April 15, 2010

Is Wal-Mart the answer for cheaper organics and more locally grown foods?

Some Americans are reluctant to shop at Wal-Mart for several reasons, including its perceived anti-union stance, lax environmental standards, poor working conditions, and danger to mom-and-pop stores. But many more Americans flock to Wal-Mart, mainly because of its low prices. These low prices help make Wal-Mart the third largest world corporation in terms of revenue.

Corby Kummer, of the Atlantic Magazine, was also a hesitant Wal-Mart shopper. But after hearing news that the retail giant had been making significant steps into the organic market, he began comparing Wal-Mart produce to Whole Foods fruits and vegetables, a popular natural and organic food retailer. The results were mixed:

 [Wal-Mart] beets handily beat (sorry) ones I’d just bought at Whole Foods, and compared nicely with beets I’d recently bought at the farmers’ market. But packaged carrots and celery, both organic, were flavorless. Organic bananas and “tree ripened” California peaches, already out of season, were better than the ones in most supermarkets, and most of the Wal-Mart food was cheaper—though when I went to my usual Whole Foods to compare prices for local produce, they were surprisingly similar (dry goods and dairy products were considerably less expensive at Wal-Mart).

And with respect to locally grown foods, Wal-Mart claims that, through its Heritage Agriculture program, the retailer encourages “farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California.”

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Chris Zielinski for preparing this post.  Mr. Zielinski is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

April 15, 2010 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2010

Fewer than 1% of American farms are organic

The USDA has released a survey finding fewer than 1% of all American farms are organic. From the USDA press release:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2010 – The nation’s organic farms and ranches have higher average sales and higher average production expenses than U.S. farms overall, according to results of the 2008 Organic Production Survey. . . .

“This was USDA’s first wide-scale survey of organic producers, and it was undertaken in direct response to the growing interest in organics among consumers, farmers, businesses, policymakers and others,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “The information being released today will be an important building block for future program and policy development.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that

While organic products have been one of the hottest growing areas in the supermarket, the USDA survey found that they were still a tiny enterprise in the farm belt. . . .

This post was contributed by William Mitchell College of Law student Hiep Phung.  Mr. Phung is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

February 16, 2010 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 04, 2009

Iowa County providing incentives for organic production -- goal is all organic

Using tax breaks and other incentives, Woodbury County, Iowa is encouraging organic farming.  From the New York Times (the original source is Greenwire):

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- In the midst of sprawling corn and soybean fields, industrial animal-processing plants and ethanol refineries, Woodbury County is . . . trying to go whole-hog into organic agriculture.

"This is a totally new direction for us," said Debi Durham, president and CEO of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce. . . . "Within the next 10 years, we will be known as the organic capital -- of the world."

Such a prediction is almost mind-boggling, considering that the county had not one registered acre of organic farmland in the 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture census -- and this in a county with a total 450,000 acres of farmland.

more

December 4, 2009 in Farming, Food culture, Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Large organic farm decertified for four years

It all boils down to keeping and producing records.  From a Cornucopia Institute press release:

In an investigation and legal case that dragged on for almost four years, one of the largest organic cattle producers in the United States, Promiseland Livestock, LLC, was suspended from organic commerce, along with its owner and key employees, for four years. The penalty was part of an order issued by administrative law judge Peter Davenport in Washington, DC on November 25.

Promiseland, a multimillion dollar operation with facilities in Missouri and Nebraska, including over 13,000 acres of crop land, and managing 22,000 head of beef and dairy cattle, had been accused of multiple improprieties in formal legal complaints, including not feeding organic grain to cattle, selling fraudulent organic feed and "laundering" conventional cattle as organic.

"We are pleased that justice has been served in the Promiseland matter," said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. Scrutiny from Cornucopia, one of the industry's most aggressive independent watchdogs, was part of the genesis for the comprehensive USDA investigation and subsequent legal proceedings.

more of the press release

USDA Findings of Fact and Order -- (contains a good description of how the organic certification process works.  I may use this document in my Food Law Class. -- DMB)

the Complaint dated June 4, 2008

December 4, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2009

National Food Policy Conference in DC Tues and Wed, Sept 8-9

This is today and tomorrow and I wish I could be there.  Here's the blurb from the home page of the National Food Policy Conference, sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America in cooperation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association:

For 32 years, the National Food Policy Conference has been a Washington institution and a unique collaboration between consumer advocates, government and the food industry. It is a key national gathering for those interested in agriculture, food and nutrition policy. The conference is coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America, in cooperation with the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

This year's conference will focus on food safety and child nutrition, two issues that have become critical concerns in recent months both domestically and internationally. This year’s conference will explore food safety reform at the Food and Drug Administration, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and children’s health. Speakers and panelists will explore the connections between health policy and nutrition, how to regain consumer trust once it has been lost, and the implications of new media technologies on policy making, among other issues.

