Category Archives: Organics

Backyard Chickens Must Be Registered In North Carolina “For Your Own Safety”

Warsaw-backyard-chickens

There isn’t much that feels more self-reliant than going out to your backyard hen house to get fresh eggs for breakfast.  There’s no need for USDA approval, you know what your hens have been eating, and you don’t have to pay a premium price and hope that the farm who raised the chickens that laid those grocery store eggs actually treated the hens humanely.  Bonus points if the bacon you fry up comes from a local farm, and bonus BONUS points if you raised that little piggie yourself. Raising backyard chickens is incredibly rewarding.

It’s pure freedom, this control over your own food.

Of course, until you have to register your chickens. Then, as food freedom activist Joel Salatin says, “Everything I want to do is illegal.”

With so many people moving towards self-reliance, you had to know it was only a matter of time before the government got involved.

And now they have. But don’t worry, it’s all for your own good.

In North Carolina, the state’s Department of Agriculture wants to protect you against the avian flu. So regardless of the number of chickens you have, you must register for a state farm ID number as of August 1, 2015. Surprisingly, this if free. Not surprisingly, this is mandatory.

Up until the recent avian flu fear, farm registration was voluntary. Now, even families with two or three hens in a nifty little moveable chicken tractor in the backyard must register.

According to State Veterinarian (who knew there was a State Veterinarian?) Doug Meckes, this is vital. “In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist. We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.”

Chicken owners must fill out a FORM LIKE THIS and declare all of their animals. According to the state’s website, this won’t be used for any other purpose than health tracking. “Information gathered through registration will be used solely for animal health purposes. This critical data will provide animal health officials with necessary contact information in case of an animal health concern and help identify animals and premises that may have been affected.”

Of course, I figure once you register your chickens, they’re no longer really your chickens. The state is just letting you use them. Think back to Michigan, a couple of years ago, when a farmer was forced to destroy his heritage pigs because the state said so. Who can forget the shepherd in Canada whose beloved sheep were thought to be a threat and summarily destroyed? Personally, I’d prefer that my chickens remain happy little libertarian chickens, footloose, fancy free-ranging, and unfettered by a license.

Given the history of any type of registration (cough *guns* cough), is it any stretch of the imagination whatsoever to think your backyard chickens or your small homestead will not become vulnerable to some kind of future “public safety” mandate? Don’t you think they could be subject to seizure or execution based on the whims of the state? And what do you think will happen to families who don’t register their chickens? Do you really honestly feel safer with the state knowing your business? Am I going to have to write an article about stealth chicken keeping to aid and abet wannabe backyard chicken bootleggers?

While this is presented to the public as a way to keep everyone healthy, don’t be fooled. It’s “game on” in the war against self-reliance.


Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor who lives in a small village in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States. She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy writes about healthy prepping, homesteading adventures, and the pursuit of liberty and food freedom. Daisy is a co-founder of the website Nutritional Anarchy, which focuses on resistance through food self-sufficiency. Daisy’s articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]

Rodale: 30 years Of Comparative Data Reveal Organic Farm Yields Match Conventional

organic farm

(Permaculture magazine) Is organic farming more resilient, higher yielding, more energy efficient and more profitable? The Rodale Institute’s latest report of a 30 year trial says it is. Read the full report free here.

The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.

After a 30 year side-by-side trial, the Rodale report shows:

Organic yields match conventional yields.
Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

Although the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial is America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic versus conventional farming, a number of universities have established long-term trials over the years. Between them all, they know that organic agriculture is more profitable, builds more soil fertility over time, and can yield just as much as conventional systems.

“As we face uncertain and extreme weather patterns, growing scarcity and expense of oil, lack of water, and a growing population, we will require farming systems that can adapt, withstand or even mitigate these problems while producing healthy, nourishing food. After more than 30 years of side-by-side research in our Farming Systems Trial (FST), Rodale Institute has demonstrated that organic farming is better equipped to feed us now and well into the ever changing future.”

You can read the full Farming Systems Trial Report free HERE.

Is Your Grass-Fed Beef For Real? Here’s How To Tell And Why It Matters

hamburgers

By: Civil Eats |

When you buy a pound of hamburger in the grocery store, you’re likely to be bombarded by an incredible assortment of labels. With all-natural, grass-fed, free-range, pastured, sustainably sourced, and certified organic options to choose from, it’s not easy to parse which beef is actually the best.

In recent years, demand for grass-fed beef has grown rapidly, thanks to the popularity of high-protein diets and growing consumer awareness about the overuse of antibiotics on farms and other related concerns. Grass-fed beef is also seen as nutritionally superior to its corn-fed counterparts, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids that cows ingest when they graze on clover and other grasses. Grass-fed burger chains are popping up all over the country, and even Carl’s Jr. began offering a grass-fed burger earlier this year.

But what exactly do we mean when we say “grass-fed”? And is all grass-fed beef the same?

It’s All in the Finishing

“All cattle are grass-fed at one time in their life, until most end up in a feedlot where they’re finished on grain,” says Texas rancher Gerry Shudde. Indeed, most cows spend at least six months eating grass, before they are “finished,” or fattened up, with grain. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association puts that number at 12 months, but most grain-finished beef cows don’t live beyond 18 months.

According to rancher and the author of Defending Beef Nicolette Hahn Niman, the real number likely falls somewhere in the middle. “On average, the cattle in the U.S. that is going through feedlots is slaughtered at 14-16 months,” she says. “They do grow fatter and faster if they’re being fed grain, so they’re going into feedlots at younger ages to shorten that time as much as possible.” In a feedlot environment, grain causes cows to put on about one pound for every six pounds of feed they eat. In contrast, grass-fed cows are slaughtered anywhere between 18-36 months.

“When you keep cattle on grass their whole lives, and truly have them forage for a diet that their bodies have evolved to eat, you allow them to grow at a slower pace,” says Niman. Not surprisingly, caring for the animal for so long can be expensive for ranchers and consumers.

Many informed eaters will tell you that this slower process results in a signature flavor and distinct leanness that sets it apart from its corn-fed counterpart, but the fact is that beef producers can label their product “grass-fed,” even if the animal is fed grain over the course of its lifetime. Unlike the lengthy auditing process involved in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic certification, the use of “grass-fed” is only regulated under the agency’s “marketing claim standards.

According to these standards, grass-fed cows are supposed to be given continuous access to rangeland, and they cannot be fed grains or grain by-products. In the event of drought or other “adverse weather conditions,” farmers are allowed to bend these rules if the animal’s wellness is in jeopardy, but they must maintain meticulous records. Unfortunately, these regulations are, for the most part, a paper tiger.

Missing Oversight

Marilyn Noble of the American Grassfed Association argues that beef producers have little incentive to stick with those rules. “It’s a big issue, and there is a lot of misunderstanding. The Agricultural Marketing Service developed the grass-fed standard, but the Food Safety and Inspection Service actually enforces it,” says Noble. “The two organizations, even though they’re both part of the USDA, don’t communicate especially well. You see a lot of beef labeled as ‘grass-fed,’ but whether or not it actually meets that standard is questionable.”

