Why Organic Farming Will Save the World
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Very simple. Anyone can see that chemical-based agriculture using toxic compounds to kill weeds and insects and energy-intensive chemical fertilizers to grow crops is just not sustainable.
The world’s soils are eroding and in terrible shape. The air is a dump for carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that are causing climate change. Chemically-contaminated food is causing disease, and if that isn’t bad enough, the very nature of our food is being manipulated by genetic engineers. The whole set-up is designed to separate us from our money as we do what we must to feed ourselves and our families, despite the negative consequences on the plants, animals, people, and ecosystems. Conventional agribusiness has produced a confluence of unforeseen damages to the earth.
Here’s why organic agriculture will save the world: it is sustainable. It’s modeled on the natural processes of life that tend toward the development of wholesome ecosystems that have reached sustainability. It recycles. It takes, but it gives back. Organic farming actually improves the soil as it grows crops and animals. Because it uses nature’s systems, it sequesters carbon, keeping it in the soil and preventing it from forming greenhouse gases. It cherishes life and encourages biodiversity (the key to good health). It enables a deep understanding of the value of nature’s principles. It produces a confluence of unforeseen benefits to the earth.
What stands between us—the community of people who want our world to be clean, wholesome, and natural—and the businesses who use conventional, toxic farming methods?
The answer is our government and its entanglement with corporate agribusiness. The core problem is that bought-and-sold legislators and bureaucrats and their corporate cronies are running a huge scam and wallowing in money because of it.
You want your food to be labeled if it contains GMOs? No—you don’t get to know that. And what’s that you say? How many chemicals are in the environment and the food supply? Well, approximately 60,000, but the EPA and FDA have only tested a few thousand for safety. And that’s because those bureaus aren’t there to protect you, they’re there to protect agribusiness.
Big Ag, Big Chem, Big Pharma, and Big Biotech are running con games and we are all the marks. This is because those businesses thrive on profit as their top priority. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit, unless you do it by creating a confluence of damages to the earth and its inhabitants. You who think you can’t afford organic food because it’s too expensive, agribusiness makes you pay to be poisoned.
Study after study shows that organic farming produces yields essentially equal or even better than the yields of crops grown conventionally. So the criticism that half the world will starve if we go organic has long proven to be nonsense.
Far from it. Converting farming to organics will feed the world both through benign corporate organic farms, but also through small farms and gardeners; that is, restoring traditional farming to indigenous peoples, skills that have been taken away by scams like The Green Revolution, Golden Rice, and Monsanto’s schemes to control the world’s food supply.
To make an organic agriculture possible, all we need in America are legislators, bureaucrats, and businesspeople who have the best interest of the earth and its inhabitants as a first priority instead of the bottom line. Denmark and Germany are converting to 100 percent organic farming. They have legislators who back this.
Don’t forget to vote.
WHAT’S IN YOUR TOOTHPASTE?
The Cornucopia Institute is a national food and farm policy watchdog group working to uphold the integrity of organic, local, and other forms of alternative agriculture. Here is an executive summary from the Institute regarding problems with some of the major toothpastes. If you want more details, including a chart of safe vs. suspect toothpastes, visit their website at www.cornucopia.org. They write:
Carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, irritants, and other toxic chemicals do not belong in cosmetics or personal care products. Yet, they may all be found in toothpastes and other oral health products, even in those marketed as “natural.” The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not systematically assess the safety of personal care products. Rather, the $71 billion cosmetics industry reviews, assesses, and evaluates its own products—self-regulating in the absence of strong or meaningful federal regulatory oversight.
The U.S. lags behind many other countries in cosmetic safety, allowing the use of hazardous chemicals banned in Canada, Japan, and Europe. Just 11 of more than 12,000 ingredients used in cosmetics are restricted for use in the U.S., while more than 1,300 chemicals have been prohibited in cosmetics sold throughout Europe.
Every day the average man uses five to seven personal care products, containing 85 unique ingredients. The average woman uses nine to 12 products daily, containing 168 unique ingredients, while the average teenage girl will use up to 17 products each day, containing more than 200 unique ingredients. But outdated, obsolete, and overall toothless regulations, as well as a glaring lack of public information, imply that millions of Americans are kept in the dark about the safety of personal care products used on our bodies and in our mouths.