More information on theNational Food Policy Conference website


September 8, 2009 in Current Affairs, food safety, Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2009

Pesticides on Peaches -- Chicago Tribune Study

The Chicago Tribune had tests done on organic farmers market peaches and compared the results to USDA tests of conventional peaches.  Here's the story:

Pesticides on Peaches

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested hundreds of regular washed peaches in 2008, it found residue from dozens of pesticides still on them. Some consumers try to avoid pesticide exposure by buying organic or buying produce at local farmers markets. The Tribune gathered samples of both and sent them to a lab to see how they matched up to the conventional peaches tested by USDA.

more

Thank you to Steven H. Sholk (Gibbons, P.C.) for this and many other tips!

August 12, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2009

Study: Organic Foods No More Nutritious than Conventional

A  recent review of research findings on organically produced foods and conventional foods found no differences in most nutrients — including vitamin C, calcium and iron. The review of 162 studies conducted over the last 50 years was commissioned by Britain's Food Standards Agency and appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

From the abstract:

Results: From a total of 52,471 articles, we identified 162 studies (137 crops and 25 livestock products); 55 were of satisfactory quality. In an analysis that included only satisfactory quality studies, conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantly higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity. No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8 of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed. Analysis of the more limited database on livestock products found no evidence of a difference in nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced livestock products.

Conclusions: On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods. 

Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock, Ricardo Uauy. Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 29, 2009.

    

July 31, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 03, 2009

Changing definitions of organic

From the Washington Post:

Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned

Three years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees determined that synthetic additives in organic baby formula violated federal standards and should be banned from a product carrying the federal organic label. Today the same additives, purported to boost brainpower and vision, can be found in 90 percent of organic baby formula.

The government's turnaround, from prohibition to permission, came after a USDA program manager was lobbied by the formula makers and overruled her staff. . . .

continue

July 3, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2009

Canada's Organic Trade Association supports Organic Equivalent Agreement

From Canadian Business.com

The Organic Trade Association in Canada (OTA) responded in support of the announcement that Canada and the United States have signed an equivalency agreement allowing organic products to be traded between the two countries. (blogged here)

"This is a world-first," said Matthew Holmes, OTA in Canada's managing director. "The Government of Canada has just secured nearly unfettered access for Canadian organic farmers and food processors to a market that is over ten times the size of our own. This is a major win for Canada's quickly-growing organic sector, and provides our producers and processors with assurances that they are competing with a level playing field."

Read the article on Canadian Business.com.

Hat tip: Steven H. Sholk

June 19, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

U.S., Canada Agreement For Organic Trade Equivalence

USDA News Release:

CHICAGO, June 17, 2009 -- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that a first-of-its-kind agreement has been reached between the United States and Canada that will expand opportunities for organic producers in both countries. The "equivalency agreement" follows a review by both nations of the other's organic certification program and a determination that products meeting the standard in the United States can be sold as organic in Canada, and vice versa. Merrigan made this announcement at the All Things Organic Trade Show and Conference in Chicago this morning.

"The production of organic foods is a vibrant growth opportunity for American agriculture, and by agreeing on a common set of organic principles with Canada, we are expanding market opportunities for our producers to sell their products abroad," said Merrigan. "Today's agreement between the world's two largest organic trading partners is an important first step towards global harmonization of organic standards."

There's more.  Read it here.

Hat tip: Steven H. Sholk

June 19, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2009

Almond growers suit dismissed

A federal district court has dismissed a lawsuit (blogged here) by California almond growers and handlers challenging a USDA regulation requiring pasteurization of raw almonds to reduce Salmonella contamination.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a memorandum opinion today holding that almond growers and retailers do not have a right to sue under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act because the regulation in question only applies to almond handlers. The almond handlers, the court said, had not exhausted administrative remedies, and the court therefore has no subject matter jurisidiction.