Noble’s skepticism is rooted in the fact that, for the most part, the USDA allows producers to determine whether or not their beef meets the grass-fed beef marketing claim standard. Noble says farms “self-certify” their own beef, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service generally goes along with their claim. The ubiquitous “naturally raised” label on meat has no enforceable meaning either, and further muddles a consumer’s ability to find beef that has been exclusively raised on pasture.

The American Grassfed Association, established in 2003, has far more stringent standards for its own label than the USDA, and hires third-party auditors to inspect the farms of its 100-plus certified producers across the country each year.

Farmers’ markets are also often full of vendors offering grass-fed beef from their own pastures. And the rising popularity of meat CSAs and whole animal buying clubs is an indication of how dramatically this trend has grown in recent years. With these options, consumers can talk directly to farmers to find out how their beef was raised. Many of these producers have begun using the term “pasture raised,” another unregulated labeling term that is popular among ranchers.

Even Whole Foods has adopted some of this farm-to-market language in its meat sourcing standards. For example, “pasture-centered” farms score a 4 out of 5 on the grocer’s Animal Welfare Rating scale (owned by Global Animal Partnership). In reality, Niman says, these animals may not be doing much of the foraging that gives grass-fed beef its nutritional benefits.

“[Whole Foods] has been encouraging this segment of beef in the marketplace where animals are roaming on a small area with vegetative cover,” says  Niman. “But they’re being provided feed, and not actually getting most of their nutrition from foraging. It’s almost like a feedlot.”

At BN Ranch, which Nicolette operates with her husband, Bill Niman, “the godfather of sustainable meat” and founder of Niman Ranch, cattle is given more time to slowly develop fat over a period of more than two years. For the Nimans, good “eating quality” in the beef is paramount. But, Nicolette says, that’s not always the case on farms where people are “doing it for philosophical reasons. They believe that grazing is ecologically superior, and that it is the right way to raise cattle. The things that are motivating them are not eating quality.”

As a result, grass-fed beef’s lean flavor is often seen as inferior. Some chefs, particularly in fine-dining steakhouses, still resist serving grass-fed beef in favor of corn-fed, USDA prime beef, because of its fat content.

Worth the Wait

Michael Sohocki, chef of Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio, Texas, chooses grass-fed beef over the cheaper, richer, corn-fed cuts because he firmly believes that the process is worth the extra time and money. And his discerning diners come to his restaurant because they know the meat has been properly sourced. “When you eat stockyard beef, all of that beef is the same,” says Sohocki. “It’s done that way to guarantee its consistency. That’s what McDonald’s specializes in.”

Sohocki calls grass-fed beef “the only trustworthy product left in this world.” He sources it from nearby Shudde Ranch, where Jeanne and Gerry Shudde make a point of raising a specialized cross-breed of species suited to naturally develop fat on pasture.

“Our [cows] are on grass when they’re with their mother. And when separated, they stay on the grass,” says Gerry Shudde.

The Shuddes decided to go grass-fed by chance after acquiring a herd of Longhorn cattle that they planned to cross-breed with their own. The offspring did not fare well, but the Shuddes ultimately decided to keep the longhorn cows. When they butchered a six-year-old cow, which had been raised on grass for much longer than usual, Jeanne says, “It was really tender. We thought ‘gosh, this tastes better than what we get in the grocery store.’”

From there, the Shuddes developed their own, new breed of grass-fed cattle. They were already raising cows without antibiotics or hormones, and their farm eventually evolved into a completely grass-fed operation by 2002. Still, they had to find the right cow to produce the quality of beef that they desired. “Most of the animals that you find today have been genetically selected to do well in a feedlot environment,” says Jeanne. “If you take them and put them on grass and think they will [taste good], I’d say maybe, maybe not. But if you take an animal that is genetically survival-oriented, it will become well-marbled on grass.”

Their own cows are now a cross between that original herd of Longhorn cattle and a heritage Devon bull. “Our belief is that if they eat what they evolved to eat, and live in the way that they have evolved to, the nutrition for the animal’s survival will be there,” says Jeanne. “If the nutrition is there, humans will get that nutrition when we eat the meat.”

– See more at: http://civileats.com/2015/07/01/is-your-grass-fed-beef-for-real-heres-how-to-tell-and-why-it-matters/#sthash.xob3tDMw.dpuf

The Sweet Truth: Why Buy Organic Maple Syrup?

maple syrup
By: Jérôme Rigot, PhD | Cornucopia

Certified Organic Production Surpasses Conventional on Several Scores.

Many people may wonder why a seemingly natural product such as maple syrup would need to be certified organic.

Chuck Bolstad gathers sap from  a maple stand near Viroqua,  Wisconsin. Over 10 years ago,  Chuck and his wife, Karen, were  among the founding members of  a maple syrup co-op, the  predecessor of the certified  organic Maple Valley Cooperative. Photo by Karen Bolstad

Chuck Bolstad gathers sap from
a maple stand near Viroqua,
Wisconsin. Over 10 years ago,
Chuck and his wife, Karen, were
among the founding members of
a maple syrup co-op, the
predecessor of the certified
organic Maple Valley Cooperative.
Photo by Karen Bolstad

However, the reality is that there are significant differences between conventional and certified organic maple syrup production.

One key difference is that the maple stand (or sugar bush) must be managed for long-term health and sustainability. Under the organic standards, good forestry practices are required to ensure a healthy and diverse stand composed of mixed young and mature maples species with at least 15% of different tree species.

Organic producers are expected to follow practices that will minimize impacts to the forest and the trees. Tubing and pipelines that carry the sap to the sugarhouse must be secured so as to not damage trees. Nails and other hardware inserted into trees to hold lines are prohibited, and paint (a synthetic substance) cannot be used to mark trees. The chemicals used to clean or disinfect the lines must follow organic regulations avoiding toxic products.

Tapping standards protect tree health by preventing over-tapping, and state regulations often differ from organic regulations. (Some states regulate domestic maple syrup production.) States may allow tapping trees with smaller diameters than required by organic regulations, and the number of taps allowed per tree can be significantly different. It must be noted that a tree with a smaller diameter is a younger tree that will be more stressed by the tapping than a more mature tree.

Small taps (5/16”) are used in organic production while taps up to 7/16” in diameter may be allowed by state regulations in conventional maple syrup production. A larger bore is likely to generate more damage to the trees and holes that will heal much more slowly.

Furthermore, no synthetic chemicals can be applied in the sugar bush. Conventional producers often use herbicides or other synthetic pesticides to control unwanted plants or insects and may also apply synthetic fertilizers.

Lead is a big concern. Old galvanized containers that were used to collect sap directly from trees or the galvanized tanks used to store the sap would leach significant amount of lead into the sap. In organic production, all tanks are stainless or food grade plastic and evaporator pans are stainless steel. The drums used to pack the finished syrup are stainless or food grade plastic; if galvanized, they must be inside-coated with epoxy and regularly inspected for flaking of the epoxy paint, in which case the drums are discarded.

The sugarhouse must be clean; all equipment, such as the reverse osmosis unit, the filter press, holding tanks, and the evaporator pans, must be in good condition and thoroughly cleaned every day throughout the season. Only certain cleaning chemicals for the pans and the reverse osmosis unit are permitted in organic production, and the rinsing must be extensive as noted in the required protocols.

During the sap boiling process, conventional syrup producers often add synthetic defoaming agents that contain food additives such as mono- and di-glycerides as well as polyethylene glycol. Organic producers must use certified organic vegetable oils or organic butter. Remember that the sap is greatly concentrated (approximately 40 gallons of sap creates one gallon of maple syrup) so anything added, or any contaminants, will be significantly concentrated as well.

The organic inspector checks that all organic standards are being followed and the records (required in organic production) are up-to-date during an annual inspection of both the sugar bush and the sugarhouse.

In summary, certified organic maple syrup is healthier for you, the maple trees, and the environment.

American-Raised Meat? You May Not Know For Long

meat labels

It took years to get country-of-origin labels, so you know where your meat comes from. But just after these labels began appearing in your grocery store, they could be gone for good simply because other countries don’t like them!

The House just voted to kill the labels, and the Senate vote is our last chance to save them. Tell your Senators to take a stand for your right to know, and don’t let other countries push us around!

take action

Whole Foods Markets: Throwing Organic Farmers Under The Bus?

whole foods market
By: Cornucopia Institute |

Veteran Growers Shaken Down to Fund Grocer’s Marketing Program

Incensed and insulted, five of the most respected and influential, veteran Certified Organic farmers in the nation have sent the CEO of Whole Foods Market a letter calling the company’s new “Responsibly Grown” produce marketing scheme “onerous and expensive” and stating that it devalues the Certified Organic label.

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The signatories come from California and Pennsylvania. They, along with many other growers around the country who felt unable to speak on the record for fear of risking their livelihoods as Whole Foods suppliers, express concern that the giant retailer is setting aside decades of partnership with farmers in building the organic movement to pursue an ill-advised, self-serving marketing program.

Their letter was addressed to the corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, John Mackey.

Whole Foods’ growth, with annual sales approaching $15 billion, has run into strong headwinds in the maturing marketplace for organic food. Same-store sales are flat and other retailers are gaining market share from a company that has long had a reputation for being top-quality, but expensive, earning the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” The iconic natural foods grocer has more than 400 stores.

One of the signatories, Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, located in Madera, California, is a longtime Whole Foods supplier. “Intending to create a value-added image for the conventional produce on their shelves, Whole Foods is undermining the work my family and I have done, along with so many others in the organic farming movement, to create a Certified Organic ‘gold standard’ in terms of safe food production,” Willey said.

While devising a new labeling program that identifies fruits and vegetables as “Good,” “Better,” and “Best,” Whole Foods is asking the growers to pay for participating in the retailer’s verification program.

Another signatory to the letter, Jim Crawford, founder of New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pennsylvania, said numerous growers reported that their cost to comply with Whole Foods’ new program ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. “That is not an inconsequential sum for medium-sized, established organic growers like myself. But this cost, and the added labor to administer the program, could be impossible for some smaller and new-entry farmers to absorb,” stated Crawford.

“I call this marketing model ‘Robin Hood in reverse’,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Although their market capitalization has taken quite a hit recently, at over $14 billion Whole Foods remains one of the wealthiest grocers in the United States. In an effort to enhance their image, they are asking modestly scaled family farmers to pick up the tab for a program whose benefits will almost exclusively accrue to the corporation,” Kastel stated.

One of the most objectionable elements of the “Responsibly Grown” program, for farmers, is the company’s alleged attempt to devalue the importance of the Certified Organic label in terms of customer perception. Under the Whole Foods program, conventionally grown produce, treated with toxic agrochemicals, can be rated higher than Certified Organic produce, which is grown under strict, legally enforced compliance overseen by the USDA.

An example of this grievance is clearly illustrated in photos taken this spring at Whole Foods stores in California. The company was selling conventionally grown asparagus, imported from Mexico, at $4.99 per pound with signage identifying it as “Best.” 

asparagus-1

Simultaneously, the grocer was offering locally grown, Certified Organic asparagus for $7.99 per pound, which only garnered the stores’ lowest rating, “Good.”

asparagus-2

“Why would a customer pay three dollars more per pound for the Certified Organic asparagus when they could buy what a trusted retailer has labeled ‘Best’?” asked Kastel.

Because T&D Willey Farms has not yet complied with Whole Foods’ program, their produce is currently labeled “Unrated.” “I am most assuredly rated!” said Willey. “I have been Certified Organic for 28 years and my farm undergoes a rigorous annual physical inspection and auditing by CCOF, an independent certifier, accredited by the USDA. That’s a pretty high rating in my book.”

This is not the first time The Cornucopia Institute has referred to some of Whole Foods’ marketing tactics as “bait and switch.”

“Here is a business that touts their status as being the nation’s first national Certified Organic grocery chain,” Cornucopia’s Kastel explained. “In their marketing materials and signage they are constantly promoting their dedication to organic agriculture. But when you shop at their stores, you might notice that a high percentage of their offerings are not actually organic. Now the ‘Responsibly Grown’ program is attempting to put some of this conventional food on a pedestal higher than organic,” Kastel lamented.

Whole Foods has long been criticized by some in the organic movement for developing a proprietary meat department rating system, which predominately sells premium-priced conventional meat labeled as “natural.”

“The meat Whole Foods sells that is not Certified Organic was produced from livestock that were fed conventional feed, almost assuredly genetically modified, and, based on USDA research, likely contaminated with agrochemical residues,” Kastel added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body. Dr. Michael Crupain, Director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, states, “We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis.”

Although the new Whole Foods rating system bans a selected list of synthetic pesticides, most toxic agrochemicals are still available for their conventional growers to use based on the company’s “Responsibly Grown” protocols.

For example, the USDA’s National Organic Program bans the use of antibiotics, sprayed on fruit trees to control the bacterial disease fireblight, in apple and pear orchards. The agency also bans the use of synthetic mold and sprout inhibitors, sprayed on the skins of potatoes after harvest. However, these materials can be used on fruits and vegetables that receive the “Best” rating under Whole Foods’ new approach.

“Undoubtedly, based on research, some of the produce that Whole Foods has rated ‘Best’ carries detectable levels of pesticides demonstrably higher than anything that would be found on Certified Organic produce,” added Kastel.

Tom Willey, who farms year-round in California’s San Joaquin Valley, added, “If Whole Foods truly is committed to the values they expound, nothing in their stores should be rated ‘Better’ or ‘Best’ unless it first passes muster under the strict regulations Congress designated when they passed the Organic Foods Production Act.”

Jim Crawford, of New Morning Farm, and Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, were both recognized in a 2014 gathering, covered by the New York Times, of “Organic Elders” who founded the organic movement. Crawford thinks Whole Foods’ marketing program is unfairly burdensome and expensive for farmers, especially smaller-scale ones, but he says that’s not the worst aspect of it.

More harmful, he says, is the fact that the program deceives consumers in their perception of which foods deserve to be rated “Best.” “It’s a privately dreamed up, proprietary food-rating system directly contrasting and competing with a publicly created system, USDA Certified Organic, which was painstakingly developed over years and is administered rigorously and with verifiability.”

Crawford thinks it especially ironic that the private Whole Foods program is made to appear more demanding, more rigorous, and more restrictive than Certified Organic. “In reality, it is drastically more permissive, especially in the area of pesticide use, and not rigorous or verifiable at all in the way it’s administered,” Crawford said.

And, unlike within the USDA National Organic Program, farmers participating in Whole Foods’ labeling campaign are not subject to annual, on-site inspections or audits of the paper trail for their farm inputs and all sales to assure compliance. Nor could any detected malfeasance lead to large fines and other sanctions.

Close The Loophole Allowing Conventional Cows On Organic Farms

Cows-on-farm-milk

Origin of Livestock – Proposed Rule

*Comment by July 27

The new origin of livestock rule released by the USDA has tightened the rules that govern how conventionally raised livestock can be brought into organic production system, but a major loophole remains. This loophole could allow significant abuses to continue to the detriment of organic family farmers, who follow the spirit and letter of the law, and their loyal organic customers seeking authentic organic food.

Conventional farmers, converting to organic farming, are allowed a one-time transition of their existing herd to organic production. After that point all animals brought into a herd are supposed to be raised organically from the last third of gestation (meaning, prior to birth). However, some industrial scale organic dairies (“factory farms”) have been flaunting this rule for years by continuously purchasing conventional heifers that have been transitioned to organic.

Factory farms, milking thousands of cows each, have been regularly bringing in conventional cattle to both grow their operations and replace animals burned out by their high production management approach. Instead of raising the new animals on organic milk and feed, these cattle are raised on medicated milk replacer that includes antibiotics, and fed GMO grains and hay treated with toxic pesticides. The intent of the proposed new rule is to prevent this practice.

Holy Cow!

The problem with the proposed rule is that USDA bureaucrats define a dairy farm as any farm milking at least one cow! The farm does not even have to be a commercially licensed dairy. Theoretically, a farm could have a single cow that they milk and this would then allow them to also raise thousands of conventionally fed dairy heifers and transition them to organic, before ultimately selling the transitioned animals to the factory dairies already exploiting consumer trust. This would allow the same flagrant abuses to keep occurring.

Cornucopia makes the following suggested changes to the rule:

  • Require the farm to be a “commercial dairy,” inspected and permitted by the state, and have a relationship with a licensed milk handler shipping to a licensed dairy plant. Furthermore, the operation should be fully established, shipping milk, for no less than 180 days and that any animal sold has been producing milk themselves (no young transitioned heifers, who have never been milked, could qualify to be sold as “organic”).
  • An even more powerful and simpler solution would be to ban, outright, the sale to an organic operation of any cattle that had been transitioned from conventional production to organic production.

You can comment directly using the link below and mention that you agree with The Cornucopia Institute’s suggested changes to the proposed origin of livestock rule: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/04/28/2015-09851/national-organic-program-origin-of-livestock

The public comment period is open until July 27th, 2015.

A short sample letter appears below. Please customize this to fit your voice. You can cut and paste the final version into the USDA website (noted above):

RE: Comment on Proposed Rule on Origin of Livestock (Docket Number AMS-NOP-11-0009; NOP-11-04PR) To Whom It May Concern: Thank you for the opportunity to provide public input on the National Organic Program’s Proposed Rule on the Origin of Livestock. I fully support the effort to close the loophole that has allowed the continued practice of bringing in conventional cattle onto organic farms. This loophole has been abused and allowed factory farm livestock operations to manage their herds using practices that aren’t sustainable and do not promote the health of their livestock. However, the proposed new rule appears to to see closed to prevent the ongoing abuse of the intent and spirit of organic law. Specifically, I support the following two changes:

  • The rule must require that any organic dairy farm selling organic animals be a functioning “commercial dairy” that is inspected and permitted by the state in which it operates. Furthermore, this dairy farm must have a relationship with a licensed milk handler shipping to a licensed dairy plant. In addition, this operation should be fully established, shipping milk, for no less than 180 days and that any animal sold has been producing milk themselves. This means that no young transitioned heifers, who have never been milked, could qualify for sale as “organic”.
  • Should the National Organic Program seek an alternative solution to the potential loophole noted above, they could choose to ban, outright, the sale to an organic operation of any cattle that had been transitioned from conventional production to organic production.

Thank you for considering my comments on this important matter. Sincerely,

Again, please act by Monday, July 27 to submit your electronic comments to https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/04/28/2015-09851/national-organic-program-origin-of-livestock

Should you wish to submit comments by mail, send them to:

Scott Updike, Agricultural Marketing Specialist National Organic Program USDA-AMS-NOP, Room 2646—So., Ag Stop 0268 1400 Independence Ave. SW Washington, DC 20250-0268

Make sure that in your letter you make clear that your comments are about Docket Number AMS-NOP-11-0009; NOP-11-04PR.

Thank you for helping protect the integrity of organic agriculture and food.

Food Alert: Toxic Beetles Being Found In Organic Salad Greens In Canada And U.S.

blister-beetle-toxic

By: Natasha Longo | Prevent Disease

Insects are a staple food in many diets around the world, however Iron Cross Blister Beetles are usually not on the menu. Food Inspection Agencies in Canada and the United States are on alert after the toxic beetles have been turning up in organic salads and packages of leafy greens.

There are several reasons to grow your own organic food, and pest control is often one of them. Although rare, fresh produce can harbour insects that may be injurious to consumers. The Iron Cross Blister beetle is very distinctively coloured, with a bright red head and bright yellow markings on the wings, separated by a black “cross”. If found in any produce, this particular beetle should be treated with caution as it may release an irritating chemical called “cantharidin”, a chemical which may cause blisters at the point of contact.

Farrah Hodgson said her husband began feeling sick after eating from a bag of organic baby spinach. Hodgson believes her husband’s stomach pains were caused by the poisonous beetle she later discovered in the bag of greens she purchased from a Sobey’s grocery store.

In Toronto, Erin Cameron was preparing lunch when her appetite was spoiled by the sight of a bright yellow and red beetle in her mixed greens.

“I took a scoop, just with my hands, of the lettuce, and put it into my bowl,” she told CBC. “Right away I noticed there was a giant bug inside… and I kind of freaked out.”

Another CBC story appeared out of the province of Saskatchewan, featuring another woman who found the same type of beetle in her salad: this one from Earthbound Organics. The company told the CBC in a statement that it had never encountered the Iron Cross blister beetle in its farms before, and that it would stop using greens from that particular supplier and investigate the situation.

An entomologist in the U.S. confirms the insect was a blister beetle, common in Arizona and California. While the beetle likely wouldn’t be fatal if eaten, it would cause significant discomfort.

Earthbound Farms said they’ve never encountered the insect on their farms before, however one of the original four salad beetle reports was about an Earthbound Organics product. A similar beetle was found in one 2 weeks ago. The company responded by sending a form letter about the beneficial insects used in organic farming. The blister beetle, you may have guessed, is not supposed to be one of them.

A woman who lives in Texas encountered one of the critters in a restaurant. Although the beetles are native to Texas, they’re not supposed to live in restaurants. She didn’t get a picture, but described the scene as shocking.

Reminder: if you find a large black, yellow, and red beetle in your food, contact the Food and Drug Adminstration in the United States or Canadian Food Inspecition Agency in Canada and let them know. Also contact the packager of the product as well as the retailer if those are separate companies.

Sources:
inspection.gc.ca
foodpoisoningbulletin.com
consumerist.com
cbc.ca


Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany. She writes for Prevent Disease, where this article first appeared.

The Benefits Of Organic Shampoo

shampoo

Shampoo seems like a harmless enough item. But in reality, many shampoos contain chemicals that your body absorbs. Chemicals, like parabens and sulfates, interfere with the endocrine system and can up your chances for serious diseases. [1] With this reality staring us right in the face, it only makes sense that we seek out healthier, all-natural options.

Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

When shopping for shampoo and conditioners, read the labels before purchasing. Here are a few of the specific ingredients you need to look out for:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfates — Known to cause cataracts in adults and improper eye development in children. Regardless, it’s used in most store-bought shampoos and conditioners.
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate — A surfactant moderately associated with organ toxicity.
  • Derivatives of Lauryl Alcohol — Thought to be harmful to the organ system and can cause irritation to the skin and the eyes.
  • Propylene Glycol (Antifreeze) — High concern for skin and lung irritation and organ toxicity.
  • Olefin Sulfonate (Deodorized Kerosene) — Possibly harmful to organ and hormone function, also highly irritating.

Ingredients Commonly Found in Organic Shampoo

Organic shampoos and conditioners usually contain much safer plant-based products. Tea tree is common and has been used for a long time to support scalp health and dandruff, not to mention fighting bad breath. Certified organic tea tree also has antiseptic elements that can aid in controlling naturally-occurring microbial levels that can result in different forms of scalp irritation.

Another popular ingredient in many organic shampoo and conditioner products is beta glucan. Beta glucan has immune-enhancing properties both internally and topically. [2] It helps to soothe inflamed cells of the scalp, which is particularly beneficial for people who suffer from skin conditions.

The Bottom Line: Organic is Best

True organic shampoo and conditioner products offer a wealth of benefits for your hair and scalp that will be immediately noticeable. Organic products gently infuse your hair follicles and skin cells with natural minerals, herbal extracts, and oils. If you are looking for shampoos that stimulate healthy hair growth, look for products made with aloe vera and coconut oil, as they naturally moisturize your scalp. If you need enhanced shine and moisture for your hair, organic shea butter is an important ingredient to look for in your organic shampoo.

References:

  1. Bledzka D, Gromadzinska J, Wasowicz W. Parabens. From environmental studies to human health. Environ Int. 2014 Jun;67:27-42. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.02.007.
  2. Heike Stier, Veronika Ebbeskotte and Joerg Gruenwald. Immune-modulatory effects of dietary Yeast Beta-1,3/1,6-D-glucan. Nutrition Journal. 2014, 13:38. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-38.

Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM has studied natural healing methods for over 20 years and now teaches individuals and practitioners all around the world. He no longer sees patients but solely concentrates on spreading the word of health and wellness to the global community. Under his leadership, Global Healing Center, Inc. has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.

Buying Local Honey: What You Need To Know

local honey

One of my favorite long-term food choices in our pantry is honey. Storing honey is a popular choice amongst preppers. After all, its versatility coupled with the capacity to last a lifetime is a perfect investment for your long-term food stores. Many are aware of the additives put into honey and ultra-filtering that inevitably removes all of the health benefits it possesses in its natural state. In fact, recent laboratory tests have revealed that 76% of the honey purchased in common chain grocery stores has been ultra filtered.

Why Buy Local?

Buying locally will ensure you get the purest form of honey around. As well, purchasing in bulk quantities will help you add to your natural prepper pantries and save a buck at the same time. When raw honey is left in its natural state and is unfiltered, it contains pollen, enzymes, antioxidants and many other beneficial compounds that researchers are just beginning to learn about.

honey vs raw honey

Benefits of Raw Honey

  • Has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.
  • Due to its low water content, it’s a poor environment for the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Acts a cough suppressant and soothes a sore or scratchy throat.
  • Boosts immunity, and protects against infections in wounds.
  • May improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
  • Contains phytonutrients, which have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties.
  • Honey from certain flower sources contain friendly bacteria that are good for digestion.
  • Minor source of vitamins B2 and B6, copper, iron, manganese.

Where to Find Local Honey

A few years ago, I was lucky to find a local honey supplier in my area that sells us 20 pound buckets of honey. For a family of five, (see food calculator here) this is enough honey for a year for my family. We usually end up purchasing one to use for the year and another for long-term storage. I have found that scouting out local farmers markets can put you in direct contact with local beekeepers who are more than willing to sell you honey on a regular basis. As well, they have other great products they can sell you like bee pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, and even a beehive, if you are interested. Additionally, farmers markets are great for finding local produce, meat and other food sources. I have also found beekeepers selling honey through Craigslist.

What to Ask Local Honey Suppliers

Today, I wanted to share some tips with you about buying and locating local honey sources. If you plan on purchasing honey from a local supplier, make sure they can answer these questions:

  1. What are the kinds of flowers the bees have been foraging on? Knowing the kind of flowers that the bees used for nectar and pollen will give you a good indication of how robust the flavor of the honey will be.
  2. Do they mix the honey with any additives? Purity of honey is another issue the USDA does not look into when giving out their sacred “USDA organic labels.” Most store-bought honey isn’t even honey at all. It’s a combination of additives like sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup (check your maple syrup too, folks!) to make it more honey-like. An advantage to buying from local honey sellers is that they sell a far superior product compared to the honey you purchase in stores. Not only is local honey in more of a pure state, but you have more of a variety that is unavailable in supermarkets. There are tests that you can do to test your honey. Learn about honey purity laws here.
  3. Has the honey been filtered to remove pollen? Many honey companies filter their honey to remove any minute particles, pollen and bits of honeycomb. Unfortunately, when companies ultra-filter their honey, they force the proteins out of honey removing the natural health properties in the process. The result is a clearer honey that companies market as healthy, when in reality, ultra-filtered honey does not have many health benefits at all. Most local suppliers skip this step and keep the honey pure.
  4. Is it organic honey? I added this because I wanted to inform you all that it is very difficult to find real 100% organic honey. In fact, it’s near to impossible! Honeybees fly an average of 2 miles from their hives in their search for nectar and pollen. A hive would have to be in the center of a minimum of 16 square miles of organic plants. This is extremely difficult to do considering there are neighbors, golf clubs, businesses, etc. who still believe in chemically treating lawns and gardens with pesticides. Wild plants sound good but there could be an issue there if the hives are near any land where herbicides are used, including BLM land. So, here’s the fact on organic honey: There are no standards for USDA certified organic honey. They simply do not exist. According to the USDA Rules and Regulations, “…honey does not require official inspection in order to carry official USDA grade marks and since there are no existing programs that require the official inspection and certification of honey,…” So the organic honey you are purchasing at the store is only a ploy to inflate the price and make more money.

Buying locally is your best bet in taking steps to buy the purest form of honey and create a natural prepper pantry. If you decided to purchase honey at the grocery store, make sure you purchase raw unfiltered honey. I have been purchasing local honey for years and have only had one container crystallize; and that was a year after I purchased it. Use these tips when looking for local honey sources.


Tess Pennington is the editor for ReadyNutrition.com. After joining the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999, Tess worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response. Tess is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But by following Tess’s tips for stocking, organizing, and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months, or even years.

Where To Find Natural Building Materials

Wooden-framing

Whether you’re looking into building your dream home or simply want to renovate a specific area of your home or office, using green building materials is the best way to create an environment that isn’t detrimental to your health. Organic, natural, and eco-friendly building materials from reputable, trusted suppliers is a must for protecting your health from the endocrine disruptors found in conventional building supplies.

Where to Find Organic Building Materials

Many building materials today contain things like formaldehyde, VOCs, and fire retardants, all of which can disrupt hormone function. While building materials don’t have the same organic certification process as food, it is possible to find paint, adhesives, and other materials made with organic or natural ingredients. Here’s a list of the most common building materials you will need, along with suppliers you can trust.

Organic/Natural Sheetrock

Also referred to as drywall, sheetrock is necessary for making the interior of walls. Finding natural and eco-friendly alternatives is a bit easier in this day and age, and luckily many builders are popping up all over the place offering these options. Here’s a quick list of the best suppliers for natural sheetrock:

EcoRock, made from 85% industrial byproducts, 100% recyclable.
Durra Panel is an eco-friendly sheetrock made from wheat or rice straw fibres, contains no formaldehyde.
JetBoard, made in Texas, recently released in the US.

Organic/Natural Glue

Glue and adhesives are necessary every step of the way when you’re building, yet some can give off toxic fumes. Here’s a list of the top-selling natural adhesives you can use in your projects:

ChemLink is a leading solvent-free and VOC-compliant sealant that can safely be used for constructing a healthy indoor environment.
EcoBond is another popular adhesive earning points from environmentalists and health advisors.
Capco Adhesives are also eco friendly and low in toxic compounds.

Organic/Natural Paints

Whether you’re painting the outside of your house, your living room, or wooden furniture, you should always use lead-free, VOC-free, natural paints as much as possible. Here’s some suppliers you can look into:

Ecos Paints sell no odor, VOC-free paint for interior use.
Auro Natural Eco Paints uses zero petrochemicals, VCOs, and only organic linseed oil in their products.
Green Pant Paints is another interior paint company, selling paints that use plant-based ingredients.

Organic/Natural Grout

Not only is grout used during construction, it’s commonly used in the maintenance of buildings. Here’s some natural grout solutions:

Eco Bath Tup and Tile
Eco Grout
Eco Systems Grout

Organic/Natural Sheetrock Mud

Sheetrock mud is also referred to as ‘drywall joint compound’ and is used to seal joints between sheets of drywall. Here’s some hypo-allergenic choices you can use:

Keim, works best with JetBoard or Dragonboard as a joint compound.
Murco Wall, do not use as a joint compound.

Organic/Natural Thinners

Paint thinners are commonly tainted with chemicals, most notably VOCs. Here’s a list of reliable, healthier alternatives:

Solvent-Free Paint thinner is made from 100% purified linseed oil.
Real Milk Company uses organic citrus solvents as a natural paint thinner.
Eco-Solve is a paint thinner made with soy and is non toxic.

Organic/Natural Caulking

While caulking doesn’t typically present a dire health concern, the PCBs found in conventional caulking materials can be hazardous over time. Here’s a couple of sources of caulking without the endocrine disruptor:

SafeCoat Multi-Purpose Caulk is non toxic and good for the environment.
Eco-Bond has a 10 year mold-free guarantee and is low in VOCs.

Natural/VOC-free Concrete Sealants

Most concrete sealants contain VOCs, which interfere with the immune system. Here are the top VOC-free concrete sealants:

Seal Green provides concrete sealants made with green ingredients.
DurasealZero™¨is made by Enviroseal, and uses natural ingredients that are EPA approved. No VOCs.
Conkrete-Seal by AgraLife is a natural, VOC-free concrete sealant.

Organic / Natural Ceiling Tiles

Formaldehyde a toxic poison that is commonly added to conventional ceiling tiles. Here’s a couple of suppliers for ceiling materials that do not use chemicals:

Armstrong is one of the leaders in providing sustainable ceiling tiles for office buildings.
Sustainable Ceiling Resource Center provides information and products related to healthy ceiling products.

Got a favorite that I missed? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.


Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM has studied natural healing methods for over 20 years and now teaches individuals and practitioners all around the world. He no longer sees patients but solely concentrates on spreading the word of health and wellness to the global community. Under his leadership, Global Healing Center, Inc. has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.

Dear Farmers: U.S. Is Now Importing Organic Corn To Satisfy Consumer Demand

corn

By: Heather Callaghan | Activist Post –

There are three things driving a surge in organic imports:

  1. U.S. farmers have been systematically pushed into growing mostly GMO crops; grown primarily for fuel, animal feed and cheap processed foods. Russia even used our food supply as an example for the EU to dump us and join them instead.
  2. U.S. consumers are not only demanding fresh, organic produce as well as non-GMO convenience foods – but also want meat, dairy and eggs from animals that were fed non-GMO or organic feed.
  3. Other countries primarily grow non-GE crops, and plenty of organic. They’ve got the goods and they reap the benefits of trade.

This is ridiculous, as the U.S. could not only use a valuable export, but could honestly use a supportive, in-house product. Yet again, we find ourselves outsourcing for staples. Shouldn’t our own farmers be benefiting from this rise in demand coming from their country? Yet again, farmers have been tricked and kicked by the very companies with which they sign agreements.

U.S. consumers are coming into awareness about how their food affects their health and want superior products, which sadly, aren’t always available here…yet.

An analysis of U.S. trade data released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association and Pennsylvania State University shows a spike in corn from Romania and soybeans from India. The chief executive officer of OTA is prompting farmers that the market is open for converts. She called it a “help-wanted” sign for farmers and said, “There are market distortions that are pretty striking.” [Also see: Study Quantifies Market Value of Nature’s Farming Services]

organic corn supplies
Bloomberg Business reports the bulk of the imports are to feed U.S. cattle and poultry:

As a result, imports to the U.S. of Romanian corn rose to $11.6 million in 2014 from $545,000 the year before. Soybean imports from India more than doubled to $73.8 million.

Sales of foods certified by the U.S. as free of synthetic chemicals or genetic engineering reached $35.9 billion in 2014, an 11 percent increase over 2013 and about 5.1 percent of U.S. grocery spending. The organic sector’s average annual growth of about 10 percent is triple that of overall food sales, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and trade association data.

[…]

The four years of records show rapidly growing trade relationships. In 2014, U.S. organic exports were $553 million, almost quadruple the 2011 total. Imports last year were $1.28 billion, led by $332.5 million of organic coffee.

Supply farms were forced to seek foreign sources with the rapid demand spikes, as 90 percent of U.S. corn and soy are genetically engineered, a definite no-go for organically raised animals, animal by-products and produce. Some organic feed companies have recently seen sales quadruple and sought supplies from Canada. Read Bloomberg for more figures and some tug-of-war about future markets and whether or not it’s worth it to grow organic in America.

And interesting turn of events since yesterday’s Bloomberg report: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the government would offer support to boost the U.S. production of organic.

While expressing an interest to help small family farms and boost the rural economy, he told Reuters:

There’s been significant expansion and interest in organics. Both the number of producers expanding and the sales expanding are an indication that this is a fast-growing aspect of agriculture.

A peculiar announcement considering Vilsack’s past infatuation and staunch defense of biotech. I don’t buy those intentions at all. Not with Agenda 21 tactics, a crumbling food system and economy, corporations that drain and frack the daylights out of drought-stricken aquifers, states that only vote yes to label GMOs in the far-off future, and the DARK Act looming in Congress. Those things tell me to be vigilant and not to get too excited.

On a lighter and more productive note, we can keep up that consumer demand because, right now, it cannot be ignored. On the other hand, don’t forget to reach out to farmers, but also demand ways for them to make a living using better methods – there isn’t incentive to do so currently, in fact, quite the opposite. Let’s not let them fall behind the market curve. Maybe we could bring this news to Farm Aid’s attention so they can focus on helping their family farmers who wish to convert but without losing the farm.

Unfortunately, there are stifling obstacles that stand in the way of simply switching to an organic farm. More so if the “DARK Act” passes through Congress. (Hint: it punishes non-GMO farmers with fines and makes them produce labels!) For one thing, it’s not about simply switching seed, and farmers are in a sense, punished if they use natural methods. As one recent study pointed out, it would be economically better to use nature’s free services and organic methods but only if it were allowed to be economically feasible!


Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

 

Study Finds Organic Food Is Higher In Antioxidants

organic food

Chalk up another win for organic whole foods. New research has found that organic food contains more antioxidants than conventionally-grown food and may be one of the most potent ways to fight aging, reduce oxidative stress, and support energy.

Organic Food Contains More Antioxidants

A comprehensive review that’s set to be published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that, along with the above reasons to go organic,organic foods contain higher amounts of antioxidants (17 percent more) than non-organic. Antioxidants can help reduce (or at least slow down) damage to your cells — or what we call aging. Countless studies have found that antioxidants can reduce your risk of any number of chronic diseases. [1]

Other Benefits of Organic Food

The benefits of organic food are no secret and include:

  • No GMOs
  • Better freshness
  • No growth hormones
  • No antibiotics
  • Animals aren’t fed animal by-products

The review also found that organic food contains less of the toxic metal cadmium as well as less pesticides. Just a few of the issues that have been linked to pesticides include headaches, nausea, reproductive issues, cancer, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, impaired brain development, and behavioral disorders. The less you’re exposed to this trash, the better. [2]

Have you made the switch to organic? What tips can you share? Leave a comment below!

References:

  1. Author. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14;112(5):794-811. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001366.
  2. Kenneth Chang. Study of Organic Crops Finds Fewer Pesticides and More Antioxidants. The New York Times.

Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM has studied natural healing methods for over 20 years and now teaches individuals and practitioners all around the world. He no longer sees patients but solely concentrates on spreading the word of health and wellness to the global community. Under his leadership, Global Healing Center, Inc. has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.

Organic Stakeholders Sue USDA

organic

(The Cornucopia Institute) Organic stakeholders have filed a lawsuit in federal court, maintaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed established procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food.  A coalition of 15 organic food producers and farmer, consumer, environmental, and certification groups asked the court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and reinstitute the agency’s customary public hearing and comment process.

When it comes to organic food production, consumers and producers expect a high level of scrutiny and are willing to pay a premium with the knowledge that a third-party certifier is evaluating compliance with organic standards. The burgeoning $35+ billion organic market relies heavily on a system of public review and input regarding decisions that affect organic production systems and the organic label.  The multi-stakeholder National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)[1], appointed to a 5-year term by the Secretary of Agriculture, holds semi-annual meetings to solicit public input and to write recommendations to the Secretary on organic policy matters, including the allowance of synthetic and non-organic agricultural materials and ingredients.

The unilateral agency action taken to adopt major policy change without a public process, the plaintiffs maintain, violates one of the foundational principles and practices of OFPA —public participation in organic policy-making.

In adopting the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), Congress created standards for organic certification and established the NOSB to oversee the allowance of synthetic materials based on a determination that they do not cause harm to human health and the environment and are necessary in organic food production and processing, given a lack of alternatives.

Under the law, a review of these materials takes place on a five year cycle, with a procedure for relisting if consistent with OFPA criteria. Plaintiffs in this case maintain that the USDA organic rule establishes a public process that creates public trust in the USDA organic label, which has resulted in exponential growth in organic sales over the last two decades.

At issue in the lawsuit is a rule that implements the organic law’s “sunset provision,” which since its origins has been interpreted to require all listed materials to cycle off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years unless the NOSB votes by a two-thirds majority to relist them. In making its decision, the NOSB is charged with considering public input, new science, and new information on available alternatives.

In September, 2013, in a complete reversal of accepted process, USDA announced a definitive change in the rule it had been operating under since the inception of the organic program without any public input.  Now, materials can remain on the National List in perpetuity unless the NOSB takes initiative to vote it off the List.

In a joint statement, the plaintiffs, representing a broad cross-section of interests in organic, said:

We are filing this lawsuit today because we are deeply concerned that the organic decision making process is being undermined by USDA. The complaint challenges the unilateral agency action on the sunset procedure for synthetic materials review, which represents a dramatic departure from the organic community’s commitment to an open and fair decision making process, subject to public input. Legally, the agency’s decision represents a rule change and therefore must be subject to public comment. But equally important, it is a departure from the public process that we have built as a community. This process has created a unique opportunity within government for a community of stakeholders to come together, hear all points of view, and chart a course for the future of organic. It is a process that continually strengthens organic, supports its rapid growth, and builds the integrity of the USDA certified label in the marketplace.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from Center for Food Safety, include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Equal Exchange, Food and Water Watch, Frey Vineyards, La Montanita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New Natives, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farmers Association Massachusetts, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PCC Natural Markets, and The Cornucopia Institute.

[1] The NOSB is a 15 member Board comprised of farmers, consumers, environmentalists, retailers, certifiers and food producers who advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the National Organic Program on all matters related to organic food and agriculture policy.


Joint Statement of Plaintiffs on USDA Change to Organic Rule without Public Comment

[The following joint statement concerning the lawsuit challenging the changes to the USDA’s Sunset policy is provided by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Equal Exchange, Food and Water Watch, Frey Vineyards, La Montanita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New Natives, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farmers Association Massachusetts, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PCC Natural Markets, and The Cornucopia Institute.]

When a USDA rule implementing a section of the Organic Foods Production Act as important as the “sunset provision” is changed, why are we concerned about process? Since its origins, the sunset provision has been interpreted under the USDA organic rule to require allowed synthetic materials to cycle off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years unless the NOSB decisively votes by a two-thirds majority to relist them. In making its decision, the NOSB is charged with considering public input, new science, and new information on available alternatives. In September, 2013, without public comment, and in a complete reversal of the customary public process, USDA announced a change in the rule it had been operating under since the inception of the organic program, now allowing synthetic materials to remain on the National List unless the NOSB votes it off.

