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United We Stand

January 31, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

The following letter was written by a group of concerned parents, corporations, authors and consumers in reponse to the USDA ruling on January 27th to allow the unrestricted planting by the biotech industry of genetically engineered alfalfa, a crop used for livestock feed and given to dairy cows.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” ~Margaret Mead

January 31, 2011

We stand united in opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)
decision to once again allow unlimited, nationwide commercial planting of
Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the
many risks to organic and conventional farmers.

Last spring more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the USDA highly
critical of the substance and conclusions of its draft EIS on GE Alfalfa. Instead of
responding to these comments and concerns, including expert comments from
farmers, scientists, academics, conservationists, and food safety and consumer
advocates, the USDA has chosen instead to listen to a handful of agricultural
biotechnology companies.

USDA’s decision to allow unlimited, nationwide commercial planting of
Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready alfalfa without any restrictions flies in the face of
the interests of conventional and organic farmers, preservation of the
environment, and consumer choice. USDA has become a rogue agency in its
regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who
seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE
alfalfa will threaten the rights of American farmers and consumers, as well as
damage the environment.

The Center for Food Safety will be suing on this decision.

In the coming months, we will be seeing USDA proposals to allow unrestricted
plantings of GE sugar beets, and GE corn and soy crops designed to resist toxic
pesticides, such as 2-4D and Dicamba, highly toxic pesticides that pose a
serious threat to our health and the environment. To win these critical and difficult
battles, the entire organic community, and our allies in the conventional food and
farming community, will have to work together.

Now is the time to unite in action. We need to work together to restore sanity to
our food system, stop the deregulation of GE crops and join together against the
forces that are seeking to silence hundreds of thousands of Americans.

As we move forward, we are united in opposing genetically engineered
organisms in food production and believe that pressure to stop the proliferation of
this contaminating technology must be focused on the White House and
Congress. The companies responsible for this situation are the biotech
companies whose GE technology causes genetic drift and environmental
hazards that are not contained as the deregulation of genetically engineered
alfalfa goes forward. The organic community stands together with consumer,
farmer, environmental and business interests to ensure practices that are
protective of health and the environment.

We urge you to join us today.

Sign up to receive action alerts by clicking here.

Consider making a donation to the legal effort ahead here.

Let the White House know that you do not support the deregulation of GE alfalfa by clicking here.

Christine Bushway, Organic Trade Association
Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
Michael Funk, United Natural Foods Inc (UNFI)
Elizabeth Henderson, NOFA Interstate Council
Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm
Liana Hoodes, National Organic Coalition
Kristina Hubbard, Organic Seed Alliance
Faye Jones, Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service
Robby Kenner, Robert Kenner Films
Andrew Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety
Russell Libby, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA)
Ed Maltby, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)
Robyn O’Brien, AllergyKids Foundation
Keith Olcott, Equal Exchange
Maria Rodale, Rodale Inc.
Eric Schlosser, Author
Robynn Schrader, National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA)
George Siemon, Organic Valley
Michael Sligh, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
Megan Westgate, Non-GMO Project
Maureen Wilmot, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF)
Enid Wonnacott, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)

The Sandbox Parable

January 30, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Once upon a time, there was a sandbox. And as most sandboxes are, it was full of children. It was a big sandbox, at a local school, with plenty of room. And for years, children played happily in the sandbox, sharing their toys and tools.

But as sometimes happens in sandboxes, one of the children began to bully the others, staking an unlabeled claim to the sandbox and its contents.

The other children tried to band together to take on the bully, to call attention to the bully’s behavior with the principal, but the bully was powerful and had parents with deep pockets, so the school turned a blind eye to the behavior in the sandbox in the hopes that the principal would not have to regulate the bully’s behavior.

And the bully carried on.

Before too long, the other children began to take matters into their own hands, writing things about the bully and working together to try to take back the sandbox.

