Show me the beans

A note by the time clock at Simple Soyman attempts to keep the mood light at a very critical and scary time for Milwaukee’s only organic soy producer. The local mill where they purchase Wisconsin organic soybeans doesn’t have their 54,000-pound order. Seems the sales person didn’t process the paperwork for Simple Soyman and left the mill for another job. Subsequently this has left Barb and R. Jay, owners of Simple Soyman, with little to continue doing business; they fear the supply of soybeans they have won’t last much past July. For years Simple Soyman has placed verbal orders with this mill and have always had confidence in this system. “The food industry has always supported verbal orders, we do it all the time” says Anne Vedder, purchasing manager for Outpost Natural Foods.

Simple Soyman has been on the phone continuously the last couple days trying to find soybeans in a race to save their 25 year-old company. Mills across the country have been depleted their supply by purchases made from China and Japan. “With the value of the dollar so low, Japan and China are buying all the United States organic soy crops,” Barb tells us the only beans available to them aren’t the quality they’re accustomed to and for double the price. With some hope in her voice she tells us that 80 acres of soybeans have been planted for them by Wisconsin farmer, Mike Scott, but won’t be available until November. If Simple Soyman can’t find soybeans quick, they won’t be in business by the time the soybeans are harvested. Barb explains, “We need to decide if paying double the price for soybeans of lower quality, not from Wisconsin is sustainable for us. We’ll need to charge twice as much and aren’t sure our market can pay that price.”

With such a loyal customer base to Simple Soyman, it’s not a matter of demand being low; it’s a matter of supply. We’re hoping that educating Milwaukee on what’s happening to their favorite tofu will spark a connection somewhere with a mill that has soybeans—or even better, uncover the 54,000 pounds of soybeans out there with their name on them. If nothing else, telling their story raises awareness on how open trade policies are having detrimental effects on our local economy. Our goal is to help save our friends from closing their doors; education is the first step. -Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative, Milwaukee WI [Editor’s Note: They found a source! See Josh Perkin’s article here.]

CSPI says parents may want to Avoid BPA-lined cans and reusable plastic water bottles

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may want to consider reducing their exposure, and that of their infants and young children, to the controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) by avoiding most canned soups and drinks and many hard-plastic reusable water bottles. That advice comes from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit group that publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter, which asks “Hard Questions About a Hard Plastic” in its April issue.

To be sure, there are conflicting studies about the effects of BPA on humans. One government-funded expert panel linked the endocrine-disrupting chemical to increased rates of breast and prostate cancer and reproductive problems. A second panel found fault with the first, though both expressed concerns about the impact of BPA on behavior in animal studies and what that might mean for children.

BPA is coursing through the bloodstream of almost every American. Government scientists say that almost all of that comes from the tiny amounts that are leached out of Nalgene-type polycarbonate water bottles or metal cans lined with an epoxy resin made from BPA. Unfortunately, that means almost all metal cans that contain food or drink.

“We don’t want to tell people not to eat canned beans or tomatoes,” said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt. “But at the same time, it makes sense for all parents, and especially pregnant and nursing women, to minimize the exposure of their kids’ developing bodies and brains to BPA. The food industry could make life easier by phasing it out entirely. Why roll the dice and assume that all the studies finding problems with BPA are wrong?”

At least one brand of canned goods, Eden, uses a BPA-free lining for its cans, and several manufacturers use aseptic cardboard boxes free of BPA. Several brands of tuna and salmon come in pouches, instead of in BPA-lined cans, and most canned vegetables also come frozen. Soda drinkers could minimize exposure to BPA by choosing plastic bottles, almost all of which are made with easily recyclable and BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate. Parents can help kids minimize exposure by avoiding toddler sippy cups and infant formula bottles made with polycarbonate plastic, according to CSPI. -Center for Science in the Public Interest

Pew commission says industrial scale farm animal production poses “unacceptable” risks to public health, environment

(Washington, DC—April 29, 2008) The current industrial farm animal production (IFAP) system often poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves, according to an extensive 2-1/2-year examination conducted by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), in a study released today.

