Air fresheners found to contain toxic chemical

A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 12 out of 14 air fresheners tested positive for harmful levels of pthalates, which are known to cause reproductive problems and hormone disruption in humans. Neither the FDA nor the EPA conducts any spot-checking of toxic chemicals in air freshener products. Of the tested products, the only two products that did not contain pthalates were Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle Effects. The other twelve products tested positive even though some of the products were labeled “natural.”

UN backs organic farming to address global hunger, environmental sustainability, and food security

The organic food movement has received endorsement from the United Nations leading agency on food and agriculture, the FAO. In a new report, it says that organic farming fights hunger, tackles climate change, and is good for farmers, consumers and the environment, Sam Burcher reports.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has come out in favor of organic agriculture. Its report Organic Agriculture and Food Security explicitly states that organic agriculture can address local and global food security challenges.

Organic farming is no longer regarded as a niche market within developed countries, but a vibrant commercial agricultural system practiced in 120 countries, covering 31 million hectares (ha) of cultivated land plus 62 million ha of certified wild harvested areas. The organic market was worth $40 billion in 2006, and expected to reach $70 billion by 2012.

Nadia Scialabba, an FAO official, defined organic agriculture as: “A holistic production management system that avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, minimizes pollution of air, soil and water, and optimizes the health and productivity of plants, animals and people.”

The strongest benefits of organic agriculture, Scialabba said, are its reliance on fossil fuel-independent, locally available resources that incur minimal agro-ecological stresses and are cost-effective. She described organic agriculture as a ‘neo-traditional food system’ which combines modern science and indigenous knowledge.

The FAO report strongly suggests that a worldwide shift to organic agriculture can fight world hunger and at the same time tackle climate change. According to FAO’s previous World Food Summit report], conventional agriculture, together with deforestation and rangeland burning, are responsible for 30 percent of the CO2 and 90 per cent of nitrous oxide emissions worldwide. -Organic Consumers Association

Cutting dietary fat may reduce ovarian cancer risk

A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that a low-fat diet may reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer. Cancer occurrence was analyzed for 48,835 postmenopausal women participating in The Women’s Health Initiative. Ovarian cancer risk was not reduced in the initial years of the study. However, risk reduced by 40 percent during the second four years among women in the dietary intervention group. The intervention goal was to reduce total fat intake to 20 percent of calories and to increase consumption of vegetables, fruits, and grains. -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Rule requiring pasteurization of raw almonds goes into effect

Despite massive opposition from almond producers, retailers and organic consumers, the USDA has implemented its ruling to require that raw almonds be pasteurized.

The rule went into effect on September 1st, and since then, all retail outlets have been forced to remove truly raw almonds from store shelves. Consumers will be misled by this action as there will still be almonds on store shelves labeled as “raw,” but they will actually be pasteurized.

One of the FDA-recommended pasteurization methods requires the use of propylene oxide, which is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

Since the decision about the rule was made, Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, has stepped down. He is temporarily replaced by Chuck Conner. This may provide a new opportunity for reversal. -Organic Consumers Association

Note: Our bulk buyer has been assured by our suppliers that ALL the almonds in the aisle are being steam-treated at this time. She will continue to monitor the situation and update Co-op members if needed.

New USDA grass-fed rules will benefit consumers and the environment

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced new rules for labeling meat from grass-fed livestock that will benefit the environment and public health. The rules stipulate that meat labeled “grass fed” must come from animals fed solely on grasses, hay and other non-grain vegetation.

“This rule will help consumers choose meat from ‘smart pasture operations’ that are better for the environment,” said Dr. Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Unlike massive confined animal feeding operations, these farms use sophisticated land management practices to maximize productivity without despoiling our air, water and soil.”

Raising livestock on pastures avoids the crowding and illnesses that plague livestock in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Modern grass-fed methods are also more cost-effective and environmentally friendly because they take advantage of low-cost grasses that typically require little added water, and few or no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. A growing number of farmers across the country are now turning to this modern approach to livestock production.

Additionally, grass-fed beef is better for public health, Mellon, a biologist, added. A 2006 UCS report found that meat from grass-fed cattle contains higher levels of beneficial fats that may prevent heart disease and strengthen the immune system than meat from cattle raised in CAFOs. The study also found that grass-fed meat is often leaner than CAFO meat.

The USDA issued the new rules after years of deliberation and thousands of public comments urging the agency to establish a label with clear standards and definitions. The rule became effective on November 15, paving the way for producers to apply to use the grass-fed label. Producers that use the label must submit documentation to the USDA verifying their adherence to the grass-only dietary requirement. Consumers may be able to find USDA grass-fed labels on meat packaging in local grocery stores by the end of next year.

“We applaud the USDA for giving consumers a clear choice,” said Mellon. “This new label will allow the market for grass-fed products to continue to grow, and will clearly benefit human health and the environment.” -Union of Concerned Scientists

Genetically engineered corn study shows potential harm to stream wildlife near farms

In mid-October, the Center for Food Safety voiced concern regarding a study issued by a team of researchers on the potential harm posed by the genetically engineered (GE) Bt variety of corn. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, establishes that pollen and other material from Bt corn is washing into streams and river headwaters. The study further found through laboratory trials that Bt corn material is toxic to insects that play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. As a result, Bt corn may pose a serious threat to our nation’s waterways and the plants, fish and animals that inhabit them.

“This is yet another example of a government agency granting clearance for a GE organism without requiring meaningful or stringent testing,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. “Bt corn is planted widely throughout the U.S. Had a study like this been done prior to the government’s approval, we would not be looking at a popular crop that has the potential to broadly disrupt the environment.”

Bt corn is engineered to include a pesticide-producing gene that targets the European corn borer and other pasts that can inhabit corn fields. It was licensed for use in 1996. By 2006, 40 percent of corn acreage planted in the U.S. was genetically modified with the Bt trait, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new study further reports that in lab trials, caddisflies—insects closely related to the corn pests—are killed when exposed to the Bt toxin, and concluded that stream flies “that consume Bt corn litter may experience reduced growth, which can negatively influence fitness, because adult size of aquatic insects is directly related to fecundity.”

Caddisflies are imperative to healthy, normally functioning stream ecosystems; they serve as food for fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

This report is only the latest identification of a problem posed by poor federal oversight of genetically altered crops. Contamination of many of the nation’s rice farms by a GE variety has rendered much of American rice unsuitable for sale overseas. Earlier this year, a court ruled that Round-up Ready alfalfa was never fully tested by regulatory agencies to determine environmental impacts and may pose a threat to organic and conventional varieties of the crop.

“From rice to Bt corn, we are only finding out about the threats posed by GE crops after they have been cleared by government regulatory agencies,” continued Mendelson. “The federal government’s slipshod approach to testing threatens the environment, organic food production, and our farmer’s livelihoods. It’s time we all demand more accountability from biotech firms and more stringent regulations from USDA and FDA.”

The report “Toxins In Transgenic Crop Byproducts May Affect Headwater Stream Ecosystems” was written by Todd V. Royer of Indiana University, Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. It was funded by the National Science Foundation. -Center for Food Safety