Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beyond Frankenfoods and Toxics: OCA's Ten Reasons to Buy Organic

by Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director, Organic Consumers Association
(as reported by NaturalNews)

Organic foods and products are the fastest growing items in America's grocery carts. Thirty million households, comprising 75 million people, are now buying organic foods, clothing, body care, supplements, pet food, and other products on a regular basis. Fifty-six percent of U.S. consumers say they prefer organic foods.

Here are 10 reasons why you should buy organic foods and products:

1. Organic foods are produced without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Consumers worry about untested and unlabeled genetically modified food ingredients in common supermarket items. Genetically engineered ingredients are now found in 75% of all non-organic U.S. processed foods, even in many products labeled or advertised as "natural." In addition, the overwhelming majority of non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs are derived from animals reared on a steady diet of GM animal feed. Although polls indicate that 90% of Americans want labels on gene-altered foods, government and industry adamantly refuse to respect consumers' right to know, understanding quite well that health and environmental-minded shoppers will avoid foods with a GMO label.

2. Organic foods are safe and pure. Organic farming prohibits the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, nano-particles, and climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers. Consumers worry about pesticide and drug residues routinely found in non-organic produce, processed foods, and animal products. Consumer Reports has found that 77% of non-organic produce items in the average supermarket contain pesticide residues. The beef industry has acknowledged that 94% of all U.S. beef cattle have hormone implants, which are banned in Europe as a cancer hazard. Approximately 10% of all U.S. dairy cows are injected with Monsanto and Elanco's controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, banned in most industrialized nations. Recent studies indicate that an alarming percentage of non-organic U.S. meat contains dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

3. Organic foods and farming are climate-friendly. Citizens are increasingly concerned about climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas pollution (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide), 35-50% of which in North America comes from our energy-intensive, chemical-intensive food and farming system. Organic farms and ranches, on the other hand, use far less fossil fuel and can safely sequester large amounts of CO2 in the soil (up to 7,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year, every year.) Twenty-four billion pounds of chemical fertilizers applied on non-organic farms in the U.S. every year not only pollute our drinking water and create enormous dead zones in the oceans; but also release enormous amounts of nitrous oxide, a super potent, climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas.

4. Organic food certification prohibits nuclear irradiation. Consumers are justifiably alarmed about irradiating food with nuclear waste or electron beams, which destroy vitamins and nutrients and produce cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. The nuclear industry, large food processors, and slaughterhouses continue to lobby Congress to remove required labels from irradiated foods and replace these with misleading labels that use the term "cold pasteurization." The USDA and large meat companies have promoted the use of irradiated meat in school lunches and senior citizen facilities. Many non-organic spices contain irradiated ingredients.

5. Consumers worry about rampant e-coli, salmonella, campylobacter, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and fecal contamination in animal products coming out of the nation's inhumane and filthy slaughterhouses. The Centers for Disease Control have admitted that up to 76 million Americans suffer from food poisoning every year. Very few cases of food poisoning have ever been linked to organic farms or food processors.

6. Consumers are concerned about billions of pounds of toxic municipal sewage sludge dumped as "fertilizer" on 140,000 of America's chemical farms. Scientific evidence has confirmed that municipal sewage sludge contains hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs and other hazardous chemicals coming from residential drains, storm water runoff, hospitals, and industrial plants. Organic farming categorically prohibits the use of sewage sludge.

7. Consumers worry about the routine practice of grinding up slaughterhouse waste and feeding this offal and blood back to other animals, a practice that has given rise to a form of human mad-cow disease called CJD, often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. Animals on organic farms cannot be fed slaughterhouse waste, manure, or blood - daily rations on America's factory farms.

8. Consumers care about the humane treatment of animals. Organic farming prohibits intensive confinement and mutilation (debeaking, cutting off tails, etc.) of farm animals. In addition to the cruel and unhealthy confinement of animals on factory farms, scientists warn that these CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) produce enormous volumes of manure and urine, which not only pollute surface and ground water, but also emit large quantities of methane, a powerful climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas.

9. Consumers are concerned about purchasing foods with high nutritional value. Organic foods are nutritionally dense compared to foods produced with toxic chemicals, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seeds. Studies show that organic foods contain more vitamins, cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, and important trace minerals.

10. Consumers care about preserving America's family farms, world hunger, and the plight of the world's two billion small farmers. Just about the only small farmers who stand a chance of making decent living these days are organic farmers, who get a better price for their products. In addition study after study has shown that small organic farms in the developing world produce twice as much food per acre as chemical and GMO farms, while using far less fossil fuel and sequestering large amounts of excess CO2 in the soil. Yields on organic farms in the industrialized world are comparable to the yields on chemical and GMO farms, with the important qualification that organic farms far out-produce chemical farms under extreme weather conditions of drought or torrential rains. Of course, given accelerated climate change, extreme weather is fast becoming the norm.

For all these reasons, millions of American consumers are turning to organic foods and other organic items, including clothing and body care products - part of an overall movement toward healthy living, preserving the environment, and reversing global warming.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gearing up for publication

It has continued to be a tough go in the fields. The cool wet spring, followed by heat and extended lack of rainfall conspired to put paid to most of our touted salad green mixes in July. Stresses on the plants gave marauding bugs the signal to move in, and they have had a feast. The exception was the baby lettuce mix, which battled on gamely through the dry heat, only now flagging in submission. However, we did enjoy a good early season, especially with bountiful hoophouse production; the baby beets and rainbow carrots have performed well, thanking us for their thorough weeding and frequent watering through the heat. Garlic and lavender too rewarded us with healthy harvests.

And now, plentiful early August rains are helping to turn us around. We have been very busy planting arugula, salad mixes, mustards, kales, spinach, beets, carrots, and all are emerging nicely. I even took a rare day off market yesterday, missing a rainy afternoon at Riverdale. Within days, we will be up and running with new production, ready for the second half of the season. Imminent further plantings in the fields and hoophouses will see us right, through till the end of December.

The recent turnaround time gave me pause to finally submit for publication my account of our organic life and musings on the alternative regional food system we are part of. It was with excitement and some trepidation that I clicked on that “Submit” button, and off went the manuscript of my baby – my first book - for evaluation and editing. If all goes to plan, I hope to be flogging Leafy Greens in the Rolling Hills at market come the indoor season. For the time being, there is lots of planting, growing, harvesting and selling to be done and the rest of summer to enjoy…