Login
"The diligent farmer plants trees, of which he himself will never see the fruit."
- Cicero
 Minimize 
MOF&G Cover Winter 2001-2002

  

  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 01-02News   
 News & Events – Winter 2002-2002 Minimize


Report Presents Evidence for Health Benefits of Organic
DEA Issues New Rules to Ban Hemp Foods

Data Suggest Link Between Miscarriages, Agricultural Pesticides
Public Citizen vs. Irradiated Beef
Experience Solar Culture in Nicaragua
Cuba’s Organic Success is One of Top Censored Stories of 2000



Report Presents Evidence for Health Benefits of Organic

A large body of scientific evidence indicates that organic food is safer and better for you than non-organic food, according to a report released in August by the Soil Association of Great Britain. Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health says much more research is needed, but concludes that consumers wishing to improve their intake of minerals and vitamin C while reducing their exposure to potentially harmful pesticide residues and food additives should choose organic food wherever possible.

Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, says: “This report contradicts Sir John Krebs, Head of the Food Standards Agency, who said last year that there was not enough information available to be able to say that organic food is nutritionally different from non-organic food. On average we found that organic crops are not only higher in vitamin C and essential minerals, but also higher in phytonutrients – compounds which protect plants from pests and disease and are often beneficial in the treatment of cancer. These findings, coupled with health concerns linked to pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, nitrate and additives occurring in non-organic foods, suggests increased government support for organic production could have significant health benefits in addition to the environmental benefits already proven.”

To compile his report Shane Heaton examined over 400 published papers considering or comparing organic and non-organic foods in terms of food safety, nutritional content and the observed health effects in those consuming food. “Official data show an alarming decline in mineral levels in fruit and vegetables over the past half-century,” he says. “Even though the typical Western diet is more varied now than ever before, nutrient deficiencies are common and human health is declining as a result. My analysis suggests that farming methods can make a significant difference to levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, and the evidence of this is strong enough to warrant the Food Standards Agency, DEFRA and the Department of Health funding much more research in this area.”

The 87-page report is endorsed by a number of scientists, organizations and experts in the fields of medicine, nutrition and organic research. Among the forms of further research it recommends are long-term feeding trials with both animals and humans to assess the influence of consuming organic food on various health parameters, including fetal health and male fertility. The small number of feeding trials featured in the report show significant improvements in the growth, reproductive health and recovery from illness of animals fed organically produced feed.

Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health is published by the Soil Association. Printed copies (£12) are available from 0117 914 2446, and more information may also be obtained from the Soil Association website: www.soilassociation.org.

Top

DEA Issues New Rules to Ban Hemp Foods

The Drug Enforcement Administra­tion (DEA) published rules regarding industrial hemp products in the Federal Register on October 9, 2001, which were effective immediately. Without the required public notice and comment period, the DEA issued an interpretive rule banning hemp seed and oil food products that contain any amount of trace residual THC, devastating the hemp food industry and potentially subjecting businesses and consumers to federal criminal penalties. DEA issued an interim rule exempting hemp bodycare and fiber products from DEA control, but the legal status of bodycare products is ambiguous. Hemp seeds and oil have no psychoactive effect and are about as likely to be abused as poppy seed bagels for their trace opiate content, or fruit juices because of their trace alcohol content (present through natural fermentation).

Furthermore, the hemp industry has established the science-based TestPledge (www.testpledge.com) program. TestPledge companies clean their seed and oil to assure consumers a wide margin of safety from confirming positive in a workplace drug-test even when eating an unrealistic amount of hemp foods daily. The DEA’s actions are especially puzzling, as they have not targeted poppy seeds and their trace opiates. In fact, the U.S. government raised drug-test thresholds for opiates in the 1990s to accommodate the poppy seed industry.

Hemp seed is one of nature’s best sources for human nutrition. In addition to its excellent flavor profile, the seeds supply all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form with a high protein efficiency ratio. Hemp oil offers high concentrations of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) in a perfect ratio of the omega-3/omega-6 acids. This superior nutritional profile makes shelled hemp seed and oil ideal for a wide range of functional food applications and as an effective fatty acid supplement. Not surprisingly, shelled hemp seed and oil are increasingly used in natural food products, such as corn chips, nutrition bars, hummus, nondairy milks, breads and cereals.

The high and balanced essential fatty acid content of hemp oil also makes it ideal as a topical ingredient in both leave-on and rinse-off bodycare products. The EFAs help soothe and restore skin in lotions and creams and give excellent emolliency and smooth after feel to lotions, lip balms, conditioners, shampoos, soaps and shaving products.

Estimated retail sales for hemp food and bodycare products in the U.S. exceeded $25 million in 2000, up from less than $1 million in the early 90s. Hemp foods and bodycare products have penetrated the mainstream marketplace, and rapid growth was expected to continue before the DEA action in October.

Poppy seeds contain trace opiates, fruit juice contains trace alcohol, hemp seeds contain trace THC. Trace contaminants exist in nature and in our food supply, and our government regulatory agencies set limits to protect consumer health. The hemp industry has addressed all health, safety and drug-testing issues with a wide margin of safety, and would like to formalize TestPledge standards with governmental sanction.

Hemp offers environmental advantages and has a long history of use for paper, fabrics, cordage and birdseed, as well as being a nutritional food and superior bodycare ingredient. Hemp is now being grown in 29 countries including Canada, England, Germany, France and Spain. Each of these countries has adopted regulatory models that allow for safe human consumption of hemp products. Legislation relating to hemp has been passed in 16 states. This past year, the National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution calling for changes to federal laws to allow for domestic hemp cultivation. For more information on the phenomenal potential of industrial hemp, please visit: www.votehemp.com and www.thehia.org.

The DEA’s planned new rules will cause substantial harm to hemp businesses and consumers. Like poppy seed, hemp seed is clearly exempted from the Controlled Substances Act by Congress. 21 U.S.C. 802(16), (19) and (20). The hemp industry is currently pursuing legal action. A public comment period ends on Dec. 10; constructive comments to the DEA and members of Congress are welcome. See www.hempreport.com for more information, and see www.votehemp.com for actions you can take. For more information, contact Vote Hemp: hempinfo@votehemp.com, 202-318-8999; or Hemp Industries Association: info@thehia.org; 707-874-3648.

Top

Data Suggest Link Between Miscarriages, Agricultural Pesticides

A report in the journal Epidemiology (March 2001; 22:148-156) suggests that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are sprayed may have an increased risk of losing a fetus due to birth defects. Dr. Erin M. Bell and colleagues studied data from 1984 from 10 California counties where farmers reported pesticide applications to the state. Seventy-three of the women lost a fetus due to malformed heart, brain or spinal cord or other problems, while 611 gave birth to infants with no defects. The researchers found a slight increase in fetal deaths when the women lived near farms where pesticides were sprayed. Fetuses between three and eight weeks old appeared to be most vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure.

This study is considered preliminary because exposure to pesticides was not measured directly. Wind, weather and timing of the pesticide applications could have affected actual exposure.

Source: “Agricultural pesticides linked to fetal death,” by Keith Mulvihill, Reuters, Feb. 13, 2001.

Top

Public Citizen vs. Irradiated Beef

Public Citizen filed a false advertising complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Omaha Steaks Inc. on March 29, because the company’s catalog and Internet ads did not tell consumers that its ground beef products were irradiated. Public Citizen has also filed false advertising complaints against Huisken Meats Inc. of Chandler, Minn., and SureBeam Corp. of San Diego, whose web sites said that their ground beef products were “electronically pasteurized” rather than irradiated. Omaha Steaks does place the phrase “treated by irradiation” on its ground beef packages, but consumers are not aware of that until they meat arrives in the mail.

SureBeam, a spin-off of defense contractor Titan Corp., “treats” food with linear accelerators that were originally designed for Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) program.

Federal law requires that irradiated food be labeled “Treated by Irradiation” or “Treated with Radiation” (although the law is under review by the FDA). The National Food Processors Association has been lobbying the FDA and Congress to allow irradiated food to be labeled “electronically pasteurized” or “cold pasteurized.”

Consumers find such terms “sneaky,” “misleading,” “deceptive,” “fake” and “not accurate,” according to four FDA-organized focus groups that considered labeling alternatives for irradiated food in July – even after FDA-appointed moderators tried to convince the third and fourth focus groups that irradiation is very much like pasteurization. None of the 50 participants in the focus groups liked the proposed change. Likewise, 98.2% of those who commented to FDA about the proposed change wanted the current labeling language maintained or strengthened.