Here is the Opinion.
Here is the Complaint.
Here is Cornucopia Institute's press release.


March 11, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2009

Organic Obama White House

According to a recent article, the Obama's are attempting to transition the White House kitchen into using more organically grown foods, including organic wine for events.

The White House food and beverage manager Daniel Shanks had this to say about the switch to organic:

"They talked to us about their vision," he says, referring to the first family and their personal chef, Sam Kass, now at the White House. "They are really excited about being able to show to the world that there's a better way in a positive, healthy manner. We need to eat better. We need to take care of the land," says Shanks. He calls theirs a natural progression for the White House kitchen.


February 28, 2009 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

Organic Fertilizer Producer Might Be Full of It, Say Feds

According to an article by Jim Downing of the Sacramento Bee (republished on the Organic Consumers Association website), federal agents recently searched Port Organic Products Ltd. of Bakersfield, “a major producer of fertilizer for California's organic farmers.” The investigation raises concerns about the possible use of synthetic nitrogen-based fertilizers, which are banned by the organic industry primarily because they are not sustainable.

This investigation is significant because Port Organic Products produces over half of the liquid fertilizer used on California’s organic farms. And more importantly, California produces nearly “60 percent of the U.S. harvest of organic fruits, nuts and vegetables.”

The raid illustrates that “work remains to improve a patchwork regulatory system that presumes manufacturers tell the truth about their products.” After the raid, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) ordered its clients to stop using Port’s products. “We are shocked at the lack of integrity of this manufacturer and we are doing our best to restore trust in the organic system,” said Claudia Reid, the group's policy director.

More:

Federal raid heightens concerns about fake organic fertilizer by Jim Downing (on the Sacramento Bee website).

A December 28 story on the same issue, also by Jim Downing of the Sacramento Bee: Organic farms unknowingly used a synthetic fertilizer

CCOF’s 2009 policy banning synthetic liquid fertilizers.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Mark Johson for preparing this post.

January 28, 2009 in Farming, Organics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2008

USDA: Proposed Rule on Organic Dairy Pasture Requirements

USDA has just published its Proposed Rule on Access to Pasture for organic dairy operations.  The pasture requirements of the National Organic Standards have been a source of controversy for years.  The proposed rules are not confined to the pasture requirement, however, but also "clarify" rules about replacement animals and add bees and aquatic animals to the definition of "livestock." 

The existing National Organic Program regulations are here (7 CFR Part 205).

Commentary on Proposed Rule from Cornucopia Institute -- Cornucopia recommends that the new changes not be combined with the long-awaited pasture access rule:

“We are pleased that the USDA has finally addressed the concerns of the organic dairy community, ” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, “but it appears that the department has once again monkeywrenched this process by incorporating a number of red herrings – major policy proposals that have never been reviewed by the industry, or, as Congress mandated, by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).”

It is feared that these added proposals have the potential to crash the other needed changes addressed by this rule and indefinitely delay enforcement.

Proposed Rule on Access to Pasture, Federal Register, 10-24-2008

The replacement animal rules.  Under the general rule, sec. 205.236(a)(2), organic "milk or milk products must be from animals that have been under continuous organic management" for at least one year.

So, as I understand it, this means that a dairy could manage some of its conventional cows organically for one year and then sell the milk as organic.  Moreover, the dairy could buy additional cows that have been raised conventionally and manage them organically for one year and then sell the milk as organic.

There are three exceptions to this rule:

(i) When a whole farm transitions to organic production (a 3-year process) its cows can eat crops and forage from that farm during the third transitional year,

(ii) if a whole herd is converted, the feed for the first nine months of the year prior to milk production only has to be 80% organic, and

(iii) once a whole herd has been converted to organic production, replacement animals have to be raised organically from the third trimester of gestation.

The proposed rule will specifically make exception (iii) only apply to whole herds that were certified under exception (i) or (ii). It will read as follows:

‘‘Once an operation has been certified for organic production using the exception in paragraph (a)(2)(i) or (ii) of this section, all dairy animals brought onto the operation shall be under organic management from the last third of gestation.’’