The law governing cosmetics was passed in 1938 and, despite the development of a plethora of synthetic compounds commonly used in personal care items, has not been significantly amended since it was enacted. In fact, compared to its authority to oversee pharmaceuticals and food products, the FDA is virtually powerless when it comes to regulating cosmetics.
The FDA has no power to review products before they go on the market. Companies do not have to list all of the ingredients in their products, nor are they required to register their manufacturing facilities with the government or report “adverse events,” making it difficult for regulators to identify potential problems. Essentially, the cosmetics industry regulates itself.
It’s impossible for the average consumer to evaluate all the chemical ingredients in, and potentially harmful effects of, cosmetics and personal care products. The Cornucopia Institute’s research on toothpaste uncovered some interesting information:
■ When potentially toxic chemical ingredients are present in toothpaste and mouthwash, they are likely to pass directly and quickly into the bloodstream, even if the product is not swallowed. This is because the membrane lining of the mouth (oral mucosa) has an absorption efficiency of more than 90 percent, according to the Physician’s Desk Reference Handbook.
■ A label containing the word “natural” does not necessarily mean a toothpaste is free of potentially harmful ingredients.
■ Some prominent “natural” brands are manufactured by companies that primarily sell mass-marketed brands. For example, Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, the company that also makes Colgate toothpastes.
■ Toothpastes sold in Europe have different, safer formulations than the same products made by the same companies and sold in the U.S., to accommodate stricter EU cosmetics laws.
■ The American Dental Association is heavily subsidized by the cosmetic industry, creating a conflict of interest. Its seal does not guarantee the safety of toothpastes, or other oral products, or the quality of the ingredients in these products.
■ The drive to maximize profit margins focuses investments in advertising and packaging, rather than safe and high quality ingredients.
■ Many ingredients in toothpastes are synthetics derived from petroleum or from heavily processed and synthesized natural ingredients. In their final formulation, they may differ greatly from the natural parent compound (e.g., coconut oil) or may even become potentially toxic.
■ Toothpaste ingredient labels are often unintelligible, with difficult-to-pronounce ingredients that only a cosmetics chemist could decipher or understand.
■ Some toothpastes may contain contaminated ingredients. In addition, toxic compounds may be formed by the interaction of ingredients under certain conditions or may be released slowly over time.
■ The average American will use approximately 20 gallons of toothpaste over his or her lifetime.
■ Children are at greater risk of exposure, because they tend to ingest more toothpaste than adults; in addition, their exposure will be greater than adults’ in terms of amount of toothpaste used per body weight.
■ Toothpastes specifically targeted to children often contain artificial colors (food dyes), which have been linked to hyperactivity and related behavioral problems in children. Some such ingredients also pose a risk of cancer and allergic reactions.
When it comes to cosmetics, especially the personal care products we put in our mouths, it would be easy to assume that the companies selling them, and the governments regulating them, would ensure their safety. However, the cosmetic industry, aided by a lack of government oversight, has become quite similar to the processed junk food industry—using cheap and potentially toxic ingredients to manufacture questionable products that are marketed under faddish and misleading health claims. Several third-party certifications do exist that help assure the quality of toothpaste ingredients and the safety of certified products.
The report available on the Institute’s website explains how the cosmetics industry is regulated and highlights specific toothpaste ingredients to avoid. It discusses organic brands and provides consumers with recipes to make your own safe and effective toothpastes.
In addition, The Cornucopia Institute has created a web-based scorecard, designed to help consumers determine the safest toothpastes with the least objectionable ingredients.
VERMONT DAIRIES USE LOTS OF CHEMICALS
Te following commentary is by Will Allen and Michael Colby, who are co-founders, along with Kate Duesterberg, of Regeneration Vermont, a new nonprofit educational and advocacy organization that is working to halt the catastrophic consequences of Vermont’s adoption of degenerative, toxic, and climate-threatening agricultural techniques. The Vermont Digger posted their report. Here’s an exerpt:
“The great divide between the well-marketed image of Vermont dairy farming and its stark and toxic realities is becoming harder and harder to ignore. The marketing shows healthy cows grazing on lush pastures. But the reality is cows on concrete, being fed a diet of GMO-corn and the toxic residues from the hundreds of thousands of pounds of herbicides sprayed annually on the corn and hay fields.