Pasteurization uses heat and does not significantly alter the chemical structure of food. Irradiation uses electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays – all forms of ionizing radiation – and, according to Public Citizen, alters the chemical structure of food by breaking the molecular bonds that hold electrons in place. As a result, irradiation depletes vitamins, affects essential fatty acids and amino acids, and forms chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects, such as benzene and methyl ethyl ketone. Animals fed irradiated food have suffered premature death, stillbirths, a rare form of cancer, fatal internal bleeding, genetic damage, organ malfunctions and vitamin deficiencies, according to Public Citizen.

Source: www.citizen.org/cmep/.

Top

Experience Solar Culture in Nicaragua

One doesn’t often think twice about turning on the light switch, but for more than 60% of Nicaragua’s rural population, this is not even possible: They have no electricity. For many, the cost of purchasing an electrical lighting system is way beyond their means. A farm laborer fortunate enough to have work all month in a country with massive unemployment makes about $40. His family in the countryside either goes without the luxury of light, or spends $8-$12 per month on candles and kerosene.

Alternatively, some communities have managed to obtain noisy diesel generators that are silenced when they run out of expensive, scarce fuel, while others use old car batteries, requiring money to recharge before they fail within months.

In 1996, a group of third-year electrical engineering students at the National Engineering University in Managua (UNI) saw a need without a means. So together with their enthusiastic professor they created one: GRUPO FENIX. They are bringing electricity to Nicaragua’s countryside: not electricity born of large generators and high-voltage power lines, but of an abundant Nicaraguan natural resource – the sun. FENIX is supported by a diverse assortment of individuals who have a personal and/or professional vision of providing the world with renewable energy resources. Dr. Richard Komp, President of Sunwatt Corp., Susan Kinne, Associate Professor of Electronics Engineering at UNI, and a group of young engineers combine their expertise and resources to make this project possible. Bridging the gap between North and Central America, Grupo FENIX gives everyone a chance to grow and give. For more information on this work, visit our website, www.grupofenix.org/.

FENIX invites interested parties to participate directly in its development and vision. It offers an 11-day workshop/tour in which participants learn about solar energy systems, study applications specific to Central America, visit renewable energy installations, and install PV lighting systems in a rural village. The program includes recreational and cultural activities as well as excursions. The next 11-day workshop will run from the 7th to the 18th of January, 2002. The cost of the entire trip, excluding air fare and airport expenses, is $850 per person, which includes a $200 subsidy towards a solar equipment for the village where we will work. The course will be taught in English (although Spanish ability greatly enhances your experience of Nicaragua).

For more information, contact Richard J. Komp, Skyheat Associates, RR 2 Box 7751, Jonesport ME 04649, e-mail: sunwatt@juno.com, phone: 207-497-2204, or Barbara Atkinson, e-mail lightstream@igc.org, or visit www.grupofenix.org/.

Top

Cuba’s Organic Success is One of Top Censored Stories of 2000

According to Project Censored, the fact that Cuba has developed one of the most efficient organic agriculture systems in the world was one of the top 25 censored stories in the U.S. media last year. Due to the U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was unable to import chemicals or modern farming machinery, leading to a diversification of farming on the island and the emergence of organic agriculture as the way to feed the nation’s growing urban populations.

Peter Rosset of the Institute for Food and Development Policy calls this “the largest conversion from conventional agriculture to organic or semi-organic farming that the world has ever known.” Also, the migration of small farms and gardens into densely populated urban areas has been crucial in feeding Cuba’s people. Havana, which holds nearly 20% of Cuba’s population, has more than 8,000 officially recognized gardens cultivated by more than 30,000 people and covering nearly 30% of available land.

While Cuba has learned how to grow food without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the quality and yields of crops have increased. Some of this increase is due to vermicompost: Worms compost organic material at 173 centers in Cuba, producing 93,000 tons of compost. Replacing monocultures of tobacco and sugar with diverse plantings of food crops, and using crop rotation and soil conservation measures, have also helped.

Project Censored notes that two national wire services covered this story, but few newspapers picked it up. For more information, see www.projectcensored.org.

Top


    

Home | Programs | Agricultural Services | The Fair | Certification | Events | Publications | Resources | Store | Support MOFGA | Contact | MOFGA.net | Search
  Copyright © 2014 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement    Site by Planet Maine