MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
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Organic Bytes: Health, Justice and Sustainability News; Tidbits With An Edge!
ALERT: STOP THE USDA'S LATEST SNEAK ATTACK ON ORGANIC STANDARDS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, no doubt hoping to limit public controversy, has announced a very short public comment period (ends May 12, 2006) on proposed new federal regulations that will weaken organic standards. USDA's proposed amendments, supported by grocery store chains and large food corporations, will allow so-called organic dairy feedlots to continuously import calves from conventional farms-where the calves have been weaned on blood, dosed with antibiotics, and fed genetically engineered grains and slaughterhouse waste. USDA's new rules will also allow over 500 artificial (synthetic) substances in organic processed foods without prior scrutiny and review by the National Organic Standards Board. USDA's latest efforts are basically an attempt to codify last fall's controversial "Sneak Attack" in Congress, when industry players and the Organic Trade Association convinced the Republican Party majority to attach a last minute rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill. Take action now and tell the USDA to back off on lowering standards! http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm
Please send a donation to the OCA so we can continue to fight to preserve organic standards!
ALERT: FREE THOUSANDS OF AMERICA'S ORGANIC COWS FROM INTENSIVE CONFINEMENT
The USDA is also seeking public comments on revisions it has made to the National Organic Program regarding pasture access for organic dairy cattle. Two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), a supplier to Wal-Mart and many health food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats and others, are purchasing the majority of their milk from so-called organic feedlot dairies where the cows are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture. Together, Horizon and Aurora control nearly 65% of the organic dairy market. Recent scientific studies have shown that humanely raised, grass-fed dairy and beef are qualitatively better for human health and the environment. Take action to close the loopholes in organic standards that currently allow factory farm dairies to call their products "organic."
HORIZON AND AURORA BANNED IN CO-OPS
One month ago, after a poll of our members, the Organic Consumers Association called on consumers to boycott dairy companies like Horizon and Aurora for their practice of raising "organic" cattle on intensive confinement feedlots. A number of natural food stores and co-ops across the U.S. are beginning to respond to concerned consumers and removing suspect dairy products from their stores. The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the second largest co-op in the U.S., no longer carries Horizon products. In Colorado, the Boulder Co-op Market, has also discontinued stocking Horizon products. Amy Wyatt, Assistant General Manager for the Co-op, says, "Based on our concerns regarding Horizon's practices, we didn't feel that continuing to carry this company's products was consistent with our mission and values." Dean Foods, Horizon's parent company, is also starting to come under fire for abandoning U.S. organic soybean farmers and importing cheap soybeans from China, where organic standards are dubious, and farm labor wages and conditions are abysmal. Dean Foods now controls the nation's largest organic soymilk brand, Silk, as well as the largest organic tofu brand, White Wave.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_400.cfm
Frankenbucks National Week of Action June 19th-25th. Despite years of grassroots pressure, Starbucks continues to serve milk from cows that are injected with Monsanto's controversial genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST. Virtually every industrial country, except for the United States, has banned the use of rBGH. Milk produced from cows injected with rBGH poses serious hazards to human health, including increased risks for cancer. The time has come to kick rBGH off the market, once and for all. If Starbucks, a major buyer of milk, were to ban rBGH dairy products in its coffee beverages other major corporations would likely do the same. Join OCA and allies June 19-25, to protest or leaflet at Starbucks cafes in your neighborhood. Help us reach our goal of 300 actions! For more information http://organicconsumers.org/Starbucks/
DESPITE BIG SODA PR, COMPANIES WON'T BE LEAVING SCHOOLS
Last week, big soda producers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi sucked up volumes of positive press after announcing that they were removing soda pop from U.S. schools. The beverage companies seemed to be finally responding to pressure from parents across the nation concerned about junk foods and beverages in schools and childhood obesity. A closer look at the actual statements of the soda giants, however, reveals that no actual implementation of these policies is planned. In fact, according to the American Beverage Association, an industry trade group representing soda companies, the so-called new policy is completely voluntary, and first requires that individual school districts actually request to have soda machines removed. Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association said: "This is a voluntary policy, but I think schools will want to follow it." Because school districts already have the power to add or remove vending machines from schools, last week's policy announcement from the soda industry amounts to nothing more than another deceptive, albeit clever PR campaign.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_404.cfm
BIRD FLU SCARE HITS U.S. - IN A MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE
Last night, ABC aired a movie entitled "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America". The film portrayed a worse-case scenario outbreak where millions of people die within the first few weeks of an avian flu pandemic. The network advertised the film as being based on fact and stated it was "one step ahead of the headlines." A coalition of public interest organizations, including the Organic Consumers Association have called on ABC to take a step back from sensationalism and present its viewers with factual information on the spread of such diseases. A letter written by the coalition to Anne Sweeney, the President of Disney-ABC, states "The role of large industrial-scale poultry operations - where up to hundreds of thousands of birds can be housed indoors in cramped conditions - is not being examined by most of the media or by government officials charged with preventing the spread of the virus. Such facilities not only provide prime conditions for the mutation and spread of the virus between birds, but also rely heavily on genetically similar birds not likely to be resistant to disease."
VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS & THE BIRD FLU PANDEMIC
The White House is advising the public to stockpile food and water to prepare for a potential bird flu pandemic. The Bush Administration's report states that since the pandemic could kill as many as two million Americans, massive taxpayer subsidies must be handed over to the pharmaceutical industry to develop a magic bullet vaccine. Meanwhile, according to Wall Street analysts, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has already pocketed million dollars off of his investments in the company Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the world's most popular influenza remedy. On the other hand, the United Nations global coordinator on Avian Influenza is considering a more holistic approach to dealing with a potential outbreak. The result is a series of reports, including one entitled, "The Pivotal Role for Natural Products in Countering an Avian Influenza Pandemic". The report, authored by four leading scientists and doctors in the fields of nutritional medicine and health, focuses on the key nutrients zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin A as primary supplemental medicines to strengthen peoples' immunes systems to fight off the flu. According to the report's lead author, "Following an extensive review of over 250 peer reviewed studies, we believe that the protocols developed here can help to buy time and fill the gap between the outbreak of a pandemic and the months or years required for development and manufacture of effective vaccines." Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_407.cfm
France's top judicial court has denied Monsanto's requests to grow test plots of genetically engineered corn in two locations. The court says the biotech corporation has not provided enough details about where these experimental field trials would be located. Monsanto has responded by saying that despite the court ruling, the corporation will continue testing genetically engineered crops in France. "We'll continue our experiments, but we might have to change a bit the way we ask for licenses in the future," said Yann Fichet, director of external relations for Monsanto France. Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_406.cfm
Over 1600 sheep apparently died this month in India after ingesting genetically engineered (GE) cotton. The massive deaths occurred after several days of grazing in fields where Monsanto's Bt and herbicide resistant spliced varieties of cotton were planted. Scientists from India's Centre for Sustainable Agriculture are calling on the government to launch a study into the impacts of GE cotton toxins. Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_387.cfm
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