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Action To Help Protect Bees

I am raising a rather larger garden than usual this year…and have noticed that, even here in relatively pristine northern New Mexico, there just aren’t very many bees! Several plants failed to set fruit due to lack of pollination. Scary! Below is an action to help stop the bee die off.

 

Bees can’t wait five more years for EPA action

Bees need help now

Tell EPA’s new leader to step up and protect bees!

Dear friend,

In honor of National Honey Bee Day, people across the country are celebrating the pollinators responsible for much of our food. But as you know, bees are in serious trouble.

These vital pollinators are still dying off at unprecedented rates. And while EPA has taken little action to protect bees from harmful pesticides, the agency’s new leader can step it up. Join us in calling on Gina McCarthy to make pollinator protection a priority under her leadership!

Tell Gina McCarthy, bees need action now» The science is increasingly clear: neonicotinoid pesticides, alone and in combination with other pesticides, are a key factor in declining bee populations. Neonics have been linked to massive bee kills, and at non-lethal doses they can interfere with critical brain functions that bees need to navigate, forage and reproduce.

Make bees a priority» As head of EPA, it’s up to Gina McCarthy to protect bees. The agency’s current plan is to finish reviewing neonics by 2018…and then decide what to do. But with beekeepers reporting losses of 40-70%, it’s clear bees can’t wait five more years.

Help send the message to Administrator McCarthy: It’s time to step up and protect bees. We rely on them for one in three bites of food we eat, and they need help urgently.

Thanks for adding your voice to the swell!

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Please Help Family Farms Stay In Business

 

 

Those of us who grow vegetables and herbs are again at risk because of the politics of fear: fear of organic, fear of raw, fear of anything other than corporate-run ” logo’d food.” It is already very difficult to be a farmer in today’s world: wacky weather, amazing amounts of hard work, and now, ridiculous regulations. Please take the time to read this article and respond. Your access to healthy sustainable local food may depend upon it!

 

What Does the Government Have Against Small Farmers?

August 6, 2013

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farmer hands holding a plantlet.Three years ago you won major concessions for small farmers. Now it’s all in danger. Action Alert!

When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was originally proposed in 2010, we and many other organizations were troubled. Small-farm and organic food advocates warned that the legislation would destroy their industry under a mountain of paperwork and other requirements.

Working with the natural health community, ANH-USA helped win the inclusion of an amendment from Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), which exempted producers making less than $500,000 a year in sales who also sold most of their food locally. This wasn’t easy. Big farms and processed food companies and their allies at the USDA and FDA did not like it, because they feel threatened by competition from natural food producers.

Now, through the rulemaking process, the FDA is trying to change the law in such a way that the hard-won exceptions provided by the Tester-Hagan Amendment are endangered.

In January we reported that the FDA had proposed two troubling FSMA rules:

  • The first one concerned standards for the growing and harvesting of raw agricultural produce, and exempts foods that are sterilized by irradiation, even though “nuking” it harms the food’s nutritional value, can cause a wide range of health problems, and masks filthy conditions in slaughterhouses and food processing plants. Obviously, organic foods cannot be irradiated, so they will never be exempted.
  • The second amended the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) guidelines by creating hazards analysis requirements and risk-based protections with lots of detailed recordkeeping. Most farmers will likely need a team of lawyers to make sure they’re complying with the new rule properly.

Farmers who make less than $500,000 should be off the hook because of the Tester-Hagan Amendment, right? No! At the last minute, a provision was added to the FSMA allowing the FDA to revoke the exemption for small farms or facilities under specific conditions.

And now, new FDA rules interpret those conditions in a way that completely undermines the intent of the Tester-Hagan amendment. The FDA now gets to revoke the exemption if a foodborne illness outbreak might possibly be linked to the farm, even if there is no proof that the farm is the cause of the outbreak, and even though there may not be an immediate threat to public health!

The standard is now very low indeed: FDA can revoke the exemption for any reason if it will “protect the public health and prevent or mitigate a foodborne illness outbreak based on conduct or conditions associated” with a farm. Talk about vague language! This rule is just the excuse the agency needs to run roughshod over the rights of the small farmer.

It gets even more unfair. If the FDA decides to revoke the exemption, the small farmer or facility has a mere sixty days to come into compliance after being notified of a problem. This will put the farm out of business immediately—which is especially unjust considering the fact that bigger farms and facilities have between one and six years to come into compliance and will no doubt get lots of help from the government.

Even worse, a farm or facility that wishes to contest FDA’s decision has only ten days to put together supporting facts and documentation and send it to the FDA. On top of that, there is no formal hearing process in which to contest the decision—and no way to re-qualify for the exemption. Once it is revoked, it’s game over.

As we’ve pointed out in the past, organic food is often the first to be blamed for foodborne illness. Remember the European E. coli outbreak? Organic farms were blamed with no evidence to support the contention. And now there is no need to prove that a farm is the source of the illness. Their exemption can be revoked on mere suspicion.

In addition, the proposed rules discriminate against small farmers and food producers who wish to diversify. The rules now say that all foods sold by farmer or food processor fall under the $500,000 cap, instead of just the food that is under the FDA’s jurisdiction and therefore subject to the FSMA. Produce is, of course, under their jurisdiction. But meat and poultry products fall under the USDA’s jurisdiction and should not be subject to these rules.

So a farmer who has $500,000 sales in poultry and $10,000 sales in organic fruit could never get an exemption, because the farmer exceeds the $500,000 total food sales limit. This will discourage diversification by farmers to include the small-scale production of fruits and vegetables, which is contrary to the intent of the Tester-Hagan amendment. It doesn’t make sense to treat small-scale production of produce the same as large-scale production, just because the same farmer is producing other types of food—as many small farmers must, in order to survive.

We warned earlier that the FDA should not be put in charge of our farms. It did not make sense because the FDA knows absolutely nothing about farming and also has demonstrated its bias again and again against small and natural operations in favor of large and powerful companies. The FDA was given authority over farms anyway through the Food Safety Modernization Act, and now we see that it is proceeding exactly as we feared.

Action Alert! The FDA has extended the comment period for the new rules to September 16—which gives us an opportunity to provide additional comment. Write to the FDA and ask them to create a clear and justifiable standard for revoking exemption for small farms and facilities, not the vague language that is currently used; allow for due process to contest the decision; provide a pathway to re-qualify for the Tester-Hagan exemption; and limit the definition of food in the $500,000 sales ceiling to those products under the jurisdiction of the FSMA and the FDA. Please take action immediately!

Take-Action1

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A Bit On Biochar

ORGANIC TRANSITIONS

No Small Thing: Reversing Climate Change through Sustainable Agriculture and Biochar

For the past five years, OCA has been passionately talking and writing about how organic farming, ranching, and forestry practices can potentially reverse global warming and save us from climate catastrophe.

There were times when we thought we were preaching only to the choir. But now a growing number of leading food and environmental writers, including Michael Pollan and Mark Hertsgaard, are joining the chorus and educating the public on how we can use sustainable farming, ranching and biochar practices to exponentially increase plant photosynthesis and soil carbon sequestration on hundreds of millions of acres of farmland, pasture, and rangeland.

This Great Transition has the potential to bring our current greenhouse gas pollution down from our 400 ppm of CO2 to 350 ppm – the number scientists say we need to achieve if we’re going to survive. If we can achieve this, we can stabilize our dangerously out-of-control global climate. And in the process, we’ll dramatically increase soil fertility, biodiversity, and moisture retention.

As Pollan puts it, moving away from factory farms and industrial/GMO agriculture to organic no-till farming and rotational grazing  “gets us out of one of the worst aspects of environmental thinking – the zero sum idea that we can’t feed ourselves and save the planet at the same time. It also raises our spirits about the challenges ahead, which is not a small thing.”

Read Michael Pollan on agriculture and climate change

Read Mark Hertsgaard on how biochar, composting and biochar energy production can reverse global warming

I have a recipe for making this lovely compost, and will post it as soon as I can find the paper on my desk! Two WWOOFers  (workers on organic farms) are joining me this coming week, and we’ll be making this and taking photos, which I will also post. Last year a group of WWOOFers and I made some, which we added to a newly rejuvenated garden spot, and holy guacamole di it ever make a difference! HUGE gorgeous greens.

