Beware Corporate Agribusiness in Sheep’s Farmers’ Clothing
Recently, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced that they are forming a “Farmer Advisory Council.” This comes at a time when the OTA has received widespread, sharp criticism from organic farmers and ranchers and the organizations that represent them.
The OTA is a trade/lobby group representing, primarily, processors, marketers and retailers in the organic industry. The organization’s leadership and financing is dominated by giant agribusinesses that gain the majority of their sales and profits by selling conventional and/or “natural” food rather than certified organic products (Dean Foods/WhiteWave, General Mills, Smuckers, Groupe Danone, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, etc.) and giant corporations more focused on organics (Earthbound Farms, UNFI and Hain Celestial).
To lift the veil and see “Who Owns Organics” please click here: http://www.cornucopia.org/who-owns-organic/.
These are powerful corporate players that buy commodities from real organic farmers.
The OTA and some of its members have repeatedly been accused of selling-out the values that the organic movement was founded upon and diluting the working definition of the organic label by supporting gimmicky synthetics in organic foods, de facto confinement of organic livestock and, more recently, promulgating a sophisticated legislative scheme in Washington that will result in an organic “check-off,” taxing farmers to, in part, fund industry public relations efforts.
In the best tradition of corporations that set up “employee councils” while fighting labor unions, or the Rockefeller family that funded the startup of the Farm Bureau Federation when other family farm groups threatened control during the robber baron period, it can reasonably be predicted that OTA’s new Farmer Advisory Council will help deflect criticism of corporate organics.
OTA’s new counsel is chaired by a farmer (and OTA board member) who has done publicity work for Dean Foods/WhiteWave when its Horizon label was receiving criticism in the media. Its co-chairperson works for United Natural Foods Incorporated, a multibillion-dollar near-monopoly engaged in organic food distribution.
And I wish I was making this up, but the council already includes members of the “Organic Egg Farmers of America.” This group is made up of large industrial egg producers, with a majority of their production in conventional eggs. They are either vertically-integrated operations, with as many as 100,000 birds in a building, or they contract with farmers. This group is anything but a farmer organization.
One of its farmer-members, Greg Herbuck, has been nominated to join the OTA board. An image below represents what the OTA must think is an “organic farm” (an operation with, reportedly, 600,000 birds — see all the room between buildings for adequate outdoor access — required by federal law).
Members of the Farmer Advisory Council will also come from organizations that have entered into a “strategic alliance” or executed a “memorandum of understanding” with the OTA. As an example, CCOF, Inc, chartered as a trade organization and operating as a multimillion-dollar certification organization (certifying many of the nation’s largest agribusinesses/OTA members), will nominate four farmer-members to the OTA council.
Whether it is the explosive growth of Chinese “organic” imports, dairy CAFOs (limited pasture) and egg production from CAFO operators (with no legal outdoor access), or lobbying the USDA and Congress to loosen organic standards, the OTA and/or many of its most powerful members have a track record of weakening and undermining the organic principles that the economic success of this industry was built upon.
For more than a year, the OTA held a series of “listening sessions” around the country in an effort to sell their organic check-off scheme to industry participants. Instead of truly listening to authentic farmers, and the organizations that represent them, they have disregarded the sentiments of the most important organic stakeholders. Their Farmer Advisory Council will likely afford them a friendlier and more malleable body as an adjunct to their public relations campaigns.
The OTA’s annual dues for family-scale farmers range from $360 – $1,375. Notwithstanding their agenda, is it any wonder that the OTA has virtually no legitimate working farmers as members? Organic producers might want to think twice before lending their good name to OTA’s work.
“Real” organic farmers, and the organizations that represent them, will want to stay tuned for further developments.
Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute
The Cornucopia Institute is engaged in research and educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, The Cornucopia Institute provides needed information to family farmers, consumers, stakeholders involved in the good food movement and the media.
The Cornucopia Institute P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, WI 54827 www.cornucopia.org
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UPDATE: Tickets are nearly sold out!
Sunday, April 21st, 2013
Wimberley, TX—There’s nothing that says Texas more than an outrageously big outdoor barbecue in the Hill Country, and that’s where you’ll find Austin chefs Larry McGuire and Lou Lambert roasting an entire 1,200-pound steer at the second-annual Vaca y Vino celebration on April 21. Set on Bridges Ranch, a private venue on a thousand acres dotted with oak trees and Longhorns just outside of Austin, Vaca y Vino promises to be one great five-hour dinner party, with delicious food, fine Argentine wine and local craft beer, and live tunes by Doug Strahan and the Good Neighbors.
Vaca y Vino is not your average Sunday afternoon get-together. The event, which is sponsored by Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, was inspired by South American chef Francis Mallmann and a recipe for Una Vaca Entera (“the entire cow”) that appears in his cookbook Seven Fires. “Having both a family cattle operation and a passion for barbecue, we had to try it,” said Will Bridges, a co-founder of Lamberts. McGuire and Lambert will follow suit in the same Argentine style as they prepare the massive piece of meat for the three hundred or so guests lucky enough to secure a ticket. Carving is a big production. In fact, at last year’s shindig, according to an article in the New York Times, the cooking crew “did a practice run with a 350-pound half cow.”
In addition to the roasted meat, the menu also includes empanadas stuffed with ricotta and Swiss chard; spring vegetable caldo; grilled lettuces, escarole, and red onion salad; warm new potato salad with parsley, mustard, and capers; Lamberts sausages; chimichurri; and chocotorta. Fine Argentine wines will be served as well as local craft brews including Pedernales, Live Oak, Austin Beerworks, and Rogness.
All proceeds from Vaca y Vino will be donated to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), a national organization that supports independent farmers and protects a healthy food supply for American consumers. Tickets are $100 per person (no transportation) or $120 per person (includes transportation from downtown Austin to and from the event) and can be purchased at vacayvino2013.eventbrite.com.
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Charlottesville, Virginia, where the philosopher king and queen of the movement, Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, have devoted much time. Pollan, author of the locavore’s bible, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, dedicated much of his book to Polyface Farm, a small, organic farm just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Kingsolver’s best-selling memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle detailed her family’s yearlong quest to eat only locally produced food from rural Virginia. -Forbes Magazine 6/01/2011
Tom Yum is a community food festival based in Downtown Charlottesville and celebrating local food innovators at the Charlottesville City Market. On Saturday, April 13th, come meet the farmers, chefs, artisans, and pioneers in sustainable food and see what all the fuss is about.
Play with your food. Learn about your food. And eat your food. It’s a day of hands-on workshops, food talks, culinary demos, and tastings. Try your hand at market-scene sketching and games. Revel in the sights and sounds of live bluegrass and classical music in a parking lot transformed into a pop-up park.
Grab your groceries at the market, participate in the arts and music at Tom Yum, and stick around for the Food Talks. This event is totally free and designed for the whole family. Bring an appetite, a sketchbook, and plan to stay a while.
Lots more information here
Congratulations – your efforts paid off!
On Friday, an amendment offered by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) to require labeling of genetically engineered fish was passed by a voice vote in the Senate.
In his speech, Seantor Begich noted that over 60 countries currently require labeling of GE foods, including Russia, China and the European Union. Additionally, he pointed out that over 2,000 grocery stores across the U.S., including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have committed to not sell genetically engineered seafood.
While the Senate’s budget plan is non-binding, the passage of the Begich amendment will further increase the pressure on the FDA to label genetically engineered foods.
We encourage you to send a thank you letter to Senator Begich for protecting our right to know by introducing this amendment, and working to drum up support in the Senate.
Tell Senator Begich: Thank you for supporting our right to know!
As always, thank you for taking action.
Partnership and Media Manager
Just Label It
Your Health is in Your Hands
Hungry For Change exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight loss and food industry don’t want you to know about. It features interviews with best selling health authors and leading medical experts (including 4 Food Revolution Summit speakers) plus real life transformational stories from those who know what it’s like to be sick and overweight.
More than 500,000 people are expected to watch this film in the next week, all for f*ree.
You can check it out here.
This Hungry For Change complimentary screening event includes the Full Length Film, Detox Recipes, Take Action Videos, and a Live Q&A call that will empower you to take action for health and wellness.
The event starts tomorrow.
