What is happening in YOUR organic world

January 23, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

Follow Us on Twitter
Find Us on Facebook

 

 

 

Largest Corporate Dairy, Biotech Firm and USDA Accused of Conspiring to Corrupt Rulemaking and Pollute Organics

 

Watchdog Requests Federal Investigation, Files Ethics Charges

 

View a full version of this release at http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/01/largest-corpor…llute-organics/

WASHINGTON, DC:  The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry research and watchdog organization, announced it has formally requested the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate corruption at its National Organic Program resulting in the use of  illegal synthetics in organic food and then allowing powerful corporations to “game the system” for approval “after the fact.”

 

The controversy surrounds products developed by Martek Biosciences Corporation.  Martek, part of a $12 billion Dutch-based conglomerate, that recently petitioned for approval of its genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food.  These supplements, commonly marketed as DHA and ARA, are being added to milk, infant formula and other organic foods by such companies as Dean Foods (Horizon), Abbott Laboratories (Similac) and Nurture, Inc. (Happy Baby).

 

After a formal legal complaint by Cornucopia, and an investigative story by the Washington Post, the USDA announced in April 2010 that it had “inappropriately” allowed Martek oils to be included in organic foods. 

 

But instead of immediately ordering the removal of these unapproved synthetics from organic food, the Obama/Vilsack administration at the USDA delayed enforcement by 18 months.

 

In December, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the expert panel set up by Congress to advise the USDA Secretary on organic matters, narrowly approved the Martek petitions for their patented versions of DHA and ARA.  “All hell broke loose at the meeting in Savannah as the controversy grew extremely heated,” Cornucopia Codirector Mark Kastel noted.

 

Although Martek told the board that they would discontinue the use of the controversial neurotoxic solvent n-hexane for DHA/ARA processing, they did not disclose what other synthetic solvents would be substituted.  Federal organic standards prohibit the use of all synthetic/petrochemical solvents, including isopropyl alcohol, which is currently used to extract DHA algal oil for use in products such as Horizon milk.

 

Martek brought in William “Jay” Friedman, with the powerful Washington law firm of Covington and Burling, to lead their approval process.  Friedman appeared to deliberately mislead NOSB members into believing that the powdered form of Martek’s DHA oil was not covered in the petition: “That’s not the petitioned material,” he said.

 

“This apparent subterfuge led to the NOSB’s failure to review other aspects of these materials which would have disqualified them, under law, for inclusion in organic food,” said Cornucopia’s Kastel. 

 

The only scientists who testified at the meeting on the DHA issue were all on Martek’s payroll.  They focused on research showing benefits of consuming naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish and breast milk), while ignoring the preponderance of published peer-reviewed research that shows that these health benefits are not gained from consuming Martek’s novel, manufactured DHA.

 

Dean Foods, Martek’s largest customer, brought in a well-known web-pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene, who has acted as a public relations agent endorsing Horizon brand organic milk with the added Martek DHA oils.

 

Although Dr. Greene represented himself as a “consultant,” simply answering questions for Dean Foods, and stated he had previously worked for two other organic companies, he failed to disclose his multiple conflicts of interest in commenting on the benefits of Martek’s manufactured DHA supplements. 

 

Cornucopia’s complaint to the OIG also included evidence documenting that three corporate-backed members of the NOSB, who voted in favor of this petition, had undeclared conflicts of interest. 

 

The Cornucopia Institute has sent a formal briefing paper on these matters to all members of the National Organic Standards Board asking them to reopen their deliberations on Martek nutritional oils. 

 

-30-

 

 

MORE:

Stakeholders in the organic community who would like to send an formal message to the National Organic Standards Board, expressing their support for reevaluating the Martek materials, can do so by accessing an action alert distributed by The Cornucopia Institute.

Although Dr. Greene represented himself as a “consultant,” simply answering questions for Dean Foods, and stated he had previously worked for two other organic companies, but failed to disclose his multiple conflicts of interest in commenting on the benefits of Martek’s manufactured DHA supplements.

Greene has also accepted compensation from Mead Johnson, the largest conventional infant formula manufacturer, to promote Martek’s DHA oil in their products, and even has his own product line of nutritional supplements that include Martek DHA, marketed by Twinlabs with his name and photograph on the product package.