Commissioners have determined that the negative effects of the IFAP system are too great and the scientific evidence is too strong to ignore. Significant changes must be implemented and must start now. And while some areas of animal agriculture have recognized these threats and have taken action, it is clear that the industry has a long way to go. -Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production

Note: To see the full report online: 

CCOF achieves half million acres of certified organic production

CCOF, one of North America’s oldest and largest organic certifiers, in March surpassed a half million organic acres in its certification program. This is a major milestone for the organization that was started in 1973 by a small group of organic farmers.

CCOF experienced a 129% growth in certified organic acreage over the last two years, along with a phenomenal 141,317-acre increase in 2007, representing a 40.7% single-year acreage growth. CCOF’s 501,066 organic acres is split roughly evenly between livestock and produce operations. Certified pasture and field acreage has risen from just 38,611 in 2004 to 241,511, reflecting the growth in the organic dairy and livestock sector. CCOF now has 62 certified members producing milk. The main areas of growth in crops have been oats, rice, wine and table grapes, wheat, and alfalfa. Certified organic oat acreage increased by 51.6% in 2007, rice acreage by 49.3%, and table grape acreage by 39.3%.

Another interesting trend is the number of small to medium sized growers who are expanding their operations to include post-harvest activities, such as organic processing, handling or packaging, as means of adding value to their produce. “Much of our current growth is attributed to existing members adding acreage, facilities and products”, states Peggy Miars, CCOF Executive Director. “We’re excited that many CCOF members are experiencing growth and progress, and we support their continued success.”

In 2007, CCOF completed more than 2,300 on-site inspections of land and facilities to ensure their compliance with the standards of the National Organic Program. “That means we are overseeing on average 10 inspections per work day,” says Jake Lewin, Certification Services Director. “It’s evidence of the dedication and commitment of our staff to serve and support the efforts of our clients out there in the fields, growing the organic market.”

The organization also expanded its geographic reach. CCOF certifies acreage in 29 different states as well as five foreign countries. And, its growing Global Market Access Program assists CCOF certified operations looking to export their produce worldwide. CCOF’s growth is reflective of the organic sector as a whole that has seen growth in organic sales revenue jump to $17 billion in 2006 from just $13 billion one year earlier.

Nanotech exposed in grocery store aisles: Report finds Miller Light, Cadbury and other brands have toxic risks

Untested nanotechnology is being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials currently on the shelf, without warning or new FDA testing, according to a report released in March by Friends of the Earth.

The report, “Out of the Laboratory and onto Our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture,” found nanomaterials in popular products and packaging including Miller Light beer, Cadbury Chocolate packaging and ToddlerHealth, a nutritional drink powder for infants sold extensively at health food stores including WholeFoods.

“Nanotech food was put on our plates without FDA testing for consumer safety,” said Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth Health and Environment Campaigner. “Consumers have a right to know if they are taste-testing a dangerous new technology.”

Existing regulations require no new testing or labeling for nanomaterials when they are created from existing approved chemicals, despite major differences in potential toxicity. The report reveals toxicity risks of nanomaterials such as organ damage and decreased immune system response.

“Nanotechnology can be very dangerous when used in food,” said report co-author Dr Rye Senjen. “Early scientific evidence indicates that some nanomaterials produce free radicals which destroy or mutate DNA and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.”

Report co-author Georgia Miller, Friends of the Earth Australia Nanotechnology Project Coordinator, said many of the world’s largest food companies, including Heinz, Nestle, Unilever and Kraft are currently using and testing nanotechnology for food processing and packaging. Without increased federal oversight, these companies could begin sale of these products whenever they choose.

“There is no legal requirement for manufacturers to label their products that contain nanomaterials, or to conduct new safety tests,” said Miller. “This gives manufacturers the ability to force-feed untested technology to consumers without their consent.”

Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, is now used to manufacture nutritional supplements, flavor and colors additives, food packaging, cling wrap and containers, and chemicals used in agriculture.

“Friends of the Earth calls on the FDA to stop the sale of all nano food, packaging, and agricultural chemicals until strong scientific regulations are enacted to ensure consumer safety and until ingredients are labeled,” said Illuminato.

The report, released internationally in the U.S., Europe and Australia details more than a hundred nano food, food packaging and food contact products now on sale internationally. The Australian government has already welcomed the report and announced that it will begin exploring regulation of nano food and nano agriculture as a result of the report. The full report can be found at -Friends of the