 

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Two Important Actions To Take ASAP

Story at-a-glance

  • Illinois Senator Durbin is planning to reintroduce his supplement bill, the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act (S 1310), which would grant more power to the FDA to regulate dietary supplements like they were drugs; Durbin first introduced S 1310 in 2011, but it failed miserably, as have many of his other attempts to pass laws attacking the supplement industry
  • Durbin’s citing of the 2013 GAO Dietary Supplements report, which details adverse effects reports (AERs) associated with supplements, backfires in that it demonstrates just how safe supplements are, compared to vaccines and drugs
  • Based on the GAO report, there were 488 times as many adverse reactions reported for prescription drugs as from dietary supplements, and there is no evidence supporting the claim that adverse reactions to supplements are underreported; data from poison control centers confirms their safety
  • The financial burden created by Durbin’s proposed legislation will likely cause many supplement companies to go under; and, as a result, the cost of your supplements will likely skyrocket and, more importantly, your supplement choices will be limited  
  • Manufacturers are migrating products previously classified as “supplements” into the category “food products” in order to sidestep the tighter regulations imposed on supplements, and this loophole is completely ignored by the Durbin

Durbin’s bill has failed miserably in the past due to lack of support and strong opposition by health-conscious consumers. We can do that again, but your help is needed. Please contact your representatives and urge them to vote NO on S 1310, Dietary Supplement Labeling Act. You can do this by signing the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) petition.

If you live in Illinois, as I do, I would encourage you to contact Senator Durbin directly. Tell him (or whomever your representative is) to stop this overreach of power, and that the proposed guidelines fly in the face of the congressional intent of DSHEA. Congress never intended for the FDA to control supplements, and giving them this control jeopardizes your access to the dietary supplements you rely on, as well as further damaging the US economy. Please be courteous and respectful, and thank them for their time.

 

Tell Congress: “It’s time to Vote for Peoples’ Rights not

Please call your Member of Congress and urge support for the following amendments

Urgent Amendments that Need YOUR Help Today to Build an Organic, Sustainable Food Supply!

1. SUPPORT Amendment #93 by Fortenberry (NE) – Payment Limit Reform This cost-saving amendment restores common-sense rules and fiscal integrity by capping total commodity benefits at $250,000 per year for any one farm and places an annual per-farm cap at $50,000 and closes an important loophole that ensures payments go to working farmers, not corporate farm owners.

2. SUPPORT Amendment #149 by Kind (WI) Petri (WI) Crop Insurance Reform. Limits supplemental crop insurance subsidies (over basic coverage) to those producers with an AGI under $250,000; limits per person premium subsidies to $50,000 and reduces subsidies to crop insurance companies.

3. SUPPORT Amendment #28 by Thompson (CA), Fortenberry (NE) – Soil Erosion and Wetland Protection Bipartisan amendment enhances conservation by linking taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance to basic conservation requirements that minimize the damage to highly erodible lands and wetlands.

4. SUPPORT Amendment #74 by Blumenauer (OR), Capps (CA), Moran, James (VA) – Environmental Payment Reform ends Factory Farm Bailout Reforms the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to increase access for farmers, and eliminate payments to factory farm projects that do not show strong conservation benefits.

5. SUPPORT Amendment #73 by Blumenauer (OR), Capps (CA), Moran, James (VA) – Conservation Reserve Program Reform #73 Requires that 20% of acreage enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program be set aside for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program, which allows states to target high priority and environmentally sensitive land, and to continuously re-enroll that land in CRP.

6. SUPPORT Amendment #85 by Slaughter (NY)Reauthorize Antibiotic Resistance Research The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria continues to be a pressing public health concern. This amendment would re-authorize provision of 2008 Farm Bill to allow USDA to make grants to fund research and education on antimicrobial resistance and drug use in livestock production.

7. SUPPORT Amendment #174 McGovern (MA) Restores the $20.5 billion cuts in SNAP by offsetting the Farm Risk Management Election Program and the Supplemental Coverage Option.

 

 

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Time to Grow your Own

Food! Plant breeding is geared towards maximum size, quick maturity, resistance to disease, firmness while ripe, a whole plethora of other factors but, surprisingly, NOT nutrition.

Story at-a-glance

  • Ancient wild plants provided an astounding level of phytonutrients that are largely absent from our modern cultivated fruits and veggies
  • Ancient farmers’ preference for sweeter, starchier foods led to many of the less nutritious staples common today, such as sweet corn
  • Bitter and brighter colored plants that were packed with nutrition have been largely replaced with sweeter, more muted varieties
  • Genetic modification is also altering the nutrition content of the food supply; a new analysis showed GM corn to be far less nutritious than non-GM corn

For the entire, fairly short and very informative article, GO HERE:

As I have been learning in my research, for the most robust immune system, and for maximum health, we want to eat ALL the flavors, All the colors, and MANY varieties. It really is time to grow heirloom seeds of greens you aren’t familiar with, varieties that are open-pollinated, and not just one kind of spinach or kale but 3 or 4 kinds. Our ancestors thrived on diversity; with the amount of toxins we are forced to breathe, eat or drink, we need to diversify as well. Bon appetite!

 

 

 

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Essential Info On Rogue GMO Wheat

Story at-a-glance

  • An unapproved strain of genetically engineered (GE) wheat has been found growing on a farm in Oregon. The finding now threatens US wheat exports as many countries do not permit the importation of GE wheat
  • Japan has canceled orders for US wheat in response to the findings. Other major wheat importers are monitoring the situation, and the EU has ordered member states to test imported wheat for contamination
  • The House Agricultural Committee will soon vote on an amendment that would lend support to a potential nullification of states’ rights to label GMOs. Your urgent action is needed!

For the entire article, which is REALLY worth reading: GO HERE.

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If You Or I Did This We’d Be In Jail…

Never Say Never: Monsanto’s GMO Wheat Goes Rogue

TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA: No More Field Trials of Unapproved GMO Crops!

For years, Monsanto has said “Don’t worry” about their open-air field tests of unapproved genetically engineered (GE) crops. PR flacks and Monsanto-funded scientists  all but guaranteed us that the biotech giant’s frankenseeds wouldn’t escape. But they did escape. And now the company’s Roundup-resistant wheat – never approved for planting in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world – has turned up on a Oregon farm. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predictable response?  “Don’t worry.” The (illegal, untested) GE wheat is “safe to eat.”

You gotta ask: If GMO wheat is supposedly safe to eat, what are the so-called “safe” residue levels of Monsanto’s toxic pesticide, Roundup, that the EPA will allow on this wheat, if it were to be approved to market? And why is it banned in every single country in the world?

Hoping to downplay the discovery that its GE wheat is growing in places it shouldn’t, Monsanto initially told reporters that the company had ended field tests of the unapproved crop in 2005. Not so, said Bloomberg, which reported that Monsanto continues to conduct open-air field tests of GM wheat in North Dakota and Hawaii. That’s on top of the hundreds of tests conducted before 2005, in 16 states, including Oregon. And the hundreds of tests still being conducted on other crops, in other states.

The discovery of Roundup-resistant wheat in Oregon is troubling. But what’s a lot more troubling is that it may just be the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we’re calling on consumers to tell the USDA: No more open-air field testing of unapproved GMO crops!

Read the press release

TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA: No More Field Trials of Unapproved GMO Crops!

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Marching Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto. May 25. Everywhere.

When Tami Canal, mom and activist, conjured up the idea of a March Against Monsanto protest, she figured that if she attracted 3,000 people on the event’s Facebook  page, she could count that as a success. As of Tuesday, May 21, 93,381 people had “liked” the page. But the real success is this: Also on May 21, the number of March against Monsanto events scheduled to take place around the world hit 400 – in 49 countries. “I can’t help but smile,” she told us.

And what does Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, think about 400 protests, worldwide, against his company? Oh, those pesky protesters are just a bunch of “elitists” who want to deprive poor people of cheap food.

The big day is coming up. You can still find an event near you. Or if you act fast, you can create your own.

Join the march

Find a march near you

Organize your own march

Learn more

Reminds me of my “hippie” days when I marched on Washington against the Vietnam War, and for the environment, women’s rights, and gay rights. Solidarity strengthens one’s resolve.

