Monday, December 25, 2006

Environment: An Organic Recipe for Development

By Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service News Agency

Organic agriculture is a potent tool to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but also to alleviate poverty and improve food security in developing countries, many experts now believe.

Organic agriculture's use of compost and crop diversity means it will also be able to better withstand the higher temperatures and more variable rainfall expected with global warming.

"Organic agriculture is about optimising yields under all conditions," says Louise Luttikholt, strategic relations manager at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) in Bonn, Germany. IFOAM is the international umbrella organisation of organic agriculture movements around the world.

For example, a village in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia that had converted to organic agriculture continued to harvest crops even during a severe drought, while neighbouring villages using conventional chemical fertilisers had nothing, Luttikholt told IPS.

read more....

Organic Farmer elected to United States Senate

Jon Tester, an organic farmer and leader in the organic movement since 1987, has been elected as a US Senator from the state of Montana. A third generation farmer from Big Sandy, Montana, he has been farming organically for nearly twenty years.

In 2005, Tester and his wife Sharla were named outstanding agricultural leaders by the College of Agriculture at Montana State University. Their T-Bone Farms is a diversified organic operation with 1400 acres (567 hectares).

Read more...(IFOAM)

Help Stop Global Warming

The amazing response to An Inconvenient Truth shows how many Americans are concerned about global warming. This could be the tipping point moment for the climate crisis. Congress can act to solve the climate crisis now.

The new Congress must take real action to solve the climate crisis immediately.

sign the petition (

UConn focuses on organic farming

The University of Connecticut, along with a statewide nonprofit group that promotes organic farming, is planning a series of farming-related seminars and events throughout the state, including a conference in New Haven about getting started in organic farming.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut and UConn’s College of Agricultural and Natural Resources will sponsor "Getting Started in Organic Farming" from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, at 123 Huntington St. in New Haven.

more info (CT NOFA)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Two Angry Moms

Are you sick and tired of packing your kids’ lunch box everyday because the cafeteria food is unfit for human consumption? Do you feel guilty when your kids “buy”? Are you annoyed at all the junk being handed out and sold at school? Are you angry enough to do something about it?

Two Angry Moms is a documentary work-in-progress that asks the question: What happens when two “fed-up” moms try to change the school lunch program?

Two Angry Moms

Monday, December 11, 2006

USDA Attempts to Pack Organic Standards Board with Corporate Agribusiness Reps

Organic Consumers Fight Hijacked Seats on NOSB

WASHINGTON, DC - On December 5, 2006, the USDA announced its new appointments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB essentially advises the USDA on how to interpret and implement federal organic laws that regulate industry. The NOSB also reviews and approves substances for placement on the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances. In other words, the NOSB has the ability to significantly weaken or strengthen the effectiveness of the national organic standards.

According to federal law, the NOSB is to be made up of a diverse group of experts in the organic field, including a public interest group representative, an environmentalist, a scientist, and a handler. Despite this clear mandate of diversity, the USDA's new appointments are all industry representatives.

USDA’s new appointees are:

Scientist: Katrina Heinze (General Mills)
Consumer and Public Interest Group Representative: Tracy Miedema (Stahlbush Island Farms, a primarily non-organic operation)
Environmentalist: Tina Ellor (Phillips Mushroom Farms)
Handler: Steve DeMuri (Campbell Soup)

Historically, there has only been one other instance where the USDA has attempted to stack non-industry seats on the NOSB with industry representatives, and the results were an embarrassment for the USDA. One year ago, the agency attempted to put a General Mills’ company representative, Katrina Heinz in the NOSB Public Interest Group Representative seat, which was closely followed by a massive consumer backlash spearheaded by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Consumers Union. The protests caused Heinz to decline the appointment.

“Never before has the Bush administration’s USDA made such a blatant attempt to pack the National Organic Standards Board with people who represent corporate agribusiness and industrial farming practices,” says OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins. “Stahlbush Farms, which admits on its website to using pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides on its crops (except for its canned pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and frozen green beans) is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an organic consumer or public interest group. Likewise, General Mills is not an academic institution, qualified to submit an impartial "scientist" to serve on the NOSB.”

read more & take action...(Organic Consumers Association)

Foul state of affairs found in feedlots

Factory farms are harmful to the public and the
environment, researchers report.

By Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times, November 17,

Growing so large that they are now called factory farms, livestock feedlots are poorly regulated, pose health and ecological dangers and are responsible for deteriorating quality of life in America's and Europe's farm regions, according to a series of scientific studies published this week.

Feedlots are contaminating water supplies with pathogens and chemicals, and polluting the air with foul-smelling compounds that can cause respiratory problems, but the health of their neighbors goes largely unmonitored, the reports concluded.

The international teams of environmental scientists also warned that the livestock operations were contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs, and that the proximity of poultry to hogs could hasten the spread of avian flu to humans.

Feedlots are operations in which hundreds — often thousands — of cattle, hogs or poultry are confined, often in very close quarters. About 15,500 medium to large livestock feedlots operate in the United States in what is an approximately $80-billion-a-year industry.


Chemicals linked to autism, ADHD and brain disorders in children

A study published in a leading medical journal has identified 202 potentially harmful industrial chemicals that may be contributing to increases of autism, attention deficit disorder and other mental development conditions among children.

The study, published online in the journal The Lancet, warns of the potential "silent pandemic" that may be a result of the exposure to an array of toxic chemicals in the environment.

Lead author of the study, Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health, warned that there would be an enormous cost to society if childhood exposure to the many developmental disrupting chemicals was not regulated.

Grandjean warned that once the damage had been done to children's developing brains, which were much more susceptible to the effects of small doses of chemicals, it was irreversible.

read more....(Green Clippings)

Supreme Court battle over global warming

In a landmark case before the Supreme Court, a coalition of US states, cities and environmental groups are attempting to force the Bush administration to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and factories. In the widely reported case of Massachusetts vs Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others, the petitioners are arguing that the Clean Air Act mandates the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. The case, the first of its kind in the US, is being heard at a time when the Bush administration is coming under increasing pressure from within the country to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

read more... (

Monday, December 4, 2006

The Organic Conversation Begins Anew (again)

By Bob Scowcroft

Consider the word "organic." I suspect that readers of this journal would conjure up an incredibly wide range of images. Maybe it was the restaurant patronized last night. How about nutritionally superior and locally farmed produce? Others might find themselves going right to what their youthful consumption of heavily processed, pesticide exposed, highly preserved fast food has wrought. For some it brings to mind a culture of garden, home and family. And, yes there are many who visualize market share, mergers, and investment opportunities when the word is spoken. How can one word evoke such a wide range of responses?