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Many of us have heard of cod liver oil, perhaps through a story of childhood woes related by our grandparents or great-grandparents that went something like: “Every day my mother would make me take a spoonful of cod liver oil before I walked the five miles through the snow to school.” What this story doesn’t tell you is how lucky they were to have been given this historical super food. Yes, cod liver oil has been around for a long time.
You could even say it is the stuff of legends or, rather, the stuff legends were built on. The Roman soldiers were known to take fermented cod liver oil, Garum, on their marches across Europe. In the same vein, every Viking family had a barrel of cod livers fermenting by their front door and would take a spoonful of the oil upon leaving the house every day because they recognized its contribution to their vitality.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the benefits of cod liver oil became better understood. Doctors in the 1920s recommended feeding children cod liver oil in order to prevent rickets (a crippling affliction caused by vitamin D deficiency, most notably endured by President Franklin D. Roosevelt). Studies have shown this nutrient-dense food (it is really more of a food, though we take it supplementarily) to contain high concentrations of naturally occurring vitamin A and D. DHA and EPA, two essential fatty acids particularly important for brain health and hormone production, respectively, are also found in cod liver oil. The importance and inherent practicality of consuming a food like this as a supplement is in the synergism of the components. Since vitamins A and D are fat-soluble, our bodies require fat to absorb them. The natural fatty acids in the cod liver oil act as the liaison for the absorption of A and D in your body, much as they did for the cod.
Although there has been some research indicating the possible toxicity of vitamin D and A that can occur from consuming large quantities, many cases are attributable to supplements created from synthesized A and D. This basically means the vitamins are not quite usable by the body (take D2, for example) and require your body to convert the supplement to a more usable form. Taking a supplement that requires your body to do more work seems counterproductive when there are nutrient-dense foods and supplements that can give you what you need without the extra bodily hassle. In addition, the unconverted portion of the synthetic supplement has nowhere to go but to build up in your body fat and create toxic concentrations that will lead to other problems.
As to the benefits of a daily dose of fermented cod liver oil, there are many. Research has shown that daily consumption of cod liver oil in northerly latitudes (particularly in the winter time when sun exposure is reduced) can improve vitamin D levels (thereby attenuating the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that plagues so many of us), as well as increase bone density. A study in the Journal of Neurology looking at people living in the Arctic, found that supplemental cod liver oil taken during childhood may be protective against developing Multiple Sclerosis later in life. In addition, breastfeeding mothers taking cod liver oil show significantly higher levels of DHA and EPA in their breast milk. These higher levels have been shown to greatly benefit the developing fetus and baby. In “a double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed the use of cod liver oil during pregnancy and lactation to increase the child’s IQ at the age of four years. In this study, the control received the same amount of fat-soluble vitamins as the cod liver oil group, so the effects are most likely due to the DHA. In Norway, use of cod liver oil during pregnancy was associated with a 70 percent reduced risk of type 1 diabetes.”
I am an avid believer in the benefits of fermented cod liver oil because I have been using it myself over the last few years. At the beginning, I was not consistent, and although I suspected some benefits, I couldn’t be precise about what they were. During the summer, when I am outside more often, I take less simply because I feel that I get enough sun exposure and do not want to over-do my vitamin D levels that are already being accommodated by the sun and my skin. When the days get shorter and I am more bundled up during the cooler months of the year, I increase my intake, and make sure I am consistent. This Fall and Winter were the first that I have been consistent with my daily dose, and it is also the first year that SAD has not knocked on my door.
As a nutritionist, I believe that eating real foods, prepared using time-tested traditional methods is the only way to eat for vital health and well-being. In my ideology, fermented cod liver oil is an important part of building vital health, particularly for people who do not live in tropic zones of the world, where sunlight exposure is high. My preferred brand is Green Pasture because of the high quality of the livers (only wild caught fish livers from fish caught in clean Arctic waters are used), the high quality processing of the oil (using traditional fermentation methods), and the efforts in sustainability the company employs (they only work with companies that are certified members of the Marine Stewardship Council)
Luckily, this product is available at Rebecca’s, and costs less than ordering it online from Green Pastures or Dr. Ron’s. But, no matter how you get it, I highly recommend you do and start your daily dose of what your great-grandmother always knew was best!
Caitlin Howell, MS (Human Nutrition)
Assistant Grocery Manager
Rebecca’s Natural Food, Charlottesville VA