“It is unconscionable that a physician, who accepted money from a big drug company to promote synthetic DHA—which many believes promotes the use of baby formula at the expense of the nutrients in breast feeding—failed to disclose such a gross conflict of interest when he testified before the governmental body on certified ‘organic’ standards,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch, which helps expose corporate PR tactics.

Greene’s role on behalf of Dean Foods and Martek was to directly dispute the preponderance of scientific literature, including two meta-analyses, that discredits Martek’s claims that their supplements promote cognitive development in infants and children.

The Organic Consumers Association, a Minnesota-based organization, is calling on the USDA to immediately remove the powdered form of Martek’s oils from all organic products, including infant formula and baby cereals. OCA believes that Martek’s lobbyist, Friedman, realized that the powdered form would never be approved by the NOSB, and that he, through his oral testimony, effectively changed the petition to exclude the powdered DHA oil.

“Let me play devil’s advocate here. If Friedman wasn’t being dishonest, it means that the powdered form was not recommended for approval by the NOSB and thus should be immediately removed from baby food and infant formula,” says Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Consumers wishing to reap the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids can find these naturally occurring nutrients in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, fish, flax, walnuts, milk and meat from grass-fed animals, and pastured eggs.

Research suggests that increasing the amount of omega-3s in the diet by supplements, such as fish oil, will not confer health benefits unless the consumption of omega-6-rich foods, especially corn and corn-based foods such as grain-fed meat and milk, is simultaneously decreased.

An online guide to avoiding foods with Martek’s genetically mutated DHA oils will be available soon on the Cornucopia website: www.cornucopia.org. A list of organic food brands that currently contain Martek DHA algal oil is already available.

After this controversy became prominent in the media, a number of companies that included Martek’s DHA in organic foods in the past have removed these controversial ingredients. These brands include ZenSoy organic soymilk, Plum Organics baby foods, and NuGo organic nutrition bars.

 

What are you gonna do?

Planing time on the farm,Forward contracts for grains are being offered , decisions on your acres in your rotation are being due to be made pretty soon. Good marketing now insures a profit later.  What are the factors that swing acres to one crop or another.? 

The increased prices for all organic grains in the past year will drive new organic acres up we believe.  Given the prices are you going to add new acres to your organic production?  Forward contracts are a key to insure prices and we have several ways to go with corn, soybeans and small grains. Give a call to review those options your considering for your grains in 2012.

Agriculture pests ranked as the worst…..

WORLD’S WORST PLANT PESTS
    The choice is nearly impossible; that was the response from UK-based CABI when
asked by BBC News to compile a list of the worst plant pests threatening crops globally.
CABI’s chief scientist, M. Cock, pointed to a host of variable factors involved, thus
making selection an all but arbitrary exercise.

Nevertheless, CABI–a well known agri-environment research organization–made
a valiant effort that Dr. Cock labeled as being “by no means definitive therefore, nor a
serious attempt to prioritize the threats posed by different agricultural pests.” Most of
CABI’s far ranging choices follow.

Schistocerca gregaria (desert locust) was picked as the worst historical pest having been
in evidence for over 2,000 years, and with periodic capability for devastating a variety of
crops. Another candidate for historically worst pest was the image staring back from the
mirror, Homo sapiens, for introducing pest organisms to new habitats, either accidentally
or purposefully in association with some misguided venture.

In the category of hardest pest to control CABI nominated Microcyclus ulei (South
American rubber blight), a pathogen that has resisted control attempts for over a century.
Another prime offender mentioned
as defying control is Fusarium xylarioides (coffee wilt
disease).
 

Based on the amount of pesticide once used to control it and the expense of develop-
ing transgenic strains, the label of most expensive pest to control was awarded to
Dia-
brotica virgifera virgifera
(western corn rootworm) even as scientists are observing first
indications that resistance to modern genetically engineered plants is breaking down.

Darkly, the pest of greatest human impact tag was attached to Phytophthora infestans
(potato blight) for several reasons, primarily its causative role in the Irish potato famine
during  the mid-1800s. The fungus that devastated coffee production in SRI LANKA in
the 19th century, Hemilaea vastatrix (coffee leaf rust)
also had significant human impact
being, by some accounts, a prime reason why the UK became a huge consumer of tea.

