ESSAY OF THE WEEK FROM ORGANIC CONSUMER
Organic Theater of the Absurd?
Despite repeated calls by Board Chair Jean Richardson and other NOSB members for “organic unity,” the Spring 2015 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was a continuation of the confusion, conflict and undemocratic processes that marred the previous two NOSB meetings in Louisville and San Antonio.
Taking center stage this year at what Cornucopia Institute’s Mark Kastel referred to as “organic regulatory theater,” was the issue of whether or not to allow operators of large, factory farm-like organic poultry operations to feed even more non-organic, totally synthetic methionine to their broiler chickens.
We lost (for now), thanks to a deciding—and decidedly theatrical—vote cast by a board member. Via Skype. From his hospital bed. While being cheered on by his cohorts.
Hundreds of piglets crushed to death. Genetic experiments forcing cows to give birth to deformed and stillborn twins. Hundreds of lambs left to die in open fields from exposure and starvation. Cruel and experimental surgeries conducted by unqualified scientists.
And it’s happening at federally sanctioned research facility, paid for with your tax dollars.
A January 20, 2015 New York Times investigative report uncovered a disturbing pattern of systematic animal cruelty, spanning decades at, the Nebraska-based U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.
The center, funded with $200 million in taxpayer money, is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The report prompted legislators from both parties in Congress to introduce H.R. 746 (S. 388), the AWARE Act, intended to expand protections for farm animals at federal research facilities. Animals involved in scientific research enjoy basic protections under the Animal Welfare Act, but farm animals in agriculture research are exempt. The AWARE Act would close that exemption.
More Grass-Fed on MyPlate?
Nutrition experts on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which advises the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) on what to tell Americans to eat, think we should eat less red meat. The committee’s recommendations for the updated MyPlate (formerly known as Food Pyramid), are based on health concerns. But the committee also factored in concerns about the environmental impact of raising beef cattle.
One thing they didn’t factor in? The difference between conventional beef production, which includes over-grazing of lands and “finishing” of cattle by feeding GMO grains in feedlots . . . and beef produced by farmers who raise cattle on grass, using rotational grazing methods that actually improve the environment.
Ridge Shinn, a farmer who raises 100-percent grass-fed beef using regenerative grazing practices, has written a sign-on letter asking the USDA and HHS to acknowledge grass-fed as a healthy, sustainable, and readily available alternative to beef produced by conventional factory farms.
So far, 45 farmers and ranchers have signed on. We hope to have 100 farmers and ranchers, and thousands of supporters, before midnight tomorrow (May 8).
Please add your name, include your own comments and forward this alert to your favorite grass-fed producer. If you are raising grass-fed beef, please put the name of your farm or ranch in the form under “Organization” and tell us a little about yourself in the comment field.
SUPPORT THE OCA & OCF
The Bullies Are Escalating
For nearly two decades, Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies have bullied their way to taking over the U.S. agriculture system with one aim in mind: sell more toxic chemicals. Apart from a small minority, consumers were largely unaware that untested genetically engineered organisms were infiltrating our food system. Unlabeled.
Now that the majority of Americans know the truth, and are fighting back, the Biotech Bullies are being forced to escalate. Things could get a lot uglier, before they get better.
Last week, a judge affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont’s GMO labeling law by denying Monsanto’s demand to hold up enactment of the law until the industry’s frivolous lawsuit makes its way through the courts.
Monsanto promptly turned around and filed an appeal. It’s a stalling tactic. But much more—because the bullies know that their threats against Vermont aren’t going unnoticed by lawmakers in other states—like Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and others—who fear their states will be dragged through the courts, too, if they stand up to Monsanto as Vermont lawmakers have.
It’s intimidation at its best.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the bullies are scrambling to get a law passed that will strip states of their constitutional rights to pass GMO labeling laws. It’s the worst kind of attack on democracy. And the irony is that some Democrats, who claim to support consumer rights, are now signing on to Pompeo’s bill. While so many Republicans—whose constituents have made it clear that they want mandatory labeling laws—are not only thumbing their noses at voters, they’re thumbing their noses at democracy. Not to mention the states’ rights they claim to hold so dear.
While we keep a watchful eye on the Vermont court case, GMO labeling bills that are making their way through state legislatures (opposed by out-of-state multi-billion dollar lobbying groups), and the outrageous (and desperate) play in Washington D.C. to end the GMO labeling conversation permanently, we keep working. On all fronts.
The bullies will keep bullying. We will keep fighting. We need your help.
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 GMO labeling legislative efforts)
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Upending Monsanto’s Lies
Monsanto loves to brag about how its GMO crops are “feeding the world.”
We know that’s a lie. So do the small-scale farmers in Kenya who are turning to organic farming to maintain healthy soil, grow healthier foo, and provide a more sustainable food supply for their country’s communities.
In this video, CNBC Africa’s Claire Muthinji reports from the Food for Life festival in Nairobi, Kenya, where agriculture is the main engine of the economy. With the country’s growing population, the need for food security and sustainability is more important than ever.
And organic, regenerative is the answer.
MARCH AGAINST MONSANTO
March . . . and More
If you haven’t connected with a March against Monsanto group in your town, it’s not too late. Can’t find one? You can still organize your own.
As in years past, OCA is reaching out to our networks to promote this year’s May 23 March Against Monsanto. But this year, we’re also using the opportunity to urge people to organize National Days of Action (May 26, 27, 28) at their Congress members’ home district offices—especially at the offices of those members of Congress who serve on the House Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committees. These are the people who have the power to stop Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Kans) H.R. 1599, a bill that would wipe out states’ rights to pass GMO labeling laws.
Ever since the courts affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Rep. Pompeo (and his friends at Monsanto) have been ramping up their plan to stomp out the GMO labeling movement for good.
We have to stop them. And one of the best ways to do that is to pressure members of the House Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committees—in their home states.
If you’d like to organize a Day of Action against Pompeo’s DARK Act (that’s not its real name, but that’s what we call it—the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act), there’s no better time to get started than when you’re already surrounded by potential collaborators and co-activists at your local March Against Monsanto.
FAIR WORLD PROJECT
Good for You
Raising the minimum wage isn’t just a good idea for food workers. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the good food movement.
How is it good for you? According to 2013 government statistics, the fast food industry costs taxpayers $7 billion a year in public assistance. That’s because companies like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and others pay their employees so little, that the employees qualify for government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, even though they work full-time.
How is it good for the food movement? In an article written in 2013 (the last time Congress debated raising the minimum wage), Eric Holt Gimenez, director of Food First, argued that if fast food workers earned higher wages, they’d have more money to spend on healthy, nutritious food.
The sad truth is this. The more than 20 million people working in the U.S. food system, even those working full-time, are living below the poverty line. It’s time to change that.
Last week a bill was introduced in Congress that would raise the federal minimum age to $12/hour by 2020. The Raise the Wage Act falls short of a true living wage, but would still be a needed boost to 1 in 4 workers in the U.S., most of whom are in the food and retail sectors.
Essential Reading for the Week