 

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Why The Buffalo Need To Roam Again

As I prepare to do my teaching gig this spring, I have been reading a lot of books about diet. Almost all of them agree that grass-fed beef (and that would include bison or buffalo) is an excellent addition to our diet: lean, healthy Omega-3 fatty acid rich high quality protein. Turns out we used to have that naturally in the gigantic buffalo herds that roamed much of the midwest.

With desertification and aquifer depleting current agricultural practises (not to mention the GMO soy and corn and feedlot beef: unhealthy for all concerned), we are making global warming worse. her are the highlights of an article that explains this process:

The conversion of large amounts of fertile land to desert has long been thought to be caused by livestock, such as sheep and cattle overgrazing and giving off methane. This has now been shown to be incorrect, as removing animals to protect land speeds up desertification

  • Rising population, land turning into desert at a steady clip, and climate change, converge to create a “perfect storm” that threatens life on earth. According to an African ecologist, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is the only thing that can reverse both desertification and climate change
  • Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), play a key role in this impending disaster, as large-scale factory farms also directly contribute to environmental pollution
  • According to estimates, grazing large herds of livestock on half of the world’s barren or semi-barren grasslands could take enough carbon from the atmosphere to bring us back to preindustrial levels
  • A holistic management and planned grazing system has already been implemented in select areas on five continents, with dramatically positive results

If this has whetted your appetite to learn more, GO HERE for the whole article; very worth it!!!

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Please Help GMO Labeling Campaign In Washington State NOW, TODAY

DEADLINE TONIGHT: Who will protect us from Monsanto?

Over the protests of hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens, Congress cut a backroom deal with Monsanto last week that allows the biotech giant to plant genetically engineered crops and seeds, no matter how harmful they may be to our health and environment. Not even a federal court will be able to stop them.

The “Farmer Assurance Program” is hidden in the HR 933 Continuing Resolution, a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through the end of September. But this sneaky provision, written by Monsanto itself, is better known as the “Monsanto Protection Act.” Because it does just that.

With Congress and the FDA protecting Monsanto, who will protect us?

We will. And one way we’ll do it is by passing statewide citizens’ initiatives to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We need your help today. In November, voters in Washington State will decide on I-522, a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs. Because this initiative is so critical to all of us, the OCA has pledged $500,000 to the campaign. A generous donor has offered $250,000 to help us get there, but only if we raise the first $250,000 by April 1.

Thanks to the amazing response so far from thousands of individuals, as of this morning, we have raised almost $231,000. That means we need to raise $19,000 more by midnight tonight. Can you help? You can donate online with a credit card or Paypal. Or you can mail a check. Or phone in your donation. (Mail-In donations postmarked by midnight April 1 will count toward the matching gift.)

This latest free pass for Monsanto is a slap in the face to consumers who have fought for the past 20 years for more, not less, testing and transparency around GMOs. From the moment Monsanto convinced the FDA that there was “no substantial difference” between genetically engineered crops and their non-GE counterparts, we all have been unwitting lab rats in one big biotech experiment. The FDA does not test GMOs for health and safety. Instead, it relies on the biotech industry’s word that GMOs pose no health threats. Even though scientists warn that this is not true.

The assault on our health, on our right to know, will not end until we pass GMO labeling laws with real teeth, not a watered-down, loophole-riddled federal law that, like the Monsanto Protection Act, would no doubt be written by the biotech industry.

In just this past year, thanks to all of you, we have made much progress in the battle for labeling. But we’re missing one critical victory, a victory Monsanto is desperate to deprive us of: the first statewide GMO labeling law.

Matching gifts of $250,000 don’t come along every day. This is a brilliant opportunity to double every donation, no matter how large or small, toward a victory in Washington State. The campaign is young. If we can fund it now, we’ll be able to reach more voters with the truth, before our opponents permanently sway them with their lies and misinformation.

Please help us raise $19,000 by midnight. Every dollar you contribute will go directly to support the I-522 campaign.

Thank you for being a part of this revolutionary food movement. You make it all worthwhile!

In solidarity,
                                                              Ronnie Cummins National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

P.S. Just $19,000 more by midnight, and we’ll receive a $250,000 matching gift toward the I-522 GMO labeling initiative. Please donate today. (Mail-In donations postmarked by midnight April 1 will count toward the matching gift.)

Paid for by the Organic Consumers Fund Committee to