I think some of the images might be framed according to age, maybe location (urban or rural) and of course "the day job." Then again maybe I'm wrong. "Organic" has been in the news almost daily over the last several years and perhaps readers of this publication are far more advanced in their thinking: industrial vs. artisan organic; regulatory or legislative "organic"; or, maybe even "beyond organic".

read more...(GreenMoney Journal)

Free or Farmed, When Is a Fish Really Organic?

Published: November 28, 2006

Buying a pork chop labeled “organic” is relatively straightforward: it comes from a pig that ate only organic food, roamed outdoors from time to time and was left free of antibiotics.

But what makes a fish organic?

That is a question troubling the Agriculture Department, which decides such things. The answer could determine whether Americans will be able to add fish to the growing list of organic foods they are buying, and whether fish farmers will be able to tap into that trend and the profits that go with it.

Organic foods, which many people believe to be more healthful (though others scoff), are grown on farms that shun chemicals and synthetic fertilizers and that meet certain government standards for safeguarding the environment and animals.

An organic tomato must flourish without conventional pesticides; an organic chicken cannot be fed antibiotics. Food marketers can use terms like “natural” and “free range” with some wiggle room, but only the Agriculture Department can sanction the “organic” label.

read article....

Organic Junk Food?

ABC News, November 28.

Nov. 28, 2006 — As the organic food industry finds its way out of health food stores and into major retail chains, it begs the question just how far can this trend go?

Will organic food invade other aisles of the market, beyond produce, meat, dairy and grains to eventually reach junk food?

"You find all the big players getting involved," said author Michael Pollan. "We look forward to the day, or dread the day, when there is organic Coca-Cola, organic junk food and we're well on our way to that."

read article (brief)

How the World Shaves Years Off Your Life

By Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and Michael F. Roizen, M.D.
Esquire, May 2006

Living in the United States in 2006, you're constantly surrounded by things that can rob you of your health. Think about it: all those ads for fatty foods and sugary snacks, all the smog and noise, all the chemicals in the soil and water, even just the go-go pace of modern life. Right now, for the first time in history, it's cheaper to eat rich, oily food than wholesome, healthy food. It used to be that only the wealthy could afford meat and white bread. Now the tables have turned: It can cost more to buy a loaf of good whole wheat than a couple of Big Macs, and being fit is almost a symbol of affluence. All of this means that if you want to maximize your own health, you'll need to pay as much attention to what you keep out of your body as what you put in. You'll also need to be conscious of how modern living can steal your sleep, negate your ability to burn calories, and even harm your personal relationships in ways that are detrimental to your well-being.

Read more about five environmental health factors that can affect both the length and quality of your life—and what you can do to counteract them.

Read more (Esquire)

Wal-Mart Charged with Selling Nonorganic Food as Organic

The Cornucopia Institute, the nation’s most aggressive organic farming watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint with the USDA asking them to investigate allegations of illegal “organic” food distribution by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Cornucopia has documented cases of nonorganic food products being sold as organic in Wal-Mart’s grocery departments.

“We first noticed that Wal-Mart was using in-store signage to misidentify conventional, nonorganic food as organic in their upscale-market test store in Plano, Texas,” said Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute. Subsequently, Cornucopia staff visited a number of other Wal-Mart stores in the Midwest and documented similar improprieties in both produce and dairy sections.

Read more....

Flu Shots Contain Mercury

A survey of over 9,000 Americans found that an overwhelming majority of people had no idea their flu shots contain mercury. "More than 75 percent of Americans feel a mercury-containing flu shot should not be given to a pregnant woman or a child," said Lisa Handley, a founding parent of, the group that organized the survey. Handley's own son, Jamison, had an adverse reaction to a flu shot containing mercury in 2003. "I know firsthand how life-changing a flu shot with mercury can be, since our son began his regression into autism after his flu shot."

In 1999, government agencies called for the removal of Thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative in most vaccines. Then, in 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that, "mercury in all of its forms is toxic to the fetus and children." Despite these actions, 90 percent of this season's flu vaccines still contain Thimerosal.

Read more....

Friday, December 1, 2006

Important Research Proves Organic Food Free From Pesticides

A government study in Victoria, Australia shows organic produce free from chemical residues

Most consumers have always believed that organic fruit and vegetables are free of chemicals and pesticides. And now there's proof.

Australia's most comprehensive survey of its kind has shown that certified organic produce has virtually no chemical or pesticide residues. This is great news for people looking for clean, green and healthy foods, and who are seeking reassurance about the quality of organic fruit and vegetables.

Organic farmers have to meet stringent standards. The aim is to produce healthy food through a system of farming that doesn't use synthetic pesticides or fertilisers, while ensuring animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

In mid 2003, the Government of Victoria released results from the most comprehensive survey of its kind ever conducted on Australian organic produce. A total of 65 types of organically certified herbs, fruits and vegetables underwent an independent and statistically valid scrutiny for pesticide residues and other contaminants.

The survey, conducted according to international standards by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), found that 100% of certified organic and biodynamic produce met national standards for residues and heavy metals in produce. In fact, more than 99% of tested produce showed no contamination at all from chemicals.

All samples conformed to the strict standards for acceptable levels of pesticide residues and heavy metals in food, set by Australia's national food safety authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The results provide assurance that organic and biodynamic produce is clean and uncontaminated. This is reassuring news for consumers who choose to eat organic fruit and vegetables because they want to minimise their dietary exposure to pesticides.

Three hundred samples of organically-certified fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and grains were collected from Victorian wholesale outlets - everything from apples to zucchinis. Samples were tested for pesticides and heavy metals which have potential to inadvertently contaminate produce. Not all of these chemicals are used routinely and several have long since been banned; but it is possible that they can still be contaminating soil on farms.

Overall, less than 1% of samples tested contained any chemical residues. Only two samples out of 300 had any residues, and these were at very low levels. The residues were traced to environmental contamination from historical practices; and once identified, the problems were addressed. This data also shows that organically-certified produce has fewer pesticide residues than conventional food crops.

These independent results show that the strict regime which must be followed by certified organic and biodynamic farmers pays off in reducing possible contamination.

Certified Organic Meat vs Conventional and Natural Meat

It is a common misconception that ?Natural? meat is the same thing as ?Certified Organic?. This simply is not the case. Read the comparisons and we think you?ll agree that Certified Organic Meat is the right choice for consumers concerned about their health, animal welfare and the environment.