Dairies that raise some or all of their cows on all organic feed and pasture for one year can continue to add conventional cows to organic production by managing them organically for one year.  Thus there are two "tracks" -- one year of organic management cow by cow, or whole herds converted under the transitional farm or 80% rules.  Dairies whose whole herds were converted under these rules can only add organic-from-the-womb cows, while other dairies can continually add conventionally raised cows.

If I got this wrong, someone please let me know!  I found the rule change (or "clarification") difficult to understand from the Federal Register alone.  -- DMB

October 26, 2008 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 21, 2008

What is organic milk?

Organic watchdog organization, the Cornucopia Institute sent me this news release:

Farmers at Organic Valley Assert Control to Maintain High Ethics Standards at Co-op $500 Million Cooperative Back on Track to Uphold Mission

LA FARGE, WI: After years of being financially squeezed, dairy farmers have developed a healthy skepticism toward the businesses that buy their milk.  Even at farmer-owned cooperatives the incomes paid to dairy producers have failed to keep pace with inflation, while the clout of co-op managers, and the size of their paychecks, have continued to grow.

Earlier this year, the farmer-owners at Organic Valley, the nation’s largest organic cooperative, worried that their worst fears were coming to fruition.  The Cornucopia Institute, the nation’s leading organic-industry watchdog and a longtime critic of factory farms, discovered that Organic Valley was quietly buying milk from a giant Texas operation milking 3500-4000 cows.

“I was terribly disturbed to learn that some of our milk was coming from an investor-owned corporate dairy,” said Darlene Coehoorn, president of the Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and long-time Organic Valley member.  “Since our relationship with consumers is based on trust, I thought that buying milk from this factory farm could potentially be catastrophic to our marketplace reputation.”

According to a University of Illinois research report, the investor group that controls the 50,000-acre Natural Prairie Dairy operation in Delhart, Texas, is prepared to replicate the project based on marketplace demand.  Recent reports indicate they have already grown their herd to upward of 5000 milk cows in the semi-arid region of west Texas.

When challenged by their farmer-owners about why the co-op was buying milk from the Texas mega-farm, Organic Valley’s management defended the situation.  They called the purchasing arrangement "temporary." Managers said they had checked it out and found that unlike many other factory farms, the operation was at least doing some level of grazing as opposed to strictly confining cattle to a feedlot.

“What I find to be objectionable, along with many other Organic Valley farmer-owners, is the fact that some giant dairy, that doesn't even qualify for membership in our co-op, can get by with the bare minimum of meeting federal organics standards, or worse, but family producers like myself are expected to uphold the high standards set forth by Organic Valley,” said Coehoorn.  Along with her husband, Dan, they milk 50 cows on their dairy farm in Rosendale, WI. 

“What bothered some farmers most was that this giant operation was gaming the system the same way that we found at the 8000-head Horizon dairy owned by Dean Foods,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst with the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

Cornucopia had come down hard on Dean Foods for selling-off all their baby calves at birth and then replacing them in their dairy herd with year-old heifers that had been raised on conventional, genetically engineered feed and managed with antibiotics and other drugs banned in organics.  This same practice is employed by management at Natural Prairie in Texas. 

“We have held Organic Valley in high regard,” said Kastel.  “But once we discovered that Organic Valley was cutting some of the same corners as Dean Foods, we have the ethical responsibility to treat both organizations the same way," Kastel added.

Cornucopia initially sought to negotiate with Organic Valley management, trying to persuade them that their “family farm” and “farmer-owned” cooperative brand, advertised widely to consumers, was at risk due to their association with milk from the Natural Prairie industrial-scale dairy.  But the negotiations failed until Cornucopia brought the situation to the attention of key farmer-owners with management oversight.

“The difference between Dean Foods, the nation’s largest dairy processor with over $12 billion in annual sales, and Organic Valley is that Organic Valley is democratically controlled by the farmers themselves who actually own the outfit,” noted Kastel.  “Once the farmers got involved things started to change.”

During an emotionally charged meeting in May, Organic Valley CEO George Siemon announced to the Dairy Executive Committee, representatives elected by the co-op's approximately over 900 dairy farmers, that the Cooperative would cease buying milk from the Texas dairy effective June 1.

