Consumer Power

When disaster strikes close to home.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-09-21 18:26
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 20, 2017 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

Like you, I'm saddened. And worried.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-08-17 15:07
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 16, 2017 End Factory Farming donate 1000x523

The news reports get uglier, more divisive, more disheartening with each passing day.

Like you, I’m saddened. And worried.

Like you, we in the OCA office are finding it difficult to stay focused on our mission, to regenerate our food and farming system, our health, and our planet. 

But you and I know we must forge ahead.

You’ve always supported our joint struggle for an organic and equitable food system. For a chemical-free environment. For corporate accountability. For peace, justice and sustainability.

Despite the turmoil that surrounds us—in fact, because of it—we are doubling down on our mission.

That mission requires us to strike at the heart of the absolute worst manifestation of our degenerative, exploitative, extractive industrial food and farming system—the $1-trillion factory farm industry.

Late yesterday, a New England donor, inspired by our campaign to force Ben & Jerry’s to go organic, made a generous offer.

The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, will match up to $25,000 in donations raised between now and midnight, Monday, August 21. That means your donation today will be worth twice as much. Can you pitch in today to help us take advantage of this matching gift offer? Details here.

We’re grateful for this surprise offer—and not just because we’re rapidly expending resources on this campaign. (We are, by the way).

We’re grateful because this generous offer validates our strategy: To erode Ben & Jerry’s brand so much that the company begins the long-overdue transition from Dirty Dairy to an organic regenerative system that respects and rewards farmers and farmworkers, doesn't abuse animals, no longer pollutes waterways or degrades soil, and produces a safer, organic consumer product.

Some of you have questioned our Ben & Jerry’s campaign. There are worse companies out there, why not go after them?

Two reasons.

One, Ben & Jerry’s (owned by international giant Unilever) is a billion-dollar fraud. Consumers have the right to know that behind the phony “social responsibility” and “caring dairy” claims is a profit-maximization strategy that relies on the shameless exploitation of farmers, farmworkers and animals, and the massive use of pesticides like Roundup (which we found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) and atrazine, used to grow GMO crops to feed dairy cows.

Two, Ben & Jerry’s has enough buying power to exert a tremendous positive impact on the dairy industry—and by extension, on human, animal and environmental health. In other words, this company is perfectly capable of walking the walk, not just talking the talk. This campaign is winnable—if we keep the pressure on. And a win in Vermont is win for us all.

Ben & Jerry’s isn’t the only factory farm culprit we’re focused on right now. We recently exposed the long list of drugs, hormones and pesticides detected in Sanderson Farms’ so-called “100% Natural” chicken products, and the fact that Sanderson’s chicken finds its way, unlabeled and unidentified, into schools, hospitals and restaurants.

Our lawsuit against Sanderson Farms is working its way through the courts. We will not give up until everyone knows what’s in this chicken, and how false Sanderson’s statements are.

These two campaigns have been labor- and resource-intensive. They’ve required expensive testing, extensive media and consumer outreach, legal fees, and volunteer mobilization for the eight-city Ben & Jerry’s protests we organized last week, and the future protests we are planning.

But these strategic campaigns are a critical to our overall goal: end factory farming.

We will never stop working to reform food safety and agricultural policy. But in today’s political climate, controlled by an administration that brags about putting corporate profits first, and public health and the environment last, our best hope for ending factory farming lies in educating consumers, defeating corporations in the courts, and damaging brands like Ben & Jerry's and Sanderson Farms in the marketplace.

Factory farms are fueled by millions of acres of GMO crops, grown to feed chickens, pigs, beef cattle and dairy cows.

Bring down the factory farms, and the market for Monsanto’s GMO crops is drastically reduced.

Bring down the factory farms, and the massive pollution, the public health curse of antibiotic-resistance, the unspeakable animal cruelty, the contaminated food—it all goes away.

You can help us replace factory farms with organic, regenerative alternatives, by supporting these campaigns, and others like them. Please double your impact with a donation today. Details here.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director



P.S. Please help us take advantage of this surprise $25,000 matching gift offer by making a generous donation today. Together, we can expose factory farms and force companies to transition to organic. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

Impossibly Fake

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-08-14 16:14
August 13, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues burger question mark cartoon colors junk food cc 1000x523.jpg

It’s tough to even know where to start with this one, but here goes

A company called Impossible Foods, with $257 million in venture capital funding, recently launched its fake, genetically engineered Impossible Burger—even though, the FDA (supposedly in charge of food safety) can’t say if the burger’s “secret sauce”—soy leghemoglobin—is safe.

How can Impossible Foods put soy leghemoglobin in food if the FDA hasn’t deemed it safe? The New York Times explains:

The F.D.A.’s approval is not required for most new ingredients. Companies can hire consultants to run tests, and they have no obligation to inform the agency of their findings, a process of self-affirmation.”

While you let that sink in . . . here’s the other half of that story. Impossible Foods asked the FDA to weigh in on the safety of its “secret sauce” ingredient, even though it wasn’t required to. The agency did. This is what regulators wrote in a memo to Impossible Foods:

“F.D.A. believes the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of soy leghemoglobin for consumption,” nor do they point to a general recognition of safety.”

Despite that statement, the Impossible Burger went to market. Because, as it turns out, a company can introduce into the food system a product or ingredient that the FDA says may not be safe—as long as the FDA doesn’t say the product is unsafe.

That’s one issue with the Impossible Burger. Here’s the other. According to Max Goldberg, author of “Living Maxwell,” Impossible Foods uses genetic engineering to make the secret sauce that the FDA won’t say is safe. In his column, which appeared on the same day as the New York Times article, Goldberg raised the question of genetic engineering, and whether Impossible Foods is misleading consumers. Goldberg explains how the Impossible Burger is made:

The key to the Impossible Burger is making the burger look and taste like a regular hamburger. Impossible Foods accomplishes this, at scale, through genetic engineering.

Impossible Foods begins with the gene for a protein called leghemoglobin, a heme protein that is naturally found in the root nodules of soy plants. It then takes a strain of genetically-engineered yeast and adds the soy leghemoglobin gene, and proceeds to grow the yeast via the fermentation process. The company isolates the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast and adds that genetically-engineered protein to the Impossible Burger.

To read the company’s website, however, you’d be hard pressed to figure out if you’re eating GMO. And that may be intentional.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, told Goldberg:

“The way in which Impossible Foods is loosely and interchangeably using the word “heme” is misleading consumers. The average person with no scientific background would reasonably read the FAQ section of this website and think that the genetically-engineered heme in the Impossible Burger is ‘identical’ to the heme that humans have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years in meat and other foods. This is categorically not true.”

If you find this all a little impossible to understand, much less believe, well, welcome to the dark side of “food tech.”

Of Burgers, Blood and Balderdash

Read ‘Impossible Burger’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Highlights Challenges of Food Tech’

Read ‘Impossible Foods Is ‘Misleading Consumers’ About Its GMO Protein, FDA Rejects the Claim That It Is Safe for Consumption’

The Monsanto Papers and Weedkiller in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream—What's the Connection?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-08-03 14:59
August 1, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulHealth Issues, OCA in the News stars1000x523.png

Sometimes the stars align. This is one of those times.

Not long after the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tested positive for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, another story broke—one that validates the importance of finding glyphosate, even at low doses, in any food.

According to internal Monsanto documents (and as reported by GM Watch, Sustainable Pulse and other news outlets), Monsanto forced the retraction of a critical long-term study, first published in 2012, showing that very low doses of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—lower than those detected in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream—caused serious liver and kidney damage in rats. (We also tested four organic brands—Alden's, Julies, Three Twins and Whole Foods 365 Organic. All tested clean, except the 365 store brand, which had a trace of AMPA, a glyphosate metabolite).