“Instead of addressing the toxic legacy of the very non-organic dairying that dominates our agriculture, Vermont’s two giant diary corporations, Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s, and the state’s agricultural agency that acts more as their protector than regulator, continue to hide behind the myth and the marketing. It’s a head-in-the-sand approach that is bankrupting farmers, poisoning our rivers and lakes, accelerating climate change, and producing dairy products that may contain those same toxic residues that are so abundantly fed to the cows.
“Vermont can do better, much better. And it has to start with addressing the cold, hard facts. Thankfully, Vermont farmers are required to report their pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer usage every year to the state’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM). And while some in the agency and within the agricultural community still try to spin the numbers to keep the myths alive, the reality can’t be ignored: Vermont is farming with more and more toxic chemicals.
“From 1999 to 2012, according to AAFM data, Vermont’s dairy farmers applied more than 2,533,329 pounds of metolachlor, atrazine and simazine to their cornfields. All three of these chemicals are probable human carcinogens, birth defect progenitors, endocrine disruptors and persistent water polluters. So, at a time when numerous Lake Champlain beaches are being closed because of dairy farm pollution from phosphorus and nitrogen, these toxic chemicals are being used more aggressively, thus contributing to the threatening mix that dominates the northern part of the lake and many of our other waterways.”
MONSANTO BUYS UP HEIRLOOM SEED SUPPLIERS
Maddy Harland, writing in Permaculture magazine, reports that Monsanto is buying up heirloom seed companies and trademarks.
The NM Tree and Garden Center located in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, for instance, has discovered that Monsanto is buying seed companies and the trademarks for a number of heirloom seeds. This means that you may think you are supporting an heirloom seed company but in reality the company is owned by Monsanto.
The good news is that the seeds themselves are still non-GMO, heirloom, and open-pollinated so they can be saved at the end of the harvest and sown next season, and they will come true to type. But it raises the question, why would Monsanto buy up seed companies that sell seeds that can be saved and planted out next season? Isn’t Monsanto all about GMO patented seeds, suing farmers why try to save seed, and cornering the market on the world’s farm seed supply?
Could the answer be that pretty soon you won’t find those heirloom seeds and trademarks anywhere? Monsanto’s a company that doesn’t like competition.
Beyond GMO Labeling
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The following is from the Institute for Responsible Technology:
As you may know by now, Congress passed legislation (S.764) that wipes out Vermont’s excellent GMO labeling law and substitutes a fake national GMO labeling regime. President Obama signed the bill into law July 29th. This sham labeling bill excludes most processed foods from requiring a label; defines genetic engineering so narrowly, that most GMOs on the market don’t qualify, and gives the USDA two years to come up with additional criteria for labeling, which will likely contain even more loopholes.
For products that will require labeling, companies can avoid actually stating on the package that it contains GMOs. Rather, they can force consumers to go on a wild goose chase by calling a listed 800 number to find the answer, or using their smart phones—if they have one—to scan a QR code and then navigate a website.
And to make this law even more irrelevant, if companies decide to ignore the labeling requirements altogether, there is no enforcement or penalty.
Although this is clearly a defeat in our campaigns for getting mandatory labeling in the United States, we are still winning the bigger, more important effort to eliminate GMOs from the market altogether.
Labeling GMOs was never the end goal for us. It was a tactic. Labels make it easier for shoppers to make healthier non-GMO choices. When enough people avoid GMOs, food companies rush to eliminate them. Labeling can speed up that tipping point—but only if consumers are motivated to use labels to avoid GMOs. Therefore, if mandatory labels had been put into place, we would still be required to educate and motivate consumers.
The good news is that the tipping point is already underway based on the voluntary non-GMO labels being put on packages. Major food companies already realize that making non-GMO claims gives them a competitive edge. Why else would Nestles dedicate time during their extremely expensive TV commercials to brag that their coffee creamer is non-GMO? Why else would Dannon announce that their feed for dairy cows will be non-GMO within three years? And why else would Del Monte, Campbell’s, Hershey’s, Post, General Mills, Red Gold, Applegate, and so many others make similar non-GMO commitments? They are scrambling to get the non-GMO sales advantage before their competitors. The flood gates are opening. We are totally winning. Let that sink in.
This major shift in the marketplace has come about due to compelling, behavior-change messaging. And that’s IRT’s specialty. It involves accurately conveying the health dangers of GMOs in compelling ways, and exposing the lies, cover-ups, and outrageous behavior of the pro-GMO forces.
SUPERFOOD OF THE FUTURE: COCKROACH MILK?
An international team of scientists has just sequenced a protein crystal located in the midgut of cockroaches. The reason?
It’s more than four times as nutritious as cow’s milk and, the researchers think it could be the key to feeding our growing population in the future.
Although cockroaches don’t actually produce milk, Diploptera punctate, which is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young, has been shown to pump out a type of “milk” containing protein crystals to feed its babies.
The fact that an insect produces milk is pretty fascinating – but what fascinated researchers is the fact that a single one of these protein crystals contains more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent amount of buffalo milk (which is also higher in calories then dairy milk).
Clearly milking a cockroach isn’t the most feasible option, so an international team of scientists headed by researchers from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India decided to sequence the genes responsible for producing the milk protein crystals to see if they could somehow replicate them in the lab.
“The crystals are like a complete food–they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the team, in an interview with the Times of India.
Not only is the milk a dense source of calories and nutrients, it’s also time released. As the protein in the milk is digested, the crystal releases more protein at an equivalent rate to continue the digestion.
“It’s time-released food,” said Subramanian Ramaswamy, who led the project. “If you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released, and food that is complete, this is it.”
It’s important to point out that this dense protein source is definitely never going to be for those trying to lose weight, and probably isn’t even required for most western diets, where we are already eating too many calories per day.
But for those who struggle to get the amount of calories required per day, this could be a quick and easy way to get calories and nutrients.
“They’re very stable. They can be a fantastic protein supplement,” said Ramaswamy.
Now that the researchers have the sequence, they are hoping to get yeast to produce the crystal in much larger quantities–making it more efficient (and less gross) than extracting crystals from cockroach’s guts.
The research was published in IUCrJ, the journal of the International Union of Crystallography.
DO ORGANIC WINES TASTE BETTER?
W. Blake Gray, writing in Wine-Searcher, reports that California wines made from certified organic or biodynamic grapes taste better than wines made from conventionally farmed grapes, according to a major academic.
“To any people who are mocking organic or biodynamic wines, now we can say they are better and we can prove it,” Grgich Hills vice president of vineyards and production Ivo Jeramaz told Wine-Searcher.
To be exact, the study shows that ratings in three major publications-–Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast-–are four points higher on average for eco-certified wines compared to control group wines from the same regions and same vintages.
Four points on average is a huge difference: bigger than the standard deviation in two of the three publications. In less mathematical terms, it’s like saying the eco-certified wines were an entire grade higher.
So it will be interesting to see how the mainstream press and the public picks up on the study, which is titled: “Does Organic Wine Taste Better? An Analysis of Experts’ Ratings.”
“Consumers have still a negative view of organic wines,” Magali Delmas, one of three co-authors of the study, told Wine-Searcher. “The experts and the winemakers have a different opinion. It’s nice to be able to show that.”
The study analyzed a huge number of ratings of California wines: 74,000 total over the vintages between 1998 and 2009. Eco-certified wines were a tiny minority: just 1.1 percent of the total, because less than 2 percent of California’s vineyards are certified organic or biodynamic, according to the study.
Delmas, a professor of environmental economics at UCLA, said the publications did not want to cooperate, but their ratings were already published.
“If Wine Spectator had wanted to work with us, it would have helped,” Delmas said. “It was very, very time-consuming.”
Delmas and her co-authors were extremely thorough in investigating whether the reviewers at the publications liked eco-certified wines better, even counting the number of positive and negative words in each review. Eco-certified wines had more positive words and fewer negatives than conventional wines.
Six years ago, Delmas was one author of a study limited to Wine Spectator that determined that wines made from organically grown grapes got higher ratings and their prices were lower. Subsequent studies have shown that while consumers pay a premium for organically certified fruits and vegetables, they do not do so for wine.
A major reason is label confusion. “Organic wine,” in the US, must be made without added sulfites, and is thus susceptible to spoiling. Delmas did not consider “organic wines” as part of the eco-certified group for this year’s study, instead including only wines made from certified organically grown or biodynamically grown grapes that were not labeled as “organic wine.” But the study did include single-vineyard wines from certified organic or biodynamic vineyards that did not list “made from organically grown grapes” on the label.
Chappellet is a case in point for a winery that could use the designation on some of its wines, but chooses not to. Chappellet’s estate vineyard on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley is certified organic, but it buys grapes that are not for its non-estate wines.
“We’ve always felt that the grapes from organically grown vineyards were better,” winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus told Wine-Searcher. “We’ve really just done it for ourselves and the people who buy our wine. It’s been a belief that the Chappellets have that as stewards of the land, we should farm organically. We never really made a decision that it was something we needed to advertise. We do it for ourselves. We do it because we want to.”
None of the three magazines whose scores were surveyed can be called advocates of organic farming. And two of them, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, say they score their wines through blind tasting.
“I remember reading [Wine Advocate critic Robert] Parker and him saying: ‘I taste wine and I score. I don’t care how they farm,'” Jeramaz told Wine-Searcher. “If in a blind tasting, it’s confirmed, then people want to see more organic wine.”
In 1991, the TV show 60 Minutes did a segment on the so-called French paradox – that French people had lower rates of heart attacks than Americans – and concluded that drinking red wine was keeping French hearts healthy. Red wine sales in the US immediately rose. But that was a health issue, not one of taste.
Aron Weinkauf, winemaker at Spottswoode, which was one of the first Napa estate vineyards to be certified organic, told Wine-Searcher he doesn’t think the study will have much impact.
“There are plenty of non-organic 100-point wines,” Weinkauf said. “But a study like that is certainly great. I hope it does well for organics and biodynamics. Farming organically as long as we have, we believe it contributes to better quality of soil and better quality wine.”
GROWING FOOD ORGANICALLY SOLVES MANY PROBLEMS AT ONCE
A new report released by The Organic Center reviews almost 100 scientific studies demonstrating that the best choice consumers can make to combat antibiotic resistance and protect themselves from antibiotic-resistant bacteria is to choose organic food.
Antibiotic resistance has been described as one of the most pressing human health concerns today and contributes to thousands of deaths each year. While the use of antibiotics in conventional agricultural practices has been implicated as an important contributor to this growing crisis, research also demonstrates that livestock production without the use of antibiotics, such as in organic agriculture, is an important part of the solution.
This review paper takes an in-depth look at everything from mechanisms by which resistance develops in bacteria and the role that modern day agricultural practices play in exacerbating the problem, to how organic agriculture provides a simple and effective means to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to protect the health of consumers.
The Organic Center also hosted a webinar in late July updating donors on their projects, including a guest presentation from Dr. John Quinn of Furman University about his collaborations with The Center.
Dr. Quinn discussed his research showing increased biodiversity on organic farms and his work developing a quick, straight-forward method for farmers to calculate on-farm biodiversity through the Healthy Farm Index. He is currently working with The Center on a companion tool specifically designed to help organic growers increase their on-farm biodiversity based on the new National Organic Program guidance on natural resources and biodiversity conservation.
The Organic Center will also be participating in a study trip to Germany on organic food production and trade, organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest to deepen transatlantic exchange. Site visits will include the FiBL Research Institute of Organic Agriculture; Hessian Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection, Agriculture and Consumer Protection; IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
SOME BREAKING RESEARCH ON ORGANICS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS
A new study published in Biological Control has found that beneficial predators and parasitoids are more effective at controlling agricultural pests on organic farms than they are on conventional farms. The results demonstrated that organic farms host higher levels of beneficial insects, which can be an effective form of pest control.
A large group of leading scientific experts, medical experts, and children’s health advocates has joined forces in a call to action to reduce common chemical exposures shown to interfere with the brain development of fetuses and children.
Newly released results from long-term field studies conducted by the Swiss Research Institute FiBL suggest that organic farming in tropical regions can be as productive as conventional farming while providing greater economic benefit.
A recently published article in the scientific journal Nature Communications has found that contaminated pollen from wild plants near land cultivated for corn and soy production is a source of pesticide exposure throughout the entire season. Researchers found that agricultural pesticides as well as insecticides used for the control of mosquitoes and other pests contaminated wild flower pollen.