Consumer Power

Does Your Diestel Turkey Come with a Side of Antibiotics?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-11-16 21:42
November 16, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine Paul turkeys walk farm pasture cc 1000x523.jpg

Diestel Turkey, sold by Whole Foods and other retailers at premium prices, says on its website that its “animals are never given hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants.”

But Diestel Turkey samples tested by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest otherwise, leading consumers to wonder: Can these companies be trusted?

According to testing conducted under the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) National Residue Program, samples of Diestel Turkey products tested positive for numerous drug and antibiotic residues.

One of those drugs, Chloramphenicol, is strictly prohibited by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in food production because it’s known to have “severe toxic effects in humans including bone marrow suppression or aplastic anemia in susceptible individuals.”

According to an amended complaint filed November 13, against Diestel Turkey Ranch, the FSIS inspected Diestel turkeys on four dates in 2015 and 2016, and reported, in addition to Chloramphenicol, residues of antibiotics important for human use, veterinary antibiotics, a hormone and other pharmaceuticals.

Animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) brought the action against the privately held Sonora, Calif., turkey producer in the Superior Court of California. DxE is suing Diestel for falsely advertising its turkey products as hormone- and antibiotic-free, and for deceiving consumers about how the company's birds are raised and treated.

According to the lawsuit, Diestel turkey products tested by the USDA were positive for residues of:

ketamine, a narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Agency describes ketamine as “a dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects.” Ketamine’s street names include Special K, Cat Tranquilizer, and Cat Valium, the latter two referencing its veterinary uses, and it is commonly referred to as a club drug because it is used illegally at dance clubs and raves. The FDA has not approved the use of ketamine in poultry.

Amikacin, an antibiotic for human use that the FDA considers important for humans.

Spectinomycin, also an antibiotic for human use

Hygromycin, an antibiotic for veterinary use

Ipronidazole, also a veterinary pharmaceutical

Melengestrol acetate, a synthetic hormone also known as MGA

Sulfanitran, an antibacterial drug feed additive

Kim Richman of Richman Law Group, which represents DxE, said that to the best of his knowledge, the USDA did not test any certified organic Diestel Turkey samples. “Since organic meat goes through a certification process, the end product is not tested. It appears that the National Residue Program samples only non-organic meat and poultry,” Richman said.

This isn’t the first time some of these drugs, including chloramphenicol and Ketamine, have been found in poultry. As reported by Bloomberg on June 22, the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety sued Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry producer in the U.S., for advertising its chicken as “100% natural” even though USDA testing reported finding drug residues in Sanderson chicken samples.

Consumers aren’t pleased to learn that factory farm poultry brands mislead them. But they aren’t necessarily surprised either.

But it’s a whole different story when the brands they thought they could trust, turn out to be making false claims, too.

Are Diestel and Whole Foods misleading consumers?

Producers like Diestel, and retailers like Whole Foods, know consumers are willing to pay a premium for hormone-free, antibiotic-free turkeys from farms that have high animal-welfare standards.

But what happens when companies make claims that don’t live up to consumer expectations? 

Diestel Turkey claims its birds live idyllic lives. On its website, the company says:

All of our whole-body Diestel turkeys are raised under our strict standards. We support our turkeys with a healthy environment, fresh mountain water, and the clean air from the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Our feed never contains fillers, our birds are never given growth stimulants or antibiotics, and we never make compromises when it comes to the quality of the feed.

Whole Foods gives Diestel Turkey its 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standard, a rating intended to differentiate factory farm meat from pasture-raised. The rating not only sets high standards for “the comfort, physical safety and health of the animals,” but also prohibits the use of hormones and antibiotics.

The USDA testing suggests that Diestel is deceiving consumers about the use of antibiotics and other drugs on its farms. A nine-month investigation of Diestel Turkey Ranch by DxE suggests Diestel also deceives consumers not only about the use of antibiotics and hormones, but also about how the turkeys it sells are treated before being slaughtered for meat.

On its website, Diestel says:

We pay close attention to the health of our birds by spending time with them in the fields, observing their behaviors, and making sure they have the best environment possible.

But according to the complaint DxE filed against Diestel, the turkey producer bases those claims on one “picture-perfect” farm as its “poster child” farm—but raises most of its turkeys elsewhere, under industrial factory farm conditions.

And that picture-perfect farm is rated Step 5, even though most turkeys do not enjoy those Step 5 conditions.

In reality, DxE’s investigation found that the vast majority of the turkeys sold by Diestel are raised under very different conditions than those portrayed by the Diestel website. According to the complaint, the DxE investigation found:

• turkeys raised in over-crowded barns

• turkeys found languishing or dead

• turkeys suffering from excessive confinement

• turkeys trapped in feces that covered much of the barn floor, up to one-half foot deep

• turkeys suffering from swollen-shut eyes, swollen nostrils, open wounds, and/or bruises

• turkeys missing large patches of feathers as a result of pecking one another and/or de-feathering from extreme stress

• turkeys routinely subject to debeaking and/or beak-trimming

• turkeys laboring to breathe in an enclosed barn environment dense with ammonia and particles of dried feces and feathers

• as many as 7 percent of birds in a barn dying in a single week.

What’s a consumer to do? We’ve put together this Holiday Turkey Buying Guide that steers consumers in the direction of reliable sources of honestly marketed turkeys.

And as always, we recommend consumers take advertising and marketing claims with a grain of salt, until those claims can be verified by a third party.

In the meantime, we’re asking consumers to ask Whole Foods to stop selling Diestel Turkey products.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Tell Whole Foods to Drop Diestel Turkey!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-11-15 19:09
Belong to campaign: The Myth of NaturalCategory: All About Organics, Environment & Climate, Food Safety, Health IssuesArea: USA

When you pay more for a turkey product that meets Whole Foods’ (WFM) 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standard, you don't expect that turkey to contain antibiotics or other drug residues. You also don't expect that the turkeys behind that label endured “horrific conditions” in their short lives.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tested Diestel turkey samples and reported finding numerous antibiotics and other drug residues. One of those drugs, Chloramphenicol, is strictly prohibited by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in food production because it’s known to have “severe toxic effects in humans including bone marrow suppression or aplastic anemia in susceptible individuals.” 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods that consumers expect better! Please drop Diestel turkey products unless Diestel starts living up to its animal welfare claims.

After you click on the alert to send the message to WFM, please call Whole Foods and ask them to drop Diestel Turkey products.

Then click to tweet WFM and post on Whole Foods and Diestel Turkey Facebook pages.Read more

Regeneration: Moving Beyond Gloom and Doom on USDA Organic Standards

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-11-09 15:16
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationNovember 9, 2017 regenerative_organic_label1000x523xcf.png

Last week the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected the pleas of organic activists, farmers and many businesses to “keep the soil in organic” by voting to allow growers of hydroponic vegetables to label their produce “organic.” 

The NOSB's vote did little to shore up consumer faith in the USDA Organic label, especially after well-publicized news reports earlier this year that accused a few high-profile organic brands of giving "organic" a bad name by skirting the rules. And it had some industry pioneers so angry and disheartened, that according to the Washington Post they were even “threatening to leave the program they helped create.”

The Organic Consumers Association supported the “Keep the Soil in Organic” campaign. We’re disappointed in the NOSB’s decision, another sign of Big Organic’s (negative) influence over organic standards.

But rather than mourn the demise of organic standards, or fruitlessly complain about how the USDA Organic label is being undermined by corrupt corporations, we’ve joined the growing number of organic advocates, both in the U.S. and abroad, who understand that the future of organic—and labels—is regenerative.

The Rodale Institute and a broad coalition of farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, scientists, and brands on September 13, 2017, unveiled draft standards  for a new third-party Regenerative Organic (RO) Certification.

When finalized, the RO certification will go “beyond USDA Organic” by establishing higher standards for soil health, land management, animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness. The RO label will appear on certified regenerative products, next to the “USDA Organic” label, alerting consumers to the fact that the RO-labeled product not only meets USDA organic standards, but exceeds them.

The NOSB’s vote to allow hydroponic foods to be labeled as “USDA Organic” has proven once again that big corporations and federal bureaucrats have greater control over organic standards than organic consumers and small organic farmers. “Big Organic” is now dictating the policies of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).

Over the past 15 years the organic community, led by consumer watchdog groups such as the Organic Consumers Association and the Cornucopia Institute, has been forced to mobilize over and over again to defend and maintain credible organic standards. We’ve exposed organic imposters like Aurora, White Wave/Horizon, Driscoll’s, Herbruck, Cal-Maine and Walmart for undermining the organic label by selling factory farm dairy and poultry products that are “organic” in name only.

We’ve helped shine the light on importers of fake “organic” grains or ingredients from overseas.

We’ve taken the deceptive marketers of “natural” and “GMO-free” brands to court.

Despite the proliferation of what can only be described as “Grade B” organic products, especially in the organic sections of the large grocery store chains, millions of consumers who care about personal health, the environment, global warming, animal welfare and social and economic justice are still willing to pay a premium price for food, bodycare, clothing and other products they believe are genuinely organic. This is why organics (and 100% grass-fed beef and dairy) now represent more than 5 percent, or $55 billion dollars in grocery store sales in the U.S. It’s also why new organic and “farm-to-table” restaurants are popping up all over the country.

A critical mass of health-minded consumers, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered industrial food is hazardous. Chemical- and energy-intensive, GMO agriculture and factory farming destabilize the climate, destroy the environment, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals and contaminate the water.

To top it off, this degenerative agriculture model produces end products that are inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in nearly every bite or swallow of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives, preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic particles, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

If the poisons invisibly laced into non-organic food, clothing and bodycare products haven’t yet driven you personally to the organic aisle on a regular basis, scientists warn that a public health Doomsday Clock is ticking—and not just for you, but for everyone.

The biotech bullies, animal drug companies, Big Ag and the Junk Food industry are already the root cause of 50 million cases of food poisoning every year in the U.S., as well as an epidemic of allergies, reproductive disorders, food-related cancers, learning disabilities, heart attacks, and obesity. Within a decade, these diet- and environment-related diseases, heavily subsidized under our Big Pharma/chemical/genetically-engineered/factory farm system, will likely bankrupt Medicare and the entire $3.5 trillion (and rising) U.S. healthcare system.

Likewise, millions of green-minded consumers understand that industrial agriculture and factory farms pose a terminal threat to the environment, biodiversity and climate stability. A highly conscious and passionate segment of the population is beginning to understand that converting to non-chemical, non-genetically engineered, energy-efficient, carbon-sequestering organic farming practices—what we call Regenerative Agriculture https://www.organicconsumers.org/campaigns/organic-transitions —and drastically reducing food miles by re-localizing the food chain, are essential preconditions for stabilizing our out-of-control climate and preparing our families and communities for future food, health, energy and resource crises.

Millions of us—consumers, farmers, activists—now realize that increasing levels of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere (44-57 percent of which come from degenerative food, farming and land-use practices) threaten to push global warming to a tipping point that will melt the polar icecaps, burn down remaining forests, kill most fish and marine life, and flood the coastal cities of the world, forcing a billion people to move to higher ground.  

Despite its flaws, the USDA Organic system of food and fiber production is a step in the right direction. It’s far better than chemical-and energy-intensive agriculture, and can serve in many cases as a baseline or starting point for genuine regenerative food and farming. USDA Organic, unlike most non-organic “local” or so-called “natural” food,  has legal definitions, a handbook of rules, permitted and prohibited substances, acceptable practices, an inspection process, and labels to guide consumers.

So let’s stop obsessing over the fact that the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, and in fact most farm state Democrats, are nothing more than cheerleaders for corporate agribusiness, Big Pharma, Monsanto, Dow, and the junk food and beverage cartel.

Let’s swing into action and build a mass movement that can put an end to “business as usual,” and “politics as usual.” Let’s try to unite everyone who cares about health, food, climate, justice, peace, and democracy into a new Movement that can regenerate the Earth and revitalize the global grassroots.

We need to educate a critical mass of consumers, especially youth, to understand that organic food is qualitatively superior to chemical and GMO food. But let’s also be honest in saying that a bunch of corporate lobbyists and USDA bureaucrats do not represent the future of organic food and farming. We need to educate Americans, and indeed people all over the world, that now is the time to move to the next stage of organic: Regenerative Organic.

Regenerative food, farming, and land use practices, in conjunction with 100% renewable energy, are our best and indeed perhaps our last hope to reverse global warming, environmental destruction, deteriorating public healt, and what can only be described as corporate fascism.

So let’s move today and everyday, beyond gloom and doom. Let’s vote with our consumer dollars, our voices, our communications tools, and our community and political activism for a regenerative future. The hour is late, but there is still time to turn things around.

To review or comment on the new proposed Regenerative Organic standards, click here.

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

Dirty Dairy: Why Consumers Need to Force Ben and Jerry's to Go Organic

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-11-08 14:40
All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, OCA in the NewsRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 23, 2017 bj1000x523.png

The Vermont brand has been built on a bucolic image of cows grazing on endless pastures . . . Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and other Vermont companies have used this idyllic imagery to sell their products. Gone are the days, however, when most of Vermont’s cows were grazing in spectacularly scenic landscapes. Now a majority of Vermont’s cows are locked up in . . . ‘confined animal feeding operations’ or CAFOs . . . grazing on concrete with a diet rich in GMO corn and pesticides. - “Vermont’s GMO Addiction: Pesticides, Polluted Water and Climate Destruction,” Regeneration Vermont

The most important thing we can do today as conscious consumers, farmers and food workers is to regenerate public health, the environment and climate stability. We can do this most readily by moving away from industrial, GMO and factory-farm food toward an organic, pasture-based, soil-regenerative, humane, carbon-sequestering and climate-friendly agriculture system.

What’s standing in the way of this life-or-death transformation? Rampant greenwashing. The proliferation of $90 billion worth of fraudulently labeled or advertised “natural” and “socially responsible” food products in the U.S. confuses even the most well-intentioned of consumers and lures them away from purchasing genuine organic or grass-fed products.

Perhaps no company personifies greenwashing more than Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s.  Ben & Jerry’s history—a start-up launched by two affable hippies, from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vt., —is legendary. Despite selling out to Unilever in April 2000, the brand’s handlers have preserved its quirky, homespun image, and masterfully convinced consumers that Ben & Jerry’s has never strayed from its mission: “to make the world a better place.”

As the New York Times reports, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recently sent samples of Ben and Jerry’s top-selling ice cream brands to an independent testing lab for analysis. Ten out of 11 samples tested positive for Roundup (glyphosate and AMPA) herbicide contamination

So much for making the world a better place.

Compare the Ben & Jerry's test results with the results of our testing of organic brands, brands that use organic milk from farms that are actually making the world a better place. Three out of four nationally distributed organic ice cream brands tested negative for Roundup contamination (only Whole Foods “365” brand was contaminated).

A history of stalling on organic

Twenty-four years ago, anti-GMO food activists, including the Pure Food Campaign (OCA’s predecessor), successfully pressured Ben & Jerry’s and a number of other leading dairies to prohibit the use of America’s first genetically engineered food product, Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Now marketed by drug giant Elanco (Eli Lilly), rBGH is linked to increased risk of human breast and colon cancer, a greater use of antibiotics in animal feed, and damage to cow’s health.

Several groups, including the OCA, subsequently asked Ben & Jerry’s to move beyond just prohibiting their dairy cows from being injected with rBGH. We asked them to go 100 percent organic, which would have required the company to ban its dairy suppliers from feeding their cows GMO corn and grain, and to use only organic ingredients in its flavors. But even before Ben & Jerry’s was bought out by Unilever, company founder Ben Cohen told Vermont Food activist Michael Colby “that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to ‘maximize profits.’ “ 

Since 1994, Ben & Jerry’s, the $1.5-billion-per-year flagship brand of the second-largest multinational food corporation in the world, Unilever (annual sales $60 billion), has cashed in big time on its “rBGH-free” policy, advertising its brand, over and over again, as “all natural,” “GMO-free,” “fair trade,” “climate-just,” and “socially responsible.”

Despite repeated calls from consumer groups to stop advertising its ice-cream as “natural” or “all natural,” given that it is derived from cows raised almost exclusively on GMO corn forage (grown with Roundup Ready, neonic-, and BT-spliced seeds), laced with non-organic ingredients, sprayed heavily with Roundup and other pesticides, Ben & Jerry’s continues to greenwash and lie. The company recently (June 18, 2017) described its mission as:

To make, distribute and sell the finest quality and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.

After more than a decade of dodging consumer, farmer, animal welfare, environmental and farmworker pleas to stop greenwashing and to equitably source its milk from cows grazing on organic pasture, Ben & Jerry’s continues to stall. Instead, Ben & Jerry’s sources its milk from St. Alban’s, a 400-farmer dairy co-op that is increasingly dominated by large factory farm-type dairy operations. To feed their cows, farmers routinely spray tons of pesticides, including Roundup, atrazine and metolachlor, on fields of GMO corn grown from neonic-coated and BT toxin seeds. They also apply tons of soil-killing, climate-disrupting nitrogen fertilizers that pollute Vermont’s streams, rivers and lakes.

Petitions and protests calling for Ben & Jerry’s to stop its suppliers from exploiting farmworkers, confining dairy cows and driving small dairy farmers into bankruptcy, have produced nothing more than vague promises of “respecting the Earth” and supporting rural economic justice.

Enough is enough. Vermont and national public interest organizations have lost our patience. It’s time for Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s to move beyond greenwashing to decisive action. It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to announce it will immediately begin transitioning to 100-percent organic. Otherwise conscious consumers have no choice but to launch a national and, if necessary, international protest campaign and boycott.

Vermont activists demand major changes from Ben and Jerry’s

Regeneration Vermont, a broad-based coalition of consumers and farmers, has repeatedly asked Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever to sign a six-point pledge to go 100-percent organic over a three-year transition period. Here's what the groups want Ben & Jerry's to pledge:

1. A transition away from GMO crops and toxic pesticides/fertilizers and toward regenerative organic agricultural methods.
2. Fair wages for farmers, including premiums based on regeneration benchmarks and assistance in the transition toward regenerative methods.
3. Economic justice for farm workers, fair and livable wages, decent housing and social and cultural dignity.
4. Adoption of climate remediation techniques, beginning with an emphasis on healthy soils and cover-cropping for carbon sequestration and erosion control.
5. Humane treatment of farm animals, a phase-out of confinement dairies and a transition back to grassland grazing and grass-based feed for ruminants.
6. Cleaning up and protecting our watersheds, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and groundwater.

A trail of toxins

Recent reports published by Regeneration Vermont reveal that Ben & Jerry’s suppliers, and Vermont and U.S. (non-organic) dairy farmers in general, have gone backward, rather than forward over the past 15 years in terms of environmental sustainability, food safety, nutrition, greenhouse gas pollution, water pollution, animal welfare, farmworker justice, and preservation of family farms.

Chemical fertilizer use has also almost doubled in Vermont since GMOs began to dominate the market 15 years ago. 

So much for Monsanto’s claims that GMO crops would reduce the use of toxic pesticides and water- polluting and climate-destabilizing nitrogen fertilizers. Not to mention Ben & Jerry’s claim that it is “non-GMO” and “environmentally responsible.”

Among Regeneration Vermont’s finding are the following:

• An astounding 97 percent of Vermont’s field corn, the major component of a non-organic dairy cow’s diet, is now GMO (Roundup Ready, Bt-spliced, neonic seeds). This is the highest percentage of any state in the U.S.

• Herbicide use has increased over 100 percent-per-acre in Vermont since Monsanto’s GMO corn came on the market, with recent heavy use of atrazine, metholachlor, simazine, pendimethlin, glyphosate (Roundup), acetochlor, dicamba, and alachlor.

