Archive for the ‘Organic Consumers Association’ Category

Opposition to possible ag secretary appointment grows

November 20, 2008

The possibility of President-elect Barak Obama appointing former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture has been raising cackles for the past few weeks. While no appointments have been made, as yet, proponents of organic farming as well as others are starting to take action.

Organic Consumers Association has begun collecting names in a petition drive to convince Obama to consider someone (anyone!) else. Among the arguments OCA raises in its petition:

-Vilsack has been an ardent supporter of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn. These crops pose huge risks to human health and the environment.

Vilsack is a noted proponent of unsustainable and dangerous genetically engineered crops. Even, the biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership. Organic farming does not allow for the use of genetically engineered crops.

-Vilsack has fought strongly to limit states’ rights to regulate seed, GE crops, pharma crops and other proactive measures. We believe that municipalities and states have the right to enact laws that protect their welfare, health and the environment.

-Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a shill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Corporations, like Monsanto, are inherently undemocratic and threaten human health and sustainable agriculture with their toxic products.

-Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.

Vilsack makes no secret of his support for biofuels. As the former governor of Iowa, critics say he listened attentively to the demands of Big Pharma and the corn lobby. Even his My Space page touts his enthusiasm for biofuels.

Critics see his appointment, assuming he is appointed, as a win for Monsanto and a continuation of the status quo for consumers. Ezra Klein, in his blog at the American Spectator, writes:

The fact that Obama is already signaling that his chief agricultural appointment will hail from the land of corn, and whose agricultural experience will mainly have been keeping powerful corn interests happy with him, is not a good sign.

August 22, 2008
FDA permits irradiation of produce

After years of consumer wrangling and wariness over food irradiation, the United States Food and Drug Administration has OKed the irradiation of lettuce and spinach. The Associated Press quotes the FDA’s chief of food additive safety, Dr. Laura Tarantino, as saying “What this does is give producers and processors one more tool in the toolbox to make these commodities safer and protect public health.”

Irradiation is the treatment of food products with gamma rays, X rays, or high-voltage electrons to kill potentially harmful pathogens such as e.coli, and increase shelf life. While highly controversial, irradiation has actually been in place for several years now. Meat and spices are among the items that can be subjected to the process, but food producers have long resisted demands to label foods that have been irradiated, wary of consumer suspicions. Foods that meet USDA organic standards, however, cannot be irradiated.

This latest move is a response by the FDA to counter recent outbreaks of e.coli which essentially shut down the California spinach growing industry in 2006 and resulted in a painfully confused effort by the federal agency to track down another outbreak in Mexican-grown jalapeño peppers in July.

“FDA regulations still require that irradiated lettuce and spinach sold in retail stores be labeled as ‘Treated by radiation’and display the Radura symbol [Dislayed at right] at the point of sale,” according to the Organic Consumers Association, “although irradiated greens served in restaurants, schools, hospitals, and nursing home would not have to be labeled.”

The OCA has been highly critical of irradiation and reporting by other organizations, such as NaturalNews, has been vitriolic to say the least. Nonetheless, concerns about the impact of irradiation on the health value of food are strong, and NaturalNews calls the drive toward irradiation a plot by Big Pharma to destroy the nutritional value of the nation’s food supply in an effort to increase public dependence upon their medications, thereby increasing their profits.