Organic news on Edge Life

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Montana labels note local produce
A new certification and labeling system has been launched in Western Montana that goes a step beyond federal "USDA Organic." The Western Montana Sustainable Growers Union has launched the "Homegrown" label, which guarantees that products sold to consumers are not only organic, but were also produced within a 150 mile radius. The Homegrown label also aims to promote fair labor practices. Farmers with the Homegrown certification are also urged to purchase supplies locally to keep money in the community. According to Lynn Byczynski, editor and publisher of Growing for Market, a national magazine dedicated to farmers’ markets, "What they (the Growers Union) are doing there is not uncommon. There are groups like this bubbling up all over the place in response to the corporate takeover of organics."

Corporate takeover of organic foods
The following corporate takeovers of organic food companies have taken place this decade:

Kraft Foods bought small natural cereals producer Back to Nature in 2004.The company is a subsidiary of Altria Group, which also owns Phillip Morris CompaniesInc., one of the largest cigarette makers in the world. Kraft also owns Boca BurgerInc.

Odwalla Inc., which produces natural and organic fruit juices, was purchasedby Coca-Cola in 2001.
Dean Foods Co., the largest dairy company in the U.S., bought out Horizon Organicin 2003, in addition to Silk soymilk and White Wave tofu.

Kellogg’s has acquired several natural and organic brands: Kashi Cerealand Morningstar Farms.
General Mills purchased Cascadian Farm, in 2000. The brand consists of items suchas frozen fruit, vegetables, granola bars and fruit spreads.

General Mills also boughtout Muir Glen, which produces ketchup, tomato sauce, and salsa.

Unilever bought out Ben & Jerry’s for $326 million.

Colgate-Palmolive Co. is purchasing Tom’s of Maine, which specializes innatural oral and personal care products.

How green is your lawn?
Consumers are forcing the $35 billion per year lawn and garden care industry to make space for organics. Stores like Lowe’s, Sears and Home Depot, which traditionally have only sold synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, are selling record amounts of organic soils and fertilizers this spring. A recent survey from the National Gardening Association found that, while only 5 percent of U.S. households now use all-organic methods in their yards, some 21 percent said they would likely do so in the future. Studies over the past three decades have linked common lawn and garden chemicals with cancer and kidney or liver damage, particularly in children and pets. "Initially, it may feel harder, but in the long term, it’s easier," says Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening magazine. He likens using chemicals to "putting your yard on steroids." Over time, he says, "it weakens the system."

Dwindling nutritional value
Just because they are bigger than they used to be, doesn’t mean they’re as nutritious. According to data
collected by the USDA, non-organic vegetables have fewer vitamins and minerals than they did 50 years ago. On an overall scale of all produce tested, protein has declined by 6 percent, iron has declined 15 percent, vitamin C has dropped 20 percent, and riboflavin has fallen by 38 percent. An analysis of the nutritional drops was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and suggests the loss is due to the increased cultivation of crops that were bred for high growth and production and not for nutritional value."

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Tim Miejan
Tim Miejan is a writer who served as former editor and publisher of The Edge for twenty-five years. Contact him at [email protected].

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