Wicked Cool World of Organics - Edition 55

This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources, goodies, and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...


Last year, our hearts were a-flutter as dirt was broken on the White House's first organic garden, the First Lady's pet project. Good news; the garden is expanding.

Michelle Obama Enlarges the White House Organic Garden

The harvest was a huge success. Fifty five different kinds of vegetables, including lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, and greens were grown. This resulted in 1,000 pounds (!) of food, harvested and eaten by White House staff and at State dinners as well as donated to nearby homeless shelters. Now, into its second year, the garden is being expanded by another 400 square feet.

The newly planted garden is being enlarged from 1,100 sq. ft to 1,500 sq.ft. It will contain four new vegetables: bok choy, white cauliflower, artichokes and mustard greens. Some other new foods -- figs, corn, melons and pumpkins -- will also be planted in the fertile soil. Last year's successes such as peas, spinach, carrots, sorrel, radish, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and leeks will be planted again. Also around for the second year is the White House beehive.

Joined by school children in a symbolic planting, they all performed a "growing dance" around the wooden planter. The group chanted "grow, rhubarb, grow" several times then circled the planter and finished by throwing their hands in the air.

They wanted to demonstrate that a four season garden was possible in Washington D.C. So they protected the seedlings by using small "hoop houses." These are simple structures that many growers use. Metal bars arched over the beds are covered with plastic covering. This keeps the snow out and traps in the heat by day so that plants don't freeze over night.




Organic watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, has filed a complaint accusing Wal-Mart of false organic labeling of pesticides. In 2007, Conucopia successfully filed a similar complaint regarding some instances of Wal-Mart posting misleading labeling of conventional foods. 

The judge in that case has issued his decision, and it's a mixed bag. In essence, the judge appears to be aiming for a compromise position which looks to give farmers who are growing genetically modified sugar beets the time frame of a growing season to convert to non-gm crops.

Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices

The Cornucopia Institute has filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating the USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils, and other ingredients, in pest control products that bear the word organic and the green “USDA organic” seal.

The pest control products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label (see front of bottle, back of bottle, and company webpage product screenshot).

A debate has been raging for years whether non-food products, such as pet food and personal care products, are included in the strict regulations that determine the use of the word “organic” on packaging. Most of those products at least had organic ingredients involved in their manufacture, whereas Bio Block pest control products contain not a single organically produced ingredient. 

However, there has never been any question that the green “USDA Organic” seal can be used only by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

In addition to using the word organic prominently on its label, HOMS uses the USDA seal on at least one of its Bio Block products without specifying that organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, which is also required by federal organic regulations.



This has my interest. Have you seen it?

Dirt! The Movie

DIRT! The Movie--directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow--takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.

The opening scenes of the film dive into the wonderment of the soil. Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, "dirt is very much alive." Though, in modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted. "Drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt."

DIRT! the Movie--narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis--brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.

DIRT! the Movie is simply a movie about dirt. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. The movie teaches us: "When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked." But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action.



Clearly illustrated, a very compelling reason to buy and eat organic, whenever possible.

What You Don't Know About Strawberries Could Kill You

Ah, fresh strawberries, that sweet, delightful summertime treat appreciated by taste buds everywhere.

But those innocent-looking strawberries are also one of the most poisonous foods in the produce section — if you aren't buying  organic, that is. According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, strawberries rank as one of the dirtiest fruits and vegetables, readily absorbing the noxious chemicals that are used to grow them conventionally and exposing the consumer — and far more so the field workers who grow them — to up to 54 known carcinogens, among other toxins. And things are about to get worse.

One of these noxious chemical, the widely-used methyl bromide, is being phased out thanks to international efforts to ban it due to its ozone-depleting effects. This would be good, except the fumigant that growers chemical manufacturer Arysta would like to replace it with is methyl iodide. Methyl iodide is used by scientists for the delightful purpose of intentionally inducing cancer in lab animals. Cancer is not just this chemical's side effect; it's its job.

Astonishingly, the EPA under Bush approved this chemical for use, although California, where the majority of U.S. strawberries are grown, held off on approving the stuff. California is the second largest user of methyl bromide in the country, so now that it's getting the boot, the pressure is on for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to approve methyl iodide, known commercially as "Midas," in its place.


Related Reading:

Got Data and Regs!
Whole Earth Disciple

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  • Posted on April 2, 2010. Listed in:

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