18th Annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference

The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) announces the 18th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference to be held at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, February 22-24, 2007. An extraordinary event, this conference is an annual gathering of over 2,200 participants from the Upper Midwest and beyond.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Cultivating Integrity.” According to MOSES’ Executive Director, Faye Jones, “The organic farming community is continually striving to meet our own and our consumers’ highest expectations. Every year, organic agriculture grows in size as well as expertise. The Conference is a great place to learn, cultivate, and share ideas.”

To request a conference flyer, with complete information on the conference contact the MOSES office. Email: info@mosesorganic.org, call 715-772-3153 or write to MOSES, P.O. Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 5476. -Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service

EcoTeas reforestation project plants sustainable agriculture in endangered Argentina ecosystem

Jutting up like a big green thumb wedged between Paraguay and Brazil, the Misiones Province in northern Argentina is known as the Corredor Verde, or Green Corridor. One of the largest surviving remnants of the once vast Interior Atlantic Forest ecosystem, it is home to the jaguar, the coati, the toucan, migrant North American nighthawks ... and EcoTeas Yerba Mate.

Because the Green Corridor also fuels 70 percent of Argentina’s timber industry, forest clearing has caused devastating impacts in the region. EcoTeas is working with their family farm partners to heal the land by planting thousands of native trees among and around their yerba mate groves.

According to EcoTeas founder Stefan Schachter, the goal is to create shade-grown yerba mate, restore biodiversity and watershed quality, and increase economic productivity as an incentive for sustainable organic farm communities throughout the yerba mate growing region.

“Our farmers are very excited to be planting the trees,” says Schachter. “Our experiences will be extremely important as other farmers throughout the region seek to enact similar shifts on their land when they realize that such a huge market exists for sustainably-grown yerba mate in North America.”

The national drink of Argentina, yerba mate herbal tea is becoming popular in the U.S. for its high antioxidant load and balanced stimulation.

To learn more about EcoTeas Yerba Mate and its Green Corridor reforestation project in Argentina, visit www.ecoteas.com. -Harold Olaf Cecil, EcoTeas

Airport food continues upward trend toward better health, doctors’ survey shows

Travelers can now look forward to healthier airport food, according to a new report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). A survey of 13 of the busiest U.S. airports shows that the quality of airport food is rising, continuing an upward trend. Eighty-eight percent of all the restaurants surveyed offer at least one vegetarian entrée that is low in fat, high in fiber, and cholesterol-free, representing a 13-percentage-point increase from 2005. Eleven of the 12 airports from last year’s report improved their score.

Orlando International Airport landed in first place, moving up from eighth place in last year’s report. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport won the honor of “most improved,” with a score of 76 percent, compared with just 46 percent in 2005. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport came in last place for the third year in a row, despite making a 27-point improvement over last year.

“Travelers looking for healthy food should choose vegetarian options, which are naturally low in fat and high in fiber,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., a PCRM dietitian. “Even in the lowest-ranking airports, it’s easy to find a bean burrito or a veggie sandwich.” -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Product plunder: Kraft guacamole

Kraft Foods Inc. is being sued for misleading consumers about a chemical concoction questionably labeled as “guacamole” dip. Although guacamole has been made for hundreds of years out of avocado, Kraft’s chemical dip features yummy stuff like hydrogenated oils, starch, food coloring, and other synthetics—with less than two percent of the dip composed of avocado. According to Claire Regan, vice president of Kraft Foods corporate affairs, “We think consumers understand that [the guacamole] isn’t made from avocado.” -Organic Consumers Association

National Organic Standards Board stacked with industry reps

The USDA, behind closed doors, recently announced several highly questionable appointees to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Despite calls from the organic community to let the public know ahead of time who the nominees were, the USDA kept the names of the nominees secret. The NOSB advises the USDA on how to interpret and implement national organic standards. Despite federal law that mandates that the 15-member NOSB must be broadly representative of the organic community, the USDA’s recent appointees are all notable for their past or present ties to corporate agribusiness. For example the appointee for the seat reserved for a “Consumer and Public Interest Group Representative” was given to Tracy Miedema, who works for Stahlbush Island Farms, a split-farm operation with 3/4 of its acreage non-organic. Miedema, who previously worked for a subsidiary of General Mills (Small Planet), freely admits that Stahlbush utilizes Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, as well as other chemical pesticides and fungicides. The USDA’s appointee for the seat reserved for a scientist is Katrina Heinze, who works for Small Planet/General Mills, a company with a hardball reputation for selling sugar-laden cereals to kids, supporting GMOs, and industrial agriculture. Heinze was forced to resign from the NOSB last year, under pressure from the OCA and the Consumer’s Union, after being appointed “consumer representative” to the NOSB. Another one of the “organic experts” appointed to this powerful government board is a representative of Campbell’s Soup. -Organic Consumers Association