CABI pointed to Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Colorado potato beetle) as earning the
mantel of most resilient pest for developing resistance to over 50 pesticidal compounds,
noting that “this beetle therefore has effectively beaten the chemists.” The evil-doer list
also includes the class of most imminent threat handed to Puccinia graminis tritici (wheat
stem rust) strain Ug99 discovered in 1998 and now spreading across Africa, Asia, and
the Middle East.

CABI also cites some other culprits. The full listing, including supporting rational,
can be read at http://tinyurl/co42s3n.  -> M. Cock, CABI, Bakeham Lane, Egham,
Surrey, TW20 9TY, UK.  M.Cock@cabi.org.
     –excerpted, with thanks, from BBC News, and from CABI information.       [#]

GMO be careful, be very careful!!!

GMO Dangers

gm dangers  What are you going to do with your diet, change or eat what corporate farms provides?

Genetically modified foods…
Are they safe?

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) doesn’t think so. The Academy reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored. Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have their GM proteins produced continuously inside us.

Events For You to Consider

Here are some current activities to consider. 

Women, Food and Agriculture Network Annual Conference

January 20-21. Des Moines, Iowa.  The theme is “Women Changing the Landscape,” and the conference features keynote speaker Debra Eschmeyer, organic farmer and the co-founder and program director of FoodCorps. The conference also includes workshops and panels with information on everything from farm startups to community organizing, plenty of networking time, and a local foods lunch. Link: http://bit.ly/uLorU2

 

Introduction to On-Farm Plant Breeding Workshop

Online. January 20. 11:00 AM CST.  An increasing number of farmers are starting to breed new varieties and reselect older varieties for their farms. John Navazio, Organic Seed
Alliance and Washington State University, will introduce the steps needed to create new crop varieties on your farm with little or no hand-pollination or specialized tools. Advance registration is required. More information and registration link, http://www.extension.org/pages/61925/organic-seed-growers-conference:-selected-live-broadcasts

Organic Wheat Breeding Workshop and Breeding Peas, Sweet Corn, Broccoli, Winter Squash and Carrots

Online. January 20.  3:30 PM CST  This webinar is two 90-minute sessions with a 30-minute break between sessions. Organic Wheat Breeding Workshop: With the explosion of local organic grains, mills and bakeries, organic farmers are looking for wheat varieties that thrive in their systems. This workshop will take you through the process of creating your own wheat variety and describe some of the current organic wheat breeding projects. Presenters: Stephen Jones, Washington State University; Richard Little, University of
Nebraska-Lincoln; Dean Spaner, University of Alberta.  Learn about the techniques the panelists are using to breed new organically adapted varieties of peas, sweet corn, broccoli, squash and carrots. Presenters: Jim Myers, Oregon State University; Michael Mazourek, Cornell University; William Tracy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance and Washington State University.  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/794679424

Organic Corn Breeding Workshop

Online. January 21. 11:00 AM CST.  King corn is grown on more acres than any other crop. This workshop will describe the process of breeding corn for organic agriculture and some of the current organic corn breeding projects. Presenters: Frank Kutka, NPSAS Farm Breeding Club; William Tracy, University of Wisconsin-Madison. https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/113380464

Breeding for Nutrition Workshop and Breeding for Microbial Interaction Workshop

Online. January 21.  3:30 PM EST.  This webinar is two 90-minute sessions with a 30-minute break between sessions.  Breeding for Nutrition: Organic eaters want nutritious food, but some modern breeding programs may be increasing yields at the cost of nutrition. Learn about breeding programs working with classical breeding methods (non-GMO) to breed nutritionally superior crops. Breeding for Microbial Interaction: Many beneficial soil microorganisms provide plants with access to nutrients, improve water uptake and even have the potential to suppress certain soil borne diseases. The ability to breed plants to optimize their interaction with the soil microbiology holds great potential to enhance organic farming systems. Hear about the latest studies in this important and expanding field. https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/325292192

Soil Health Workshop

January 18. Bismarck, North Dakota. Burleigh County Soil Conservation District is offering this workshop, with presentations on no-tillage, mob grazing, and cropping systems for
soil health. Link: http://www.bcscd.com/?id=37&event_id=6

Planning for Profit II: Online Whole Farm Planning Course

January 17 – March 13. Online. Rural Roots is offering an advanced, 9-week online course with live webinars on Tuesday evenings, designed to take your financial & marketing plans to the next level of profitability. Registration is limited. Link: http://www.nofamass.org/conferences/winter/index.php