“We have seen all too many farmer-owned dairy cooperatives do what is financially expedient to the detriment of their producer-members,” said John Bunting, industry observer and contributing editor to the dairy monthly The Milkweed.  “It's certainly heartening to see farmers step up and go toe-to-toe with management to maintain control.”  The Milkweed’s investigative research, and discoveries of improprieties by management at the nation's largest conventional dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, was prominently featured in a recent New York Times and Wall Street Journal stories.

The controversy surrounding giant factory farms has escalated over the past few years, with The Cornucopia Institute filing a series of formal legal complaints with the USDA.  Dean Foods’ largest supplier, a 10,000-cow feedlot in Pixley, California, was shut down, and Aurora Dairy, with five massive operations in Texas and Colorado, was the subject of enforcement sanctions by the USDA in 2007.  Aurora is now defending itself in court as the target of 19 federal consumer fraud lawsuits.

“The good news is that, because of their decision to cease buying milk from this factory farm, Organic Valley will remain one of the highly rated dairies in the organic industry,” Kastel stated.  Cornucopia’s national analysis of all industry participants indicated that over 90% of all namebrand organic dairy products were produced with milk from family farms of high integrity. 

“Factory farms in organics are a terrible aberration,” observed Kastel.  “Cornucopia’s scorecard, on our web site (www.cornucopia.org), helps consumers find and support the true heroes in the organic dairy business.  We are pleased that Organic Valley will remain one of them.”

Many co-op members who have learned of the situation, such as Kevin Engelbert, who, along with his family, milks 120 cows in New York, are completely supportive of the efforts by other farmer-owners to keep Organic Valley true to its original mission.  Engelbert states: “The farmers who own the co-op are the ultimate watchdogs.  We have and will continue to protect the reputation of Organic Valley.  Consumers should continue to enjoy our products in confidence, knowing that they are supporting authentic, true family farms that protect the environment, treat animals humanely, and follow not just the letter of the National Organic Rule, but also its intent.”

Tony Azevedo, of Stevinson California, another long-time Organic Valley member, and president of the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, said: “This incident should be very reassuring to our many loyal Organic Valley customers.  Unlike most business we are not strictly governed by the bottom line.” 

MORE/BACKGROUND:  In related news, the USDA moved on June 4 to shut down the nation’s leading supplier of replacement cattle to factory farms like the Delhart, Texas operation.  The massive Promiseland Livestock operation, with facilities in Missouri and Nebraska, managing 22,000 head of cattle, was found by USDA investigators to have “willfully” violated several organic regulations.  Promiseland has supplied thousands of replacement animals to factory farms in the last several years.   

For a number of years a widespread coalition of interests in the organic industry has appealed to the USDA to modify their liberal interpretation permitting conventional cattle, if properly "transitioned," to be brought on to organic dairy farms.

In addition to The Cornucopia Institute, special recognition for pushing this issue should go to the FOOD Farmers coalition (Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance).

The National Organic Standards Board, set up by Congress to advise the USDA Secretary on organic standards, has strongly recommended that the USDA close loopholes permitting factory farms to bring conventional animals into their operations.  So far, the USDA has refused to act.

“The continuation of this practice, unacceptable to organic consumers, places ethical family farmers at a distinct competitive disadvantage,” said Kastel.  “Real organic farmers don't buy replacement heifers….. they sell replacement heifers!”

Sometimes in filthy and unhealthy conditions, conventional and organic factory farms push dairy cattle for high milk production.  The approach places the animals under great stress.  Many of these dairy cows are unable to maintain their high production rates, or fall ill, and are then removed from the herd and slaughtered at an early age.  This may occur after being in the milking line for as little as one to two years.

“At family-scale organic farms the cows generally have names not numbers.  They are treated with care and live long, healthy, and happy lives,” Kastel added.  “This stands in stark contrast to industrial-scale dairies where the cows are treated as production assets and disposable if they prematurely become ill or their milk production falls off.”

By purchasing conventional dairy replacements, the large organic confinement dairies—mostly in the arid western states—financially benefit in other ways.  They are free to sell upward of $1 million in extra organic milk, at each dairy, that would otherwise be used to feed their baby calves.  They also do not have to purchase more expensive organic feed during the first year of the animal’s life (replacement dairy cows are two years old before they are mature enough to enter their first lactation cycle).

June 21, 2008 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2008

More Synthetics Enter “Organic” Livestock

The Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently published a final rule that adds a handful of synthetic substances for use in organic livestock production. The rule amends the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

From an article in the Journal for the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA):

Veterinarians may now use additional synthetic drugs—atropine, butorphanol, flunixin, furosemide, magnesium hydroxide, poloxalene, tolazoline, and xylazine—in organic livestock production, under certain restrictions.

For many of the synthetic drugs, the new rule specifies longer meat and milk withdrawal times in organic livestock production than in traditional livestock production. The USDA indicated that it did not use food safety arguments to support the extension of withdrawal periods. Rather, the department determined that longer withdrawal periods are more compatible with consumer expectations of organic livestock production.

Despite many disapproving comments, the “department determined…that the record supports the need for livestock medications in the interest of humane treatment.

Link to the AMS Rule

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Heather McDougall for preparing this post.

February 8, 2008 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

Study finds Children on Organic Diets have Lower Pesticide Exposure

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer this week reported on a study published by Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that children who ate non-organic produce were found to have measurable amounts of pesticides in their systems while those children who ate organic produce were found to have no pesticides in their systems. 

From the article:

"The transformation is extremely rapid," said Chensheng Lu, the principal author of the study published online in the current issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos) that we can measure in the urine disappears. The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets," said Lu, a professor at Emory University's School of Public Health and a leading authority on pesticides and children.

Within eight to 36 hours of the children switching to organic food, the pesticides were no longer detected in the testing.

The subjects for his testing were 21 children, ages 3 to 11, from two elementary schools and a Montessori preschool on Mercer Island.

Note:the news article says that the study was published "the current issue" of Environmental Health Perspectives, but the study was actually published in 2005, and as far as we can tell, there has not been a more recent version published.

Link to Abstract on the Environmental Health Perspectives website.
Link to Full Study (pdf) at OrganicConsumers.org
Link to information on Chensheng Lu

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Anne Rucker, who prepared this post.

February 7, 2008 in Children, Organics, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 30, 2008

Pollinating Our Future: Urban Agriculture Conference Feb 28 in Milwaukee

Urban_ag_confFrom Businesswire.com: The Milwaukee Urban Agriculture Network announces its first annual Pollinating Our Future: Urban Agriculture Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 28 March 1, 2008 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Keynote speaker, Michael Ableman, award-winning urban farmer, author and educator heads a line-up of leading sustainability experts in presenting the revolutionary power of urban agriculture.

Conference speakers and attendees will address important and controversial issues facing cities today focused on Food Justice, Garden as Community, Policy and Planning and Enterprise Development with workshops, forums, film, exhibits, and Town Hall meeting.

From the Urban Agriculture Conference website:

January 30, 2008 in Farming, Food culture, Food security, Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

Baby Formula Additives -- Cornucopia study says not like breast milk

The Cornucopia Institute has just released a report on Omega-3 fatty acid additives in infant formula.  A brief summary and an interview with Cornucopia co-founder, Mark Kastel, were aired on NPR's Marketplace today.  The full story is available on the Cornucopia website:

Marketing Gimmick” Linked to Serious Infant Illnesses

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA: A report released today by The Cornucopia Institute presents research indicating that new additives placed in infant formula are seriously endangering the health of some formula-fed newborns and toddlers.

The report, Replacing Mother—Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory, details research questioning the alleged benefits of adding “novel” omega-3 fatty acids, produced in laboratories and extracted from algae and fungus, into infant formulas. The additives raised health and safety red flags during preapproval testing while aggressive marketing campaigns by some infant formula manufacturers appear to have encouraged new mothers to give up nursing for the questionable infant products.

more

January 25, 2008 in Children, Ingredients, Organics | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 13, 2007

Class Action Lawsuits against Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, and Wild oats

New development in the organic milk world.  From the Associated Press:

Lawsuits Allege Milk Wasn't Organic, by Gene Johnson

SEATTLE (AP) — Some of the nation's largest retailers and grocery chains sold milk labeled "organic" that was not truly organic, recently filed lawsuits allege.

The federal complaints focus on the sale of milk from Boulder, Colo.-based Aurora Organic Dairy, which recently agreed to change its practices after the U.S. Department of Agriculture found more than a dozen violations of organic standards.

The lawsuits allege that Costco Wholesale Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Safeway Inc. and Wild Oats Markets Inc. sold Aurora's milk under their own in-house brand names.

more

December 13, 2007 in Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack