

Right now, the media and many of the GND’s most enthusiastic supporters are focusing almost exclusively on the power of transitioning to renewable energy to address global warming.

We need your help to change that—by getting more GND supporters to start talking about food and farming.

Our job—and we need your help!—is to make sure that the final version of the GND includes policies and programs designed to scale up organic regenerative farming, in addition to policies and programs geared toward alternative energy solutions.

If we succeed, not only will we help the GND achieve its net zero emissions goal, but we’ll also help grow the organic regenerative food system.

The GND’s guaranteed jobs and $15 dollar/hour minimum wage proposals would mean more income for farmworkers and more money in consumers’ pockets.

Consumers would be able to buy more locally produced, nutrient-dense organic food. This in turn would generate more income for local farmers and food producers, who under current economic conditions increasingly are being forced into bankruptcy, or having to sell out to big corporations with vast financial resources economies-of-scale advantages.

Let’s face it. Right now, the deck is stacked against small, local, independent farmers and food producers. U.S. Farm Bill policies provide billions in subsidies to big industrial farms that grow GMO crops and operate giant factory farms.

We can keep trying to chip away at the policies that make it almost impossible for “good” farmers to succeed.

Or, we can make sure that the architects of the GND recognize regenerative agriculture as a powerful solution to global warming—and take action by including policies and programs that will scale up that solution, fast!

For the first time in decades I see a real, viable, hopeful way forward for rapidly scaling up the organic regenerative food and farming movement, and for addressing our most urgent crisis—global warming.

That’s why I’m asking you to join us in building support for the GND, and especially for making sure that we—the food & farming movement—don’t get left behind.

Please start by hosting or joining a GND livestream watch party on February 5.

Sign up to attend a watch party.

Sign up to host a watch party. It’s easy to do. There’s even a step-by-step guide. You can choose to make your party public so others can join, or private with just your friends.

Let us know if you plan to host or attend a watch party. We’ll email you additional materials about why the GND matters to the food & farming movement.

Why We Endorse the #GreenNewDeal, and How We Plan to Support It

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-01-24 15:49
Politics & GlobalizationKatherine Paul and Ronnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJanuary 24, 2019 gnd_now_protest_sign_1200x630.jpg

Photo: Sunrise Movement Twitter

In a nutshell . . .

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) fully endorses the Green New Deal (GND) as the most promising policy-level vehicle for achieving the large-scale transition to an organic, regenerative food and farming system, while at the same time cleaning up the environment, advancing social justice, restoring urban and rural food and economic security, and restabilizing the climate.

The Green New Deal (GND) sets an ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. This is achievable only if the GND includes programs and policies that will rapidly scale up both the transition to renewable energy alternatives (in order to reduce/eliminate future emissions) and the transition to organic regenerative agriculture and land-use and land-restoration practices (in order to draw down and sequester carbon already in the atmosphere).

To achieve these large-scale transitions will require the public support and political will to confront the corporate dominance of our democracy, perpetuated by lawmakers who take campaign donations from the fossil fuel and industrial agribusiness industries.

Absent the necessary political will, we must build a massive, broad-based social movement if we hope to see the promise of the GND fulfilled. This movement must ensure that embedded within the GND’s final plan is a slate of programs and policies that recognize that the solution to global warming must also include programs and policies that will scale up regenerative farming and land use as a means of drawing down and naturally sequestering carbon in healthy soils.

What is the #GreenNewDeal?

The GND, still a work in progress, is a set of ambitious goals aimed at addressing global warming and income inequality, in part by rapidly transitioning to a fossil fuel-free economy while at the same time guaranteeing everyone who wants one a job and a living wage.

The latest version of the GND was launched by the Sunrise Movement. The organization’s co-founder, Varshini Prakash describes it as “an umbrella term for a set of policies and programs that will rapidly decarbonize our economy, get all of us off of fossil fuels and work to stop the climate crisis in the next 10 to 12 years.”

Prakash told Rolling Stone that the initiative has three pillars: 100-percent clean energy by 2030; investment in communities “on the frontlines of poverty & pollution;” and the guarantee of a quality job for “anyone ready to make this happen.”

The Sunrise Movement, with support from newly elected progressive Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), has demanded that the U.S. House of Representatives establish a GND Select Committee, and endow the committee with legislative and subpoena powers.

The committee, as envisioned by GND backers, would spend the next year consulting with experts including scientists, lawmakers, labor unions and business leaders, to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” Following a year of intensive research, the committee would release its plan, in January 2020, followed two months later by draft legislation.

Unfortunately, on December 20, 2017, House Democratic leaders responded to the backers of a select committee by resurrecting the 10-year-old Select Committee on a Climate Crisis, described as a “recommendatory committee to the Energy and Commerce Committee and the environmental committees.” The Dem leaders rejected the call for legislative and subpoena powers. They also rejected the Sunrise Movement’s call to bar members who have accepted donations from the fossil fuel industry from serving on the committee.

Prakash responded by saying that the movement would need to take the GND “beyond the Beltway, and to the American people,” alluding to previous statements about setting up a citizen-run select committee to carry out the GND mission and exert pressure on federal lawmakers.

In the meantime, about 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have so far pledged support for the GND and more than 600 public interest organizations have endorsed the deal, as well as five U.S. Senators and leading Democratic Party candidates for President, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

It’s not just about climate

The Sunrise Movement is a group of young activists fed up with the collective failure of political leaders in both parties to boldly and aggressively address the climate crisis. But in the process of addressing climate change, the GND also aspires to address a broad range of social, environmental and economic justice issues.

It has long been the position of OCA and our sister organization, Regeneration International, that all of these issues, which also include health, forced migration, food security and food sovereignty, are interconnected, and as a result, require holistic solutions.

Ocasio-Cortez, the GND’s leading champion in Congress, described the GND this way: “This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation.”

Climate activist Naomi Klein praised the deal as “not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.”

What can regenerative agriculture do for the GND?

The majority of the GND’s backers, the mass media and to a large extent the alternative and progressive media, consistently portray the GND almost exclusively as a plan to address global warming and jobs creation by rapidly transitioning the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.

But this characterization, which is only partially correct, makes the GND vulnerable to criticism.

The seven goals outlined in the draft legislation to create the GND Select Committee include these two: iv) eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from  the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country; and vi) funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases.

It’s unclear yet if the drafters of this document have connected the dots between reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector, and “funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases.” Do the authors yet understand the power of regenerative agriculture and land-use practices to naturally draw down and sequester carbon? Or are they focused on a technological fix to achieve carbon drawdown?

We believe it’s critical that “funding massive drawdown of greenhouse gases” includes funding the large-scale transition to organic regenerative agriculture and land-use which we already know is capable of drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere.

When GND proponents focus narrowly on emissions reduction as a means of achieving “zero fossil fuel emissions by 2030,” they invite criticism from skeptics who claim this goal, however worthy, isn’t feasible. And in fact it probably isn’t—if the plan to achieve zero emissions is defined exclusively by the transition to renewable energy.

What is feasible? Achieving net zero emissions—through a combination of reducing emissions by transitioning to renewable energy and drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere, using the power of regenerative agriculture and land-use practices, including reforestation, wetlands restoration, and restoring prairies and grasslands.

When discussing the GND’s climate goals, we must differentiate between “zero” emissions and “net zero” emissions. It may well be impossible to achieve “zero” emissions by 2030, no matter how many resources we throw at developing clean energy technologies—if that’s all we do.

We need to do more. For the GND to accomplish its climate goals, it must spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuel use toward renewable energy, and the transition away from industrial agriculture, a huge polluter and greenhouse gas emitter in its own right, toward organic regenerative practices that draw down and sequester carbon. The latter transition would have the added benefit of reducing emissions associated with industrial agriculture, which among other things, include the enormous nitrous oxide and methane emissions from factory farms and synthetic fertilizer production and use.

In the case of both of these proposed transitions, scale is critical. In his recent New York Times column on the GND, Tom Friedman said: “Clean energy is a problem of scale. If you don’t have scale, you have a hobby . . . But you can’t mitigate climate change as a hobby.”

This is equally true when it comes to building an alternative to the industrial food and farming system. As we, and our sister organization, Regeneration International, point out: The potential for regenerative agriculture to reverse global warming is huge—but only if these practices are adopted, rapidly, on a large scale. We can’t address global warming, one small farm or hobby farm at a time.

For more on agriculture's role in the GND, read or download this Fact Sheet.

What could the GND do for farmers and consumers?

OCA has long advocated for better policies, including better Farm Bill policies, that would support and incentivize farmers whose practices both draw down and sequester carbon and produce healthful, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense food.

But given the urgency of the climate crisis, and the influence of industrial agribusiness and fossil fuel industry lobbyists over our political process, this approach—chipping away at Farm Bill policy—provides little hope of achieving transformational, much less rapid change.

Elizabeth Henderson, New York organic farmer and longtime supporter of organic regenerative agriculture, says that the newly passed Farm Bill barely touches the structural and fairness issues that led to our current disaster for family-scale farms and the food security of this country. Henderson recently wrote:

The farm crisis of the 1980s that never really went away has resurfaced with a vengeance. In 2013, aggregate farm earnings were half of what they were in 2012. Farm income has continued to decline ever since . . . Despite the shortage of farm workers, their wages remain below the poverty line.  People of color and women are often trapped in the lowest-paying food system jobs and many are forced to survive on SNAP payments. The tariff game of #45 is only making things worse. The farm consolidation that has taken place has grave consequences for the environment and for climate change as well.

Henderson argues that the GND’s job and living wages guarantee must include jobs on farms:

If farms are guaranteed prices that cover their costs of production, farm earnings will be high enough to pay farm workers time-and-a-half for overtime over 40 hours a week, like workers in almost every other sector of the economy.

The GND’s guaranteed jobs and $15 dollar/hour minimum wage proposals would mean more income for farmworkers and more money in consumers’ pockets. Consumers would be able to buy more locally produced, nutrient-dense organic food. This in turn would generate more income for local farmers and food producers, who under current economic conditions increasingly are being forced into bankruptcy, or having to sell out to big corporations with vast financial resources economies-of-scale advantages.

The GND’s call for universal healthcare also means farmers wouldn’t have to take on second jobs in order to provide health benefits for their families. This could help improve productivity and financial independence for small farmers.

Our vision for the GND includes a “New Food Deal” that builds out a new regenerative food economy, putting people to work restoring soil and landscapes, growing food, building food sourcing supply chains, operating local Mom and Pop grocery stores, and setting up early adopters to learn and teach growing, management, nutrition, food prep, recycling and more in regions all over the country.

In addition to benefiting farmers, farm and food workers and consumers, this new regenerative food economy will emit lower emissions than the industrial food system while at the same time building healthy organic soils to provide a natural carbon sink.

But how will we fund it?

How will these large-scale transitions, to renewable energy and regenerative agriculture and land use, be funded? How can we promise, as the GND does, jobs for everyone who wants them? Not to mention free tuition and Medicare for all?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling for higher taxes—up to 70 percent for the wealthiest Americans. This plan instantly drew fire from conservatives, who in 2017 voted to lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

Yet as economist Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, the tax rates proposed by Ocasio-Cortez are hardly radical. In fact, they’re in line with pre-Reagan era tax rates, when the U.S. middle class was still thriving. Krugman cites Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and “arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance,” who thinks a 70 - 80-percent tax on very high incomes makes sense.

Krugman concludes:

What we see is that America used to have very high tax rates on the rich—higher even than those AOC is proposing—and did just fine. Since then tax rates have come way down, and if anything the economy has done less well.

Higher taxes would provide part, but not all, of the funding needed to implement the GND’s policies and programs. The GND draft resolution should include, like the original New Deal, according to Ellen Brown, chairman of the Public Banking Institute and author of 12 books, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”

For more on federal funding for the GND, read Brown’s article here.

It’s an old concept with a new twist

The Green New Deal (GND) is modeled in part after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms and regulations enacted by then-President Roosevelt between 1933 and 1941. Roosevelt’s New Deal was credited in part with restoring prosperity in the U.S. following the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The idea of a “Green” New Deal is more recent, but not entirely new. Tom Friedman called for a “Green New Deal”  in 2007. He later expanded on the idea in his book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.”  According to Friedman, Barack Obama made a “Green New Deal” part of his 2008 platform, “but the idea just never took off.”

In 2009, the United Nations drafted a report calling for a “Global Green New Deal” to focus government stimulus on renewable energy projects.

The idea that agriculture should play a role in any Green New Deal isn’t new, either. In May 2012, the European Green Party published a policy paper entitled, “The Agricultural Dimension of the Green New Deal: Towards Sustainable Agriculture as the Rule.” Its authors made the case that a “Green New Deal” that included a transition to sustainable agriculture was needed to address the multiple economic, social, environmental and ideological crises facing Europe—including the “deepening of social inequalities, the depletion of natural resources, the ongoing problems with poverty and hunger and more broadly the increasing societal unease with the fast pace of globalisation.”

Today’s Green New Deal, which acknowledges many of the same issues as the European Greens outlined, stems directly from the outrage experienced by young activists who believe we are fast running out of time to address the looming global climate crisis, and that nothing short of a radical, and transformational plan will suffice.

For more on the origins and history of the GND, read this article on Huffington Post, and this article on Vox.com

So what should we do, and how should we do it?

Right out of the gate, establishment Democrats signaled a lack of political will to fully embrace and push forward the GND by rejecting the plan’s call for a Select Committee with legislative and subpoena power.

That means we, the people, will have to lead the charge by electing new leaders, and building a powerful social movement.

Eric Holt-Giménez, agroecologist, political economist and editor of Food First, echoes the Sunrise Movement’s position that “to create a policy sea-change, we'll need both strong, broad-based movements and responsive, elected leadership.”

In a recent article, Holt-Giménez wrote:

The Green New Deal will need copious amounts of political will, and there are only two ways to create that: big money or the power of social movements. Compliant politicians and the unbridled accumulation of wealth got us into this mess. It's up to social movements to get us out.

OCA, and our sister organization, Regeneration International, aim to build broad statewide and national support for the GND by helping to organize state coalitions, similar to the one launched in Virginia, to lobby state and federal lawmakers.

These coalitions will be tasked with making sure that the final version of the GND includes policies and programs to expand carbon-sequestering organic and regenerative food and farming, rebuild rural and urban infrastructure, and guarantee a $15/hour minimum wage, Medicare for all and job training for all food chain workers, including farmworkers, restaurant workers and retail workers.

Some of the programs and policies we will lobby for are:

1. Subsidies, tax inentives, minimum crop price guarantees (parity pricing), supply management (keeping supplies balanced with need so that prices are stable), anti-trust enforcement, and marketing incentives for farmers, ranchers, and other land managers to improve soil health, increase soil carbon, adopt agroecological and regenerative practices (no till, crop rotation, cover crops, planned rotational grazing, agroforestry, silvopasture) and other forms of ecosystem and watershed restoration, as well as to ensure the survival of family-scale farms and ranches.bsidies, tax, and marketing incentives for farmers, ranchers, and other land managers to improve soil health, increase soil carbon, adopt agroecological and regenerative practices (no till, crop rotation, cover crops, planned rotational grazing, agroforestry, silvopasture) and other forms of ecosystem and watershed restoration.

2. Support for farmers to make the often difficult, multi-year transition to certified organic, holistic livestock management, and regenerative practices.

3. Changes in regulations making it easier for regenerative and transition to regenerative farmers (especially small producers) to process and sell their products, for example meat and dairy products, not only locally (direct to consumer, retail, wholesale, institutional) but across state lines, regionally and nationally as well.

4. Public investment (and incentives for private investment) in regenerative food and farming infrastructure such as farmer’s markets, food hubs, processing facilities, storage facilities, marketing coops, and farmer training centers.

5. Loan programs and loan guarantees for land acquisition or leasing and infrastructure improvement for individual farms, ranches, and urban agriculture projects.

6. Support for public procurement by government agencies and public institutions for organic and regenerative food and other products. Governments around the world spend trillions of dollars a year on public procurement, a significant percentage of which are food, fiber, and other agricultural products.

7. Support for school and campus organic gardens, local farm-to-table cafeteria food policies, and development of school and university curriculum to stimulate student awareness and provide hands-on experience in regenerative food, farming, and land restoration practices, as well as food preparation, cooking, and nutrition education.

8. Subsidies for programs to provide jobs and job training in regenerative food and farming projects for youth and disadvantaged groups such as unemployed workers, women, and immigrants.

9. Taxes on carbon-emitters and agro-chemical companies to subsidize regenerative practices and projects.

10. Elimination of subsidies for degenerative energy, food, farming, and land use practices.

11. Lobbying cities, states, regions, and nations to sign on and begin to implement the global “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative to sequester excess atmospheric carbon and reverse global warming. Over three dozen nations, California, and a growing number of municipalities have already signed on to the 4/1000 Initiative.

In addition to organizing the food and farming movement to push for the GND, we will work with climate, environmental, social and economic justice organizations to build broad support, beyond the food and farming movement—a strategy we have long advocated for.

Quoting Holt-Giménez again:

Many food activists seem to operate under the assumption that we can somehow change the food system in isolation from the larger political-economic system in which it is embedded. Changing everything in order to change our food system seems like an impossibly big task. But the food system can also be a lever for whole systems change. The Green New Deal just might be the fulcrum upon which the farm, food and climate movements can pivot our society towards the just transition we all urgently need and desire.

Our GND consciousness-raising campaign will require us to approach and build alliances with a multitude of civil society and political organizations who have their own pre-existing issues and agendas, and may not yet fully understand the regeneration paradigm shift.

This is why the combined, holistic economic-climate perspective of the GND is so important. We will have to carefully craft the content and style of our messages and educational materials, and carefully select our public messengers, including influential grasstops.

It also means broadening and amplifying our message (and our power) by uniting radical, liberal and even conservative voices wherever possible, in rural and urban areas, without sacrificing our basic principles and goals. Once we build new alliances with broader segments of the body politic, we can then more effectively lobby and influence politicians and generate public policy change.

Download this article as a pdf.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Ronnie Cummins is OCA’s international director. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Take Action to Help Your Local Meat Producers!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-01-15 14:56
January 15, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerFarm Issues, Politics & Globalization chicken_foliage_face_profile_1200x630.jpg

The new Congress is busy setting its priorities for the 2019-20 session. So now is the time to let your representatives know how they can help the regenerative organic food and farming movement.

One easy thing Congress can do is to make it easier for farmers who produce pasture-raised meat to process their animals closer to home, and access new local markets.

The benefit to consumers? More locally produced meat at potentially more affordable prices.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your representatives in Congress to be original cosponsors of the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act and the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act.

The PRIME Act would allow animals butchered at small-scale custom slaughterhouses to be sold by the cut within the state.

The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act would allow producers of meat and poultry products inspected by USDA-approved state programs to sell their meat across state lines.

Both bills were introduced in past legislative sessions, but will have to be reintroduced in order to go anywhere during the current session.

Please ask your representatives in Congress to re-introduce and sponsor these bills!

Gambling With Our Health: Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Cost the U.S. $340 Billion a Year

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-01-15 14:29
January 15, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonAll About Organics, Health Issues grocery_1200x630.jpg

The diseases caused by exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our food, environment and household and personal care products cost the U.S. $340 billion a year, says children’s environmental health expert Dr. Leonardo Trasande.

Trasande is the author of “Sicker, Fatter, Poorer,” featured on a recent CBS News segment. The book highlights the potentially harmful effects of thousands of endocrine disruptors, also known as hormone mimickers, which can interfere with the body’s endocrine system and cause adverse developmental, reproductive and neurological effects.

Endocrine disruptors are linked to a string of health problems, including diabetes, brain disorders, fertility issues and cancer. The chemicals can be grouped into four categories: 

• Pesticides used in agriculture

• Phthalates used in personal care products and food packaging

• Bisphenol A (BPA) used in aluminum can linings and plastics

• Flame retardants applied to furniture, electronics, mattresses and car seats

"Hormones are molecules that our body uses to signal and communicate, and hormone disrupters are chemicals that scramble those signals and contribute to disease, Trasande told CBS News. “We know now of over 1,000 chemicals that are hormone disrupters," he said.

Hormone mimickers also play a role in weight gain and may be a key factor in America’s growing obesity epidemic, which now affects 78 million adults and 12 million children, according to the National Council of State Legislature.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals that cause weight gain are called obesogens. Studies show that not only do obesogens promote weight gain, but they also cause the body to hang on to other environmental pollutants for longer, which could explain why obesity is an underlying risk factor for so many other diseases, including cancer.

Trasande says these chemicals “scramble hormone signals and shift our diet and how it's transformed in our body into fat as opposed into muscle or other categories.”

The use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in consumer products is so widespread that the toxins are showing up in the environment, and subsequently, wildlife, too.

A study published in 2018 found phthalates in the urine of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Phthalates showed up in 71 percent of dolphins tested in the area over a two-year period. The discovery is alarming as it marks the first time scientists have found endocrine disruptors in the urine of wild marine mammals, which indicates the chemicals remained in their body long enough to process them.

Despite their persistence, there are steps consumers can take to limit their exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals. Buying organic and locally sourced food can reduce exposure to toxic pesticides. Avoiding canned food and drink can help protect consumers from BPA and BPA alternative chemicals.

Finally, never microwave anything plastic, and try to avoid consuming food or drink that comes from a heated, plastic container. 

Click here to learn more about how you can avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association(OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

A Call for the Food Movement to Get Behind the Green New Deal

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:58
January 14, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate green_new_deal_gnd.png

“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan… Half measures will not work… The time for slow and incremental efforts has long past [sic].”- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then-candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Huffington Post, June 26, 2018

“Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best-practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate. Regenerative Agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution.” - Andre Leu, international director, Regeneration International, “Reversing Climate Change with Regenerative Agriculture,” October 9, 2018

The ‘Great Climate Awakening’ of 2018

The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.

Young climate activists under the banner of the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. and the Extinction Rebellion in the UK and other countries, sat in at politicians’ offices. They blocked streets and roadways. They demanded immediate and bold action. 

The Green New Deal is born

In the U.S., an insurgent slate of newly elected members of Congress, inspired by the Sunrise Movement and led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have generated headlines and popular support by calling for a Green New Deal (GND), a 21st Century upgrade of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal carried out during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Given the severity of the climate crisis, and the deterioration of the U.S. and global status quo (economic, political, health and environment), it’s no exaggeration to state that the GND is perhaps the most significant blueprint for system change in 100 years.

The GND’s call for a mass conversion to renewable energy and zero emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. by 2030, is in line with what most scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But what’s new, and long overdue in this  evolving manifesto is that the GND also calls for the greening, “just transition” and elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from our multi-trillion-dollar food and farming system as well. That call is long overdue, especially given that our degenerative food system generates 44-57 percent of all global greenhouse gases.