Shortly before the study was retracted, the editor of the journal that originally published the study, began working for Monsanto, under a consulting contract. (The study, led by G.E. Séralini, was republished in 2014, by the Environmental Sciences Europe).

Since the New York Times first reported on OCA’s testing findings, the news about Ben & Jerry’s has been picked by thousands of media outlets, including TV stations, in the U.S. and internationally, including in Germany, the U.K., France, Mexico, Portugal and Japan.

No surprise, it didn’t take long for critics to come out of the woodwork—mostly the usual suspects who defend Monsanto. Their criticisms focused largely on the amounts of glyphosate detected in the ice cream, and how they fall below the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “allowable safe levels”—levels that don’t take into account the latest research.

That latest research, in addition to the Séralini study, includes a peer-reviewed study published in January 2017, in Scientific Reports. Led by Dr Michael Antoniou at King’s College London, the Antoniou study found that low doses (thousands of times below those declared “safe” by U.S. and international regulators) of Roundup weedkiller, administered to rats over a two-year period, caused non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD, which is now reaching epidemic proportions, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, a life-threatening condition.

OCA’s news, and the latest revelations about Monsanto’s efforts to bury the truth about Roundup’s true toxicity have Ben & Jerry’s (and parent company Unilever) sweating. As for Monsanto, company officials weren’t too pleased when their internal emails went public. The New York Times reported that one Monsanto scientist wrote this in an internal email in 2001:

“If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern.”

The email was uncovered in what the Huffington Post reported are more than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, which were posted for public viewing early Tuesday (August 1, 2017) by attorneys suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

Monsanto told the New York Times “it was outraged by the documents’ release.

But we are the ones who should be outraged. By Monsanto knowingly selling a toxic product, and covering up that fact by attacking credible independent scientists. By government agencies that allowed, and possibly even colluded in the cover-ups and attacks. And by companies like Ben & Jerry’s that profess great concern for the environment, the climate, and “social responsibility,” while excusing themselves from having to live up to those promises.

Ben & Jerry’s responds

In response to our finding glyphosate in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, the company told the New York Times it “was working to ensure that all the ingredients in its supply chain come from sources that do not include genetically modified organisms, known as G.M.O.s.”

Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry’s, told the Times:

“We’re working to transition away from G.M.O., as far away as we can get. “But then these tests come along, and we need to better understand where the glyphosate they’re finding is coming from. Maybe it’s from something that’s not even in our supply chain, and so we’re missing it.”

Not even in their supply chain? Seriously? Ben & Jerry’s is one of the, if not the biggest buyer of non-organic milk in Vermont. And the cows that make that milk? They’re fed GMO animal feed.

More than 92,000 acres of Vermont farmland is planted in corn grown for animal feed, reports Regeneration Vermont. Ninety-six percent of that corn is GMO—corn grown using massive amounts of chemical fertilizers, and toxic weedkillers like glyphosate, atrazine and metolachlor.

But that’s not something Ben & Jerry’s, the darling brand of the progressive movement, likes to talk about—even though activists have been begging the company for more than two decades to clean up its act, and go organic. And not just because of the glyphosate in its ice cream, though that’s reason enough—but because, as OCA Director Ronnie Cummins recently explained, Ben & Jerry’s support of conventional and GMO dairy is ruining Vermont’s waterways, hurtling dairy farmers into bankruptcy, hurting migrant workers and perpetuating animal abuse.

Ben & Jerry's subsequently posted a formal statement on our glyphosate testing. Sustainable Pulse responded by decontructing that response—read the deconstruction here.

We stand by our test results

Criticisms of the New York Times story on OCA’s test results, and on the testing itself, don’t hold up. Our tests were conducted by Health Research Institute Laboratories, an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit analytical chemistry laboratory, using the latest methodology. We provide a full explanation of that methodology here.

As for the significance of the amounts of weedkiller detected in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, we point to the latest research that says these amounts are actually higher than doses known to cause serious health issues in rats, based on long-term peer-reviewed studies. You can read more about the relevance of our findings here.

Ben & Jerry’s has been hiding behind its do-gooder image for far too long. We intend to keep the pressure on, until the company commits to a three-year transition to 100% organic, immediately.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Tell Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim, Aka Scooper Man: 'Roundup-Ready' Ice Cream Is Not 'Natural,' or 'Socially Responsible.' Go Organic!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-07-25 15:54
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoAppetite for a ChangeThe Myth of NaturalDump Dirty Diary#Resist and #RegenerateCategory: All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

It’s official. Ten of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tested positive for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

It’s the latest in a long line of complaints against the ice cream brand that claims its social mission “seeks to meet human needs and eliminate the injustices in our local, national and international communities,” and that its focus is “on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim, Aka Scooper Man: 'Roundup-Ready' Ice Cream Is Not 'Natural,' or 'Socially Responsible.' Go Organic!Read more

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

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-07-25 14:40
All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, OCA in the NewsRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 25, 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.

DC Superior Court Rules Against General Mills Motion to Dismiss in ‘100% Natural’ Lawsuit

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-07-24 14:19
Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 20, 2017 oats plant crop frost drop water cc 1000x523.jpg

For Immediate Release
July 24, 2017

Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202-543-5450
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090
Moms Across America, Blair FitzGibbon, 202-503-6141

Washington, DC – Moms Across America, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Beyond Pesticides today announced that the District of Columbia Superior Court has rejected General Mills’ motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the three nonprofits against the maker of Nature Valley granola bars. The ruling upholds the right of nonprofits to bring these types of complaints against corporations. It also reinforces the notion that consumers can reasonably expect a product labeled “100% Natural” to be free of herbicides.

Three nonprofit groups sued General Mills in August 2016, for misleading the public by labeling Nature Valley brand granola bars as “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS” after tests revealed the presence of the chemical herbicide glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides. The suit was brought on behalf of the nonprofits’ members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“This is a huge win for consumers,” said OCA international director Ronnie Cummins. “In making this ruling, the judge reinforced the right of consumers to have reasonable expectations about what a company means by ‘natural.’ The ‘natural’ food industry is estimated at $90 billion a year. By slapping the word ‘natural’ on products that contain pesticides and other unnatural substances, corporations deceive consumers, and cut into the market share for authentically labeled healthy and certified organic products.’

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides said, “In this case, consumer law is critical to rein in companies that deceive consumers with ‘natural’ labeling when their products contain ingredients that are grown with pesticides.

Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, said: When a customer chooses a food product that says 100% Natural on the packaging, they do so because the food manufacturer has communicated to them, with that claim, that their products are without harmful, man-made chemicals. We are very pleased that this case will be heard and misleading labeling will be addressed.”

Key findings from the DC Superior Court ruling include:

• The Court recognized that the 2012 Amendments to the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) may have expanded the means by which nonprofits may bring representative actions.

• The Court rejected General Mills' argument that courts should defer to the FDA on possible future ruling re: "natural" food labeling, holding that it was up to the courts to decide what is or isn't misleading to consumers.

• The Court also noted that it does not appear likely that the FDA will issue a ruling on "natural" anytime soon—rejecting a common argument made by so many food producers seeking to avoid liability for their misrepresentations.

• The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that General Mills' "Made With 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats" claims were misleading to consumers.

The nonprofits are represented by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Richman Law Group.

Read the July 6 DC Superior Court ruling here.

Read the original  complaint here. 

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

Moms Across America is 501(c)3 non profit and a national coalition of unstoppable moms raising awareness about GMOs and toxins in our food and environment. Their motto is "Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” Visit

Beyond Pesticides is a national grassroots non-profit organization headquartered in the District of Columbia that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For more information, see

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

Organics: Ferreting Out the Fraudulent Few, While Demanding Higher Standards, Better Enforcement

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-07-20 12:55
All About Organics, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine Paul and Ronnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 18, 2017 broken_glass_usda_seal_question_1000x523_002.jpg

A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the USDA organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry? 

Consumers are all for cracking down on the fraudulent few who, with the help of Big Food, big retail chains and questionable certifiers give organics a bad name. But they also want stronger standards, and better enforcement—not a plan to weaken standards to accommodate "Factory Farm Organic."

The Washington Post exposed a couple of companies, certified organic, that don’t strictly adhere to organic standards. The Post and others also recently reported on what one lawmaker, who serves on a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committee, called  “uncertainty and dysfunction” at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

All these reports are troubling on multiple levels, especially to consumers who rely on the USDA organic seal to help them avoid pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic ingredients and foods produced using methods that degenerate soil health and pollute the environment. (It's important to note that none of these reports address the biggest marketing and labeling fraud of them all—products sold as "natural," "all natural" and "100% natural," a $90-billion industry that eclipses the $50-billion certified organic industry).

What can consumers do to ensure that the certified organic products they buy meet existing organic standards? And how do we, as consumers, fight back against efforts to weaken those standards?

The short answers: One, there are about 25,000 honest organic local and regional producers, vs. a handful of big brands, mostly national, who flout the rules. (Most "Factory Farm Organic" companies sell their products, and provide private-label products, for big retail chains like Costco, Walmart, Safeway, Albertson’s, Kroger’s and others). 

Two, if consumers want stronger, not weaker organic standards, we need to demand them.

Bad actors hurt consumers and legitimate organic producers

Over the past several months, the Washington Post has reported the following:

• Eggland’s Best eggs, marketed as certified organic by Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, come from hens that never go outside. (Even before the Post’s expose, OCA had called for a boycott of Eggland’s Best eggs).

• Aurora Organic Dairy, which supplies organic milk to Walmart, Costco and other major retailers, doesn’t adhere to organic standards that require cows to be outdoors daily during the growing season. (OCA, Cornucopia Institute and other groups have been demanding better policing of Aurora Dairy for more than a decade).

• Some “organic” soy and corn imports aren’t actually organic.

• Some “organic” foods contain a synthetic oil brewed in industrial vats of algae.

Stories like these erode consumer confidence in the organic seal. When consumers give up on organic, legitimate organic farmers and producers lose sales, too.

But that’s only the part of the problem. By cutting corners on organic standards, big producers can sell at lower prices—that puts the smaller, local and regional organic producers who don’t have big contracts with big retailers, and who must charge more because they actually follow organic standards to letter, at a competitive disadvantage in the market.

In some cases, it puts them out of business.

The Washington Post’s Peter Whoriskey recently interviewed Amish organic dairy farmers who are struggling to compete against companies like Aurora, which the farmers say, don’t deserve the organic label. The Post reported:

Over the past year, the price of wholesale organic milk sold by Kalona [Iowa] farms has dropped by more than 33 percent. Some of their milk — as much as 15 percent of it — is being sold at the same price as regular milk or just dumped onto the ground, according to a local processor. Organic milk from other small farmers across the United States is also being dumped at similar rates, according to industry figures.

After the Washington Post ran its April 30 exposé on Aurora, Liz Bawden, an organic dairy farmer in New York and president of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and member of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA-NY) board wrote:

A consumer reads “Why Your Organic Milk May Not Be Organic” on the front page of their newspaper. That might be the end consumer for the milk from my farm. And that person is sitting in front of a bowl of cornflakes wondering if she has been scammed all this time. Just a little doubt that the organic seal may not mean what she thought it meant. That is real damage to my farm and family income.

Boycott the organic imposters

Consumers choose organic for many reasons. At the top of the list health. Consumers believe food that doesn’t contain pesticides, genetically modified organisms and synthetic/artificial ingredients, all of which are largely prohibited under USDA organic standards, is better for their own health.

That said, many consumers have an expanded list of reasons for buying organic, which include concern about the environment, animal welfare, fair trade and the desire to support local farms, and farmers committed to building healthy, rich soil capable of drawing down and sequestering carbon.

It’s naturally discouraging to read articles that sow doubt about whether a certified organic product meets your expectations. Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of ending up with an organic carton of milk or eggs produced by an “organic imposter.”

• Boycott large, national brands. As demand grows for organics, Big Food is scooping up smaller organic brands. In most cases, nothing good comes this for consumers, as large corporations apply the “economies of scale” theory and ultimately skimp wherever they can on quality and production. As a general rule of thumb, the big players—like Aurora Dairy and Herbruck’s Farm (Eggland’s Best)—don’t play by the rules.

• Steer clear of private-label organics. It’s easy to identify the bad actors when they market products under their own names. But when it comes to private-label organics (think Safeway’s O’ Organic, Costco’s Kirkland, Walmart’s Great Value), it’s not readily apparent who is producing those products for big retail chains. We know that Aurora, which doesn’t market any milk under its own name, supplies organic milk to Walmart, Costco and Safeway. But in general, lack of transparency in the organic private label arena is a “huge problem,” one industry consultant told us. Most big retailers are complicit in organic fraud. The best strategy is avoidance.

• Check the codes on your milk carton. In her response to the Post’s story on Aurora, Bawden told consumers how to avoid milk produced by Aurora Dairy by checking the code on the carton. If you find the number 08-29, you’ll know that the milk comes from a plant that processes milk from Aurora Dairy. You can look up all the milk carton codes on the “wheredoesmymilkcomefrom” website.

• Do your homework. It would be great if you could rely entirely on the USDA organic seal. But given what we know about the weak links in that otherwise valuable chain, it pays to research. Googling brand names is one way to find information—but don’t rely on company websites, which are often loaded with false claims. Visit the Cornucopia Institute’s website, where you’ll find organic dairy, eggs and other products “scored” according to various criteria.

• Pay attention to who certified your milk or eggs as organic. In addition to the USDA organic seal, certified organic products must list, on package, the name of the independent body that certified the product to organic standards. There’s an argument to be made that certifiers should be held accountable for certifying products that don’t adhere to organic standards. Until that happens, avoid certifiers like Quality Assurance International (QAI) and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which certify Aurora Dairy. Some of the more reliable certifiers include Oregon Tilth, PCO (Pennsylvania Certified Organic) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). For a complete list of organic certifiers, consult this list.

• Buy local. There’s a lot to be said for getting to know, and for supporting, your local organic farmers. They are more likely to follow organic standards, partly out of dedication, and partly to protect their own reputation within their communities. Here’s some advice for identifying local authentic and ethical farmers.

• Report suspected fraud. If you think a brand is violating organic standards, or falsely advertising/labeling a product “natural,” “all natural” or “100% natural,” email us at

Consumers will have to help protect organic standards

Organic Consumers Association was founded, in 1998, when the USDA was writing the very first set of organic standards, as required under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The policy writers wanted irradiation to be allowed in organic. And sewage sludge. And GMOs. We fought successfully to keep them out.

Since then we’ve had to go to battle with every administration since over the integrity and enforcement of organic standards. The Clinton Administration tried to get GMOs into organic. The Bush Administration made it easier to get synthetics into organic. The Obama Administration made it harder to get synthetics out of organic.

It didn’t help any that in 2005, Congress passed a law that made it a lot easier for the largest food companies to create “organic” versions of their factory farm and processed foods.

Now those companies are stepping up their game, threatening to make changes to the OFPA and NOSB that could weaken organic standards beyond recognition. Why now? Two reasons.

One, as consumer demand for organic products grows, Big Food is buying up organic brands. This gives them a seat at the organic policymaking table, where, naturally, they are hard at work to lower standards in order to raise profit margins.

And two, they smell opportunity. The Trump Administration has made its position on regulations clear: more industry involvement, more concern for corporate profits, and less concern for consumer rights, public health, the environment.

Congress needs to hear from consumers—often, and in large numbers—that we want stronger, not weaker organic standards. Standards that support small, authentic producers.

Putting it in perspective

Organic isn’t perfect. The standards aren’t perfect. The enforcement process isn’t perfect. And some of the players are downright crooked.

That said, consumers can by and large trust all organic produce. And if they’re willing to do a little homework, they can identify the producers in the organic processed food arena who abide by the rules.

To put things in perspective, compare the $50-billion organic industry with the $90-billion “natural” industry. No standards. No ethics. And the clear intention to increase sales by falsely claiming that products that contain all manner of “unnatural” substances, including pesticides, synthetic ingredients—even drugs —are the “healthy choice.”

So let’s keep policing the organic industry, exposing the fraud, working for stronger standards and better enforcement of those standards.

But let’s be just as vigilant about exposing the “Myth of Natural,” and cracking down on what is arguably the biggest food marketing scam in the history of advertising.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Tell Congress: Protect Organic Standards

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-07-18 18:15
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About Organics, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

As an organic consumer, you know from experience that eating organic is essential to keeping yourself and your family healthy. Organic isn’t perfect. But buying USDA Organic is the best way to avoid pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and synthetic ingredients.

But now, Congress and the Trump Administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are threatening to make changes to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—changes that could weaken organic standards beyond recognition.

Congress needs to hear from consumers—often, and in large numbers—that we want stronger, not weaker organic standards that support small, authentic producers.

Take Action! Tell Your Senators and Congress Members: Protect the Organic Foods Production Act, and let the National Organic Standards Board do its job! Read more

Degeneration Nation: Connecting the Dots Between Factory Farms, Roundup, GMOs, and Fake 'Natural' Foods

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-07-12 17:52
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 11, 2017 think_plan_act_1000x523.png

You can help to prompt significant change in the agricultural industry by boycotting CAFO and GE products and instead purchasing food grown only by local farmers who are using natural methods and soil-regenerative techniques, such as no-till, cover crops, composting and livestock integration. Look for farmers markets, food co-ops and direct-from-the-farm sales in your area — these sustainable alternatives are growing rapidly across the U.S. and will offer you fresher, healthier food and the satisfaction of knowing you are helping to drive permanent positive changes in food production. – "Factory Farms Consuming the U.S.,", June 20, 2017

After years of single-issue campaigning against America’s degenerate food and farming system, with real but limited success, it’s time for a change of strategy and tactics. By connecting the dots between a range of heretofore separate issues and campaigns, by focusing on some of the major weaknesses or vulnerabilities of the system, we can speed up our transition to an organic and regenerative food and farming system before our health, environmental and climate crises turn into full-blown catastrophe. 

After decades of trying to reform public policy on food and farming, including an intense four-year battle to force mandatory labeling of GMOs (rudely terminated in 2016 when Congress and the Obama administration rammed through the outrageous DARK Act), food activists and conscious consumers find ourselves wondering “what’s the use of lobbying the government?” Do we really think the Trump administration, the Republican Congress, and farm state and Establishment Democrats care about the toxicity, exploitation and environmental destruction of our food system?

The culinary directive from Congress and the White House this summer goes something like this: Don’t worry. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods, cheap junk foods, and factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry. Don’t worry about Monsanto’s Roundup or Dow’s neonic residues in your food and water. Don’t worry about the dubious fare at your local supermarkets, including thousands of products fraudulently labeled or advertised as “natural.”

Don’t worry about cancer, diabetes, heart attacks or supersizing yourself and your kids with chemical and GMO-tainted food, we’re told. Don’t worry about contaminated food pouring in from China and Brazil. Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormone disruptors, BPA and other carcinogens and hormone disruptors. And don’t worry about global warming, or the precarious state of bees, birds and the environment. Put your trust in America’s industrial food system and factory farms and Monsanto’s minions--indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and the mass media.

If we’re ever going to have a food and farming system that’s healthy for us and the planet, one of the things we’ll have to do is “throw the bums out” and elect a Brand New Government, from Main Street to Washington D.C. But in the meantime, since Our Revolution is going to take a while, a growing number of food activists, including myself, believe it’s time to step up the attack on Monsanto, pesticides, factory farms, fake “natural” products, organic fraud, and the entire degenerative food and farming system.

It’s time to make organic and healthy food the norm, not just the niche market that it still is.

Over the past several decades, public education, protests and boycotts against GMOs, pesticides, factory farms and junk food have begun to transform U.S. consumer consciousness, driving a combined annual $55-billion organic and grass-fed market that now comprises more than 5 percent of all grocery store sales (and 15 percent of all produce sales). This is a good start. But our challenge over the next four years, while we can expect Congress to do little or nothing, is to double the size of the organic and grass-fed market, moving from a niche position to the tipping point.

Surveys indicate that Americans are increasingly alarmed about deteriorating public health, and the pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs lurking in conventional food brands, restaurant fare and school cafeterias. We obviously can’t count on a corrupt Congress or a Trump/Pence administration to protect our food and our environment. So it’s time to step up our marketplace pressure, with boycotts, lawsuits, brand de-legitimization and direct action.

Our job is to escalate our food fights into what can only be described as a food revolution. Our health, environment and climate stability require that we turn away from our degenerate food, farming and land use system to one which is regenerative.

How do we do this? Here are six steps we as individuals, and we as a food movement, need to take:

1.  Boycott GMO foods. Practically speaking, every grocery and restaurant food product or menu item that contains soy, corn, canola, vegetable oil or sweeteners, unless labeled “organic,” is GMO-derived. The same is true for every meat, dairy or egg product that is not labeled or advertised as organic, transition to organic, grass-fed, or genuinely free range.

Our answer to the anti-consumer DARK Act SmartCodes (which substitute bar codes and company websites for clear on-package GMO labeling) must be to boycott every one of the thousands of supermarket food products that display a QR SmartCode, the veritable “Mark of Monsanto.”

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

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

Factory farms:

• Imprison billions of farm animals in filthy, unhealthy, inhumane confinement, where they are drugged, implanted and injected with synthetic hormones and growth promoters, and fed a steady diet of pesticide-drenched GMO grains.

• Occupy the majority of U.S. and global farmland today, either for raising animals before they are sent to the CAFO feedlots, or to grow the GMO and chemical-intensive crops such as alfalfa, canola, corn and soybeans to feed animals.

• Are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farm meat, dairy and egg products are leading causes of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, reproductive defects, hormone disruption and obesity. 

3.  Drive Monsanto’s Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) off the market. Roundup is the DDT of our times, and it is polluting the entire country, and the world. We need to force farmers and food brands to stop using Roundup, but we also need to convince homeowners and landscape managers to stop buying it.

Up to 90 percent of all GMO crops are sprayed with Roundup, as are a growing number of other foods, even if they are not yet genetically engineered, including (non-organic) wheat, oats and beans. Roundup is used as a desiccant on many of these crops, to dry them out before harvest.

But we also need to keep in mind that 30 percent of all Roundup herbicides (representing 50 percent of Monsanto’s Roundup profits) are sold to consumers (for lawn and garden spraying) and local governments (for spraying in parks, schoolyards, and along roads and transmission lines). We need to pressure major retail and online vendors of Roundup (Amazon, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Costco) to stop selling this poison, as well as other toxic pesticides, such as bee-killing neonic pesticides, and Agent Orange 2-4 D. We also need to do the same with local governments, park boards and school boards. If local officials refuse to stop spraying Roundup, we need to expose them and then vote them out of office. Organic landscaping for lawns, parks, roadways, and schoolyards is an integral part of the Regeneration Revolution.

4.  Increase independent lab testing of brand-name foods, especially those pretending to be “natural” or “all natural,” for pesticides like Roundup, so we can reveal the pesticides, poisons and toxins lurking in non-organic foods. Once we expose the pesticides and toxins laced into these foods we can sue the fake natural, greenwashing companies for false advertising while launching grassroots campaigns to boycott them. It’s time to expose the fraud of so-called “Natural” and “All Natural” products and underline the difference between these fake organic and genuine organic products.

5.  Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

6.  Move beyond single-issue thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and silos and begin to “connect the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace and democracy. We need to work together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution.

It’s time to take back control of our food system, our health, our government and regulatory agencies. If the government won’t allow proper labeling and safety testing of foods, then we, the global grassroots, need to investigate, expose and boycott toxic products and chemicals. If industry and the government won’t fund “sound science,” then we will need to crowdsource and fund independent, sound science ourselves.

In the meantime, we need to defend ourselves and our families, especially the children and most vulnerable, by buying organic and truly natural foods and products, today and every day. Grow your own. Build up local food hubs and community capacity. Support economic justice campaigns so that poor and minority communities can afford and gain access to organic foods. Reach out to others and get organized. Don’t just mourn or complain, Resist and Boycott.

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

TAKE ACTION BY AUGUST 25: Tell the USDA What Real GMO Labels Look Like!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-07-12 17:43
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Last summer, food companies began labeling foods  “produced with genetic engineering” to comply with Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, which took effect July 1, 2016.

But this landmark victory for consumers was short-lived. On July 14, Congress passed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, and Obama signed the law on July 29. The DARK Act blocked states like Vermont from requiring clear, on-package labels on GMO foods, and replaced state laws with a meaningless loophole-riddled federal law.

The DARK Act directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to come up with a federal “bioengineered food disclosure” scheme. Trump Administration is beginning to write the regulations which will define that scheme, and is seeking public comments on those regulations until August 25. 

TAKE ACTION BY AUGUST 25: Tell the USDA what real GMO labels look like!Read more

California to Warn Consumers About Monsanto’s Glyphosate—But How Much and How Soon?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-07-06 15:37
July 4, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Environment & Climate, Food Safety, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues, OCA in the News Win Tiles 1000x523

On July 7 (2017), California will add glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, to the state’s list of chemicals and substances known to cause cancer.

Before we dive into the weeds in terms of what the listing does and doesn’t mean, and may or may not lead to, let’s take a moment to recognize that this is a landmark decision in the ongoing battle against Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller.

Every activist who has engaged in this fight deserves to take a moment to bask in this victory.

It’s not everything we need, or everything we want—but California’s decision, upheld by the courts, represents a major step forward in a decades-long fight to expose the truth about Roundup and protect the public from its cancer-causing effects.

The full impact of the decision remains to be seen. How much glyphosate will need to be present before a product is required to carry a warning? How many foods will exceed the glyphosate residue limits set by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)?

Will Monsanto find a way to keep those warnings off all labels? Including foods and weedkillers?

Time will tell. And activists will need to remain vigilant.

But for now, it’s celebration time.

How we got here

It was more than two years ago, in March 2015, that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) said glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

The ruling by the 17-member international panel of scientists was unanimous. That didn’t stop Monsanto from attacking the ruling, going so far as to call it “junk science.”

Over Monsanto’s objections, IARC’s decision triggered a move by California’s OEHHA to add glyphosate to the list of cancer-causing chemicals the agency keeps as required under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65. Under Prop 65, businesses must warn Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Predictably, Monsanto went to court to stop the listing, But on June 22, a judge for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California sided with OEHHA, clearing the way for the July 7 listing.

Monsanto didn’t go down without a fight—a dirty fight, as usual. In a last-ditch move to keep glyphosate off the Prop 65 list—and cancer warnings off products that contain glyphosate—the agribusiness giant got a Reuters reporter to write a misleading article aimed at undermining IARC’s decision. The Reuters piece was swiftly debunked. 

The devil’s in the details—or is it in the weeds?

Monsanto has vowed to keep fighting. Meanwhile California has set the date—July 7—for adding glyphosate to the Prop 65 list. But that’s just the first step.

Before manufacturers can be required to add cancer warnings to labels, OEHHA has to determine what is called a “No Significant Risk Level (NSRL)”—in other words, how much glyphosate has to be present before it’s considered a risk, and therefore a manufacturer has to provide a warning?

Before we go any farther, let’s just point out that there are credible scientists, and credible studies suggesting that there are no safe levels of glyphosate. Period. We consulted our science advisors, who pointed to several studies confirming the “no safe level” argument. For instance, there’s this one: "Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure," by Mesnage et al., 2015, published in Environmental Health, which finds potential adverse effects from glyphosate exposure at 0.05 parts per billion (PPB).

Our scientists also suggested reading this report:  especially pp. 14-15, for a discussion on why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ADI (allowed daily intake) of 1.75 mg/kg body weight/day is bad.

Back to reality. California will surely decide on some (as opposed to no) safe level. But it will take time—maybe a year, according to this CNN report: 

If the OEHHA sets its standards based on the federal EPA, we have no chance of seeing warning labels on food. If they base the decision on studies that show, for instance, that .1ppt stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells, then it is very possible we will see labels, not only on Roundup, but on many other products, as well.

In other words, under Prop 65, some food—not just weedkillers—may require cancer warnings, depending on how much glyphosate residue they contain. Again, from CNN:

Recent tests from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have revealed levels from 3,000-6,000 parts per billion on garbanzo beans and wheat. The FDA has found 1.67 parts per million on infant oatmeal cereal. If a baby ate just three ounces of that food four times a day, it would consume 15,000 times more glyphosate than the rats in Michael Antoniou’s Glyphosate study, that contracted liver disease in one day.

According to an Environmental Health News (EHN)  report, NSRLs are developed to determine the level of exposure from an individual source that would cause a 1-in-100,000 lifetime cancer risk. OEHHA spokesman Sam Delson told Carey Gillam, reporting for EHN:

“We developed the proposed NSRL based on the best scientific information available to us. Neither Monsanto nor any other group or individual influenced the proposed NSRL beyond submitting comments or information for our consideration.” 

CNN also reported, and our experts agreed, that under Prop 65, Monsanto could get away with cancer-warning signs on store shelves, rather than labels on the products. Not ideal.

Reasons for hope

Whatever the levels set by OEHHA and the loopholes exploited by Monsanto, make no mistake: Getting glyphosate listed under California’s Prop 65 is huge, especially when considered in the context of all the other pressure being exerted right now on Monsanto.

Consider all of this:

1. Court battles pull back the curtain on Monsanto’s corrupt activities. The fact that over 1,000 plaintiffs are involved in dozens of lawsuits alleging that exposure to Roundup caused them or their families to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a potentially deadly cancer) is compelling enough. Especially when a mainstream media outlet like CNN, often silent when it comes to challenging the corporate establishment, takes notice. That in itself is a win for consumers.

But the bigger win may be what those lawsuits are doing to shed light on Monsanto’s sustained campaign to bury the truth about its deadly products.

In March, the New York Times, citing court documents, reported on possible collusion between former EPA officials and Monsanto employees to hide the facts about the health risks of glyphosate:

The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The revelations confirmed consumer suspicions that Roundup isn’t “safe,” and validated the opinions of scientists who question its safety. They’ve triggered calls in Europe for further investigation.

2. EPA forced to investigate Monsanto corruption. Thanks to the work of reporters studying court documents, the EPA has stepped in. On May 31, the agency’s inspector general responded to Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-Calif.) call for an investigation into possible collusion between Monsanto and EPA officials. (Organic Consumers Association also called for an investigation. We haven’t heard back). 

The EPA may just be going through the formalities to appease Lieu and his constituents. But even if that’s true, it’s still a sign that consumers are getting through to an agency that has historically been aggressively pro-Monsanto.

3. Consumers are fighting back through the courts, too. Monsanto and Big Food have long been allies in the campaign to hide GMOs, and the pesticides used to grow them, from consumers. Will the Junk Food Giants reconsider their position, if they, too, get dragged through the courts?

The Organic Consumers Association, along with other groups, have been testing food products for glyphosate, and taking companies to court for falsely marketing their products as “natural” and “100% Natural.” Pending cases include the one against General Mills’ Nature Valley granola bars, and another against Sioux Honey. Both products contain glyphosate. (A recent study from Canada revealed glyphosate in 30 percent of the food products tested).

