Cook Organic, Not the Planet!

Organic Bytes #366, February 7, 2013

Health, Justice and Sustainability News from the Organic Consumers Association

Edited by Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins


Forward on Climate: Cook Organic, Not the Planet!

If we're serious about heading off a climate crisis, we better start paying attention to what's on the end of our forks. As it turns out, factory farms are one of the biggest culprits in this whole climate change calamity.

On inauguration day, President Obama promised to " . . . respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." Empty words, or did he mean it? On February 17, OCA will march with nearly 80 other organizations in what promises to be the largest climate rally in history, Forward on Climate. We'll join hands and voices with thousands of others who will pressure Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and enact tough limits on carbon from our nation's dirty power plants.

But we'll bring our own message, too: Cook organic, not the planet! Because while new, green technologies have their place in solving the climate crisis, a simple tried-and-true technology to restore carbon to our soil and keep greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere has been right under our noses – and our feet – for centuries: climate-friendly organic farming.

Read the essay

March with OCA in DC!

More info on Forward on Climate


Sweet Revenge: Boycott Dagoba and Hershey's!

TAKE ACTION: Tell Hershey's: No Dagoba chocolate until you support GMO labeling!

Dagoba chocolate may be organic, but its parent company, Hershey's, is a loser by any standard. Hershey's spent more than a half million dollars to defeat Prop 37, the California Right to Know GMO labeling law. No wonder. The Hershey's kisses and chocolate bars sold here in the U.S. are loaded with cheap genetically modified beet sugar and genetically engineered soy lecithin. And where does the giant chocolate maker get its cacao? From regions where child labor and workers' rights abuses run rampant.

Hershey's cuts corners by using cheap GMO ingredients and exploiting little kids in impoverished countries so its CEO, John Bilbrey, can personally pocket millions - $10.6 million in 2011. But guess what? In the UK, where consumers have the right to know what's in their food because they've insisted on mandatory GMO labeling laws, Hershey's products are GMO-free. The company once said: "We took this decision based on our belief that customers in the UK do not currently wish to see GM ingredients in these products."

What about Hershey's customers here in the U.S.? Let them eat GMOs!

TAKE ACTION: Tell Hershey's: No Dagoba chocolate until you support GMO labeling!

Prop 37 Recount: How One County Clerk Killed It

Will we ever know if the majority of California voters really voted against an initiative that would have required mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Probably not, according to a hot-off-the press in-depth analysis of the Prop 37 recount by Brad Friedman, author of The Brad Blog.

On Nov. 6, 2012, Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, was defeated by a narrow margin. Too narrow, according to election integrity experts who found numerous inconsistencies in the ballot counting process. Activists called for a recount. What followed next is a tale of how optical-scan ballot counting and corrupt election officials conspired to kill the recount, deprive citizens of due democratic process, and may well have cost the entire country the right to know what's in their food.

Read what happened to the Prop 37 recount


We'd Love to Get Money out of Politics

Really. We would. But until we do, we need your help. It was money - $46 million – that overcame the will of consumers in California last year and ultimately, though narrowly, defeated grassroots efforts to pass a major GMO labeling initiative that would almost certainly have guaranteed GMO labeling at the national level. It was money, or lack of it, that scuttled a recount of the Prop 37 vote, when election integrity experts cried foul. County election officials fought back by requiring unreasonably high, and as it turns out, arbitrary, fees for carrying out the recount.

And now, according to activists in New Mexico, money – in the form of paid lobbyists – has bought off state legislators to keep them from passing a statewide GMO labeling law.

Consumers, including thousands of you, from all corners of the country, opened your wallets to help the Prop 37 campaign. We didn't get the win, but we rallied millions of concerned consumers who will not walk away from this battle until we do win. And that wouldn't have happened without your support. Now, two new GMO labeling battles are looming, in Washington State and Vermont. We will get a win in one of these states, but we'll need your help to run successful campaigns. The OCA has already sent money to both state campaigns, and has pledged more. Your generous donation today will help us keep these campaigns strong so we can bring home a win. Thank you!