The GND draft statement calls for “eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country.” It also calls for funding “massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases.”

Beyond offering comprehensive energy and agricultural solutions for our climate emergency, what is truly game-changing and revolutionary about the GND is that it calls for system-wide economic regeneration as well: full employment, $15/hr. minimum wage, universal health care, free public education, and economic justice for all—policies extremely popular with the overwhelming majority of the body politic, including students, working class communities and low-income groups.

By bringing together the concerns of youth, food, farmer, environmental and climate activists, with the bread-and-butter concerns of workers and frontline communities, the GND offers nothing less than a contemporary roadmap for survival and regeneration.

As Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, pointed out in a recent email urging groups to sign on to the GND, it is economic injustice, the lack of money in the pockets of workers and consumers, the 80 percent of ordinary people who live from paycheck to paycheck, that has, in large part, held back the greening of America:

Who wouldn’t drive a Tesla, put up solar panels, or buy an energy efficient home in a walkable neighborhood with great public transportation? Everyone wants these things. We all want to enjoy good health, breathe clean air and drink pure water. There aren’t many families who would have to be convinced to eat locally grown organic health food if it were available and they could afford it. The problem is we’ve got student debt. Our mortgages are under water. We’ve got medical bills and childcare to pay for. And many of us have been too poor to go to college, buy a house or start a family. Our country’s struggling family farmers have the same problem. Sure, they’d love to go organic and pay their workers fairly. They want to do what’s best for their families, their communities and their environment. They just have to figure out how to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy first.

Support grows quickly for the GND, but so do attacks

With unprecedented speed, Ocasio-Cortez, insurgent Democrats and the Sunrise Movement have stimulated massive media coverage and generated significant public support for the GND, putting radical change on the national agenda. More than 45 members of Congress, five U.S. Senators, leading 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, hundreds of local officials, and over 600 activist organizations have already endorsed the GND.

In late-2018, polls indicated that 81 percent of Americans support full employment, economic justice and renewable energy, as outlined in the GND.

Yet despite initial strong support for the GND among activists and the general public, establishment politicians (both Democrats and Republicans) and the corporate media have launched a massive counter-attack, denouncing the GND (and Ocasio-Cortez and her allies) as “utopian,” “radical,” “impractical” and even “dangerous.”

The unfortunate truth is that Congress and the mass media are infected and dominated by powerful climate emergency deniers and establishment politicians taking money from fossil fuel companies, climate-destructive industrial agribusiness and Wall Street. Yet with global scientists sounding the alarm that the onset of runaway global warming (with atmospheric CO2 levels of 450 ppm or higher) is not 80 years away or even 50 years away, but more like a dozen years away unless we drastically change course, it can hardly be called “utopian” to organize around a bold emissions-reduction, drawdown and economic development plan that can avert catastrophe, and improve the lives of everyday people at the same time.

Painting Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement as “radical” is not likely to derail the growing insurgency. Because a radical emergency more serious than anything humans have ever faced in our 200,000-year evolution demands a radical solution. As Cortez said in an interview on “60 Minutes” on January 6 (watched by 11 million people), she admits to being a “radical”— not unlike previous “radicals” in American history, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who likewise confronted severe crises demanding radical solutions.

Is it possible to achieve zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030?

On the same “60 Minutes” show, Ocasio-Cortez was pressed on the practicality of zero fossil fuel emissions by 2030. The host tried to trip her up by asking if zero emissions meant that all of us would be driving electric cars within a decade. She responded by saying that there are technological breakthroughs on the horizon that we can’t even imagine yet.

Although it’s undoubtedly true that there are technical breakthroughs in renewable energy and electric cars on the horizon, I wasn’t fully satisfied with Ocasio-Cortez’s answer (even though I admit she’s my favorite political leader of all time). Here’s how I would have answered that question:

“Millions of Americans are going to be driving electric cars in 2030. But you’re right, a lot of us will still be driving our old gasoline-powered vehicles. If you read the details of our proposed Green New Deal carefully, you’ll see that we’re not just talking about rapid reductions in fossil fuel emissions, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases we put up into the sky by burning fossil fuels. We’re also talking about drawing down these same greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, utilizing climate-friendly farming practices that qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis, soil fertility and natural carbon sequestration. These regenerative practices include farming organically, holistic grazing, improving soil health, and restoring our forests, grasslands and wetlands. In other words, we can and must reach zero net emissions in 2030 by drawing down as much atmospheric carbon as we’re still putting up.

“The Green New Deal aims to change not only our climate-destructive energy, manufacturing and transportation systems, but also our degenerative food and farming systems. The Green New Deal is designed to raise the living standards for all Americans, including low-income workers in both rural and urban communities, so that all of us can choose and afford healthier and more climate-friendly lifestyles. In the next decade, we must facilitate a just transition away from climate-destabilizing factory farms and fossil fuel-intensive agriculture, at the same time as we switch, as rapidly possible, to 100-percent renewable energy. With renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use working in synergy, there is no doubt that we can reach zero net emissions by 2030, significant negative net emissions by 2050, and literally, along with the rest of the world, reverse global warming and avert climate catastrophe.”

We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in or near our local communities. We simply need to mobilize politically to scale up these practices utilizing the power of a GND. But we’re running out of time unless we can quickly build a massive united front, elect new GND supporters to Congress and the White House in 2020, and pass federal legislation for a GND starting in 2021, as Ocasio-Cortez puts it, “similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan.”

The time to join the GND Revolution is now. On February 5, hubs and homes across the country will host parties to tune into a Sunrise Movement livestream detailing the 2019 GND strategy. Anyone can host a party to grow the movement. These house parties will unite communities to build the people power we need to make the GND happen. To host a party click here:

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here. 

Organic Consumers Association Wins on Motion to Dismiss in Case Against Unilever-Owned Ben & Jerry's for Deceptive Marketing Claims

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-01-10 14:08
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateOrganic Consumers AssociationJanuary 10, 2019 ben_and_jerrys_ice_cream_shelves_1200x630.jpg

Photo: benjerry.fr, CC BY-NC 2.0

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2019

CONTACT: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

Washington, DC –Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today announced that the District of Columbia Superior Court rejected Ben & Jerry’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit OCA brought against the Unilever-owned brand in July 2018 under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).

“We are pleased that the court agrees that Ben & Jerry’s can be held accountable for the claims it makes about its products, and how the production of those products impacts animal welfare and the environment,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “This is a major victory for millions of consumers who have been deceived by Ben & Jerry’s marketing claims.”

OCA sued Ben & Jerry’s for the deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of its ice cream products as humanely sourced and environmentally responsible, despite the fact that ingredients are sourced from typical factory dairy farms and some of the products contain traces of glyphosate, an environmentally harmful biocide and the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller.

In its ruling, the court agreed that consumers may have been misled by Ben & Jerry’s environmental responsibility statements into believing that the company’s ice cream products would be free of glyphosate.

The court also agreed that Ben & Jerry’s general messages about humane treatment of cows in the “Caring Dairy” program and “values-led sourcing” may mislead customers into believing that Ben & Jerry’s uses ingredients only from dairy farms with higher-than-average animal welfare standards, when the evidence may suggest otherwise.

OCA is represented by Richman Law Group.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit grassroots organization advocating on behalf of millions of consumers for safe, healthful food and a clean environment. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org/.

Richman Law Group (RLG) is a collective of lawyers specializing in impact litigation to repair the world. RLG was founded on the idea that what cannot be achieved by way of legislation can sometimes be achieved by way of litigation. This tight-knit cadre of tenacious and diverse professionals is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and through them, the needs of the community at large. Visit: www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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