The Organic Advantage

A free newsletter by BFA
- producing the best resources for keeping industry informed.

Friday,3rd March 2006, Edition 54

INDUSTRY NEWS:Australian IFOAM GE Policy Discussion Group

Scott Kinnear, BFA Director and Spokesperson for GE, is setting up an informal email discussion group to assist in development of IFOAM Genetic Engineering policy. Suggested policy changes developed by the group will be incorporated into a more formal process of consultation of IFOAM members. This process is to be developed and managed by Brendan Hoare (IFOAM World Board member for Oceania).
This comes at a crucial time while IFOAM is tackling a proposal by the EU to allow up to 0.9% GE contamination of organically certified and labelled products sold in the EU.

Interested participants are invited to send an email to

AGRIBUSINESS NEWS:???Farmers and Others Sue US Government over GMO Alfalfa

By Carey Gillam, Reuters, February 17, 2006

A coalition of farmers, consumers and environmental activists Thursday sued the U.S. government over its approval of a biotech alfalfa that critics say will spell havoc for farmers and the environment." The lawsuit contends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture improperly is allowing Monsanto Co. to sell an herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed while failing to analyze the public health, environmental, and economic consequences of that action.

The suit asserts that the genetically modified alfalfa will probably contaminate conventionally grown alfalfa at a fast pace, ultimately forcing farmers to pay for Monsanto's patented gene technology whether they want the technology or not.

The group says biotech alfalfa would also hurt production of organic dairy and beef products as alfalfa is a key cattle feed. And the suit claims farmers could lose export business, valued at an estimated $480 million per year, because buyers in Japan and South Korea, major importers of U.S. alfalfa, have indicated they would avoid buying U.S. alfalfa once the genetically engineered variety is released.

Alfalfa is very easily cross-pollinated by bees and by wind. The plant is also perennial, meaning GMO plants could live on for years. Monsanto has a policy of filing lawsuits or taking other legal actions against farmers who harvest crops that show the presence of the company's patented gene technology.

The suit names Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Ron Dehaven and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Steve Johnson as defendants.

ocal Comment: 13-2-06 "No Future for GM Pastures"

Andrea Balcombe, Victorian dairy farmer, has hit out at claims that GM rye grass could help dairy farmers increase milk production. Professor Timothy Reeves made this claim in publicity for the Dairy Innovators Forum, held in Mt Gambier on February 15-16. "Australians know that cows eat grass (pasture) to produce milk. If the pasture is GM, would they still want to drink the milk? said Ms Balcombe. "Given consumer resistance to GM, why would Australian dairy farmers want to sully our industry's clean green reputation? Once GM rye is grown in the open environment, no farmer will be able to guarantee that their produce is GM free." said Andrea.

ENVIRONMENT:The State of Australias Birds 2005: Woodlands and Birds

There is mixed news on the status of Australias woodland birds, but it is clear that in agricultural and pastoral lands the overall situation is bleak.

The greatest bird population declines are in agricultural areas of south-west and south-eastern Australia.

A recently compiled supplement to Wingspan Magazine by Penny Olsen, Michael Weston, Chris Tzaros and Andrew Silcocks, presents on overview of the status of Australias birds. The user friendly paper lists the major threats that woodland birds face as loss of woodlands and woodland trees, including paddock trees and standing dead trees; and loss of small and young trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs, logs and litter.

The authors identify conservation actions including managing for variety in woodlands on farms and retaining at least 30% of woodland for sustainable bird populations and farm production.

Wingspan is produced by Birds Australia, PH 03 9882 2622, or email or Download the report from DEHs website at

HEALTH:USA: Organic Diets Keep Kids Pesticide Free

y CHRISTINE DELL'AMORE, UPI Consumer Health Correspondent, 22 Feb 06
Children who switched their diets for only a few days to organic foods dramatically and immediately lowered the amount of toxic pesticides in their bodies, researchers report.
Lead author Chensheng Lu of Emory University found that when kids eat organic foods, pesticides in their body plummet to undetectable levels -- even when following the diet for only five days.
"An organic diet does provide protective measures for pesticide exposure in kids," said Lu, who presented his research at a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in St. Louis. His study appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Lu designed a novel intervention study by substituting organic foods into the diets of 23 elementary school children in the Seattle area. All the kids, who were aged 3 to 11, had metabolites -- or evidence of pesticides -- in their urine at the study's start. But as soon as they began eating organic foods, the concentration of metabolites dropped to essentially
zero. Once they returned to their conventional diet, the pesticides levels bounced back up.
Lu said he is confident that the pesticide reductions can be attributed to the kids' diet, because the particular class of pesticides studied, called organophosphorus pesticides, or OPs, are not found in households. The kids ingested these pesticides from eating conventional foods, and not from playing in grass treated with chemicals, for example.
Lu and Fenske claim the health risks to children are still uncertain, although Lu points out that there's no getting around the fact a pesticide is a neurotoxin. Since the chemicals disrupt enzymes in the brain which govern communication, exposure to pesticides could damage a child's brain. These chemicals are developed, after all, to kill bugs by paralyzing or over-exciting their neurological systems.
"In terms of the impact of these low levels of chemicals on a regular basis in a developing organism -- and that's what a child's neurological system is -- this is extremely important that we try to understand this," Fenske said.
The Environmental Protection Agency warns children may be sensitive to pesticides because their excretory systems are not developed enough to excrete pesticides, and that in relation to their body weight, kids eat and drink more than adults.
Currently, researchers are studying whether conditions like attention deficit disorder, lowered IQs, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease can be linked to early exposure to pesticides. Children are most vulnerable to pesticides from formation of the fetus up to 2 years of age.
Charles Benbrook, the chief scientist of The Organic Center, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit encouraging the widespread adoption of organic foods and processes, says there's enough consensus to act now to rid agriculture of pesticides. He mentioned the work of Robin Whyatt at Columbia University with pregnant women in New York. Whyatt found that birth weight and birth length is lower in children whose mothers were exposed to pesticides.
Benbrook said he was amazed at how fast and how significantly the urinary metabolites fell in Lu's study participants.

Full article at

GOOD TASTE:Organic Iced Chocolate

Something different for the remaining summer weather a tall chilled glass of organic iced chocolate. And its so incredibly easy! From your local health food store buy some unsweetened organic cocoa - it can be have a quite a strong rich taste so dont use too much to begin with. Start with a teaspoon and pop it in a cup with a tablespoon of honey (two if youre a sweet tooth), and dissolve both in an inch or two of hot water.

Fill a tall glass about full with soy or dairy milk, organic of course. Pour the dissolved cocoa and honey into the milk, stir it through thoroughly, and then fill the rest of the glass with ice. So delicious!

Adjust the amount of ingredients to your taste and enjoy a guilt-free refreshing iced chocolate drink. None of the flavourings, excessive sugar, preservatives and other nasties that youll get in a commercial iced choc. I love it strong on chocolate but not too sweet. How about you?

For the really adventurous try dissolving a little cardamom or cinnamon in with the cocoa and honey. Mmmmmm.

Editors: Holly Vyner, Sam Statham, Dom O'Brien

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