Federal grants available to conserve rare species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking proposals for conservation projects to benefit imperiled species on private lands through its Private Stewardship Grants Program. This program provides federal grants on a competitive basis to individuals and groups engaged in voluntary conservation efforts on private lands that help federally listed endangered or threatened species as well as proposed, candidate and other at-risk species.

The Private Stewardship Grant program is one of a variety of tools available under the Endangered Species Act that help landowners plan and implement projects to conserve species. These grants and cooperative agreements provide incentives to foster citizen participation in the stewardship of our nation’s natural resources.

In 2006 the Service awarded 80 grants totaling more than $6.9 million to individuals and groups to undertake conservation projects for endangered, threatened, and other at-risk species on private lands in 35 states.

For example, Audubon of Kansas received a grant of $83,000 last year to work with four ranchers to conserve black-tailed prairie dogs and restore habitat for the endangered black-footed ferret.

Trout Unlimited in Lincoln County, Wyoming was awarded $120,000 to return water flows to a portion of Grade Creek, which enabled Bonneville cutthroat trout to return to their historic spawning grounds.

Landowners and their partners must submit their proposals to the appropriate Regional Offices of the Service by February 14th, 2007.

For additional information regarding this grant opportunity and how and where to submit proposals, please visit the Service’s Private Stewardship Grants website at: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/grants/private_stewardship/index.html. -Environment News Service

Low-fat diet helps prevent breast cancer recurrence

By reducing the amount of fat in their diet, postmenopausal women who’ve been treated for early-stage breast cancer may lower their risk for cancer recurrence, U.S. researchers say.

The study of more than 2,400 women, ages 48 to 79, found that the rate of cancer recurrence after five years was 9.8 percent among women who ate a low-fat diet (about 33 grams of fat per day) and 12.4 percent among those who ate a standard diet (about 52 grams of fat per day).

That means that, compared to those on the standard diet, the women on the low-fat diet had a 24 percent reduction in the relative risk of breast cancer recurrence, the study said.

The findings were reported in the December issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The most significant risk reduction—42 percent—was noted in women on the low-fat diet whose tumors did not respond to the presence of the hormone estrogen. In women whose tumors did respond to estrogen, the risk reduction was 15 percent.

Breast cancer that doesn’t respond to estrogen is called estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative), and women with this form of cancer usually have poorer outcomes than women with ER-positive disease.

“Reductions were predicted in women with ER-positive disease because of the association between fat intake and estrogen levels, but the effect on ER-negative disease is, if verified, a surprising and potentially important observation regarding breast cancer and signals a possible new avenue of research,” John Milner, chief of the Nutritional Science Research Group at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in a prepared statement.
The study findings are based on an interim analysis of data from participants in the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), the first large-scale randomized trial to demonstrate that diet changes can improve outcomes for early-stage breast cancer patients receiving conventional treatment. WINS was sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. -National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine, Health Day News

Being active may ward off prostate cancer death

Exercising may reduce a man’s risk of developing advanced prostate cancer, a large study from Norway suggests.

In the study, men who were the most active were 36 percent less likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer than their sedentary peers, while they were 33 percent less likely to die from the disease, Dr. Tom I. L. Nilsen and colleagues from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim report.

However, the men’s level of activity had no effect on their overall prostate cancer risk, possibly because exercise influences the aggressiveness of a cancer, rather than the likelihood of cancer developing in the first place, they note.

Studies of exercise and prostate cancer risk have yielded mixed results, Nilsen and his team write in the International Journal of Cancer. To investigate further, they looked at a group of 29,110 men who were followed for 17 years, during which time 957 developed prostate cancer.

There was no relationship between men’s level of recreational activity and their prostate cancer risk overall, the researchers found. However, the more active the men were, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and the less likely they were to die of the disease. Compared to men who were sedentary, those who worked out once weekly were 30 percent less likely to be diagnosed with cancer that had spread beyond the prostate.

Two large US studies had similar results, with no effect of exercise on prostate cancer in general but a lower risk of advanced disease or death from the disease for the most vigorously active men, the researchers note. -Reuters Health, National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine