This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources, goodies, and recipes courtesy of DSnodgrass...
Here's yet another reason to support Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods. Bravo.
Before the words "whole grain" and "organic" became part of Americans' everyday vocabulary, Bob Moore knew the importance of healthful eating.
In 1978, he started Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, as a small family-run business in Oregon selling stone mill-ground whole grains.
The company has since grown into a multi-million dollar business that sells more than 400 whole grain products including flours, hot cereals, and organic and gluten-free products.
Moore's work is a way of life and his employees are a second family, which is why he announced this week that he's handing over the keys to his 209 employees.
Moore said he's gotten countless buy-out offers over the years, but he couldn't envision selling the business to a stranger.
In addition to being a disturbing commentary on factory farms, this makes a strong case for organic practices.
Along with their usual rations of grain and prepared feed, factory-farmed hogs and chickens in the United States also dine on a steady diet of antibiotics. The animals are given the drugs, not to prevent or cure illness, but simply because low-level doses of antibiotics stimulate them to grow faster than untreated animals. This may be good for agribusiness’s bottom lines, but an increasing body of research shows that it might be very bad for public health.
Several scientific examinations of pork and poultry operations in this country have shown that anti-microbial-resistant “superbugs” such as flesh-eating methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and certain tough-to-kill strains of E. coli are showing up, not only in farm animals, but in the humans who tend them—and even in members of their families who don’t work on the farms.
Now, a group of researchers at Boston University has discovered a mechanism that causes these superbugs to develop. It could mean that the problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is even worse than previously imagined. Their results are reported in the current issue of the journal Molecular Cell.
In earlier studies, the scientists had found that drugs which kill bacteria do so in part by stimulating the production of free radicals in those bacteria—not unlike the ones in humans that contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other maladies. However, when antibiotics are administered to the bacteria at low levels, as they are on factory farms, instead of killing the bugs, the free radicals cause genetic mutations—far more than would normally occur. Some of those mutations lead to new strains of bacteria that can survive what were once-lethal doses of drugs.
“Our work indicates that it is much more dangerous than previously thought,” said Jim Collins, a professor of biomedical engineering and one of the paper’s authors. “The low-level antibiotics are boosting up the mutation rate and not killing off the bacteria. As result, you have created a zoo of mutants.”
Jill Richardson hits the bullseye, (she usually does).
How many times a day do you consume a food produced by a subsistence farmer on the other side of the world? Whether it's chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar or bananas, most Americans regularly enjoy inexpensive tropical foods, but far fewer actually think about the effects on the people or the environment where those products are grown. The Fair Trade movement represents one attempt to change this by reminding consumers that their lifestyles rely on faraway farmers and laborers and offering them an opportunity to ensure their purchases come from farmers paid a fair price.
At least, that's what consumers believe when they consciously select Fair Trade products. Is the consumer truly raising subsistence farmers out of poverty by buying Fair Trade? Or is Fair Trade just a marketing scheme to ease our guilty consciences as we exploit people of the developing world?
While a number of products are now certified Fair Trade, the first one introduced into the United States -- coffee -- is also one of the most widely available. Fair Trade means more than just a fair price to the coffee grower; it also means the growers are organized into democratically run cooperatives. Often (but not always) the cooperative model extends into the U.S. where roasters of Fair Trade coffee are also worker-owned cooperatives. Yet, nowadays even Wal-Mart -- the very embodiment of everything Fair Trade values oppose -- sells Fair Trade coffee.
As it turns out, Fair Trade-certified coffee is not all equal, even if all Fair Trade coffee pays growers more than the market price. Clearly the philosophies of major retailers like Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Smucker's (which sells Fair Trade coffee under its Millstone brand) differ from those of grassroots activists like the founders of Just Coffee in Madison, WI who went into the coffee roasting business specifically to help improve the lives of Mexican coffee growers they met in Chiapas.
Milk war a-brewin'...
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is taking on the Big Enchilada in the raw milk war: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition on interstate shipment of raw milk.
The FTCLDF filed suit over the weekend in U.S. District court against FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and the secretary of the FDA’s parent agency, Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, challenging the constitutionality of the agency’s prohibition, enacted in 1987. It filed the suit on behalf of consumers and a farmer from six different states; the consumers all travel from states where raw milk sales are illegal to buy it in states where it’s allowed for sale and the farmer sells to out-of-state consumers.
The suit is notable for seeking to shift the focus of the interstate raw milk prohibition to consumers from farmers, where the FDA has focused its efforts, most notably in prosecuting the largest raw dairy in the country, Organic Pastures Dairy Co. in California, for selling milk outside its home state. The agency was behind a criminal case against the dairy, which ended with a guilty plea last year and an agreement by the dairy to confine its sales to California, and a civil case, which is still pending. The agency has also been active behind the scenes in urging crackdowns on raw milk in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New York, among other states.
The case is also notable for the FTCLDF, which was formed less than three years ago to counter an aggressive FDA-led campaign against raw milk producers that began in 2006. While the legal organization has filed suits against state agriculture officials on behalf of raw dairy farmers in New York, Wisconsin, and California, as well as a suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture on behalf of farmers affected by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), this is its first encounter with the FDA, and as such, definitely the biggest case in its brief history.
All the consumer plaintiffs in the suit live in states where raw milk sales are prohibited—New Jersey, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia. The suit says the consumers buy their milk in neighboring states where raw milk is legal, and are being forced to break the law each time they travel back home with their milk.
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