 

Kansas Graziers Association Conference

January 21. Emporia, Kansas. The Kansas Graziers Association (KGA) and the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition are co-sponsoring an all day conference, “Managing Drought
Risk on the Ranch,” presented by the National Drought Mitigation Center. The workshop will address both the natural resource concerns and the financial and business planning end of drought. Link: http://www.kansasruralcenter.org/news.html#111220

Spring 2012 Water Seminar Series

Surface and Groundwater Modeling Subseries. Wednesday, January 18th. 3:30 pm-4:30 pm. Richard Palmer of the University of Massachusetts Amherst will present on the topic “Using Hydrologic Models to Estimate the Impact of Climate Change on River Flows, Water Supply Reliability and Ecosystem Responses.” This seminar is co-sponsored by the School of Natural Resources. The complete schedule of seminars may be found at http://watercenter.unl.edu/downloads/2012_SpringSeminarPoster.pdf.

Changing the Way We Eat

January 21. New York, New York and webcast live. This one-day TEDx event will explore the food system — from what happened, to where we are, to what we are doing to shift to a more sustainable way of eating and farming.  The goal of “Changing the Way We Eat” is to create new synergies, connections and collaborations across disciplines, to unite different areas of the food movement and to introduce the TEDx audience to the exciting and innovative work being done in this field. The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming is the lead sponsor for TEDxManhattan. The event will be webcast live, and individuals, groups, and organizations are encouraged to host viewing parties. Link: http://www.tedxmanhattan.org/

Olson Seminar – “Buffalo Bill’s Great Plains, 1846-1879” 

Wednesday, January 18th. 3:30 pm. “Buffalo Bill’s Great Plains, 1846-1879.” Speaker: Douglas Seefeldt, Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, Faculty Fellow, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, UNL. Sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies. Free and open to the public. Website: http://www.unl.edu/plains

 

2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference

January 19-21, 2012. Port Townsend, WA. How we steward our seed determines the  quality and integrity of our food. Developing organic seed systems is therefore  paramount to the ongoing growth and success of organic agriculture. Gather with  others in the organic community for the nation’s largest conference focused solely on organic seed to
learn from experts in the fields of organic  plant breeding, organic seed production, marketing and distribution, and  policy. The agenda suits a range of experience levels and interests. Register  and find more information at the Organic Seed Alliance Website by clicking here. Download the registration packet by clicking here. http://www.seedalliance.org/


Upcoming

Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Winter Conference

January 26-27. Ramkota Hotel | Aberdeen, SD. Featuring keynote speakers Jerry Brunetti, Klaas Martens and Gearld Fry. Additional workshops on poultry,  mulch gardening, estate   planning, winter greenhouse, weed control, cover crops, local foods,   canning and preserving, plus youth activities & more! New this year: pre-conference workshops focusing on Human Health, Soil Health and Animal Health. Visit theirwebsite for more information and to register. http://www.npsas.org/news-events/winter-conference.html

Missouri Organic Association – Regional Organic Conference 

February 2-5. Union Station Marriott. St. Louis, MO. The lineup of  speakers include Jeff Moyer, farm manager of Rodale  Institute; Jeffrey Smith, author of “Seeds of Deception”; Jim Long, author of  23 books on urban edible landscapes; Jordon Rubin, founder of Garden of Life  and Beyond Organic; and a full day of “Iron Chef” competition featuring some of  the best of St. Louis chefs.  Eight concurrent hands-on workshops will be presented on such topics as aquaponic  production of tilapia and shrimp by KY State Universities experts; tree  grafting classes by Stark Bros; best of bramble cultivers for Midwest climates;  cheese-making; showing of the documentary, “What’s Organic about Organic.” Visit their website for more information and how to register. Cost: $195 http://www.missouriorganic.org/

Join the sustainable agriculture conversation, http://listserv.unl.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=nsas

Mark your calendar for the upcoming NSAS Conference!

 

Healthy Farms Conference

Friday, Feb. 10th & Saturday, Feb. 11th, 2012

www.nebsusag.org/conference.shtml

~The mission of NSAS is to promote agriculture & food systems that build healthy land, people, communities & quality of life, for present & future generations!