This Tiny Country Feeds the World

Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.

One more reason to marvel: The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile. It’s bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass. How on Earth have the Dutch done it?

This Tiny Country Feeds the World

This story appears in the September 2017 issue ofNational Geographic magazine. In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise.

Bad Eggs

Bad EggYou buy organic eggs for any number of reasons, probably related to not wanting to support factory farms that mistreat chickens, pollute the environment and produce eggs that are nutritionally inferior.

Unfortunately, not all organic eggs are created equal. You may be surprised to learn that most of the retail grocery chain store-brand “organic” eggs actually come from huge factory farm-type operations that routinely violate USDA National Organic Program (NOP) rules.

We’re talking about brands like Whole Foods 365 Organic; Trader Joe’s; Aldi’s Simply Nature; Sprouts Market; Wegmans; Target’s Simply Balanced—brands that stores claim as their “own” even though they don’t actually produce them

In our alert this week, we target some of the retail grocery “organic” private-label store brands that are produced for stores by one of the three worst industrial-scale “organic” producers (and violators of USDA organic standards) in the country: Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms and Herbruck’s.

How do these companies get away with running fake “organic” egg operations?

In theory, USDA standards for organic eggs dictate that hens should have access to the outdoors. But as this 2015 report by the Cornucopia Institute explains, those standards are unclear and thus open to interpretation. The standards are also largely unenforced. According to the report (p. 39):

Not a single industrial-scale egg producer has come under investigation by the USDA for violating the standards; on the contrary, industrial-scale producers apparently felt shielded from legal action soon after the organic standards went into effect in 2002.

We would ask you to hound the Big Three fake organic egg producers—but we know they won’t care what you think, as long as stores like Kroger and Target and Safeway and others keep buying up the eggs and slapping their own labels on them.

The only way to make the organic egg industry honest is to get retailers, including the big retail grocery chains like Publix and Giant Eagle and Costco, to stop sourcing their eggs from industrial-scale producers like Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms and Herbruck’s. And the only way to do that, is to stop buying the store brands until they switch.

TAKE ACTION: Tell These Retailers: Stop Selling ‘Organic’ Eggs that Actually Come from Factory Farms!

Read the Cornucopia Institute report on the egg industry

Good eggs and bad eggs—check out the Cornucopia organic egg scorecard

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’

For Immediate Release: August 25, 2016

Contacts:
Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296, Stephanie Davio, 202-543-5450
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090
Moms Across America, Blair FitzGibbon, 202-503-6141

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’
Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate, an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

Washington, DC – Today, three non profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” It was recently discovered that the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars, which consumers expect to be natural and free of toxins.

Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association with The Richman Law Group filed jointly on behalf of the non profit members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“As a mother, when I read “100% Natural” I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all. Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a “reproductive effector” which “can cause liver and kidney damage” and “digestive effects.” It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.” Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Executive Director of Moms Across America.

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that sixty six percent of consumers seek out products with a “natural” food label under the false belief that they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that sixty six percent of consumers seek out products with a “natural” food label under the false belief that they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production, and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient –oats– is 100% natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate,” he said.

“Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn’t natural. Consumers understand this. That’s why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies’ misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they’re trying to avoid. This has to be stopped.” -Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products. The hazardous chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.

Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use may claim that the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in America recently are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014, and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as .1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. A study released in early 2016 finds that glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects. Plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.

An Open Letter from the OCA

Hi everyone,

OCA_circle_logo-200x200[1]Last night, just as I was being released from jail for dumping “Monsanto Money” on the Senate floor, the DARK Act, a bill to Deny Americans the Right to Know about foods produced with genetic engineering, passed the Senate and we’ve just learned that the U.S. House of Representatives may vote next week on that version of the bill, which would send it to the President’s for his signature.

Please contact your Member of Congress and urge them to vote against the DARK Act. Even the Food & Drug Administration says that the DARK Act could exempt virtually all GMOs from labeling.

There are two reasons why the DARK Act passed the Senate.

The first reason is Monsanto’s money. The Senators who voted for the DARK Act took, on average, 2.5 times as much money from agribusiness as those who voted against.

But, second reason is even more disturbing. Several Senators who voted NO in March, blocking the DARK Act, voted YES this week, allowing the DARK Act to move forward. These Senators were brought to the DARK side when the Organic Trade Association endorsed the legislation. (A rebuttal to their lies about the bill can be found here.)

Why would the OTA do this? OTA is controlled by companies that have organic brands but make most of their money from GMOs—and they don’t want those GMOs labeled. Consequently, OTA has always been weak on the GMO labeling issue. As the Organic Spies films exposed, two companies in particular, can take credit for OTA’s anti-right-to-know stance: Smucker’s and WhiteWave.

Smucker’s is on Organic Consumers Association’s boycott list because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars the company donated to anti-labeling efforts, including secret illegal contributions made through the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Smucker’s plays a leadership role in the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

WhiteWave made our boycott list during the fight over GMO alfalfa because of its relationship to Land O’Lakes, which partnered with Monsanto to develop the alfalfa.

If we weren’t already boycotting Smucker’s and WhiteWave, we would have started when the Grocery Manufacturers Association announced that the two were among many members of the GMA that were committed to using the SmartLabel QR codes that Monsanto likes and that the DARK Act aims to enshrine in federal law.

Smucker’s Kim Dietz is the vice-president OTA’s board. WhiteWave has two people on the board: Samantha Cabaluna (she works for WhiteWave brand Earthbound Farm, the country’s leading grower of organic produce) and Kelly Shea (WhiteWave’s Vice President of Government & Industry Relations).

United Natural Foods Inc. is another company in OTA’s leadership that is working behind the scenes to crush the GMO labeling movement. UNFI’s Vice President for Policy & Industry Relations, Melody Meyer, is UNFI’s rep on the OTA board as OTA’s immediate past president.