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our legislative efforts in Washington, Vermont and other states)

Now Look Who's Talking About Big Food and GMO Labeling!

A few weeks ago, OCA broke the news about a secret meeting in Washington D.C. between Walmart, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other food giants and representatives of the FDA. The article almost slipped quietly by. But then, it grew legs.

Grist Magazine's Tom Laskaway was the first to pick up on it, in an article where he confirmed that the meeting took place, and filled in some more of the details. Then the New York Times fleshed out the story even further, that nearly 20 major food companies attended the January 11 meeting and interviewing some of the key players involved. Michelle Simon, of Appetite for Profit followed with her analysis, which focused on the OCA's cautionary note that, while it's great to see the junk food conglomerates break with Monsanto et al, we should be very very wary of any federal legislation written with input from the very industry that has been fighting tooth and nail against GMO labeling.

Have the junk food companies suddenly come over to our side? Are they hoping to write a federal, loophole-filled GMO labeling law? What will the FDA do? Stay tuned.

Read the original OCA article

Read the Grist article

Read the New York Times article

Read Michelle Simon's article


The Beat Goes On . . .Washington State and Vermont Advance GMO Laws

We may have oh-so-narrowly lost the GMO labeling battle in California, but the movement for mandatory GMO labeling is far from down and out. Two states – Washington and Vermont – are pushing forward, and from all accounts, the chances look good for victory in both.

Washington: Last week, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified the 353,331 signatures turned in by the grassroots campaign behind I-522, The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. Next step? Legislators have three options. They can pass I-522 into law as is. They can take no action, which means the initiative will go directly to the voters in November 2013. Or they prepare their own alternative version of the bill, send both to the ballot in November, and let voters choose. I-522 has tremendous support already from legislators, farmers and the general public. Of course it helps the cause that the FDA wants to approve GMO "frankenfish" in a state where wild salmon is iconic.

Vermont: For the third time in the last three years Vermont legislators have introduced a bill to require mandatory labeling of GMOs. This time, H.112 has tri-partisan support from a third of the members of the Vermont House, including 50 Democrat, Progressive and Republican co-sponsors, plus the Chair of the Agriculture committee, Carolyn Partridge. Vermonters are determined to prevent a repeat of last year, when a similar bill was passed out of the House Agriculture Committee late in the session with a strong 9 to 1 vote, only to have the Governor scuttle it after Monsanto threatened to sue the state if it passed. Vermont has a long history of "firsts" when it comes to progressive legislation. We're counting on them to do it again!

More on Washington I-522

More on Vermont

Have a Heart: Shop Responsibly This Valentine's Day!

Planning to treat someone special to chocolate and flowers next week? Choose wisely, and your gift could help make the whole world a better place.

More than 40 percent of the world's conventional chocolate is non-organic and non-Fair Trade. Most of it comes from the Ivory Coast, where enslaved children work under grueling conditions to line the pockets of executives and shareholders of big commercial chocolate companies, like Hershey's. And those pretty flowers? The folks at the Pesticide Action Network point out that commercial flowers, produced in Colombia and elsewhere, are the most toxic and heavily sprayed agricultural crops on Earth.

Visit our Valentine's Day page for a guide to Valentine's Day shopping, or to download an OCA Valentine's Day card and learn more about Fair Trade.

Learn more


Essential Reading for the Week

Eating Smart When Dining Out

Nearly Half of All US Farms Now Have Superweeds

Countries Are Now Required to Phase Down Mercury Dental Amalgam Use

Hundreds Rally in NY: 'Not One Fracking Well'

Upping the Steaks: How Grass-Fed Beef is Reshaping Ag and Helping the Planet

Viral Gene in Genetically Engineered Foods Could Promote Disease

Tom Usher

About Tom Usher

Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.