What are the USDA?s definitions?

Conventional?No specific definition.

Natural? No artificial ingredients. May have raising claims.

Organic? Strict production standards. Must follow USDA National Organic Standards.

Are hormones used in production?

Conventional? Yes.

Natural? Label claims vary.

Organic? No! Organic standards prohibit the use of hormones.

Are antibiotics used?

Conventional? Yes.

Natural? Label claims vary.

Organic? No! Organic standards prohibit the use of antibiotics.

Are feeds grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers?

Conventional? Yes.

Natural? Label claims vary.

Organic? No! Feeds must be 100% organic.

What about Mad Cow Disease? Are cattle fed animal by-products?

Conventional? animal by-products may be fed to cattle.

Natural? Maybe. No animal production standards.

Organic? No! Rendered animal by-products are prohibited.

Can the feed contain genetically-modified grain?

Conventional? Yes.

Natural? Yes.

Organic? No! Organic standards prohibit GMO products.

An organic farmers' thoughts as large food companies begin to co-opt organic movement

Michael Pollan

As a consumer who generally tries to do the right thing, I've always thought the decision to buy organic was a no-brainer. But in recent years organic has grown to include paradoxes such as the organic factory farm and the organic TV dinner. And now, there is even organic high-fructose corn syrup. We are not far from organic Coca-Cola.

Now these aren't absolutely good or absolutely bad developments. As offensive a concept as organic high-fructose corn syrup may be, a product like organic Coke will sponsor a lot more organic acreage in this country. But this is certainly not what the founders of the organic movement had in mind.

It's worth remembering what they did have in mind. There were three legs to the original organic dream. One was growing food in harmony with nature --- a non-industrial way of farming that treated animals humanely and did not use chemical pesticides. The second leg was that our system of food distribution should be different; food co-ops, farmer's markets, and community supported agriculture could replace the national agricultural system. And the third leg was the food itself.

The lesson to be learned is that consumers of all kinds, but especially eaters, are producers in the most important sense. With every food purchasing decision, we are helping to create the world we want to live in, one bite at a time.

Today the organic dream is in peril. The USDA developed a set of rules --- and they got pesticides, hormones, and many drugs out of the system. All wonderful. But if you look at the new rules, that's all they address. There is nothing written about the kind of food that may be called organic, or its distribution. There is no rule against high-fructose corn syrup. This is organic food forced through the industrial system, shorn of its holism. What has been lost is that one key insight about organic: that everything is connected. The organic dream has been reduced to a farming method.

Michael Pollan is the author of The Botany of Desire. This article is adapted from a talk hosted by the Great Barrington Land Conservancy.

The High Price of Cheap Food

Excerpted from an article by Emily Green, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 21, 2004

When we picture a farm, we picture scenes from Old MacDonald and "Charlotte's Web," not warehouses with 10,000 chickens, or dairy cows ankle deep in ordure, clustered under tin sheds in blazing Central Valley heat. When we picture the cows, they're grazing on grass, not eating carefully formulated mixes of poultry waste and orange peels. Our understanding of the way our food is produced is so out of date that it takes a mad cow for Christmas to force our gaze to the farming world beyond the refrigerator case.

When we look, it's shocking. Our rural idylls have been transformed into stinking factories.

It seems like a ghastly conspiracy. Yet factory farming isn't someone else's fault. It's not only of our making, but it also made us. More than any other factor, cheap food accounts for American prosperity. We spend less of our annual incomes on food than any other nation. Our first case of mad cow disease isn't the result of some evil plot. It's the price of our way of life and it may be telling us that it's time to change.

Read beyond the headlines and one finds that the practice that wrought the disease, recycling ruminant slaughter waste back into cattle feed, was the work of social idealists. Meat and bone meal, which in 1988 was revealed as the source of the disease, was put in the dairy feed in ever greater proportions after World War II to boost the protein content. Feeding cows protein, it was believed, would increase output and enrich milk.

Even more than the U.K., we in the U.S. have been transformed by cheap and plentiful food. To appreciate just how deeply ingrained the urge for agricultural innovation is in this country, it merits remembering that the United States was born at the peak of the 18th century agricultural revolution, called the era of "improvement." Our founding, farming presidents envisioned the nation as a place of better cows, better plants, better farming tools. The result: bigger cows, bigger plants, bigger yields, bigger farms.

The technology brought a social revolution. In the last 50 years, with the advent of postwar fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, intensive livestock methods, power feeding formulas, antibiotics and hormones, factory farms have replaced traditional methods. When the 20th century began, half the population lived on family-owned farms. Now, less than 1% of Americans do.

Behind the public health crisis brought on by how much food we eat, a larger ecological crisis is looming because of the way we produce it. Pesticide pollution is so high in the Midwestern waterways of corn country that amphibian populations are collapsing. Endocrinologists are warning of sweeping human infertility in Midwestern farming states caused by weed-killers. Most of these weed-killers go on corn for livestock feed.

The economics of livestock feed are a study in risk. We mix so much antibiotics into pork, beef and chicken feed, both to suppress disease and to kill gut bacteria that would compete for the calories from feed, that according to reports in the scientific journal Nature, 50% of the world's antibiotic supply goes into farm animals. The practice brings animals to market a few days faster than organic methods, but also has created a new generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The drive for cheap food has gone beyond a brave experiment into a potentially catastrophic gamble. The stakes: the environment and public health. But none of the government officials charged with overseeing agriculture and environment is publicly suggesting the obvious fix: slowing down our intensive food production, treating the land and animals with more respect, producing less food, better food, more carefully.

Instead, they all too often leap to the defense of the industry and the safety of every bite of food provided by it. When news of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease came out just before Christmas, the instant response of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman was to reassure us that the 200,000 "downer cows" consumed by Americans in 2003 hadn't necessarily been diseased. They just couldn't walk.

Except, of course, the one infected with mad cow disease.

It was enough to make a reporter nostalgic. How reminiscent Veneman was of her British counterparts. During the early years of the U.K. epidemic, the succession of Conservative agriculture ministers and the country's chief veterinary officer couldn't endorse British beef heartily enough.

The only regulators whose standards were actually safe were not government officials. They came from the organic movement. Two years before anyone had heard of mad cow disease, in 1984, the Soil Assn., one of the leading certifiers of organic food in the United Kingdom, banned inclusion of meat and bone meal from rations for dairy cows.

Last month, as Veneman and industry officials sought to allay American fears by insisting on the safety of downer meat (then, on Dec. 30, reacting to scandal, quickly banning it), again only the organic standard, and not government regulations, offered significant protection against BSE. Meat and bone meal had never been an acceptable constituent of certified organic cattle feed. Downers weren't an issue. Organic regulations require that sick animals be given veterinary treatment, not slaughtered for food.

The moral: Cheap food isn't cheap. In Britain, the milk that ended rickets stopped looking like a bargain when the taxpayers added the cleanup cost for mad cow alone. This included compensation to farmers for the hundreds of thousands of infected cattle, the preventive culling of 4 million additional healthy animals, the failure of almost 30,000 dairy farms during the BSE years, damages to the families of human victims, the near collapse of the British beef industry and a sweeping two-year public inquiry.

In the U.S., the overnight loss of the beef export market is only the beginning of our mini-BSE crisis.

While the mainstream domestic industry braces for hard times, it should be a good year to be an American organic meat producer of chicken, pork or beef. The California Certified Organic Farmers trade association reports that since 1996, sales of organic meat in the U.S. have risen 28% a year.

Great food has always been a matter of quality, not quantity. Organic meat is far more expensive than conventional, often twice and three times the cost of conventional. That gap will surely narrow as more farmers convert to organic, but organic will always cost more.

Cheap food made us wealthy. Now is the time to be wise. In the past, conventional producers dismissed organics as a niche market and credited themselves with feeding a hungry nation. That argument has become obsolete. The environment, public health and safe food are no longer niche concerns. If we heed the lesson of our first case of mad cow disease, it may just prove our salvation.

Decoding the label

The term "organic" is governed by strict USDA regulations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; also without bioengineering or ionizing radiation.

"Natural" is an increasingly popular term used to stake out a middle ground between "organic" and "conventional." It refers only to processing and means no artificial ingredients or added colors were used and that the product was "minimally processed." It has nothing, however, to do with how meat and poultry are raised, whether hormones or antibiotics were used or whether the beef was fed the byproducts of other animals, which is allowed under conventional growing regulations.

Claims such as "no antibiotic residues" or "antibiotic-free" does not mean the cattle or poultry wasn't treated with antibiotics, rather that the meat was tested during processing and was shown to be free of antibiotics. And any claims that poultry and hogs are hormone-free are just restating existing regulations governing conventional farming practices, not an extra step that should be rewarded with a premium price.

Squeeze on Organic Farmers

The Big Money Still Flows to Chemical Ag


More and more Americans are buying organic food. But is our government matching this groundswell of support with federal and state agricultural dollars? No. Organic farmers work with nature to control pests, weeds and disease. No synthetic fossil-fuel fertilizers are used and no hormones or antibiotics are used in livestock production. By many measures, organic food is healthier for our soil, water, wildlife and the people who grow it. The Agriculture Department last year issued standards and labeling rules for organic production and marketing. But where is the government's support, which still flows overwhelmingly to industrial agriculture? Most observers agree that in 2002 the organic products industry received about 1.5 to 2 percent of our nation's food dollar. Not much, some would say.

But consider this: Last year consumers spent about $10 billion on organic products. Back in 1989, one agricultural economist pegged the size of the organic industry at only $89 million. That's growth! Clearly growing numbers of Americans are saying organic farming is important. But the government so far fails to recognize this surging support. The Organic Farming Research Foundation has determined that certified-organic land-grant university research acreage has grown from 151 acres in 2001 to just over 496 acres - this out of a massive 886,000 acres now dedicated to agricultural research. Five years ago, OFRF published a report identifying the number of organic research projects funded by the USDA.

After running 75 key words through the USDA's 30,000 agricultural research projects database, OFRF discovered 34 explicitly organic projects. That translates to barely over one-tenth of 1 percent of our publicly funded agricultural research projects specifically dedicated to organic production practices. What about actual dollars devoted to helping organic growers farm and market better? The news is a bit better here. Or is it? Last year, for the first time, Congress appropriated $3 million for organic research and required that this be an annual expenditure for the next five years. Our federal budget is now $2.14 trillion. The USDA budget is $74 billion. But the total annual organic outlay, which also includes money for marketing, economic analysis and enforcement of organic standards, approaches only $8 million.

Organic farmers deserve their fair share of our nation's agricultural resources. A commitment to organic farming by the federal government that matches the commitment consumers have made to organic food would equal 1.5 to 2 percent of the USDA budget, or more than $1 billion. Think about it. That would go a long way to encourage a way of farming that is better for people and our planet.

Bob Scowcroft is executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Santa Cruz, Calif. He is a member of the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.

We don't sell homogenized or ultra-pasteurized milk?

There are a number of prominent brands of organic milk that are very readily available in health food stores and in supermarkets. It is great that they are organic, as it is very important to have foods from healthy animals raised in healthy farming systems. But, what about the processing?

Processing of any food (including milk) has the potential of reducing the level of healthy enzymes that are naturally present. It is the enzymes present that help with the natural digestibility and assimilation of the food.

When Louis Pasteur published his discovery of bacteria and the fact that heating could destroy bacteria, the authorities ordered the heating of milk, which came to be known as "pasteurization, " just in case TB was caused by mysterious bacteria in raw milk. As it turned out, it wasn't, but a whole industry had sprung up to pasteurize milk and so the pasteurization of milk became law.

When milk is homogenized, the process activates an undesirable enzyme called Xanthine Oxidase (XO). This enzyme is present only in homogenized dairy products. After being absorbed into the bloodstream, XO attacks plasmalogen (which helps keep arteries from hardening), and is deposited in the arteries. XO enters the body attached to fat globules in milk. Before homogenization, the fat globules are too big to pass through the intestine wall and into the bloodstream. Homogenization makes the fat globules so tiny that they easily pass into the bloodstream. Not to worry, you say - pasteurization kills the XO. True, it kills some of it, but not all. Forty percent is left in the active state.

We legally can't offer you milk that has not been pasteurized, but we can offer you milk that has not been homogenized. A healthier (and more flavorful) choice.

Consumers Deserve Strong Organic Standards for Cosmetics

While most companies that sell increasingly popular "natural" soaps, shampoos and skin creams do not claim their products are "organic," an increasing number of these brands, such as Avalon Natural Products, JASON, and Nature's Gate, are misleading consumers into thinking up to 70% of such products are in fact "organic."