UNFI has reversed the usual story of conglomeration. Instead of a big GMO food company eating up smaller organic and natural brands, UNFI is the organic and natural brand that got big enough to eat up its GMO food rivals. Tony’s Fine Foods is typical of recent UNFI acquisitions. Most of the foods it distributes are GMO. One infamous brand it carries is Foster Farms, California’s largest factory-farmed and GMO-raised chicken producer. UNFI recently bought Nor-Cal Produce, the largest wholesaler of conventional and organic produce in Northern California (only 1/3 of its produce is organic).

Pete & Gerry’s Organic/Nellie’s Cage Free is another OTA board member (Jesse Laflamme) that would benefit from the DARK Act. Whole Foods Market made a commitment to label all of its GMOs by 2018, including the products of animals raised on GMO feed. The trouble is, a lot of their high-welfare animal products, like Nellie’s, are raised on GMO feed and would have to be labeled. The DARK Act would prevent any GMO labeling that doesn’t match the law, and, since the DARK Act says animal raised on GMO feed can’t be labeled, Whole Foods would be blocked from labeling. Nellie’s wouldn’t get a GMO label.

When communicating with Congress as OTA board members, Deitz, Shea, Meyer, Cabaluna and Laflamme can falsely claim to be speaking on behalf of the organic community, when they really are representing the interests of a companies that profit primarily from selling GMOs.

This is why so many Senators who voted no in March voted yes this week. Smucker’s is based in Ohio, so they brought along Sen. Brown (Smucker’s is a big donor). WhiteWave is Colorado, so Shea can take credit for Sen. Bennet. UNFI and Earthbound (WhiteWave subsidiary) are heavies in California, so Meyer and Cabaluna turned Sen. Feinstein. Pete & Gerry’s/Nellie’s Cage Free, with most of their farmers in PA, got Sen. Casey. OTA board chair, Organic Valley, based in Wisconsin, got Sen. Baldwin to flip. As an all-organic company, OV’s position is the hardest to understand, but it may be as simple as their new partnership with General Mills, which is a leader among anti-right-to-know companies. And, the largest contributor to OTA’s PAC, Gary Hirshberg/Stonyfield (NH) swung Sen. Shaheen.

Those six votes made the difference. 60 votes were needed to move the DARK Act forward. The cloture vote was 65-35. If these six had stayed “no” the DARK Act would have been blocked with only 59 votes.

Hirshberg’s motive is the same as the OTA companies with small stakes in organic and a lot of GMO food they don’t want to label. His all-organic yogurt brand is owned by Danone. He also has a personal interest in being seen as a Democratic Party player. According to Open Secrets, he’s a “bundler,” a big donor who raises money from their friends. He organized an OTA fundraiser at ExpoWest for Stabenow right after the vote in March.

Yes, Gary Hirshberg’s Just Label It was officially against the DARK Act, but we know from Congressional staffers and movement leaders that Gary told them privately that he and other organic leaders would support a QR code compromise bill. He also conveyed his support for a QR code compromise to the press. This is from Politico:

CONSUMER GROUPS COME AROUND TO GMO SMART LABELS: Well, kind of. Gary Hirshberg, chairman of pro-labeling group Just Label It, told lawmakers during the hearing that his group is open to any national solution that requires disclosure of GMOs in foods, noting that “certainly the focus has been on labels, but there has been a lot of talk of technology” in helping to inform consumers. Hirshberg told reporters after the hearing that a final solution will likely be a mix of labeling and an online disclosure system, though he added that “in our view, however, two words in the ingredient label is a lot easier” than getting into smartphones — and consumers don’t use QR codes. While it was hedged support, Hirshberg’s comments go further than many other labeling advocates, who have long dismissed the idea that has been championed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and who have said that smart labels are a non-starter.

The plot got thicker right after Wednesday’s cloture vote, when Stonyfield’s parent company Danone announced that it has bought WhiteWave for $10.4 billion. So, now, we can see the direct influence Danone had on OTA’s two WhiteWave board members.

Thank you to everyone on this list who makes it possible for me and my organization’s members to buy food outside the corporate-controlled system. We need you all more than ever!

 

Best wishes,

 

Alexis

Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.
Political Director
Organic Consumers Association
202-744-0853

Financial Conflicts at National Academy Advisory Panel on the Future of GMO Regulation

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by Jonathan Latham, PhD

Synopsis: A letter from academics, non-profits and farmer groups (signed by
the Bioscience Resource Project) indicts the lack of balance, perspective and
independence among experts chosen to carry out a new taxpayer-funded National
Academy study. The study will advise the federal government on how to overhaul
regulations concerning GMOs—including novel biotechnology products developed
using synthetic biology and other techniques, such as DNA “editing”.

The complaint comes on the heels of a Food & Water Watch report (Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs) showing structural conflicts of interests at every level of the National Academy. The Academy receives millions of dollars in donations from biotech companies and allows industry representatives to sit on high-level boards overseeing operations.

For decades, scientists and public-interest groups have raised questions about conflicts of interest and potential bias in the Academy’s work on GMOs.

The new study is being conducted by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on
Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the
Biotechnology Regulatory System. Despite a federal law that prohibits biased
committees with conflicts of interests, two committee members (out of 13) are
industry employees, six have conflicts of interest and no representatives of
consumer, farmer or public interest groups have been included by the Academy.
To read the full story go to:
https://www.independentsciencenews.org/news/conflicts-at-national-academy-advisory-panel-on-gmo-regulation/

Read the letter from from academics, non-profits and farmer groups:

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Read the Bios of the members of the committee for Future Biotechnology
Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology
Regulatory System:
https://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/CommitteeView.aspx?key=49773