This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources, goodies, and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...
It's true that Cornucopia appears in quite a lot of my weekly organic columns, and I don't wish to appear that I'm shilling for them in any way, because I'm not. It simply says to me - arguably - that the Cornucopia Institute is the most active and effective advocate for organics in America today.
In an effort to make their products as low-fat as possible, many veggie burger manufacturers are turning to a potentially harmful chemical, according to an investigation by the non-profit Cornucopia Institute.
Most non-organic veggie burgers contain hexane, a neurotoxin that's also a petroleum by-product of gasoline refining. Hexane is listed as a hazardous air pollutant with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the report, which called hexane the "dirty little secret of the 'natural' soy foods industry."
To keep down the fat content of energy bars, veggie burgers and other products, food manufacturers submerge soybeans in a bath of hexane to separate them into soy oil, protein and fiber.
Products labeled "organic" aren't allowed to contain any hexane - but foods that are less than 100% organic, such as those labeled "made with organic ingredients," may contain the chemical.
Veggie burgers that are likely to contain hexane-extracted soy ingredients, according to the research, include popular brands such as Amy's Kitchen, Boca Burger (conventional), Garden Burger and Morningstar Farms, along with others.
As founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), and having served on and chairing the National Organic Standards Board, Jim Riddle has cred for a serious discussion on this issue:
1. Basic science. Humans have a complex digestive system, populated with flora, fauna, and enzymes that have evolved over millennia to recognize and break down foods found in nature to make nutrients available to feed the human body. GMO crops and foods are comprised of novel genetic constructs which have never before been part of the human diet and may not be recognized by the intestinal system as digestible food, leading to the possible relationship between genetic engineering and a dramatic increase in food allergies, obesity, diabetes, and other food-related diseases, which have all dramatically increased correlated to the introduction of GMO crops and foods.
2. Ecological impact. Organic agriculture is based on the fundamental principle of building and maintaining healthy soil, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems. Since the introduction of GMOs, there has been a dramatic decline in the populations of Monarch butterflies, black swallowtails, lacewings, and caddisflies, and there may be a relationship between genetic engineering and colony collapse in honeybees. GMO crops, including toxic Bt corn residues, have been shown to persist in soils and negatively impact soil ecosystems. Genetically modified rBST (recombinant bovine somatrotropin, injected to enhance a cow’s milk output) has documented negative impacts on the health and well being of dairy cattle, which is a direct contradiction to organic livestock requirements.
3. Control vs harmony. Organic agriculture is based on the establishment of a harmonious relationship with the agricultural ecosystem by farming in harmony with nature. Genetic engineering is based on the exact opposite -- an attempt to control nature at its most intimate level - the genetic code, creating organisms that have never previously existed in nature.
4. Unpredictable consequences. Organic ag is based on a precautionary approach - know the ecological and human health consequences, as best possible, before allowing the use of a practice or input in organic production. Since introduction, genetic modification of agricultural crops has been shown to have numerous unpredicted consequences, at the macro level, and at the genetic level. Altered genetic sequences have now been shown to be unstable, producing unpredicted and unknown outcomes.
5. Transparency. Organic is based on full disclosure, traceability, information sharing, seed saving and public engagement. Commercial genetic engineering is based on secrecy, absence of labeling, and proprietary genetic patents for corporate profits. The "substantial equivalence" regulatory framework has allowed the GMO industry to move forward without the benefit of rigorous, transparent scientific inquiry. The absence of labels has allowed genetically modified products into the U.S. food supply without the public's knowledge or engagement., and without the ability to track public health benefits.
Go to the article for the other 5 reasons.
In England, the Green Party is aiming high.
Unveiling its manifesto on Thursday (15 April), the party said it would set targets to convert a minimum 10% of the country's food production to organic every five years if it won the general election.
In an extensive list of policies it also promised to invest up to £20bn on a programme to boost renewable energy production.
Pledging to make healthy and affordable food available to the public, the party's manifesto says it would also replace the Common Agricultural Policy to provide support for organic farming, as well as smaller farms and projects to boost biodiversity.
The party would also work to localise the food chain, offering assistance to small farms, farmers markets, box schemes and locally-owned co-ops
A complete ban on genetically-modified food in Europe would be a priority for the party, while the use of pesticides would be "dramatically reduced".
For the following recipe, use as many organic ingredients as possible.
1 each pizza dough, divided into two (recipe follows)
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces organic blue cheese
1 each yukon gold potato, thinly sliced
1 cup spicy greens, chopped (komatsuna, radicchio, mustard)
1 teaspoon thyme, freshly chopped
1 each farm fresh egg (small size)
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
1/4 teaspoon Red pepper flakes
Go to the article for directions on how to use the ingredients.