OCA also sued Monsanto directly for false labeling of Roundup, as have consumers in Wisconsin.

4. FDA resumes testing food for glyphosate. As the lawsuits flow, and more evidence comes to light about the toxic impact of glyphosate on human health (including bad outcomes for pregnant moms and their babies), the FDA has been shamed into testing foods for glyphosate residues—a project it had previously abandoned.

Progress may seem slow, given that we’ve been challenging glyphosate for more than 20 years. But it all adds up. We should be encouraged.

In the meantime, consumers can pressure retail stores to stop selling Roundup, and Scotts Miracle Gro, exlcusive retail distributor of Roundup, to dump it. 

And of course, we should all keep the pressure on the EPA to ban glyphosate, for good.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Rotten Eggs Jack and Peter DeCoster Headed to Jail—Finally

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-07-06 13:38
Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 4, 2017 Rotten Eggs 1000x523

A couple of rotten eggs finally got their due. Well, sort of.

On June 27 (2016), Jack and Peter DeCoster, former owners of a Quality Egg Co. (not kidding) were ordered to begin serving time in jail.

The pair previously had been sentenced to three months each in jail for their role in a salmonella poisoning outbreak in 2010. The culprits admitted to knowingly shipping eggs with false processing and expiration dates to fool state regulators and retail customers about their age, and to bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector at least twice to approve sales of poor-quality eggs.

In sentencing the egg operators, U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett said, "Given the defendants' careless oversight and repeated violations of safety standards, there is an increased likelihood that these offenses, or offenses like these, could happen again. The punishment will also serve to effectively deter against the marketing of unsafe foods and widespread harm to public health by similarly situated corporate officials and other executives in the industry." A "litany of shameful conduct" occurred under the DeCosters’ "watch" Judge Bennett told NBC News.

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

Predictably, industry groups like National Association of Manufacturers and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (whose products are central to factory farming) called the sentences “unfair.”

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told CBS News, "This sanction will slow business growth and innovation."

But for consumers and honest egg producers, the sentences are both long overdue, and far too weak given Quality Egg’s history, which includes at least 10 deaths and 500 people made ill from salmonella-infected eggs produced by the DeCoster-owned egg operations.

Long time coming

The year was 1977.  Neighbors who lived near Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s huge egg operation in Turner, Maine began complaining about the lesser mealworm beetles (also known as guarno or litter beetles because of their affinity for manure) infesting their homes. They filed a $5-million lawsuit, claiming, cynically, that nose plugs and flyswatters should be the “new neighbor” kit.

So began 33 years of labor, environmental, immigration, humane and food safety violations that never stuck to the “Teflon egg dons” until the 2010 salmonella outbreak for which they will finally serve time.

The 2010 salmonella outbreak for which the DeCosters will finally serve jail time and which triggered the largest egg recall in history, affected more than a half a billion DeCoster eggs. But it was only one of many DeCoster salmonella outbreaks.

As early as 1982, at least one person had died from DeCoster eggs. And in 1987, nine people died and 500 were sickened said authorities.

As is the case with most factory farmers, the DeCosters’ food safety issues were inextricably linked to abuse of workers, animals and the environment.

In 1980, the DeCoster operation was charged by the U.S. Labor department with employing five 11-year-olds and a 9-year-old.

In 1988, 100,000 DeCoster chickens were allowed to burn to death in a fire and left to decompose. (In 2010, 250,000 more DeCoster chickens were allowed to burn to death in a fire that required 225 firefighters. Thanks, taxpayers.)

In 1992, DeCoster was charged with indenturing migrant workers and denying them contact with teachers, social workers, doctors, lawyers and labor organizers.

In 1996, federal investigators found DeCoster workers living in rat- and cockroach-infested housing. The egg operation was fined $3.6 million. It was also cited for improper asbestos removal.  “The conditions in this migrant farm site are as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we have seen,” said Labor Secretary Robert Reich at the time; “I thought I was going to faint and I was only there a few minutes,” said Cesar Britos, an attorney representing DeCoster workers, after entering a barn.

In 2001, dead DeCoster hens intermingled with live ones during truck transport sparked a complaint to the USDA.

DeCoster raid sickens ag officials

In 2009, state agriculture officials raided the same operation visited by Reich and Britos. They encountered ammonia fumes so noxious, four department workers had to be treated by doctors for burned lungs.

If people became sick from a short time visiting the barns, imagine working—or living in a battery cage— here.

The live hens rescued from the barns had to be euthanized, according to state veterinarian Don Hoenig, who said officials found conditions on the egg farm “deplorable, horrifying and upsetting.”

Consumers in Maine were shocked by the raid and the images. “Seeing how awful these hens look. there [sic] hair falling out, and green stuff coming out of there [sic] eyes and nose. Are the eggs safe even to eat? I wouldn’t think so,” read a post on the Sun Journal website.

After the raid, Quality Egg customers denied that they were associated with the company and few stores would admit receiving any of the 21 million eggs the company was known to ship each week.  Retail supermarket chains Shaw’s and Hannaford both denied doing business with Quality, even though the Sun Journal found eggs from the raided farm, stamped “1183” or “1203,” at their stores. And Eggland’s Best, which maintained three dedicated barns on the Quality Egg grounds according to an undercover Mercy For Animals (MFA) employee, denied doing business with Quality Egg—even though an Eggland’s Best truck can be seen in the video of the raid!

Bob Leclerc, Quality Egg’s compliance manager at the time claimed no abuse was ever brought to his attention, though the MFA video shows workers and supervisors including son Jay DeCoster, being shown evidence of abuse. (An employee who was told there were live hens in trash cans he was emptying said “It don’t matter.”)

Despite a decades-long rap sheet, DeCoster expanded his egg empire into Iowa, Ohio and Maryland with the help of Boston public relations guru George Regan. The DeCosters even added hogs to the mix.  And despite an Iowa ban against DeCoster starting or expanding his farms—he was a “habitual violator” of environmental laws, said the attorney general—he opened new farms with colleagues’ help, according to an Associated Press report.

A host of enablers

How did the DeCosters continue to operate their egg houses of horror for more than 30 years? Through shameless enabling by both federal and local regulators who serve industry, not consumers.

For example, documents before the 2010 salmonella outbreak charge a DeCoster manager with bribing a USDA inspector to approve sales of shell eggs that failed USDA standards. The manager pleaded guilty.

After the 2010 salmonella outbreak, DeCoster ignored a letter from federal lawmakers requesting information about "potentially positive Salmonella Enteritidis test results.” A second, shockingly polite letter from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), chair at the time of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said, “When you testify before the Committee we ask that you come prepared to explain why your facilities tested potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis contamination on so many occasions, what steps you took to address the contamination identified in these test results, and whether you shared these results with FDA or other federal or state food safety officials.”

Ask? Steps? The DeCosters did testify on the Hill. They defended their actions by claiming the business had just grown too quickly.

A three-month sentence for 33 years of food safety abuses as well as worker, animal and environmental abuses is also enabling. Recently a judge even granted the elder DeCoster's plea to go to a federal prison in New Hampshire so he could be near his family, "church" and doctors.

Like aging Nazis, the 83-year-old Jack DeCoster cries that he is suffering from ill health (coronary artery disease, prostate cancer and more) and wants to be treated with mercy he showed no one else.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to Organic Consumers Assocation. 

The Drug Store in U.S. Meat

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-07-03 17:21
Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 3, 2017 syringes1000x523.png

Recently, Organic Consumers Association, along with Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed suit against chicken giant Sanderson Farms for falsely marketing its products as “100% Natural” even though they contain many unnatural and even prohibited substances.

Specifically, Sanderson chicken products tested positive for the antibiotic chloramphenical, banned in food animals, and  amoxicillin, not approved for use in poultry production. Sanderson Farms products also tested positive for residues of steroids, hormones, anti-inflammatory drugs—even ketamine, a drug with hallucinogenic effects.

This is far from the first time unlabeled human drugs have been found in U.S. meat. The New York Times reported that most chicken feather-meal samples examined in one study contained Tylenol, one-third contained the antihistamine Benadryl, and samples from China actually contained Prozac. The FDA has caught hatcheries injecting antibiotics directly into chicken eggs. Tyson Foods was caught injecting eggs with the dangerous human antibiotic gentamicin.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has reported the presence of the potentially dangerous herbs fo ti, lobelia, kava kava and black cohosh in the U.S. food supply as well as strong the antihistamine hydroxyzine. Most of the ingredients are from suppliers in China.

‘Animal Pharma’ still mostly under the radar

Many people have heard of Elanco, Eli Lilly’s animal drug division, and Bayer HealthCare Animal Health. But most big Pharma companies, including Pfizer, Merck, Boehringer Ingolheim, Sanofi and Novartis operate similar lucrative animal divisions. Unlike "people" Pharma, Animal Pharma largely exists under the public’s radar: drug ads do not appear on TV nor do safety or marketing scandals reach Capitol Hill.

Still, conflicts of interest abound. “No regulation currently exists that would prevent or restrict a veterinarian from owning their own animals and/or feed mill,” says the Center for Food Safety. “If a licensed veterinarian also owns a licensed medicated feed mill, they stand to profit by diagnosing a flock or herd and prescribing their own medicated feed blend.”

Because the activities of Animal Pharma are so underreported, few Americans realize that most of the meat they eat is banned in other industrialized countries. One example is ractopamine, a controversial growth-promoting asthma-like drug marketed as Optaflexx for cattle, Paylean for pigs, and Topmax for turkeys and banned in the European Union, China and more than 100 other countries. Also used in U.S. meat production is Zilmax, a Merck drug similar to ractopamine that the FDA linked to 285 cattle deaths during six years of administration. Seventy-five animals lost hooves, 94 developed pneumonia and 41 developed bloat in just two years, Reuters reported.

The European Union boycotts the U.S.'s hormone-grown beef. The routinely used synthetic hormones zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate pose "increased risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer," says the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures. "Consumption of beef derived from Zeranol-implanted cattle may be a risk factor for breast cancer," according to an article in the journal Anticancer Research.

The European Union has also traditionally boycotted U.S. chickens because they are dipped in chlorine baths. In the U.S. it’s perfectly legal to ‘wash’ butchered chicken in strongly chlorinated water, according to a report in the Guardian:

 These practices aren’t allowed in the EU, and the dominant European view has been that, far from reducing contamination, they could increase it because dirty abattoirs with sloppy standards would rely on it [chlorine] as a decontaminant rather than making sure their basic hygiene protocols were up to scratch.

Other germ-killing or germ-retarding chemicals routinely used in U.S. food production include nitrites and nitrates in processed meat (declared carcinogens by the World Health Organization in 2016), the parasiticide formalin legally used in shrimp production, and carbon monoxide to keep meat looking red in the grocery store no matter how old it really is. Many thought public revulsion at the ammonia puffs used to discourage E. Coli growth in the notorious beef-derived “pink slime” in 2012 forced the product into retirement. But the manufacturer is fighting back aggressively.

Antibiotics—the least of unlabeled animal drugs

According to the Center for Food Safety, Animal Pharma uses over 450 animal drugs, drug combinations and other feed additives “to promote growth of the animals and to suppress the negative effects that heavily-concentrated confinement has on farm animals.”

The revelations about Sanderson Farms should come as no surprise given that despite new antibiotic regulations rolled out in 2013, and even more recently, antibiotic use in farm operations is on the rise. Sanderson Farms revelations are no surprise.

Last year I asked Senior Staff Scientist at Consumers Union Michael Hansen how the 2013 FDA guidance asking Pharma to voluntarily restrict livestock antibiotics by changing the approved uses language on labels was working out. Dr. Hansen told me “growth production” had been removed from labels but the drugs are still routinely used for the new indication of “disease prevention.”

After the guidance was published, a Reuters investigation found Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, George’s and Koch Foods using antibiotics “more pervasively than regulators realize.” Pilgrim’s Pride’s feed mill records show the antibiotics bacitracin and monensin are added “to every ration fed to a flock grown early this year.” (Pilgrim’s Pride threatened legal action against Reuters for its finding.) Also caught red-handed using antibiotics, despite denying it on their website, was Koch Foods, a supplier to Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. Koch’s Chief Finanical Officer, Mark Kaminsky, reportedly said that he regretted the wording on the website.

But antibiotics are the least of the unlabeled drugs and chemicals lurking in meat. According to the Associated Press, U.S. chickens continue to be fed with inorganic arsenic to produce quicker weight gain with less food (the same reason antibiotics are given) despite some public outcry a few years ago. Arsenic is also given to turkeys, hogs and chickens for enhanced color. Such use “contribute[s] to arsenic exposure in the U.S. population,” says according to research in Environmental  Health Perspectives.

The appealing pink color of farmed salmon is also achieved with the chemicals astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. In the wild, salmon eat crustaceans and algae which make them pink; on farms they are an unappetizing and unmarketable gray.

There are legitimate reasons to use drugs, primarily to treat disease.  Cattle host stomach-churning liver flukes, eyeworms, lungworms, stomach worms, thin-necked intestinal worms and whipworms, all of which are treated with parasiticides. Turkeys suffer from aspergillosis (brooder pneumonia), avian influenza, avian leucosis, histomoniasis, coccidiosis, coronavirus, erysipelas, typhoid, fowl cholera, mites, lice, herpes, clostridial dermatitis, cellulitis and more for which they are also treated with unlabeled drugs. (The Federal Register says the anti-coccidial drug halofuginone used in turkeys "is toxic to fish and aquatic life" and "an irritant to eyes and skin.” Users should take care to "Keep [it] out of lakes, ponds, and streams.") The endocrine disrupter Bisphenol A (BPA) has even been found in fresh turkey meat.

Food animals are also routinely given antifungal drugs and vaccines. Porcine epidemic diarrhea, which killed millions of animals in recent years, is treated with a vaccine. And a vaccine for the flock-killing bird flu is in the works. In fact, Big Food is working with Big Pharma to replace the widely assailed antibiotics with vaccines.

Drug use in food animals will get worse, not better

There are two reasons drug residues in food animals will soon grow worse not better. In exchange for China agreeing to accept U.S. beef after a long hiatus, the U.S. agreed to import cooked chickens from China. China’s food safety record is abysmal including rat meat sold as lamb, gutter oil sold as cooking oil, baby formula contaminated with melamine and frequent bird flu epidemics. Globalization dangers already exist with seafood, most of which comes from countries that use chemicals and drugs banned in the U.S.

The second reason is the U.S. meat industry’s increasing move toward privatization and corporate self-policing—phasing out U.S. meat inspectors in favor of the “honor system.”  USDA’s “New Poultry Inspection System” (NPIS) shamelessly allows poultry producers to switch to a voluntary program that allows for non-government poultry inspections. Such privatization deals are the wave of the future as federal meat inspectors are ignored and phased out by the government.

After all, we are living with an administration that sees regulations as nothing more than an impediment to Big Ag’s cheap meat agenda.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer for the Organic Consumers Association. 



A Wishbone, a Jawbone, a Backbone

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-06-27 19:24
All About Organics, Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 26, 2017 oca-2017-summer-campaign-180k-1000.png

Recently I was in a roomful of people brought to their feet by an inspiring call-to-action from activist and former Ohio Senator Nina Turner.

At one point, Turner imparted a piece of wisdom she learned from her grandmother.

To get along in life, she said, all you need is a wishbone (so you can dream), a jawbone (so you can speak truth to power), and a backbone (because the road to fulfilling your dreams is paved with setbacks).

Maybe you’ve been a part of OCA for years or even decades.

Maybe you’ve only recently joined the fight to get GMOS, pesticides and other dangerous chemicals out of your food (and the environment).

Either way, you’re in this fight because you dream of a safe and healthy food system and a clean environment.

Fortunately, you're not afraid to stand up to the powerful corporations that corrupt and pollute.

And you have what it takes to persevere, setbacks and all.

Thank you. Because without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today in the battle to bring down the kingpin of GMO agriculture and pesticides: Monsanto.

Consider these recent developments.

  • The mainstream media, including CNN and the New York Times, are taking seriously the 91 lawsuits pending against Monsanto, filed by people who say they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup. The lawsuits state that Monsanto knew about this risk, but covered up the evidence.
  • The EPA’s inspector general launched a formal investigation into the possibility that former EPA officials colluded with Monsanto to hide evidence that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer.
  • The FDA has resumed testing foods for glyphosate residues.
  • California will now require cancer warnings on Roundup sold in retail stores.

Also, thanks to your support, OCA and Beyond Pesticides filed suit against Monsanto, on behalf of consumers, for falsely claiming that Roundup is safe because it only “targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” (A similar lawsuit was also recently filed in Wisconsin by six consumers).

You may not realize it, but your support, your signatures on petitions, your phone calls, your boycotts of GMO and factory farm foods, and your donations helped make all this happen—not overnight, but over the years.

Like you, I’m impatient. I want glyphosate off the market, now.

But I remind myself every day that we are up against some of the most powerful corporations on the planet.

It’s not enough to dream. It’s not enough to speak truth to power. We also need the backbone to stay in this for the long haul.

I know it's summer. You’re probably out enjoying the warm weather.

Here in the OCA offices, summer heat aside, our quarterly fundraising campaign is running more like the proverbial molasses in January.

But our June 30 deadline is coming up fast.

Please make a donation today, so your gift can be matched by both and Dr. Bronner’s (that’s a triple match)! Your donation will fund our ongoing work to expose the health and environmental hazards, including toxic chemicals. Donate online, by mail or by phone—details here.

In Solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director



P.S. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual donors like yourself. Donations of $5 and $10 really add up! You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here. Thank you!



Sanderson Farms: Stop Advertising Your Contaminated Chicken as '100% Natural'!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-06-22 20:37
Belong to campaign: Appetite for a ChangeCook Organic Not the PlanetThe Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Health Issues, OCA in the NewsArea: USA

"By federal law, all chickens have to be cleared of antibiotics before they leave the farm," says the folksy, flannel-wearing actor in a Sanderson Farms "Truth about Chicken—Supermarket" video. 

So imagine our surprise when we learned that government testing of Sanderson chicken products uncovered 11 instances of antibiotics for human use in Sanderson chicken—after it had left the farm.

One of those antibiotics, chloramphenical, is not only prohibited in food-producing animals, but according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program report (2016), is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

Antibiotics aren’t the only "unnatural" substances in Sanderson chicken. Tests revealed growth hormones prohibited in poultry production, pesticides and prescription drugs—including one with hallucinogenic effects!

Tell Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson: Stop advertising your contaminated chicken as '100% Natural!'Read more

Nonprofits Sue Third-Largest Poultry Co. for False Advertising of Drug-Contaminated Chicken

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-06-22 12:31
Environment & Climate, Health IssuesJune 22, 2017 sanderson_600x314.png

Sanderson Farms’ ‘100% Natural’ Advertising Claims Deceive Consumers, Threaten Public Health

June 22, 2017

Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Assoc., 207-653-3090,
Kari Hamerschlag, Friends of the Earth, 510-207-7257,; Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0744,
Paige Tomaselli, Center for Food Safety, 415-826-2770,

OAKLAND, Calif.—Three nonprofit groups filed suit today against Laurel, Miss.-based Sanderson Farms, Inc. (NASDAQ: SAFM) for falsely advertising products that contain a wide range of unnatural and in some cases prohibited substances, as “100% Natural.” Substances include antibiotics, steroids, hormones and even a drug with hallucinogenic effects. The groups suing Sanderson are Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Friends of the Earth (FoE), and Center for Food Safety (CFS).

Sanderson Chicken claims its chicken is 100% Natural or “nothing but chicken.” But recent testing conducted by the National Residue Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found 49 instances in which samples of Sanderson products tested positive for residues of synthetic drugs that are not “100% Natural.”  Thirty-three percent of the 69 FSIS inspections, conducted in five states, uncovered residues that no reasonable consumer would consider “natural.”

Test results included:

• Eleven instances of antibiotics for human use, including chloramphenical, which is prohibited for use in food animals.
• Positive results for ketamine, a drug with hallucinogenic effects, using testing methods normally applied to beef and pork. Valid testing methods have not been developed for ketamine in poultry, because ketamine is not approved for use in poultry.
• Ketoprofren, an anti-inflammatory drug
• Prednisone, a steroid
• Traces of growth two hormones: melengesterol acetate and a beta agonist ractopamine. Both are banned in chicken production.
• Six instances of residues of amoxicillin, a medically important antibiotic for human use and one that is not approved for use in poultry. Deserves further investigation because, similar to ketamine, valid testing methods have been developed only for beef.
• Three instances of penicillin residue at up to 0.285 ppb, for which the residue regulatory limit is zero.
• Positive test results for the pesticides abamectin and Emamectin, using testing methods that apply to pork.

“Consumers should be alarmed that any food they eat contains steroids, recreational or anti-inflammatory drugs, or antibiotics prohibited for use in livestock—much less that these foods are falsely advertised and labeled ‘100% Natural,’” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “Sanderson’s advertising claims are egregiously misleading to consumers, and unfair to competitors. The organic and free-range poultry sector would be growing much more rapidly if consumers knew the truth about Sanderson’s products and false advertising.”

“Drugs in our chicken is anything but natural,” said Kari Hamerschlag, FoE’s deputy director of food and technology.  “This scandal is a wake-up call to all the consumers who want healthier meat. The widespread presence of drugs in Sanderson Farms chicken reflects the excessive use of antibiotics and other chemicals used to keep animals alive in the filthy, inhumane, factory-farm conditions in which the birds are raised.”
“Sanderson Farms’ claim that there is ‘only chicken in [their] chicken’ is an outright lie,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at CFS, and co-counsel in the case. “The pharmaceuticals and other contaminants that FSIS found in Sanderson’s chicken present potential human health and food safety risks. Consumers are being deceived in thinking that these products are natural and wholesome.”

With FY 2016 sales of $2.816 billion, Sanderson Farms sells chicken in California and other states, under its own brand name and private labels, through retail stores such as Shaw’s, Albertsons, Food 4 Less, Foods Co, WinCo Foods and others. Sanderson chicken is also distributed to institutions, and is sold to casual dining outlets, such as Arby’s, Darden Restaurants (which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Yardhouse, Capitol Grill and others), Dairy Queen and Chili’s.

The nonprofits are represented by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Richman Law Group, Santa Fe, N.M.-based Elsner Law & Policy and Center for Food Safety (CFS).

Read the formal complaint here.

About the Organic Consumers Association
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. For more information, please visit @OCA_Press.

About Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthful and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than 900,000 consumer and farmer advocates across the country at Twitter: @CFSTrueFood, @CFS_Press

About Richman Law Group
Richman Law Group is a collective of lawyers specializing in impact litigation to repair the world. Richman Law Group was founded on the idea that what cannot be achieved by way of legislation can sometimes be achieved by way of litigation. This tight-knit cadre of tenacious and diverse professionals is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and through them, the needs of the community at large. For more information, please visit

About Elsner Law & Policy, LLC  
Elsner Law seeks to make food systems more just, ethical and sustainable, through representation of local and national non-profit organizations, small businesses, and political organizations. More information available at