As Regeneration Vermont states in its report:

Regulators have determined that five of these eight most used herbicides [in Vermont] are possible or probable human carcinogens, the remaining three are suspected carcinogens. Seven of the eight are possible or probable endocrine disruptors (the other one is a suspected to be an endocrine disruptor). All eight have been determined by regulators and academics to cause birth or developmental defects and contaminate drinking water and public waters with dangerous chemicals that have long-term persistence. Atrazine, simazine, acetachlor, and alachlor have lost their registration in the EU, and are effectively banned.

The threat of #DirtyDairy and factory farms

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial and factory farm food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive factory farming destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, and contaminate the water supply, but the end product itself is inevitably contaminated and inferior in nutritional terms, in this case in comparison to 100% grass-fed and organic milk and dairy.

America’s green-minded consumers understand that industrial agriculture poses a terminal threat to the environment and climate stability. A highly conscious and passionate segment of the population is beginning to understand that converting to non-chemical, non-genetically engineered, energy-efficient, carbon-sequestering organic/regenerative farming practices, and drastically reducing food miles by re-localizing the food chain, are essential preconditions for stabilizing our out-of-control climate and preparing our families and communities for future energy and resource shortages.

A critical mass of the global grassroots—consumers, farmers, activists—now realize that unless we act quickly, global warming and climate chaos will soon severely disrupt industrial agriculture and long-distance food transportation, leading to massive crop failures, food shortages, famine, war, and pestilence. Even more alarming, accelerating levels of greenhouse gases will soon push global warming to a tipping point that will melt the polar icecaps and possibly unleash a cataclysmic discharge of climate-destabilizing methane, now sequestered in the fragile arctic tundra.

Thanks to this growing consumer awareness—and four decades of hard work—the organic community has built up a $50-billion "certified organic" and $5-billion 100% grass-fed food and products sector that prohibits the use of genetic engineering and pesticides. The rapidly expanding organic products sector now constitutes more than 5 percent of total retail grocery sales (and 15 percent of fruits and vegetables), with an annual growth rate of 10-15 percent.  Even taking into account a sluggish economy, the organic market, if we eliminate greenwashing and labeling fraud, could conceivably reach a “tipping point” of 20 percent of grocery sales in 2020.

The myth of "natural" remains a threat

As impressive as this $55 billion Organic and Grass-fed Alternative is, it remains overshadowed by an additional $90 billion in annual spending by consumers on products, such as B&J’s, fraudulently marketed as "natural," “gmo-free,” “free range,” or “sustainable.”

Consumer surveys indicate that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that “natural” products are “almost organic,” yet at the same time, much cheaper; the majority believes that “all natural” actually means that it is better than organics. Ben & Jerry’s is not the only brand greenwashing its products and impeding the growth of organic, 100% grass-fed and regenerative foods. But it is certainly among the most shameless.

In fact, all these "natural," "all-natural" and "sustainable" products are neither backed up by rules and regulations, nor a third-party certifier. Most "natural" or conventional products—whether produce, dairy or canned or frozen goods—are produced on large industrial farms or in processing plants that are highly polluting, chemical-intensive and energy-intensive.  

Perhaps fraudulently labeled “natural” foods such as Ben & Jerry’s wouldn't matter so much if we were living in normal times, with a relatively healthy population, environment and climate. Conventional products sold as "natural" or "nearly organic" would be just one more example of chicanery or unethical business practices.

But we are not living in normal times.

Demanding that fake natural brands and producers, such as Ben & Jerry’s, make the transition to organic is a matter of life or death. We’re tired of pleading and politely asking Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever and other greenwashers to please change their ways. It’s time to step up the pressure. Please join the growing boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream by signing this petition and by volunteering to join a local campaign team in your local community.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

GMO Apples Hit Store Shelves This Week—but Where?

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-11-07 21:35
Belong to campaign: Millions Against Monsanto#Resist and #RegenerateCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

This month, up to 400 Midwest grocery stores started quietly testing packages of sliced “Arctic Apple” GMO apples.

Intrexon, the company marketing the apples, won’t tell us which stores are selling them.

The company also won’t label its apples “GMO” because, according to Intrexon’s CEO: “We didn’t want to put ‘GMO’ and a skull and crossbones on the package.”

The Arctic Apple is one of the first GMOs to be marketed directly to consumers instead of farmers. It was created for purely cosmetic purposes to never brown, no matter how old or rotten it is. In other words, it’s completely unnecessary.

TAKE ACTION: Help us find the GMO apples! Join the scavenger hunt, November 7 – December 1, to locate the stores selling GMO apples. Sign up here and we’ll send you instructions, talking points, etc.Read more

How Regenerative Food and Farming Can Reverse Rural Poverty and Forced Migration in the Americas

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-11-01 23:07
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 30, 2017 guatemala_migrant_summit_2017_1000x523.png

One of the most politically charged debates today, especially in the U.S. and Europe, is the so-called “immigration crisis.” There are approximately 250 million (3 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people) migrants in the world today. About 20 percent, or 47 million of those, live in the U.S. Another 35 million live in Europe.

Inter Press News Service reports: 

Recent elections around the world have clearly shown growing public support for candidates and political parties advocating the deportation of migrants and stricter restrictions on immigration, including halting it altogether. At the same time, opposition, challenges and resistance to deportations and immigration restrictions have become more widespread, visible and vocal.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has consolidated a mass base of support among white racists and conservatives by repeatedly vilifying the nation’s 10 million undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants as “criminals and rapists.” Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and to deport all “illegal aliens” including 800,000 “dreamers”—Latin American immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and don’t have citizenship papers.

Trump and proponents of mass deportation fail to acknowledge that U.S. foreign policy—specifically the failed War on Drugs; longstanding support for corrupt regimes, police, and military forces in Mexico and Central America; and the so-called Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA)—have brought about the systematic impoverishment of small farmers and rural inhabitants South of the Border, inflaming gang and drug cartel violence, forcing millions to cross into the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile hard-working immigrants lacking citizenship or working papers in the U.S. pay billions of dollars in taxes, strengthen immigrant and low-income communities, send back billions of dollars in “remesas” (remittances) to their families and home communities every year. They often work several jobs, providing a major boost for the U.S. economy, especially in the farm, food processing, restaurant, health care and construction sectors, where work is hard and pay is low.

At the recent regional Summit on Migrants and Returnees in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala, October 20-21, a new and promising solution to the global “immigration crisis” emerged: the creation of local, grassroots-powered economic development projects based on regenerative food, farming and land-use practices.

Regenerative food and farming is the new gold standard for climate and environmentally friendly agriculture and land use across the world. An increasing number of food and farming leaders have described regenerative agriculture as the “next stage” of organic food and farming.

Regenerative practices are essentially enhanced organic and permaculture production methods that exclude pesticides, GMO seeds and factory farm techniques. Regenerative practices focus on improving soil health, water retention and rainfall conservation, and on using crop rotation, agro-forestry and planned rotational grazing—with the intention of sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere. 

A growing number of regenerative farms and ranches worldwide are demonstrating how farmers and herders can restore soil health, improve food nutrition and increase yields, while at the same time strengthening local food systems and traditional practices (such as seed saving and small-scale animal husbandry), empowering women and youth, and restoring or enhancing community food security.

Participants at the Migrant Summit in Guatemala discussed how a “three-for-one” grassroots-powered matching grant or loan program of cross-border financing, supported by immigrants, returnees, citizens and local municipalities could potentially provide the resources for a major transformation of the region’s food, farming and land-use practices.

Leaders of the newly formed alliance, Regeneration Guatemala, explained that the restoration of soil carbon and fertility, water conservation, rainfall catchment, and the utilization of organic and “beyond organic” grain production, agro-forestry and regenerative livestock (especially poultry) practices, could make Guatemala an agricultural leader in the region. By regenerating Guatemala’s agricultural system, the country could eventually supply its 16 million people with affordable, high-quality, nutrient-dense food, and also provide employment and much-needed economic development in the countryside and adjoining urban areas, where poverty and crime are the major drivers of forced migration.

Guatemala is a predominately rural, indigenous and agricultural nation, similar to other nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where forced migration has become a critical issue. A full 67 percent of Guatemala’s citizens, as well as the majority of the over two million Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S. (75 percent of whom are potentially subject to deportation by the Trump administration) come from rural communities where poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation are the norm. A similar situation throughout the region has driven millions of Mexicans, Salvadorans and Hondurans over the past few decades into forced exile in the U.S. and Canada.

As participants at the Xela Summit stressed over and over again, many of their compatriots in forced exile in El Norte (the North) would be happy to return to their families and home communities, if only there were jobs and social stability.

The over 1,500 assembled delegates in Quetzaltenango applauded enthusiastically when speakers pointed out that Guatemala’s so-called Green Revolution, which includes the heavy use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, monocrop production, GMOs and the agro-export model, has had a disastrous effect on their home communities and nations. The reaction was the same when speakers talked about the junk food/fast food model, represented by Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King, and the so-called Free Trade Agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreements.

Conference attendees, representing a broad cross section of indigenous communities, small farmers, agricultural co-ops, students, church activists, migrant rights advocates, and “retornados” (immigrants who have returned or been deported from the U.S), enthusiastically endorsed the idea of using traditional and regenerative agriculture practices to restore food security, public health, climate stability and rural prosperity in the impoverished zones of Mexico and Central America where forced migration has become the norm.

As native Guatemalan Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin of the Minnesota-based Main Street Project and Regeneration International put it, by developing pilot regenerative agriculture systems, such as the Regenerative Poultry Project throughout the U.S. and Mexico “can bring about a revolution of ideas and a flow of capital” into impoverished rural communities where so-called Green Revolution chemical- and energy-intensive farming practices have failed. (La Hora newspaper Oct. 21, 2017).

Beyond the discussion of Trump’s wall, mass deportations and the racist discrimination faced by millions of undocumented Latinos in the U.S., the Migrant Summit attendees responded enthusiastically to the idea that communities “aquí y allá,” (“here and there”) could join together and raise the “seed money” for a new healthy, climate-friendly, and economically viable system of food and farming.

I learned at the Summit that Guatemalan migrants in the U.S. already send back close to $7 billion a year in money transfers to their families and home communities—twice the amount of money that Guatemalan agro-exporters receive for all of their exports of products such as coffee and bananas. Salvadoran migrants send back a similar amount, while Mexican migrants will send back more than $70 billion dollars to their home communities this year. Channeling a strategic percentage of these remittances into community-based regenerative agriculture projects, along with pressuring local and federal governments to match these migrant “remesas,” could not only restore hope and vitality to these rural communities, but also dramatically reduce the number of forced migrants. Even Donald Trump’s fans of mass deportation might have trouble rejecting this type of cross-border “bootstrap” financing for local economic development.

As I explained to the conference attendees during the final plenary session, regenerative agriculture is not some new invention by organic farmers and ranchers in the Global North. It’s the adaptation of ancient farming practices, such as the traditional Mayan system of agro-forestry, multi-crop “milpa” farming (corn, beans, squash, and other vegetables), natural compost and holistic poultry and livestock management.

A form of what is now called regenerative agriculture, or regenerative organic agriculture, was practiced over thousands of years ago by Mayan and indigenous people throughout the Americas. The Mayans survived and thrived in harmony with the Earth—without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs, or concentrated animal confinement. They fed themselves while also maintaining a proper carbon cycle (a balance between CO2 in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil and forests) and a biologically healthy and diverse environment. 

Our mission today as “regenerators” throughout the Americas and the world is to recapture, reestablish and scale up these traditional practices. We must modify them to match the specific ecological and marketplace conditions in our local areas and regions. In this manner we can regenerate the soil, dramatically improve yields and food quality, restore public health, eliminate the pressures that cause forced migration, and last but certainly not least, draw down and sequester enough excess carbon from the atmosphere through enhanced plant photosynthesis and reforestation to reverse global warming and climate disruption.

Beyond the still-utopian dream of open borders, Guatemalans and indigenous communities have begun discussing in practical terms what we can do right now to mitigate and eventually put a halt to forced migration. We owe it to them and to ourselves to change the discussion on the “immigration crisis” from walls and deportation to one of cross-border solidarity and regeneration.

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

Farming with Pesticides Is Not the Path to 'One Sweet World'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-10-26 14:00
All About OrganicsKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 24, 2017 ice_cream_cone_melt_beach_blue_scribble_drawing_1000x523.jpg

A Vermont organic dairy farmer recently wrote an op-ed in which he defended conventional (non-organic) dairy farmers.

Vermonter Jacques Couture wrote in the Burlington Free Press that he was “a little perplexed” by the “current demand by some vocal Vermonters” that “all dairy farmers” convert to organic. There’s room for both organic and non-organic, he wrote.

Couture didn’t specifically mention the ongoing consumer campaign asking Ben & Jerry’s to source 100% organic dairy. Nor did he name the nonprofits—Regeneration Vermont and the Organic Consumers Association—behind the campaign.

Did Ben & Jerry’s put Couture up to writing the op-ed? Is the Unilever-owned ice cream maker paving the way for a future announcement that its conventional dairy suppliers will soon start using better farming practices (but not go organic)?

We can only speculate.

But we don’t have to speculate about this: Couture’s opinion piece was missing more than just the details behind the story. It missed the point. Which is this: Conventional dairy, which relies on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO crops, is poisoning Vermont’s water, degrading Vermont’s soil and contributing to global warming.

And yes, the glyphosate we found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is a health problem. 

One irrelevant—and some dubious—claims

Couture’s defense of Vermont’s conventional dairy farmers included the claim that non-organic dairy farmers work just as hard, and are just dedicated to their communities, as organic farmers.

We take no issue with that.

But we do take issue with Couture's claim that all Vermont conventional milk is free of antibiotics, and that none of Vermont dairy farmers use the bovine growth hormone (rBST, or rGBH), which is prohibited in organic. Informed sources in Vermont tell a different story, based on their in-depth research into antibiotic use in Vermont dairies

That said, the above arguments are only marginally related to our demand that Ben & Jerry’s go organic. Ben & Jerry’s knows that, even if Couture doesn’t.

Our Ben & Jerry's campaign focuses on the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and the many disastrous consequences associated with those practices. On that issue, we are totally at odds with Couture.

The facts speak—conventionl dairies pollute Vermont's waterways

Couture writes that conventional dairy farms use pesticides “judiciously and work to avoid impacting local water sources and nearby lands.” He also claims that they use “the safest ones.”

That’s not the picture Regeneration Vermont paints in its latest report, “A Failure to Regulate: Big Dairy & Water Pollution in Vermont.” The report says that Lake Champlain is one of more than 100 other bodies of water in Vermont that are classified as “impaired:”

And, in many cases, “impaired” means filled with the green slime that is cyanobacteria, smelling so badly that summer camps have become uninhabitable, and beaches are posted with signs that warn, “no swimming.”

According to the EPA, more than 138,900 acres (80 percent) of the Vermont portion of Lake Champlain weren’t even swimmable during the summers of 2015 and 2016.

Here are a few more not-so-fun facts from the Regeneration Vermont report:

•    Public and private sources estimate that from 40 percent to 79 percent of the phosphorous and nitrogen pollution in Vermont’s waterways comes from dairy farms. And, almost all the pesticide pollution comes from these dairies.

•    In 2016, the EPA classified 15 of Vermont’s lakes and 86 of the state’s rivers and streams as “impaired.”

•    According to Julie Moore of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), roughly half—48.5 percent—of the pollution in Lake Champlain comes from agricultural sources.

As for using “safe” pesticides? Regeneration Vermont analyzed the state’s pesticide data. Here’s what Vermont farmers used on corn (most of which was used to feed dairy cows), between 1999-2013:

•   1,432,650 pounds of the weedkiller metolachlor, an endocrine disruptor known to cause cancer and birth defects.

•   1,037,575 pounds of the weedkiller atrazine, banned in Europe because it’s carcinogenic, causes birth defects, is an endocrine disruptor and pollutes drinking water.

•    224,628 pounds of simazine, also banned in Europe, for the same reasons listed above.

Pesticides—‘one of the greatest public health challenges’

We need to get pesticides out of our food system—that’s not just our opinion, it’s the opinion of a growing number of scientists. (And no, we don’t need pesticides to “scale to meet the planet’s needs,” as Couture suggests).

A recent report by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) says that exposure to harmful chemicals in existing food systems poses “one of the greatest challenges for public health, as the risks of long-term exposure to pesticides clearly extend beyond the farm.”

Reporting on the IPES-Food story, the Ecologist noted the “damning assessment” by a key scientific advisor to the UK Government on the failure of global regulatory agencies to acknowledge the “impacts of dosing whole landscapes" with pesticides.

But “dosing whole landscapes” is exactly what Vermont farmers, who spray a toxic cocktail of pesticides on the more than 90,000 acres of GMO crops in their state, are doing.

It’s great (not to mention clever marketing) for Ben & Jerry’s to announce plans to start making “glyphosate-free” ice cream. (Though wouldn’t consumers who’ve been on the receiving end of Ben & Jerry’s “good guy” marketing all these years have already assumed as much)?

But getting glyphosate out of its ice cream does little to get glyphosate (and atrazine and metolachlor) out of Vermont’s waterways. Or its soils. To do that, Ben & Jerry’s needs to go organic—and not just 6 percent.

‘Farmers know that’

In his defense of conventional dairy farmers, Couture writes that when “it comes to the land, you won’t find an organic or conventional dairy farmer who doesn’t focus on soil health and production.”

We beg to differ. Here’s how the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines soil health:

Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a living system, with ecosystem and land use boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health. Healthy soils maintain a diverse community of soil organisms that help to control plant disease, insect and weed pests, form beneficial symbiotic associations with plant roots; recycle essential plant nutrients; improve soil structure with positive repercussions for soil water and nutrient holding capacity, and ultimately improve crop production (FAO, 2008).

By using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Vermont’s conventional dairy farmers are degrading soil health—not contributing to it.

Sure, as Couture writes, some of Vermont’s conventional farmers are (selectively) adopting regenerative agricultural practices like no-till and cover crops. But Couture’s claim—that “the end goals, conventional or organic, are very similar: healthy, content animals to produce the best milk while safeguarding the land”—doesn’t hold water any better than eroded, degraded soils do.

Unless Vermont farmers ditch the chemicals, they can’t claim to be “focusing on soil health.” And that’s a problem. Because healthy soil, not conventional agriculture, is what’s needed to feed a growing global population. And as historians have long noted, the nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.

In a recent news report revealing that the UK is 30-40 years away from “eradication of soil fertility,” UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned:

“If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil [emphasis ours], you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that.”

The time is now, no excuses

What’s keeping Ben & Jerry’s, the company that feigns deep concern for environmental and social progress, from transitioning to organic?

Couture would have us believe that Vermont dairy farmers can’t go organic because it’s “impractical.”

That’s no excuse, say the authors of the IPES-Food study:

The report points out that the complexity of health impacts in food systems is real and challenging, but "cannot be an excuse for inaction," and that a truly healthy food system will take as its starting point a preventative, precautionary approach, triggering a shift from a system that results in harm to a system that is based on prevention and health promotion.

The Regeneration Vermont team says the state has the technical expertise to help Vermont dairy farmers convert. They point out that those farmers who have already converted are making a living, without polluting the land or waterways.

In its “Failure to Regulate” report, the nonprofit says many of the state’s conventional farmers who are on the verge of bankruptcy would survive if they could convert to organic. All they need are buyers:

Big dairy buyers like Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot Creamery, or Green Mountain Greek Yogurt could, with a decision to buy organic ingredients, almost immediately turn around the problems of Vermont’s dairy economy, poor working conditions on farms, polluted waterways, and unhealthy cows.

We’ve got a health crisis, a soil crisis, a water crisis, a worsening global hunger crisis and a climate crisis—not just in Vermont, but on a global scale. Business-as-usual industrial factory farming is a big part of the problem.

Organic, regenerative farming is the solution. 

Until Ben & Jerry’s transitions to 100% organic, no amount of touchy-feely public relations—including cutesy new flavors like “One Sweet World”—will fool conscious consumers, much less fix the world.

That’s the case we need to be making.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

Tell Costco: Consumers Don't Want Factory Farm Chicken!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-10-19 14:46
Belong to campaign: Regenerative AgricultureCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & Climate, Food SafetyArea: USA

Costco is a leading seller of organic produce. Yet when it comes to meat, the retail giant is big on cheap chicken. 

So big, that Costco wants to build the largest factory farm chicken operation in the U.S., in Fremont, Neb. (population under 26,500). 

A group of citizens representing the millions of people in surrounding towns say it’s their waterways that will be polluted by Costco’s cheap chicken farms. They point out that the majority of Nebraskans, approximately one million, will see water quality decline as a result of poultry litter runoff from the 100 chicken barns that will raise birds for Costco.

Equally important, the group says, is this: Nebraska should invest in family farms that support local economies and use responsible farming practices—not corporate-owned factory farms.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Costco: Consumers don't want unhealthy factory farm chicken and a polluted environment. Please invest in organic regenerative poultry farming instead!Read more

World Food Prize: Feeding the World a Slick Campaign of Lies

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-10-19 12:38
October 17, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice fork_knife_1000x523.png

Tonight (October 19, 2017), the World Food Prize will be ceremoniously bestowed on yet another cheerleader for degenerative agriculture.

This year’s award goes to Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina of Nigeria, president of the African Development Bank, and a proud supporter of Big Ag and Biotech. In his words, Adesina says he works to "help farmers rise to the top of the value chain by industrializing agriculture."

In the lead-up to World Food Day (October 16) and tonight’s ceremony, I’ve received, from an enthusiastic marketing person who mistakenly thinks I’d be interested in attending tonight’s events, a series of emails all with the subject line “How Iowa is feeding the world.”

The email invitations contain glowing praise for industrial, degenerative agriculture—the type that kills healthy soil life, has ruined Iowa’s water and produces pesticide-contaminated food. In one email, she wrote:

But in Iowa, solving global hunger is business as usual, from being the #1 producer of pork, soy beans and eggs, to the cutting-edge bioscience research being conducted at the state’s universities, to groundbreaking technological innovations applied in the farms and fields - Iowa has a long legacy of feeding the world.

Iowa is in fact home to many good farmers. Farmers who work with nature, not against it. Farmers who—without benefit of the huge taxpayer-funded subsidies granted to their GMO monoculture counterparts—steward their lands, and grow nutrient-rich, uncontaminated food.

But those aren’t the farmers who are ever awarded a $250,000 World Food Prize. Because those farmers aren’t generating big profits for corporations like Monsanto.

No, the farmers and “thinkers, scientists and advocates of global food security” who are gathered in Des Moines this week aren’t so interested in regenerative agriculture. And, as one new report after another reveal, the only thing they’re feeding the world is a slick PR campaign, founded in lies.

The truth about who’s really feeding the world (spoiler alert: it’s not industrial ag) was published this week by the nonprofit ETC Group in its latest edition of “Who will Feed us?” But before we get to that, it’s worth pointing out, again, that lack of food isn’t the root cause of world hunger. According to multiple sources, including Mercy Corps: 

There is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago. If all the world's food were evenly distributed, there would be enough for everyone to get 2,700 calories per day—even more than the minimum 2,100 requirement for proper health.

So why do 795 million people (one in nine) go to bed hungry every night? Because the food being produced doesn’t get distributed to them—and even if it did, they couldn’t afford it.

Poverty and distribution are the root causes of hunger. And as Pope Francis said this week, the link between climate change (of which industrial agriculture is a major contributor) and hunger is “undeniable.”

What exactly is the World Food Prize?

In 1986, U.S. packaged food conglomerate General Foods Corporation launched the “General Foods World Food Prize” to celebrate advances in industrial food production.

Today, the “World Food Prize” is a public-private partnership between the state of Iowa and numerous multinational agrichemical corporations, including Bayer, Dow, Dupont, Monsanto and Syngenta. World Food Prize events happen on or around October 16, to coincide with World Food Day, the annual celebration of the founding in 1945 of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO uses World Food Day as a call-to-action for countries to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #2: Achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.

According to its official website, the World Food Day Prize is “the most significant observance of World Food Day anywhere around the globe.” Yet interestingly, there’s no mention of the prize on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website, where you think something so “significant” would bear mention by the originators of World Food Day?

Who really feeds the world?

At a recent dinner party, the subject of Monsanto and GMOs came up. Several of the well-educated and well-read guests asked: But without GMOs, how will we feed the world?

Clearly, Monsanto has excelled at getting its (false) message out. Which means that we have to work harder at getting out the facts—many of which are laid out, and meticulously researched and documented, in ETC Group’s latest publication. 

In honor of the real World Food Day, please share some of the facts, brought to you by ETC Group:

1.  Peasants are the main or sole food providers to more than 70 percent of the world’s people,and peasants produce this food with less (often much less) than 25 percent of the resources—including land, water, fossil fuels—used to get all of the world’s food to the table.

2.  The Industrial Food Chain uses at least 75 percent of the world’s agricultural resources and is a major source of GHG emissions, but provides food to less than 30 percent of the world’s people.

3.  For every $1 consumers pay to Chain retailers, society pays another $2 for the Chain’s health and environmental damages. The total bill for the Chain’s direct and indirect cost is five times governments’ annual military expenditure.

4.  The Chain lacks the agility to respond to climate change. Its R&D is not only distorted but also declining as it concentrates the global food market.

5.  The Peasant Food Web nurtures nine -100 times the biodiversity used by the Chain, across plants, livestock, fish and forests. Peasants have the knowledge, innovative energy and networks needed to respond to climate change; they have the operational scope and scale; and they are closest to the hungry and malnourished.

6.  There is still much about our food systems that we don’t know we don’t know. Sometimes, the Chain knows but isn’t telling. Other times, policymakers aren’t looking. Most often, we fail to consider the diverse knowledge systems in the Peasant Food Web.

The bottom line? According to ETC Group, at least 3.9 billion people are either hungry or malnourished because the Industrial Food Chain is too distorted, vastly too expensive, and—after 70 years of trying—just can’t scale up to feed the world.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

 

First Steps Toward Building a Regeneration Movement in Your Local Community

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-10-11 20:32
Environment & ClimateRegeneration InternationalOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 9, 2017 Soil Hands 1000x523

The paradigm shift from degenerative food, farming and land-use practices toward regenerative practices—those that regenerate soil, biodiversity, health, local economies and climate stability—is arguably the most critical transformation occurring throughout the world today.

Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but also to reverse global warming. At the same time, these practices provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation and global conflict.

The promise of regeneration lies in its ability to increase plant photosynthesis on a large scale. Plant photosynthesis, which draws down CO2 from the atmosphere and releases oxygen, transfers carbon into the plant roots and soil. Fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices across billions of acres of land, as well as the shift to 100- percent renewable energy, has the potential to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate. 

As this great drawdown and re-carbonization of the soil and biota occurs, civilization will reap a wide range of other benefits. These include increased soil fertility, increased soil moisture (rainfall retention), the return of regular rainfall and weather patterns, increased food production, nutrient-rich food, enhanced biodiversity, rural and urban economic development and millions of new “green” jobs.

The biggest obstacle we face in scaling regenerative agriculture is educating the public on a global scale. Only a small percentage of citizens, farmers, scientists and policymakers understand the benefits of regenerative food and farming. Some haven’t even heard the term. Therefore, our initial task is to educate folks on the message of regeneration. From there, we can organize core groups, coalitions, pilot projects and policy reforms in every town, city, state and nation.

The following action plan is designed to jumpstart an educational campaign on regenerative food, farming and land use.

Step 1. Learn the basic principles of regenerative food, farming and land-use.

Learn how to explain regenerative food, farming and land use as a solution to climate change, global food insecurity, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, public health and more. Be sure to avoid the “doom and gloom” climate change talk, and instead focus on the solution: regeneration.

Once you understand the principles of regenerative food, farming and land use, get excited! Your inspiration will inspire others to join the cause. Over time, you’ll improve your outreach and your ability to recruit others. A good place to start is to engage in conversations with people you already know, and who are concerned about the crises we currently face.

Avoid those closed off to the concept of regeneration. Focus instead on people who are open minded and interested in solutions. You’ll know you’re ready to spread the message of regeneration on a larger scale once you’ve inspired those closest to you, i.e. friends, family members, co-workers.

For more information on regeneration, visit http://regenerationinternational.org.

For the latest research on regenerative agriculture, visit http://regenerationinternational.org/annotated-bibliography/

For trending news on regenerative agriculture, visit http://regenerationinternational.org/news/

Step 2. Develop a core group of 4-5 regenerators. Then join or create your local “Regenerate” Facebook group

Candidates for these groups include but aren’t limited to local food, climate, farm and political activists; environmentalists; local church members; students; teachers; gardeners; and artists.

Plan a potluck or study group to build your core group’s understanding of our most pressing issues and brainstorm ways to grow your mission. Ask your members to join a local “Regenerate” Facebook group. Or create one if there isn’t an existing group in your area. Click here to find your local “Regenerate” group: http://orgcns.org/2wF6Yn2

You may also register as an affiliate of Regeneration International here: http://regenerationinternational.org/join-us

Step 3. Get familiar with the Global 4/1000 Initiative on Soils and Food Security.

The 4/1000 Initiative is the only global local-to-national climate strategy to sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere as a means of reversing climate change.

Think of the 4/1000 initiative as sort of a Global Declaration of Interdependence, an acknowledgement and a pledge, from people all over the world, to commit to a plan to regenerate our planet.

Activists in dozens of countries worldwide are now using the 4/1000 Initiative as an outreach tool for recruiting individuals and organizations to join the regeneration movement. Our hope is that these coalitions will lobby representatives at the city, county, state, national and international levels to pass resolutions supportive of the 4/1000 initiative.

Regeneration International’s goal is to get 100,000 community-based organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to sign on to the 4/1000 Initiative by 2020, ultimately inspiring a global grassroots movement.

Step 4. Develop a plan of action for reaching the masses.

For the regeneration movement to take root, individuals and groups will need to understand the importance of connecting the dots between what they or their organizations are already working on, and the global campaign to regenerate the Earth’s natural systems, including climate, and soil and water cycles—and ultimately the health of the planet and all who inhabit it.

Target groups include: food, environmental, farm, climate, peace, immigration and faith-based groups, as well as students and others with an open mind and interest in regeneration.

How will you reach out to these groups? How will you identify people within the groups who are receptive to regeneration as an over-arching solution to multiple crises? Suggestions include attending their meetings, listening to their concerns, then finding an opening to introduce the concept of regeneration. Some groups like to have speakers/presentations at their meetings—can you get on the schedule? Or maybe invite a few people from multiple groups to a separate gathering, to discuss their work, and how it fits in with the regeneration movement?

Step 5. Contact Regeneration International to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings.

Once your core group has educated other groups and individuals in your area, built a critical mass of organizations signed on to the 4/1000 initiative, and begun lobbying local representatives to pass 4/1000 resolutions, contact Regeneration International info@regenerationinternational.org to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings to spread the message of regeneration even more widely.

Regeneration International can also provide resources for promoting and scaling regenerative plot projects http://www.regenerationhub.co/en/ and best practices for your region.

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

'Four for 1000': A Global Initiative to Reverse Global Warming Through Regenerative Agriculture and Land Use

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-10-11 20:12
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateRonnie Cummins, Regeneration InternationalOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 10, 2017 climate change hot red beach thermometer cc 1000x523.jpg

“Four for 1000”: Burning Questions

Question One: What is the “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015?

Answer: “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” is a global plan and agreement to reverse global warming, soil degradation, deteriorating public health and rural poverty by scaling up regenerative food, farming and land use practices.

Under this Initiative, over the next 25 years, regenerative agriculture and large-scale ecosystem restoration can qualitatively preserve and improve soils, pastures, forests and wetlands while simultaneously drawing down (through enhanced plant photosynthesis) billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere, turning it into biomass and sequestering it in our soils.

In simplest terms, 4/1000 calls for the global community to draw down as much CO2 from the atmosphere as we’re currently emitting, and at the same time stop emitting other greenhouse gases.

Question Two: How many countries and regions of the world have signed on to the 4/1000 Initiative?

Answer: Approximately 40 countries and regions of the world have already signed on to the 4/1000 Initiative. Hundreds of grassroots civil society organizations also have signed on.

Proponents of 4/1000 expect most nations, regions and cities will sign on to the Initiative before the end of this decade, to meet their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Commitments) obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Countries already signed on include: France, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, and Uruguay.

Question Three: Does the 4/1000 Initiative propose that we can reverse global warming and feed the world without drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions?

Answer: No. The proponents of the 4/1000 Initiative believe that we need to achieve both zero fossil fuel emissions and maximum drawdown of excess CO2 from the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

Question Four: Why is this global Initiative called the “Four for 1000 Initiative?”

Answer: 4/1000 refers to the average percentage of soil carbon increase that we need to achieve every year for the next 25 years in order to stabilize the climate and reverse global warming.

A 4/1000 increase in the amount of carbon stored in global soils (currently 1.5-2.5 trillion tons, depending on how deep you measure the carbon) over the next 25 years, combined with zero fossil fuel emissions, will enable us to sequester enough additional carbon (150-250 billion tons, or 6-10 billion tons per year) in our soils and forests to bring the atmosphere back to the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm of CO2 required to stabilize the climate, increase soil fertility, improve public health, secure food sovereignty, reduce global strife, and reverse global warming.

Question Five: Is it really possible to achieve the 4/1000 carbon drawdown goal of sequestering 6-10 billion tons of carbon per year, and continuing this for the next 25 years?

Answer: Yes, it is possible for global regenerative food, farming and land use (including forestry) practices to sequester 6-10 billion tons of carbon per year. How do we know this? Because the earth’s 22 billion acres of farmland, pasture and forests—even in their currently degraded condition—are already sequestering a net 1.5 billion tons of carbon annually. And because millions of organic or transition-to-regenerative farmers and ranchers and—“best practitioners”—are already sequestering far more than 4/1000 percent in additional soil carbon every year. Some report sequestering as much as 600 times this amount.

Question Six: What are the respective roles of consumers, farmers and other sectors in moving to a regenerative system of food, farming and land use?

Answer: Regenerative food, farming and land use will require a radical transformation in consciousness and in purchasing habits among a critical mass of 3-4 billion food and fiber consumers in the global North and the South.

On a global scale, consumers will need to move away from purchasing trillions of dollars of chemical, GMO and energy-intensive industrial agriculture foods, including meat, dairy and poultry from factory farms, and highly processed and packaged foods. Consumers also will need to eliminate food waste.

Reversing climate change and feeding the world will also require a transformation in production practices by a critical mass of the world’s 500 million small farmers, 200 million herders and 50 million large farmers. Regenerative farming methods include: holistic management and planned rotational grazing of livestock; cover-cropping; no-till practices; agro-forestry; diverse crop rotations, including integrating livestock grazing; use of compost, manure and biochar; and use of deeper-rooting plants and perennials. Synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and GMO monocultures are not included in regenerative farming methods.

Forest and fishing communities, homeowners and the approximately one billion urban food producers, gardeners and landscape managers also have a major role to play in the transition to regenerative agriculture and land-management system.

Question Seven: Is regenerative food and farming the same as organic, agro-ecological farming or rotational grazing?

Answer: No. Most practitioners of organic, agro-ecological and rotational grazing methods, certified or not, can be described as “potentially regenerative” or in “transition to regenerative.”

There are a number of terms used to describe ecological farming and ranching practices across the world, including agro-ecology, agro-forestry, permaculture, biodynamic, holistic management or grazing, conservation agriculture, organic, and others. All these agricultural systems support soil conservation practices to a certain degree. However, only regenerative food and farming has as its central focus the maximization of soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

Question Eight: What are the main driving forces of global warming and climate instability? What roles do industrial agriculture, factory farming, GMO seeds, food processing, packaging, food waste, and mindless consumerism play in emitting greenhouse gases and degrading the soil and forests’ ability to sequester carbon and enhance biodiversity?

Answer: If you look closely at the entire process (often called the “carbon footprint”) of global food, farming and land use, our current chemical- and GMO-intensive, industrial, globalized, wasteful and highly processed system of food and fiber produces an alarming 44%-57% of all greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.

Of this 44%-57% figure, the majority of emissions come from the world’s 50 million large industrial, chemical and GMO-intensive farmers and factory farms, who control 75% of all farm and, and produce 30% of the world’s food. (These figures contrast sharply with the role played by the 500 million smallholder farms and 200 million small herders who cultivate crops and graze animals on 25% of the land, while producing 70% of the world’s food).

In terms of the categories of food and farming greenhouse gas emissions this 44%-57% figure breaks down as follows:

• direct use of oil and gas in farming: 11%-15%

• deforestation 10%-15%

• transport 5%-6%

• processing and packaging 8%-10%

• freezing and retail 2%-4%

• waste 3%-4%.

We’ll never reach zero fossil fuel/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, much less sequester a critical mass of excess atmospheric CO2, without a fundamental transformation of our entire food, farming, and land use system.

Question Nine: What is the current market share of Regenerative food and farming versus degenerative?

Answer: Global consumers living beyond the bare subsistence level (approximately 50% of the world’s population), as opposed to those three billion or more living at subsistence level, now spend $7.55 trillion on food. Much of that food is produced by the world’s 50 million large farmers and ranchers, who use degenerative, rather than regenerative practices.

Of course many of the world’s 700 million small subsistence farmers and herders are also using chemicals, grazing animals improperly, undermining soil fertility, and destroying wetlands and forests under the pressures of poverty and because they lack of access to good land, technical assistance, financing, markets and other resources.

About 75% of all food sold today in the Global North and among the middle classes of the developing world is low-nutrient processed food. And almost half of total food produced is either wasted or overconsumed.

The hidden costs of our degenerative food and farming system are staggering: $4.8 trillion in annual expenditures for social, health and environmental damages. (ETC Group, “Who Will Feed the World?” 2017)

There is very little food and fiber produced today that can genuinely be described as 100% regenerative. In terms of less degenerative or potentially “transition to regenerative,” the global certified (or non-certified) organic food, grass-fed and sustainably produced food market is considerably less than $1 trillion.

Question Ten: What is most important in terms of driving food, farming and land use in a regenerative direction: public policy or marketplace demand?

Answer: Both are essential. So far marketplace demand and the survival of traditional farming and animal husbandry practices are driving regenerative and potentially regenerative food, farming and land use, although support for organic and grass- fed production is increasing in some regions, especially the U.S. and Europe. In some countries most of the beef production is currently 100% grass-fed (Australia and Uruguay for example), and therefore at least semi-regenerative.

Unfortunately, governments of the world provide $600 billion a year or more in subsidies to industrial agriculture, GMOs, globalized exports and factory farms. Only a fraction of government subsidies go to organic, grass-fed, or what can be called “transition-to-regenerative” practices.

In the long run we will need both marketplace pressure and billions of dollars in annual public policy/public financing to move the majority of the world’s 750 million farms and ranches in a regenerative direction, as well as to carry out large-scale ecosystem restoration, reforestation and wetlands preservation.

Question Eleven: How can conscious consumers and the current minority of regenerative farmers, ranchers and land managers get more of their counterparts on board?

Mass public education for consumers, farmers and land managers on the health, environmental, social, economic, and climate benefits of regenerative food, farming and land use, combined with free technical assistance, training and financial incentives for farmers will be necessary to move from degenerative consumption and production practices to regenerative.

In each local area, region and nation best practices and practitioners will need to be identified and publicized. We also will need to establish regenerative pilot projects, provide farmer-to-farmer education, and scale up of public policy reform and financing.

Question Twelve: How many farmers, herders, ranchers and land managers are currently carrying out regenerative, or potentially regenerative, as opposed to degenerative, practices?

Answer: There are 2.5 million certified organic farms in 120 nations that can be characterized as potentially regenerative or transition-to-regenerative. There are probably 10-20 times more who are farming organically (but are not certified) and are supplying their families and local markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 25-50 million of the world’s 750 million farms are utilizing traditional, sustainable practices, and could potentially make the transition to regenerative practices with sufficient technical and financial assistance.

Question Thirteen: What percentage of consumers and farmers will have to adopt regenerative production and consumption practices if we are to meet the goals of the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: Focusing on the world’s current 25-50 million “potentially regenerative” farmers, herders and ranchers, we need to move these sustainable producers into full or near-full regenerative mode over the next five years (2017-2022). At the same time, we need to move another 50 million from chemical or degenerative practices into transition-to-regenerative practices (organic, whether certified or not, grass-fed, permaculture, agro-ecological). Then we need to double this pace between 2022-2027, so that we end up in 10 years with 100 million regenerative producers and another 100 million “transition-to-regenerative” producers.

By 2032 we need to accelerate this process so as to have the majority of the world’s farmers, herders and land managers (400 million or so farms and ranches) involved in regenerative or near regenerative practices. During this same time periode, 2017-2032, we will have to make a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, and convert the majority of the world’s consumers to regenerative thinking and purchasing.

All of this presupposes strong marketplace pressure on food and fiber corporations to transfer from degenerative to regenerative supply chains, and fundamental changes in government policy by cities, counties, nation states and international agencies and funding institutions.

Question Fourteen: What are the major obstacles to achieving the goals of the 4 for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: The main obstacles to achieving the goals of  the 4/1000 Initiative are:

• lack of public knowledge, not only of the 4/1000 Initiative, but of the drawdown/regeneration agriculture, consumption, and land use perspectives in general

• massive taxpayer subsidies in most of the countries of the world of corporate-controlled degenerative food, farming and land use practices

• lack of unity and cooperation between food, farming, climate, environmental, peace, democracy, natural health, and justice movements, both within national borders and across borders internationally

• lack of public policy initiatives and financing for regenerative initiatives such as 4/1000.

All these degeneration drivers are related to corporate control of the national and international economy and corporate corruption of the political process.

Question Fifteen: How can I persuade my organization, city, county, state or nation to sign on to the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: We need to carefully build strategic core groups and coalitions at our organizational, local, county, state and national levels, with participation from food, farming, climate, environmental, peace, democracy, natural health, and justice movements. Additionally, we need to use public education and grassroots lobbying to get our local, county, state and national governments to sign on to the 4/1000 Initiative and to generate and support significate change in marketplace dynamics and public policy.

Question Sixteen: Where can I find out more about regenerative food, farming and land use, so that I can become an effective citizen lobbyist and activist?

Answer: Visit the Regeneration International website.

 And check out the resources at Bio4climate.org.

Question Seventeen: Where can I find out more about the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: Visit the 4/1000 website. 

Read this policy brief. 

 

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

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Four EU Countries Tests Positive for Monsanto Roundup Ingredient

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-10-10 13:53
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 9, 2017 bj1000x523.png

New Unilever Announcement Falls Short of Groups’ Demand

October 10, 2017

Contact:

European Parliament : Michele Rivasi, michele.rivasi@europarl.europa.eu, +33 (0)6 80 65 52 37
US: Katherine Paul, OCA, katherine@organicconsumers.org, +1 207-653-3090
UK: Pat Thomas, Beyond GM, pat@beyond-gm.org, 44 (0) 795 023 1240

BRUSSELS –The European Parliament today hosted a coalition of EU and US organizations, led by the US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA), which announced that samples of Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from France, Netherlands, Germany and the UK contained potentially harmful levels of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Glyphosate was detected in 12 of the 14 samples of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from across Europe, at levels that raise health concerns (as high as 1.228 ng/mL), according to Dr. John Fagan, chief scientist for HRI Labs, which conducted the tests. Flavors included: Half-Baked, Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup (NL); Chocolate Fudge, Cookie Dough (FR); Half-Baked, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Fudge (UK): and Cookie Dough, Toppea, Peanut Butter Cup, Karamel Sutra, Home Sweet Honey Comb and Cinnamon Buns (DE).”

Speaking at today’s press conference are: Michele Rivasi, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA; Philippe Lamberts, Member of the European Parliament and co-président of the Greens/EFA group; Gilles-Eric Séralini, Ph.D., professor, University of Caen, and author of numerous scientific studies exposing the health risks of glyphosate; Dr. John Fagan, chief scientist, HRI Labs; Pat Thomas, Pat Thomas, Founder/Director Beyond GM UK; and Katherine Paul, associate director, OCA.

The coalition calling on Ben & Jerry’s to go organic includes: Beyond GM (UK); Sustainable Pulse (Bulgaria); the Monsanto Tribunal (NL); and the Soil Association (UK). About 150 organizations and businesses worldwide have signed a letter to Ben & Jerry’s, asking the company to go organic.

In a statement, Ronnie Cummins, OCA international director, said: “Ben & Jerry’s announcement yesterday that it will source 6% organic dairy is positive news. But that leaves 94% of its supply coming from conventional dairies which use massive amounts of GMO animal feed. We will push for a transition to 100% organic, backed by a legally binding contract.”

Rivasi said: “Glyphosate is everywhere in our food, poisoning our bodies, but our minds are also intoxicated with falsified science ghostwritten by Monsanto. Evidence recently published in the Monsanto Papers exposes Monsanto’s attempts to suppress the research of Professor Séralini that demonstrates the toxicity and tumorigenicity of their most profitable product, Roundup. EFSA failed to produce an independent assessment of the full range toxicity of the Glyphosate. Based on this and other research evidence, Europe should immediately ban Roundup, and all uses of glyphosate in toxic formulations.”

Séralini said: “Research, both from France and the UK indicates that the levels of glyphosate present in most samples of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream likely pose a health risk. The regulatory levels of glyphosate set in the EU and US are based on outmoded toxicology models that fail to account for the properties of hormone disrupters like glyphosate-based herbicides, which can damage health at even very low levels.”

Thomas said: “These test results confirm the grim reality that other UK- and EU-wide testing has shown: almost no food is free from pesticide contamination. Ben & Jerry’s says it’s on a mission to make the world a better place. Inasmuch as ice cream can be used to do that, moving to a fully organic system, from farm to spoon, is the only way to ensure a product free from traces of endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic glyphosate.”

In July, the New York Times reported on contaminated samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the U.S.

Available by request: Certificates of Analysis, Statement of Relevance, Description of Analytical Method

The Organic Consumers Association is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public-interest organization advocating on behalf of more than two million U.S. consumers for health, justice, and regeneration. Visit www.organicconsumers.org, @OCA_Press.

Tell Congress: Subsidize Healthy Foods, Not Junk Foods!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-10-05 14:35
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchAppetite for a Change#Resist and #RegenerateCategory: Health Issues, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Have you ever wondered why genetically modified, pesticide-drenched, over-fertilized, hyper-processed foods are cheaper than organic foods grown without these expensive inputs? 

The answer is simple. These crops, destined to become refined carbohydrates, sweeteners, fats and feed for animals imprisoned in factory farms, get about $20 billion in Farm Bill subsidies every year. 

Organic produce and pasture-raised animal products get no direct support.

According to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Farm Bill crop subsidies contribute significantly to obesity and diet-related disease.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to fix the U.S. obesity and diet-related disease problem by shifting federal farm subsidies from junk food crops to organic produce.Read more

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT OCT. 11: Keep the Soil in Organic!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-10-03 14:54
Belong to campaign: Regenerative AgricultureSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Should vegetables grown in water, instead of soil, be certified organic?

Big Ag companies, such as Wholesum Harvest and Driscoll’s, say yes. They’re pushing the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to let them put the USDA Organic seal on hydroponically grown produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and berries.

OCA and other consumer watchdogs say no. Why? Because under USDA organic standards, farmers are required to increase soil organic matter. 

Here’s another reason: USDA organic standards shouldn’t be re-written to benefit companies like Scotts Miracle-Grow. Scotts—the exclusive distributor of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—is one of the biggest suppliers of the nutrients, growth mediums, containers, irrigation systems and lighting required for soilless crop production.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT OCT. 11: Keep the Soil in Organic! Read more

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Without your help, we'll have to cut back.

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-10-02 14:40
Ronnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 2, 2017https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 oca-1709-fundmeter-1000x523-135.png

Is Google Helping Monsanto Hide the Truth?

First, the good news. The work we're doing together is paying off.

This week, the EU Parliament banned Monsanto lobbyists from attending any meetings there because the Biotech Giant refused to show up for hearings into allegations that it had interfered with safety studies.

This, on top of class action lawsuits by farmers whose crops were damaged by Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide, and hundreds of lawsuits by people who have non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer after being exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is eroding Monsanto’s power.

This type of progress toward exposing the truth about Monsanto’s products, and the company’s intentional misleading of the public, is a result of the work of millions of people who write, publish and post exposés on Monsanto.

That leads us to the bad news: Now we also have to fight back against corporations trying to keep you from finding and reading the truth about Monsanto.

Our third-quarter fundraising campaign deadline has come and gone. We didn't hit our goal, so we've extended the deadline to midnight, Oct. 2. Can you pitch in today, any amount, to keep this work going? You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

In April, Google introduced new search algorithms and protocols. The company’s stated intent was to block “fake news.”

We’re all for finding solutions to the growing fake news problem. But who decides what is fake, and what isn’t?

As part of OCA’s mission to educate consumers about food, health and the environment, we publish both original content, and articles written by others.

Recently we’ve noticed, as have many independent, alternative and progressive websites, that our web traffic has plummeted. That means fewer readers finding articles about corporations like Monsanto and Dow, pesticides like Roundup and issues like water pollution, global warming and the corruption of our politicians by corporate lobbyists.

Don Hazen, executive editor of the independent news site Alternet, put it this way:

“So the reality we face is that two companies, Google and Facebook—which are not media companies, which do not have editors, or fact checkers, which do no investigative reporting—are deciding what people should read, based on a failure to understand how media and journalism function.”

As you know, we rely on you, our readers, to help pressure lawmakers and corporations, by signing petitions, organizing protests, handing out leaflets, making phone calls and sharing social media posts.

If google and Facebook censor our work, not only does our readership suffer, but our networks shrink and our power is diminished.

Our mission first and foremost is to protect consumers from corporations that poison and pollute.

But now, it seems, to fulfill our missions we’ll need to also fight corporate censors.

We need your continued financial support now more than ever. But today, I’m also asking you to step up your efforts to share our articles and social media content far and wide, to counter the negative impact of Google and Facebook’s censorship.

And please, send this link to sign up for our newsletter and alerts to as many like-minded friends as possible, to help get the word out about what’s wrong with our food system—and what we need to do to change it.

If we don't meet this basic quarterly funding goal, we'll have to cut back on some of our campaigns. Please pitch in whatever you can today—every dollar helps.

Together, we will get out the truth.

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

 

 

P.S. Last week, a powerful earthquake—the second in a matter of weeks—rattled our Mexico City office, and caused death and destruction for many already impoverished farmers in Mexico.  OCA will donate 15% of this quarter’s donations to help rural farmers. You can donate online, by mail or by phone—details here.

We need your help. To bring in the harvest.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-09-26 17:08
Environment & Climate, Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 25, 2017https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 oca-1709-fundmeter-1000x523-110.png

“The time has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and most revolutionary act.” - Dr. Vandana Shiva

Fall harvest season is almost here. It's that time when the hard work of planting and tending gives way to reaping the benefits.

You may not realize it yet, but the anti-GMO, pro-safe and healthy food movement is on the verge of a harvest of its own.

But we need your help to bring it in.

With only two days to go, we are barely halfway toward our third-quarter fundraising goal. Can you pitch in today, any amount, to keep this work going? You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

Like you, I was discouraged when our Monsanto-owned Congress failed us on GMO labeling. We didn’t let that loss stop us.

We hope you won't stop, either. We still need you. Because with your help, we will win so much more than just a label.

I’m happy to report that all signs point to the breakdown of Monsanto’s degenerative agriculture system, and the birth of a truly regenerative food and farming system.

Momentum is on our side. Monsanto and the rest of Big Ag are under siege.

Farmers and others who have non-Hodgkin lymphoma because they were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide have filed highly publicized lawsuits.

Those lawsuits led to the discovery of evidence that Monsanto colluded with the EPA to knowingly deceive the public about the health risks of Roundup and glyphosate.

U.S. Right to Know, a group OCA partially funds, has worked relentlessly with mainstream media to get this critical information to the public.

Farmers are rising up, too—including those whose crops recently were devastated by Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant weed killer.

More importantly, consumers are fighting back—and winning.

The citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas, have stalled Tyson’s plans to build a $320-million poultry factory farm.

OCA is working with activists in Nebraska to stop Costco from building an even larger factory farm in their state.

And our lawsuit against Sanderson Farms, whose chicken contains a long list of drugs and antibiotics, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking on Big Poultry. Stay tuned.

With your help, we’re also taking on the industrial dairy by exposing companies like Ben & Jerry’s which pretend to be “sustainable.”

We’ll use our testing of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which contains glyphosate, to pressure the Unilever-owned brand to go organic—and begin the transformation of the U.S. Dirty Dairy industry.

You should be proud of your place in this movement. Thanks to you, it’s only a matter of time before we stop Big Ag, Big Biotech, Big Food and Big Pharma from stealing our harvest.

Right now, we’re at risk of having to cut back on our work unless we meet our operating budget by the end of this month. Please help keep the momentum going by making a generous donation today—details here.

As always, thank you!

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

 


P.S. Donate today, and we’ll give 15% of your donations to impoverished farmers in Mexico whose homes were devastated by recent earthquakes. You can donate online, by mail or by check, details here.

When disaster strikes close to home.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-09-21 18:26
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 20, 2017https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 oca-1709-fundmeter-1000x523-0.png

“The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry, farmer, naturalist and writer

For weeks now, like most North Americans and people everywhere, I’ve followed the nerve-wracking news reports of climate chaos and violent weather in many parts of the world.

Shocking. And heartbreaking.

From afar, I watched CNN’s live coverage as Houston, my hometown, was flooded with not just rain, but also toxic chemicals from oil refineries and chemical plants that dominate the Texas economy.

In Northern California, where I attended an organic seed conference, I saw skies thick with smoke from massive forest fires raging in the Northwest.

This week, disaster struck even closer to home. On Tuesday, a powerful earthquake—the second in a matter of weeks—rattled our Mexico City office.

Everyone is fine, but one of our Mexico City staff lost her family’s apartment. Seven of her neighbors died when their four-story building collapsed.

Beyond Mexico City’s borders, in impoverished rural areas wracked by hurricanes or hit by two back-to-back earthquakes, three million people who were already struggling with the basics of food and shelter, now have nowhere to turn.

OCA wants to help. We hope you’ll help, too.

Today, we launch our third-quarter online fundraising campaign. As a staff, we asked ourselves if we should hold off on this campaign.  There are so many people in need right now.

Then we had an idea. What if we reached out to you, our regular donors, with this offer: Donate to our 3rd-quarter campaign, and we’ll give back 15% of your donation to help farmers and others in Mexico hit hard by the recent earthquakes. Click here to donate online, or find out how to donate by check or mail.

Right now, our Mexico-based Vía Orgánica team is collecting food from our farm and organic food store in Mexico, along with clothes and other much-needed necessities. We’re trying to get these supplies to the areas where they’re most needed. We’ll use 15% of your donation to help buy food, clothes and other supplies, and pay for transport.

We’ll also donate to Yolcan, an organization in Mexico working to protect sensitive island farms that “float” above the surface of Mexico’s Chinampas canals. Farmers tending these lands, which provide Mexico City with much of its fresh organic fruits and vegetables, have been hit hard by the earthquakes.

These are tough times. In addition to organizations like ours asking for your continued support, you’re also being asked to pitch in to help the victims of these many and recent natural disasters.

It’s a lot, I know.

But the truth is, we can’t fight the corrupt corporations and politicians disrupting the climate and poisoning your food system without your help.

We can’t build a better food and farm system without your support.

Nearly 80 percent of our support comes from individuals like you, who understand the importance of challenging the status quo, while simultaneously supporting an organic regenerative alternative that we know will provide chemical-free food, better health, a cleaner environment and, most importantly, begin to reverse global warming and stabilize the climate.

The recent hurricanes, earthquakes and fires are a wake-up call. They remind us that we are all vulnerable.

But this thought also comes to mind: In a larger sense, each disaster ultimately affects all of us. Because we share a common home, Earth.

And how we care—or don’t care—for our common home, including our soils, waters and forests, has consequences for all of us.

Please make a generous donation today. We’ll use 15% of your donation to help the victims of recent earthquakes in Mexico. You can donate online, by phone, or by check—details here.

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

 


 

P.S. Donate today, and we’ll give 15% of your donations to impoverished farmers in Mexico whose homes were devastated by recent earthquakes. You can donate online, by mail or by check, details here.

Tell Your Senators: Vote NO on Trump’s Pick for Top USDA 'Scientist'!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-09-14 12:38
Area: USA

The job of Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to be reserved for “distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” 

But if Trump has his way, the job will go to his former Iowa campaign manager, Sam Clovis—who isn’t even a scientist, much less a “distinguished” one.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Senators: Vote NO on Sam Clovis for Chief USDA Scientist! Read more

Have Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon been GREENWASHED?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-08-31 14:45
All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Environment & Climate, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 30, 2017 greenwashed_1000x523.png

Late-night rivals Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon don't just compete for ratings. They’re also locked in a battle over whose Ben & Jerry’s flavor—Colbert’s “AmeriCone Dream” or Fallon’s “The Tonight Dough”—is the more popular seller.

Here’s what we think: Colbert and Fallon should both #DumpBenandJerrys until Ben & Jerry's commits to a 100% organic supply chain!

TAKE ACTION! Click here to tweet at Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon: You’ve been greenwashed! Dump Ben & Jerry’s!

Two left-leaning celebrities, known for their outspokenness on progressive issues, battling it out over who can sell the most Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? It’s a perfect fit for Ben & Jerry’s greenwashing campaign.

But would Colbert and Fallon want their images plastered on ice cream packages if they knew that 10 of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tested positive for Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide?

Would Colbert and Fallon want to associate their brands with the Ben & Jerry’s brand, if they knew that the Vermont-based (but Unilever-owned) brand was responsible for massive water pollution?  

And dairy farmer bankruptcies?  

And animal abuse? 

We don’t think so. That’s why we’re asking you to let Colbert and Fallon know that Ben & Jerry’s is a fraud!

TAKE ACTION! Click here to tweet at Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon: You’ve been greenwashed! Dump Ben & Jerry’s!

Yet another new study linking pesticides to birth defects has just been published.

Pesticides, which we know are especially dangerous for children, have no place in ice cream. And industrial factory farms, which rely on millions of acres of heavily sprayed GMO crops, have no place in a healthy food and agriculture system.

We hear through the corporate grapevine that sales of Ben & Jerry’s are trending down. Let’s keep it that way. Until Ben & Jerry’s cleans up its act, and goes organic!

Tell these corporations: Don’t pollute our fruit!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-08-24 12:51
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsStop Toxic SludgeAppetite for a ChangeCategory: All About Organics, Environment & Climate, Health IssuesArea: USA

Toxic oil drilling wastewater from companies like Chevron is being used to grow some food in California - food that is sold in grocery stores across the country!

The wastewater contains chemicals used in fossil fuel extraction, including some that are linked to cancer and reproductive harm, such as ethylbenzene and toluene.

This practice threatens the safety of our children and the adults who eat this food, the farm workers who irrigate and pick the crops, and the environment.

Popular food companies that market their brands as “healthy” are involved in this practice, including The Wonderful Company, known for brands such as POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and Halos mandarins, and Grimmway Farms, a major U.S. carrot producer, including “Bunny-Luv” Carrots”

Tell these companies: I won’t buy your products until you and California Governor Jerry Brown put an end to this dangerous practice.Read more