The body care companies in question claim that "organic floral waters" are somehow key functional components of their products. However, floral waters, that are also called "hydrosols," did not exist as an ingredient in body care formulations until companies started to use them to make fraudulent, inflated "organic" claims. Not only is the presence of these hydrosols largely inconsequential, their actual organic content is minimal since they are mostly ordinary distilled water. Nonetheless, various so-called "natural" body care manufacturers are using these waters to green-wash their products and make organic label claims, even though their formulations are in fact largely composed of the same conventional synthetic cleansers, conditioners and preservatives found in mainstream products. These companies assert "70% organic ingredients" on their labels and advertising to mislead consumers into thinking that they are buying mostly organic products when they assuredly are not.

Similar to an infusion or tea, which is made by boiling botanical material in water, floral waters are made by steaming plants, and then cooling the steam back to water. Products made with infusions or teas cannot count the water in such teas or infusions as organic in calculating organic content under NOP food standards. However, it has become distressingly common practice to use "Steam Tea" as the main "organic" ingredient in many personal care products by misleadingly counting the ordinary water in such "Steam Teas" as organic. .

The fraudulent practice of counting such water as "organic" in some major companies' body care products has been getting a lot of attention in mainstream press, from The New York Times and Los Angeles Times to Consumer Reports. The Organic Consumers Association has demanded that organic body care standards should mirror the standards for organic food products. This means that:

  • Certified organic agricultural feed-stocks are utilized exclusively, versus petroleum or conventional vegetable feed-stocks, in the manufacture of the key basic cleansing and conditioning ingredients.

  • Manufacture of such ingredients is reasonably simple and ecological.

  • The toxicity of each ingredient is minimal.

  • Non-agricultural water is not counted in any shape or form as contributing to organic content.

The OCA is a grassroots nonprofit organization concerned with food safety, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, fair trade and genetic engineering.

Produce Topics and Tips

What is the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

We often have people around at our home eating with us and enjoying the great meals we make from excellent quality organic ingredients. And often discussions may be about food. Last week whilst we were all enjoying an excellent curry that I had made from Yams/Sweet Potatoes, a slight argument ensued about the difference between Yams and Sweet Potatoes. Well, we did some research on the web in an attempt to resolve the discussion, and the answer is interesting enough that I thought I would share it with you.

What's in a name? When it comes to the yam, a bit of confusion. What is marketed in the United States as "yams" are really a variety of Sweet Potato. A true yam is a starchy edible root of the Dioscorea genus, and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.

"Yams," as the industry and general public perceives them, are actually Sweet Potatoes with a vivid orange color and a soft moist consistency when cooked, and tend to have a sweeter flavor. Other varieties of Sweet Potatoes are lighter skinned and have a firmer, drier texture when cooked. Sweet Potatoes are smooth with skins that can vary in color, depending on the variety, from pale yellow to deep purple to vivid orange. Flesh colors can range from light yellow to pink, red or orange.

Yams in the United States are actually Sweet Potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the US Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "Sweet Potato."

Produce Storage Tips

There are a whole group of vegetables that we know as "winter greens", that come into their own in the cold months of the year. Cabbages, cauliflower & broccoli all grow better with cool weather and develop their best flavor and sweetness after they have been subject to frost temperatures. Here, in the northeast in January it is simply too cold to grow even these hardy winter vegetables and the reality is that most of our vegetable produce at this time of year comes from the West or from the South. Collards, Kale & Chards are also great winter greens that have far sweeter flavor at this time of the year than in the warmer months. All these vegetables keep best of stored cold in the coldest part of your fridge.

Nectarines and peaches and cherries are all stone fruit that are best stored in the coldest part of the fridge (32-36F). You can leave nectarines and peaches out at room temperature to help them to ripen, but put them in the fridge once they begin to soften. Cherries do not ripen once picked, so keep them in the fridge to prolong their life.

Pineapples are a tropical fruit that never like to get cold. Always keep them at room temperature to allow them to develop their full flavor.

Mangoes are are another tropical fruit that should never be placed in the cold. Allow them to ripen at room temperature. Did I mention that they should never be put in the fridge? If they get cold, they get chilling damage and never ripen. Never put them in the fridge. Please don't put your mangoes in the fridge (maybe, it might be a good title for a song!)

Strictly speaking, tomatoes are fruit and they do ripen after being picked and tomatoes should never, never, never be put in the fridge. Best kept warm to let them develop maximum flavor. Did mention yet that tomatoes should never be put in the fridge? It gives them chilling damage and stops their flavor development.

For most people it is appears quite obvious that by placing fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator, it helps to retain their freshness longer. However, there are quite a number of fruits and vegetables that better retain their quality characteristics other than in a refrigerator.

We all know that bananas need to ripen to develop their full natural sugar and flavor profile, and do so best out of the fridge. Ideally at around 55 degrees. but did you know that apples do not ripen once picked? Apples are best stored at 32-36 degrees. So, keep them in the fridge to maintain their crispness.

Cucumbers are a tricky one. They lose their moisture quickly in a warm environment (say, room temperature), but they also do not like the cold (just like some people I know who go to Florida in January!). A regular fridge has a temperature setting of about 38-40 degrees. Cucumbers store best at 55 degrees. At 40 degrees they tend to get chilling damage; they start to get a bit wrinkly at the ends. It doesn't really affect their eating quality but does look unsightly. We also have this problem at this time of year with cucumbers that we receive by the box, because somewhere along the transit chain, the cucumber fruit (yes, they're actually a fruit!) have been stored too cold. So, here is a suggested compromise: place your cucumbers in the fridge - not at the bottom where the fridge is coldest, but close to the top (but not near any freezing elements). Also, if you keep them in a paper or cloth bag, it draws off some the cold moisture and keeps them slightly 'warmer'. Serving suggestion: often cucumbers straight out of the fridge are too cold to eat comfortably. Consider taking them out of the fridge when you first commence your meal preparation.

Organically Grown Foods Higher In Cancer-fighting Chemicals Than Conventionally Grown Foods

Fruits and veggies grown organically show significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods, according to a new study of corn, strawberries and marionberries. The research suggests that pesticides and herbicides actually thwart the production of phenolics - chemicals that act as a plant's natural defense and also happen to be good for our health.

The findings appear in the Feb. 26 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article was initially published Jan. 25 on the journal's Web site.


Monkeys prefer organic

Animals at Copenhagen Zoo are going ape over organic bananas and other fruits, rejecting traditional foods left in their cages according to zookeepers. "For one reason or another, the tapirs and chimpanzees are choosing organically grown bananas over the others," keeper Niels Melchiorsen told the magazine Oekologisk Jordbrug (Organic Agriculture).