But that didn’t work for very long. So one day, the principal called the children into her office, closed the door, and said, “You must find a way to coexist with the bully. I can not keep regulating all of you.” And the children in the office agreed, understanding that if the bully failed to behave that there would be consequences.

But the bully’s parents proved far too powerful, and when they learned that there had been a meeting in the principal’s office, they wrote a letter about the principal in the local paper. The letter spoke about the sandbox and coexistence and called out the principal for trying to enforce any kind of regulation.

So the principal, while having suggested to the children that there would be consequences if the bully failed to adhere to the new rules that were to be adopted around coexistence, changed her mind and announced her new decision at school.

In celebration, the bully took over the sandbox. And as a result, the sandbox became unsafe for children.

Until one day, the parents of the children called a meeting. And acknowledging that they didn’t have the power or the money or the influence of the bully’s parents, they recognized that they had the truth on their side and that the bully had made the sandbox unsafe for children. And together, they met with the principal and spoke about her legacy of the unsafe sandbox. And she changed her mind.

Today, the sandbox exists with rules in place to support the peaceful coexistence of all children with an important lesson to be learned:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does” ~Margaret Mead

To learn more about the USDA’s recent decision to abandon regulation over the coexistence of agricultural crops, please read the New York Times article as seen here.


True Food: A Love Poem

January 29, 2011 •  5 comments.

 •  Blog, Uncategorized

As headlines swirl and climates whirl
And Wall Street finds its feet
There’s one refrain that doesn’t change
“Mommy, what’s there to eat?”

Well listen child, I’ll tell you what,
That’s no small query there.
Come over here, and sit right down,
In fact, pull up a chair.

Your question, dear one, though you ask,
With all good heart intended,
Is fraught with complications that
Aren’t often comprehended.

What we call ‘food’ is not the same
As what our grandmas ate.
Would she have had yellow 5 & 6
On her child’s dinner plate?

What about ‘acesulfame potassium’?
Can you pronounce that, love?
Did grandmother have a jar of that
In her cupboards up above?

What would she think of all these things
You children eat today?
Perhaps she’d bow her gentle head
And just begin to pray…..

But since she is no longer here,
It is up to you and me,
To be the ones who will inspire
Her “true food” legacy.

Perhaps as we begin this quest,
We might ‘cut the colors’ first?
Or try to avoid things we can’t pronounce?
Tell me, which do you think is worse?

You see, my little one, in our hands,
In our minds and in our hearts,
We have the ability to affect remarkable change
So, love, where should we start?

Written by Robyn O’Brien

Dear Secretary Vilsack, Please Consider Your Decision and the Fate of the American Children

January 28, 2011 •  9 comments.

 •  Blog, News

On January 24, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture will consider the approval of the biotech industry’s newest product, a livestock feed given to our nation’s dairy cows – genetically engineered alfalfa. This livestock feed (alfalfa) will not only affect our nation’s milk supply, given the novel proteins and allergens that it contains, but it also may present a risk to the increasing number of food allergic Americans.

Due to these concerns, Robyn O’Brien, the founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, has written the following letter and encourages readers to copy and paste all of or part of its contents into the online form found on the USDA’s website and submit an email to the USDA and Secretary Vilsack at this link.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

Your work to restore the health of the American children is remarkable, and as a mother of four children enrolled in the public school system, there really are not words to convey the gratitude that you are owed for your efforts.

Your personal story, which you so candidly share about your own weight struggles as a child, is a poignant reminder of how food affects us in more ways than we could ever imagine.

It is along those lines that I am writing to you today. As you know, obesity is taking its toll on the health of our children. But of equal concern to the health of families, as well as to the Centers for Disease Control which recently reported an astonishing 265% increase in the related rates of hospitalizations, is that of the correlation between the growing number of food allergic children and the introduction of genetically engineered foods into our food supply in 1994.

According to an October 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a 265% increase in the rates of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions. With the recent introduction of the first genetically engineered protein into the food supply in 1994 (a synthetic growth hormone designed to enhance profitability for the dairy industry), the dairy allergy is now the most common food allergy in the United States according to the Wall Street Journal and CNN. With the introduction of the second genetically engineered product in 1996 (genetically engineered soy), soy became one of the top eight allergens and studies demonstrated a 50% increase in the rate of soy allergies.

And while correlation is not causation, the body of a child with food allergies sees food proteins as “foreign” and launches an inflammatory response to drive out the “foreign invader”. With the introduction of foreign proteins into our food supply in 1994 through the genetic engineering process, novel and foreign proteins have been introduced into our food that weren’t there when we were children. And while the biotech industry does an extraordinary job of analyzing the impact that the introduction of known allergens created in the genetic engineering process will have on our health, according to the Food Biotechnology Subcommittee of the Food Advisory Committee, no tests have yet been developed to assess the effects that the introduction of the novel allergens and proteins created in the process will have on the health and developing immune system of a child.

Because there are not yet tests to prove the safety of these novel proteins and allergens, parents in other developed countries have been alerted to this fact and these genetically engineered proteins were either not allowed into the food supply, particularly into children’s foods, or these novel proteins were labeled so that parents could make an informed choice when it comes to feeding their families.

As you know, Secretary Vilsack, there is controversy around the allergenicity associated with this new technology (which created tension back in 2002 at a government meeting of the Food Biotechnology Subcommittee of the Food Advisory Committee in which the committee’s acting chair, Edward N. Brandt, Jr., MD, PhD, said “Of course, we haven’t worked into this some kind of test for allergencity, per se… “), prompting a reaction from renowned allergist, Dr. Fred McDaniel Atkins, who said, “To me, the logical problem is that we are going to take that stuff and feed it to the public without their informed consent.”

And as our children become increasing allergic, not only does this create federal and regulatory challenges in schools and for the food industry that might exceed any private benefit that the biotech industry may receive from the approval of this patented product, but it also creates additional challenges for our burdened healthcare system given the increasing rates of emergency hospitalizations being seen in these children.

Post-market surveillance would demonstrate that the novel allergens and proteins that have been introduced into our food supply in the last 15 years should give all of us reason to pause and assess the safety of these new products, given the increasing rates of food allergic Americans.

Consequently, and with the utmost sincerity, I urge you to delay the approval of genetically engineered alfalfa. This alfalfa will directly impact our children’s milk supply, given that it is used as livestock feed for dairy cows. And I urge you to place the same value on the lives of the American children that has already been placed on the lives of children in other developed countries and exercise precaution when it comes to the use of these genetically engineered proteins in their food, not only because the novel proteins and allergens found in genetically engineered alfalfa have not yet been proven safe, but also because these novel proteins and allergens do not appear in children’s foods in other developed countries due to their potential risks.

The enormity of your responsibility to the health of our children cannot be underestimated, and you are owed a debt of gratitude, as the legacy of your decision will have such an incredible and far-reaching impact.

With the kindest regards and heartfelt thanks for your courage and dedication,

Robyn O’Brien
Founder, AllergyKids Foundation
Author, The Unhealthy Truth
Mother of Four

When Food Gets Funny

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We are grateful for The Colbert Report for shedding some light and making us laugh in this clip about Taco Bell and their “beef-ish (beef-adjacent?)” 36% tacos.

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Because in the midst of headlines warning us about the dangers in our food supply and how it’s now laced with synthetic growth hormones, dyes made from petrochemicals, genetically engineered insecticidal proteins and other ingredients that weren’t in food when we were kids, sometimes things can sound so unbelievable that it is almost funny (if not downright scary!).

Remember the last time Taco Bell got hit with a headline like this? According to CNN, it was called the Starlink Scandal and had to do with the introduction of genetically engineered corn that was apparently never mean for human consumption yet found its way into Taco Bell’s taco shells.

It brings to mind that old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”