Organic News

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    Teflon by-product polluting the Mississippi River

    A government scientist has been forced to resign, after discovering dangerous levels of a toxic chemical in the Mississippi River. The toxins, specifically known as perfluoronated chemicals (PFCs), are a by-product of the manufacture of a number of products including Teflon and Scotchgard. In late 2005, Dr. Oliaei Fardin found dangerous levels of PFC’s in the Mississippi River downstream from a 3M Corporation’s dumping site in Minnesota. 3M had been dumping 50,000 pounds of the toxic chemical in the river every year, in a heavily populated metropolitan area, where the river serves as the main drinking water source for Minneapolis and St. Paul. PFCs have caused birth defects and deaths in animal studies and are considered a likely human carcinogen. Fardin, a scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, found levels of PFCs in the area’s fish that were the highest ever discovered in the world. Following her discovery, she was unable to get the state to issue a public health advisory, as would normally be required by law. After she filed a federal whistleblower’s lawsuit against the agency, Fardin was forced to resign by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Commissioner, a former Executive of 3M. Her research, which has now been halted, would have helped assess how far downstream the chemical contamination had traveled in the Mississippi River, one of the nation’s largest waterways and municipal water sources.

    Congress blindfolds consumers, removing the right to know what’s in your food

    On March 8, despite massive public opposition, including 50,000 calls and letters from supporters of the Organic Consumers Association, the House of Representatives passed the controversial "national food uniformity" labeling law, which would eliminate over 200 state food safety labeling laws. The law basically takes away local government and states’ power to require food safety labels such as those required in California and other states on foods or beverages that are likely to cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. The bill would also prevent local municipalities and states from passing laws requiring that genetically engineered foods and ingredients be labeled. Under the bill, hundreds of state laws and regulations would be eliminated, including those relating to the safety of milk, fish, and shellfish. In order to become law, the bill will now have to go to the Senate for a vote. Because of the enormous public backlash against the bill, Washington analysts believe the bill will have great difficulty passing in the Senate. OCA and other public interest organizations have vowed to go "all out" to stop this anti-democratic, anti-consumer bill in the Senate.

    Study finds eating veggies repairs cell damage

    A new study published in the journal Nature indicates that eating certain vegetables can repair damaged DNA. Previous studies have found nutrients that can help prevent cancer, but this research shows that certain vegetables can actually reverse cell damage that has already occurred. Laboratory tests revealed that a compound called indole-3-carinol (I3C), found in broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, can increase two specific protein levels that repair damaged DNA. "It is now clear that the function of crucial cancer genes can be influenced by compounds in the things we eat," said Eliot M. Rosen, M.D., Ph.D.

    Horse…it’s what’s for dinner

    The USDA has passed a new regulation that will use U.S. taxpayer money to pay for the slaughter of tens of thousands of horses annually in the U.S. for export overseas. The USDA rule contradicts a previous Congressional mandate that banned the use of federal funding for the horse slaughter industry. In a letter to the USDA, 40 members of Congress wrote, "The agency (USDA) has absolutely no authority to circumvent a Congressional mandate and effectively rewrite an unambiguous law at the request of the horse slaughter industry." The USDA has not responded.

    A mentally unstable diet: don’t panic, go organic

    A new report from the Mental Health Foundation indicates that dietary changes over the last fifty years have played a negative role in human mental health. Industrial agriculture has introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diets they are now fed. As a result, the population’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased, and the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased. According to the study, this unequal intake, combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals, is associated with depression, concentration and memory problems. Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said, "We are well aware of the effect of diet upon our physical health. But we are only just beginning to understand how the brain as an organ is influenced by the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat and how diets have an impact on our mental health."

    Demand increasing for cage-free eggs

    A national food service distributor to more than 200 college and corporate cafeterias across the U.S. has announced it will begin to provide only cage-free eggs. Responding to a petition by students at the American University in Washington, D.C., Bon Appetit will discontinue purchasing conventional eggs. According to the Humane Society, laying hens are the most abused animals in agribusiness. Up to eight birds are squeezed into a single cage, forcing each bird to live out its life in a space about half the size of a sheet of computer paper. Birds’ beaks are clipped off to keep them from attacking each other in these cramped quarters, and cages are stacked so that birds living below other cages are literally rained on with defecation from their upstairs neighbors. Bon Appetit’s decision is particularly significant, given that the company purchases eight million eggs per year, and cage-free eggs are more expensive. The company hopes prices will drop with increased demand. Bon Appetit already buys rBGH-free milk and antibiotic-free meat. http://

    The joys of penalty free pollution

    Owners of corporate factory farms are celebrating after being let off the hook for polluting the environment. The EPA, ignoring massive public opposition, has approved a Bush Administration proposal that allows factory farms to freely violate clean air standards for the next four years. The deal will also forgive these same polluters from paying millions of dollars in fines for past air pollution violations. In exchange for the freedom to pollute, the deal requires that factory farms agree to allow the EPA to monitor their air pollution. The regulation will exonerate more than 6,700 factory farms from having to pay fines of up to $27,500 per day for violating clean air standards in the past and over the next four years. The EPA claims this arrangement is needed in order to gather data necessary to further refine air emissions regulations for egg, chicken, turkey, dairy and hog industries. According to the EPA’s rule, the main goal of this regulation is to "reduce air pollution."

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