"Their choice is not at all random. The chimpanzees are able to tell the difference between the organic and the regular fruit," Melchiorsen reported. "If we give them organic and traditional bananas, they systematically choose the organic bananas, which they eat with the skin on. "But they peel the traditional bananas before eating them," he added.

Copenhagen Zoo, which hopes to be awarded a "green label" as an environmental zoo, began last year feeding its animals at least 10 percent organic products. It hopes to raise the level to 15 percent this year and reach 33 percent in 2005.

None of this surprises Australian nutritionist and international organic food expert Shane Heaton. Author of the major organic food report 'Organic farming, Food Quality and Human Health', Heaton suggests the animals may be choosing organically because of fewer pesticide residues, better taste, or higher nutrient content.

Heaton points to numerous published scientific feeding trials with rabbits, rats and chickens since 1984 that have consistently shown the same effect. 'But more importantly, more and more people are switching to organic food,' says Heaton. 'The organic market is growing by 20 to 30 per cent globally, because today's consumers want to know what is and is not in their food, and organic standards give them a very clear statement.'

German researcher Katrin Woese also reported in her 1997 literature review that 'animals distinguish between the foods on offer from the various agricultural systems and almost exclusively prefer organic produce'.

Heaton concludes 'Organic food is an important safe haven in today's polluted and processed world. Organic food is not a luxury. It is how food is supposed to be. Even a monkey knows that.'

FDA Ignoring Dangerous Mercury Levels in Canned Tuna

From Agribusiness Examiner #270
By Al Krebs


"Now" with Bill Moyers on PBS recently examined how the influence of the tuna industry on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be putting Americans and their children at risk for mercury poisoning.

The report exposes that the FDA only tests about a dozen cans of Albacore tuna for mercury a year and doesn't ask to review the tuna industry's own tests. A consumer group's recent study indicates that as many as 22 million cans of tuna could have mercury levels above the FDA's action level, which would make them subject to recall.

Even though canned tuna is known to contain methyl mercury and is the third most popular item on grocery store shelves after sugar and coffee, it isn't listed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its current consumer advisory.

"We know there are people who are eating more canned tuna than is considered safe," says NOW's senior Washington correspondent Roberta Baskin. "It's important that people get the information they need to assess the risk. But the FDA has, so far, been studying the mercury in tuna problem and lagging behind other governmental agencies on putting out clear advice about it."

A startling fact revealed in the broadcast is that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mercury guidelines are much stricter than the FDA's. According to the EPA's standard, a 45-pound child eating just one six ounce can of white chunk Albacore tuna per week risks ingesting almost four times more mercury than is considered safe.

The FDA, NOW reports, hasn't added tuna to its advisory because, the agency says, it doesn't want to scare consumers away from an affordable food with widely acknowledged health benefits. But last month, the World Health Organization and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization cut in half its recommendation on how much mercury people can safely consume in their food. Reluctant to wait for the FDA to toughen their warnings, ten states have issued their own advisories on mercury levels in canned tuna: California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

Facts Concerning the Production of Organic Beef

Organic Practices

The philosophy of organic production is to provide conditions that meet the health needs and natural behavior of the animal. Thus, organic livestock are given access to the outdoors, fresh air, water, sunshine, grass and pasture, and are fed 100 percent organic feed. Any shelter provided must be designed to allow the animal comfort and the opportunity to exercise. Organic practices prohibit feeding animal parts of any kind to ruminants that, by nature, eat a vegetarian diet. Thus, no animal byproducts of any sort are incorporated in organic feed at any time.

National organic standards require oversight of production and handling systems. For instance, production and handling operations must undergo onsite inspections and have farm or operating plans in place in order to be certified organic. The standards also specify feed requirements, including what is and is not allowed.

For instance, in organic production, livestock cannot be fed plastic pellets for roughage, or formulas containing urea or manure. They cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. All of these are allowable practices in conventional agriculture. For an animal to be raised for organic beef, its mother must have been fed organic feed for at least the last third of gestation.

To read specific organic livestock requirements, including feed, health care practices, and living conditions, see:

In processing operations that handle both organic and non-organic meat products, processors must segregate their handling of organic and non-organic meat. There also are specified cleaning agents that are allowed and prohibited in such operations.


Organic certification, by a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved agent, is required for the farm and the processing and handling facilities prior to delivery to retail outlets.

Because farmers and handlers must keep extensive records as part of their farm and handling plans in order to be certified organic, the organic production system offers traceability of the animal from birth to marketing of the resulting meat. Thus, when one purchases organic meat, there is a guarantee of traceability.

Reprinted from the website of the Organic Trade Association.

Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

by Andre Leu, January 2004, Acres U.S.A.

Several high-profile advocates of conventional agricultural production have stated that the world would starve if we all converted to organic agriculture. They have written articles for science journals and other publications saying that organic agriculture is not sustainable and produces yields that are significantly lower than conventional agriculture.

Thus, the push for genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, animal-feed antibiotics, food irradiation and toxic synthetic chemicals is being justified, in part, by the rationale that without these products the world will not be able to feed itself.

The only famines that have occurred since 1968 have been in African countries saddled with corrupt governments, political turmoil, civil wars and periodic droughts. The world had enough food for these people ? it was political and logistical events that prevented them from producing adequate food or stopped aid from reaching them. Hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death.

The specter of mass starvation is being pushed again as the motive for justifying GMOs. In June 2003, President Bush stated at a biotechnology conference, ?We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger.?

In this first decade of the 21st century, many farmers around the world are facing a great economic crisis of low commodity prices. These low prices are due to oversupply. Current economic theories hold that prices decrease when supply is greater than demand.

The reality is that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone and has more than enough suitable agricultural land to do it. Unfortunately, due to inefficient, unfair distribution systems and poor farming methods, millions of people do not receive adequate nutrition.

Can organic agriculture feed the world?

An editorial in New Scientist for February 3, 2001, stated that low-tech, sustainable agriculture is increasing crop yields on poor farms across the world, often by 70 percent or more. This has been achieved by replacing synthetic chemicals with natural pest control and natural fertilizers.

Professor Jules Pretty, director of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, wrote, ?Recent evidence from 20 countries has found more than 2 million families farming sustainably on more than 4-5 million hectares. This is no longer marginal. It cannot be ignored. What is remarkable is not so much the numbers, but that most of this has happened in the past 5-10 years. Moreover, many of the improvements are occurring in remote and resource-poor areas that had been assumed to be incapable of producing food surpluses.?

An excellent example of this type of agricultural extension has been published in the January 2003 World Vision News. Working in conjunction AusAID, World Vision linked farmers from the impoverished Makuyu community in Kenya with the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF).

They arranged workshops where KIOF members taught the principles of organic farming, including compost making, preparing safe organic pesticides, organic vegetable gardening and organic care of livestock.

Maize yields increased by four to nine times. The organically grown crops produced yields that were 60 percent higher than crops grown with expensive chemical fertilizers.

The wonderful thing is that many of these farmers now have a surplus of food to sell, whereas previously they did not even have enough to eat. They are organizing marketing co-ops to sell this surplus.

The profits are going back to the community. They have distributed dairy goats, rabbits, hives and poultry to community members and have planted 20,000 trees, including 2,000 mangos. Several of the organic farmers are training many other farmers in the district and helping them to apply organic farming techniques to their farms.

The mood of the community has changed. They are now confident and empowered with the knowledge that they can overcome the problems in their community.

These types of simple, community-based organic agricultural models are what is needed around the world to end rural poverty and starvation, not GMOs and expensive toxic chemicals.

The Makuyu community in Kenya is not an isolated example. Professor Pretty gives other examples from around the world of increases in yield when farmers have replaced synthetic chemicals and shifted to sustainable/organic methods:

? 223,000 farmers in southern Brazil using green manures and cover crops of legumes and livestock integration have doubled yields of maize and wheat to 4-5 tons/hectare.

? 45,000 farmers in Guatemala and Honduras used regenerative technologies to triple maize yields to 2-2.5 tons/ha and diversify their upland farms, which has led to local economic growth that has in turn encouraged remigration back from the cities.

? 200,000 farmers across Kenya as part of sustainable agriculture programs have more than doubled their maize yields to about 2.5 to 3.3 tons/ha and substantially improved vegetable production through the dry seasons.

? 100,000 small coffee farmers in Mexico have adopted fully organic production methods and increased yields by half.

? A million wetland rice farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam have shifted to sustainable agriculture, where group-based farmer field schools have enabled farmers to learn alternatives to pesticides and increase their yields by about 10 percent.

One of the most important aspects of the teaching farmers in these regions to increase yields with sustainable/organic methods is that the food and fiber is produced close to where it is needed and in many cases by the people who need it. It is not produced halfway around the world, transported, and then sold to them.

Another important aspect is the low input costs. Growers do not need to buy expensive imported fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The increase in yields also comes with lower production costs, allowing a greater profit to these farmers.

Third, the substitution of more labor-intensive activities such as cultural weeding, composting and intercropping for expensive imported chemical inputs provides more employment for local and regional communities. This employment allows landless laborers to pay for their food and other needs.

Can organic agriculture achieve high yields in developed nations?

Since 1946, the advent of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, improved crop varieties and industrial paradigms are credited with producing the high yields of the ?green revolution.? Because organic agriculture avoids many of these new inputs, it is assumed that it always results in lower yields.

The assumption that greater inputs of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides are required to increase food yields is not accurate. In a study published in The Living Land, Professor Pretty looked at projects in seven industrialized countries of Europe and North America. He reported, ?Farmers are finding that they can cut their inputs of costly pesticides and fertilizers substantially, varying from 20 to 80 percent, and be financially better off. Yields do fall to begin with (by 10 to 15 percent, typically), but there is compelling evidence that they soon rise and go on increasing. In the USA, for example, the top quarter of sustainable agriculture farmers now have higher yields than conventional farmers, as well as a much lower negative impact on the environment.?

Professor George Monbiot, in an article in the Guardian (August 24, 2000), wrote that wheat grown with manure has produced consistently higher yields for the past 150 years than wheat grown with chemical nutrients, in U.K. trials.

A study of apple production conducted by Washington State University compared the economic and environmental sustainability of conventional, organic and integrated growing systems in apple production. The organic system had equivalent yields to the other systems. The study also showed that the break-even point was nine years after planting for the organic system and 15 and 16 years, respectively, for conventional and integrated farming systems.

In an article published in the peer-review scientific journal Nature, Laurie Drinkwater and colleagues from the Rodale Institute showed that organic farming had better environmental outcomes as well as similar yields of both products and profits when compared to conventional, intensive agriculture.

Steve Bartolo, president of the Australian Organic Sugar Producers Association, produced similar yields of commercial sugar per hectare from his organic Q124 cane and his conventional cane in 2002. The average yield of sugar for his best organic cane ?achieved higher tonnes per hectare compared to the average of all conventionally grown Q124.? Greg Paynter, an organic farmer who works for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, conducted the organic section of grain comparison trials at Dalby Agricultural College in 2002. The organic wheat produced 3.23 tonnes to the hectare compared to the conventional wheat yield of 2.22 tonnes. This trial was conducted during one of the worst droughts on record.

Dr Rick Welsh of the Henry A. Wallace Institute reviewed numerous academic publications comparing organic and conventional production systems in the United States. The data showed that the organic systems were more profitable. This profit was not always due to premiums, but was instead a result of lower production and input costs as well as more consistent yields. Dr. Welsh?s study also showed that organic agriculture produces better yields than conventional agriculture in adverse weather events, such as droughts or higher-than-average rainfall.

Conclusion: Organic agriculture can feed the world.

The data thus shows that it is possible to obtain very good yields using organic systems. This is not uniform at the moment, with many organic growers not yet producing at the levels that are achievable. Education on the best practices in organic agriculture is a cost-effective and simple method of ensuring high levels of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable production where it is needed.

Organic agriculture is a viable solution to preventing global hunger because:

? It can achieve high yields.

? It can achieve these yields in the areas where it is needed most.

? It has low inputs.

? It is cost-effective and affordable.

? It provides more employment so that the impoverished can purchase their own needs.

? It does not require any expensive technical investment.

It costs tens of millions of dollars and takes many years to develop one genetically modified plant variety. This money would be spent far more productively on organic agricultural education, research and extension in the areas where we need to overcome hunger and poverty.

Organic agriculture is the quickest, most efficient, most cost-effective and fairest way to feed the world.

Andre Leu is the president of the Organic Producers Association of Queensland (Australia), and vice chair of the Organic Federation of Australia.

Mad Cow Quandary: Making Animal Feed

February 6, 2004. New York Times. By DENISE GRADY

In the month and a half since a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Washington State, Americans have been learning more than they wanted to know about what cattle in this country have been eating.

Though consumers may imagine bucolic scenes of nursing calves and cows munching on grass or hay, much of American agriculture no longer works that way. For years, calves have been fed cow's blood instead of milk, and cattle feed has been allowed to contain composted wastes from chicken coops, including feathers, spilled feed and even feces.

Most people had never heard of those practices until last week, when the Food and Drug Administration barred them, saying they could spread mad cow disease. But the agency did not prohibit other practices that involve using animal remains to make cattle feed.

Though the United States banned the use of cow parts in cattle feed in the 1990's, it still permits rendered matter from cows to be fed to pigs and chickens, and rendered pigs and chickens to be fed back to cows. Critics say that in theory, that sequence could bring mad cow disease full circle, back to cows.

On Wednesday, an expert panel advising the government urged a ban on using any animal remains to make feed supplements for cattle. The European Union has such a rule, but America does not, and the cattle industry has accused the advisory group of exaggerating the risk in this country.

Europe barred animal parts from cattle feed because scientists suspect that tissue from infected animals, particularly the brain or spinal cord from sick cows, can transmit the disease. Contaminated feed is widely believed to have started the mad cow epidemic that infected more than 180,000 animals in Britain in the 1980's and has led to the death of more than 140 people.

Any decision by the United States to take the panel's advice, barring all animal protein from cattle feed, could have a large effect on another low-profile part of the livestock industry: rendering - that is, pressure cooking on an industrial scale. Protein supplements derived from rendered livestock are added to feed to help animals gain weight and produce more milk.

Decisions about what kinds of rendered animal parts can go into cattle feed are made by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said there was no evidence that pigs or chickens could transmit mad cow disease. He said the F.D.A. needed to study the expert panel's report further to determine whether the feed rules should be made stricter. He noted that the new report had come to conclusions very different from those in a 2001 report by Harvard researchers that the agency has relied on to make its rules.

When the new report was issued, "I asked the committee, `Help me here, as a regulator who has to base their decisions on science, and now I'm confronted with two very different scientific opinions,' " Dr. Sundlof said. "We need to find out what is at the root of that," he added, "before we can make any decisions different from what we made last week."

Dr. Gary Weber, executive director for regulatory affairs at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the cattle industry was prepared to change feeding practices if the F.D.A. determined that doing so was necessary. Dr. Weber said he did not know what percentage of cattle in this country are fed animal protein supplements. "On the beef cattle side, the need for animal protein byproducts has never been high," he said. "But in the dairy industry, in order to sustain high levels of milk production, they have needed these proteins and felt it was important in high-producing dairy cows." Dairy producers can switch to soy protein, but it does not work as well, Dr. Weber said.

Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association, based in Alexandria, Va., said his industry was discussing the issue with government officials and trying to determine what changes would be needed and what their impact might be. Rendering is a $3 billion industry, with about 240 plants in the United States and Canada that process about 50 billions pounds of animal remains a year.

Rendering yields fats, including tallows and greases, as well as meat and bone meal. The fats can be made into soaps and lubricants, and also added to some animal feeds. Most of the meat and bone meal are used in feed supplements for animals; 43 percent goes to poultry, 23 percent to pet food, 13 percent to swine, 10 percent to cattle and 11 percent to other uses, among them the production of feed for farmed fish.

If it was barred from animal feed, rendered material might lose its value, Mr. Cook said. And yet, he said, the remains would still have to be rendered, because that is the best way to dispose of them. "The material still has to be processed," he said. "If it doesn't get rendered and find a home, you'll have to build a lot more landfills and means of disposal not as safe or environmentally acceptable as rendering. And the cost will have to be shifted to somebody, I don't know who."

NY Times article

Organic vs Chemical agriculture - Some environmental facts

Organic agricultural production benefits the environment by using earth-friendly agricultural methods and practices. Here are some facts that show why organic farming is "the way to grow."

  • Organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively locking more carbon into the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, as happens in conventional agriculture. A study showed that if organic fertilizer were used in the major corn and soybean growing regions of the United States, annual carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be reduced by an estimated 2%. The study also found that organic farming uses 50% less energy than conventional farming methods.

  • The environmental costs of using recommended pesticides in the United States are estimated to be $9 billion a year; included are 67 million birds killed each year from the recommended use of pesticides.

  • A study of apple farming published in an issue of Nature has found organic orchards can be more profitable, produce tastier fruit at similar yields compared to conventional farming, and be better for the environment. In the six-year study, three experimental plots of Golden Delicious apples were farmed using organic, conventional, and "integrated" growing methods. Although the organic system took longer to reach profitability, it ranked first in terms of environmental sustainability, profitability and energy efficiency by the end of the study.

  • The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has released a report entitled "Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Human Health and the Environment." "As many as 16 separate pesticide applications may be made on apples each year to combat the apple scab. Where possible, organic products should be chosen." It added, the advantages of organic farming are many: reduced soil erosion, retention of soil nutrients, surface and ground water that is uncontaminated by pesticides."

  • Pesticide sprays "encourage life-threatening bacteria to grow on crops,". Research at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg found that bacteria thrived in some formulations of synthetic pesticides diluted with water.

  • Toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world's most valuable supplies of freshwater, according to a Worldwatch paper, Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution. Calling for a systematic overhaul of manufacturing and industrial agriculture, the paper notes that several water utilities in Germany now pay farmers to switch to organic operations because this conversion costs less than removing farm chemicals from water supplies.

  • An epidemiological study in Sweden indicates that environmental factors, such as chemical pollutants and unhealthy lifestyles, have a greater impact on the likelihood of contracting cancer than hereditary genetic factors.

  • The Consumers Union in May 2000 reiterated that pesticide residues in foods children eat every day often exceed safe levels. An independent analysis of some fruits and vegetables found high levels of pesticide residues. The Consumers Union urged consumers to consider buying organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Making the 'Organic Connection'

Catherine L. Foley, The Patent Trader

Ian Diamond's Organic Connection is whetting the region's organic appetite with new flavors and savory standards.

Berle Farm in Hoosick, Evan's Farmhouse Creamery in Norwich, Ryder Farm in Brewster, Tierra Farm in Cohoes — Diamond's organic food delivery business based in Vista specializes in connecting the northeast's, and especially New York's, organic family farms with consumers in Westchester and Putnam counties, and Fairfield County in Connecticut.

Diamond said he founded Organic Connection two and a half years ago, dissatisfied with the local organic offerings that were often saturated with organic junk food and organic food produced by large corporations. "People make the incorrect assumption that whatever they may buy in health food stores is healthy. I want to help people make healthier choices."