The organic label is built on a history and solid foundation of holding public hearings and soliciting extensive public participation. Many of us remember when the original proposed rule – which would have allowed GMOs, sewage sludge, and irradiation – resulted in a large outpouring of public input. It was important that the public had an opportunity to be heard before the rule was adopted. This opportunity created the public belief that the process behind the organic label was something that could be trusted. Ever since then, whether there was agreement on a decision or not, we could believe in a decision-making process and the high integrity of the organic label.

We are deeply concerned that the decision-making process on allowed synthetic materials in organic production and processing is being undermined by USDA. The lawsuit we are filing challenges the unilateral agency action on the sunset procedure for synthetic materials review, which represents a dramatic departure from the organic community’s commitment to an open and fair decision making process that is subject to public input. Legalistically, the agency’s decision represents a rule change and therefore must be subject to public comment. But equally important, it is a departure from the public process that we have built as a community. This process has created a unique opportunity within government for a community of stakeholders to come together, hear all points of view, and chart a course for the future of organic. It is a process that continually strengthens organic, supports its rapid growth, and builds the integrity of the USDA certified label in the marketplace.

The failure of USDA to comply with public hearing and comment procedures on the sunset rule change serve to usurp a process and label that the organic community began building long before the agency even recognized the legitimacy of organic systems as a viable and productive form of agriculture. It is our hope that the filing of our lawsuit will help set the process straight again, as the organic sector faces important questions of practices and synthetic material use in the future. We believe in the value of the public voice in that process, as we seek to grow the organic sector through public trust in the organic label.

We must take a stand together, and hold USDA accountable to the public process that helped establish and grow organic. If we do not hold the line on public process, we fear that in decision-after-decision, organic will lose its meaning.  And, USDA will cause the demise of this treasured sector built by farmers, food producers, and the public at large, with a vision that embodies the values and principles that have made the organic label trusted and strong.

Consumers and farmers working together have helped to grow organic from the beginning. We are at a critical and historic moment when the stakeholders must lead in ensuring that our government respects what we have built and remains true to the public process and the legal framework that give organic its integrity.

Why You Should Grow Heirloom Seeds

Healthy Seeds
By: Sam Cho | Organic Lesson –

When I bought seeds for the first time, I did not know what the difference was between heirloom, hybrid, and GMO. If you are in the same boat as I used to be then check out the infographic below to learn what the main differences are. Feel free to use the embed code below if you want to share it on your website or blog.

heirloom-seeds-why-grow-infographic
Source: Organic Lesson

What is Heirloom?

Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that pass on similar characteristics and traits from the parent plant to the child plant. There is no concrete definition that every gardener uses to define heirloom plants. Some people state that heirloom plants are those that were introduced before 1951, while others state that heirloom varieties are those introduced before the 1920s. In general, you should consider heirlooms to be seeds that are possible to regrow and pass on from one generation to the next.

One important thing to note for heirloom plants is whether they are organic or non-organic. In most cases, heirloom plants are organic because they are generally only used by small-scale gardeners who do not use pesticide or other harmful chemicals. However, there may be minor cases when chemicals do get involved since heirloom plants do not always have a similar level of innate protection that hybrid and GMO plants provide against diseases and pests. Remember, heirloom refers to the heritage of a plant, while organic refers to a growing practice. They are two different things.

Heirloom vs. Hybrid vs. GMO

There are some distinct differences that one should be aware of when it comes to heirloom, hybrid, and GMO plants. First, heirloom plants are the only ones that breed true. As mentioned earlier, this means the same characteristics are passed on from generation to generation. The same cannot be said for hybrid and GMO. Hybrid plants are produced when different varieties of plants are cross-pollinated, which can happen with or without human intervention. Because there are different varieties of plants involved, it can’t be guaranteed that the offspring of hybrid plants produces identical traits as the parent plant.

Both heirloom and hybrid plants can be viewed as natural occurrences. GMO plants, on the other hand, can only be produced using unnatural methods such as gene splicing. Scientists essentially modify a seed’s DNA to ensure the resulting plant produces the desired traits and characteristics. A common example of a GMO plant is Bt-Corn.

Why Grow Heirloom Seeds

If hybrid and GMO seeds grow plants with useful traits, why should you grow heirloom plants instead? First, heirlooms are generally known to produce better taste and flavor. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are also known to be more nutritious. Last but not least, they are less expensive over the long haul. Heirloom plants may require a bit more care than their counterparts but the effort you put in will be worth it! Don’t forget that you would also be playing an important part in preserving the genetic diversity of plants by growing heirloom seeds. After all, how can hybrid seeds be produced without the existence of the original seeds?

Where to Find Heirloom Seeds

With the demand for heirloom seeds increasing, you will find that it isn’t as difficult as before to obtain them. There are certain places you might want to check out to get seeds locally. These places include: local farms, seed exchanges, and botanical gardens. How can you be sure that the seeds you are getting definitely came from heirloom plants? One thing you might want to look out for is the Safe Seed Pledge. Although it isn’t regulated, the Safe Seed Pledge is still a good sign that the company is only providing non-GMO products. Most of the well-known seed companies have already signed up for this pledge so look out for it on the seed company websites.

Organic Egg On Their Faces

eggs

Buying organic eggs is a good way to fight factory farming—but only if you buy eggs from organic farms that raise their hens on pasture.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of so-called “organic” eggs on grocery shelves that come from farms that operate more like factories, than farms—despite the pretty pictures on their labels.

Which national organic brands are the worst offenders? Egg-Land’s Best® and Land O’ Lakes® brands, along with many organic private-label store brands, according to a recent Cornucopia Institute investigation of the organic egg industry.

Based on animal welfare issues, and the fact that these brands come from farms that feed their chickens synthetic methionine, we’re calling on all consumers to boycott Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’Lakes organic eggs. We also advise consumers to steer clear of store brand organic eggs.

Check out our action alert on how to avoid these brands, and also for a detailed exposé on the big organic producers that own the brands—their crimes against animals, and their dismal track records when it comes to following the USDA’s National Organic Program’s rules for organic egg production.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Egg-Land’s Best and Land O’Lakes you’re boycotting their “organic” eggs until they stop producing them on factory farms.

Egg-Land’s Best on Facebook

Land O’Lakes on Facebook

Chicken Little vs. Chicken Big

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Not all organic chickens and eggs are created equal.

The best organic farmers raise their meat chickens and egg-laying hens on pasture, in compliance with organic rules that require animals to spend time outdoors in the sunshine. Chickens raised outdoors on pasture eat a natural diet of insects and worms, grasses and other greens, sometimes supplemented with organic feed. This diet provides them with a sufficient source of methionine, critical to their health.

But the biggest organic producers don’t follow the rules. They confine their chickens indoors, just like the factory farms do, or provide outdoor access but with no access to pasture—both of which deprive the birds of a natural diet that would include methionine.

The big organic producers who supplement their birds’ diets with synthetic methionine say they need the supplement in order to keep their birds healthy—a justification they wouldn’t need if they raised their birds on pasture, and/or supplemented with organic alternatives.

But the real reason the big organic poultry farms use synthetic methionine is because it acts as a growth-promoter. This allows the farms to squeak by with an “organic” label when in fact their operations, and products, are far more similar to those of the non-organic factory farms.

TAKE ACTION: Deadline April 7: Tell the NOSB: Organic Chickens Need Pasture, Not Synthetic Growth-Promoters!