Political Activism

Organic is under threat yet again.
This time it’s by the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies in organic production systems.

The National Organic Standards Board has as of yet failed to recommend a ban on nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in organic, despite strong evidence of health and environmental risks from some nanomaterials and overwhelming public sentiment that use of the technology, like genetic engineering, goes against the core principles of organic.

Nanotechnology is the deliberate engineering of materials, structures, and systems at the atomic and molecular level. It is a platform technology that will work hand-in-hand with genetic engineering and pesticides to further entrench our current industrial agricultural systems. Examples already in progress include nano-engineering of food and food packaging to allow further transport, nano-encapsulating of substances in food and nano-size pesticides, increasing their toxicity. There are also huge health and environmental risks.

Many of the world’s leading food companies are investing heavily in nanotechnology applications for food and food packaging. The European Parliament has called for nanotechnology to be prohibited for all food. U.S. regulators have so far ignored nano-food regulations. This is despite a growing presence of nano-enabled food packaging, the beginnings of a nano-food market, and calls for reform by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

In its Guidance Document – Engineered Nanotechnology in Organic Production, Processing and Packaging – the NOSB acknowledges the existence of “overwhelming agreement within the organic industry to prohibit nanotechnology in organic production and processing.” NOSB has already debated the topic for over two years. Yet, some NOSB members would rather hold a further symposium to talk about imagined obstacles to implementing a ban on nano in organic food production than acting swiftly to protect organic integrity. These symposiums are typically used by industry as a delaying tactic.

We cannot let industry pressure leave the door open for the future use of nano when the evidence is clear that it threatens to undermine consumer confidence in organic.

Tell the NOSB to do the right thing and prohibit nanotechnology in the Organic Standards now! Add your name to the petition here.


The hormone rBGH has been condemned by the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association and numerous others due to its potential for increasing cancer risk and has already been banned from use in cows in countries around the world such as Canada, Australia, Japan and the 27 countries of the European Union.

American cows? They are given diets and injections with rBGH on a regular basis.

Why are we so far behind the curve? Of course, it’s all about money. The hormone rBGH, now sold by Eli Lilly, was developed by Monsanto to increase cows’ milk production (higher yield = higher profit margin).

Monsanto’s former attorney, Michael Taylor, was put in charge of FDA policy when rBGH was approved and proposed that a disclaimer be put on all rBGH free milk, claiming that ‘According to the FDA, there is no significant difference between the milk from cows injected with rbST compared to those not injected.’

Ohio, along with four other state governments, made Taylor’s suggestion a requirement. Because of Ohio’s high dairy production, the rule would have impacted national dairy standards had it been upheld. Ohio was the last state to maintain the law after an unsuccessful campaign backed by Monsanto a few years ago. Opposition to this rule helped bring attention to this important issue. Activists groups like FRESH  have lobbied for truth in labeling on packaging.

And now we have yet another victory for the whole food movement; this time, it’s over drugged milk.

FRESH sent nearly 3,000 letters to Gov. Strickland demanding that he cancel the absurd law which banned the use of the “rBGH free” label.  Just last week, a federal judge struck down the law, ruling that milk from cows treated with rBGH is compositionally different from untreated milk, and consumers have the right to know if they’re buying milk with synthetic hormones in it.

This is a major victory, and will hopefully set a serious precedent for labeling, especially in light of the battle against genetically modified salmon.  We will keep fighting!

If you want to help keep watchdog organizations like FRESH advocating for safer, healthy foods you can donate here. Help FRESH dedicate more energy and time to educating and organizing around important issues like this. Please help them keep an eye on the powers that be!

Connect & donate to FRESH

Eat with care!

Post originally submitted by Lisa Madison, Distribution & Outreach Coordinator for FRESH

Right now, FDA is in the process of approving the first genetically engineered (GE) animal meant for human consumption: the GE AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon. Congress must speak up to stop this dangerous and misguided approval process. Already Rep. Dennis Kucinich called on FDA to slow down its process and ensure that the public has sufficient time and all available data to provide meaningful and informed public comment.

Please write your Congressional Representative and Senators and urge them to sign on to the dear colleague letters that are circulating the House authored by Rep. DeFazio, Kucinich, Thompson, and Miller and the Senate authored by Sen. Begich.  Additionally, urge them to contact Rep. Waxman and Sen. Harkin demanding that they hold oversight hearings on the regulation of genetically  engineered animals.

You can sign the petition letter being delivered to congress.

Submitted from the Center for Food Safety

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy membership organization established in 1997, for the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives. CFS has offices in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA.

Protect Lake Michigan from Sewage Contamination!

Action Needed Now: by April 8, 2010
Comment on Chicago-area sewage plant permits

April 8, 2010 is the final day for the public to submit their concerns about state permits that govern sewage plants responsible for sending billions of gallons of sewage combined with stormwater into Lake Michigan from the greater Chicago area.

In Chicago, the stormwater collection system is connected to the sanitary system and, during periods of heavy rain, sewage treatment plants are overwhelmed and must release untreated wastewater in what is known as a combined sewer overflow (CSO). Even though past work on the comprehensive Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) to serve as a temporary holding reservoir for raw sewage when it exceeds existing capacity has reduced the frequency of CSOs going into Lake Michigan, it still happens, including three events in 2009 that sent 413 million gallons of combined stormwater and sewage through the locks into Lake Michigan. In 2008, two events sent more than 11 billion gallons. We need to stay focused on eliminating these discharges.

Permit renewals are now proposed for three Chicago-area sewage treatment plants; the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), the Calumet WRP, and the North Side WRP, each of which must address how to properly dispose of excess stormwater and sewage. Amazingly Chicago still doesn’t disinfect its effluent—a common practice at almost every other WRP in the country!

CSOs pose a significant health risk because bacteria and viruses are present in much greater concentrations in untreated sewage. While pollution from Chicago-area CSOs usually flows away from Lake Michigan, during very heavy rain events, locks can be opened that send millions of gallons of sewage combined with rainwater into Lake Michigan. This health risk is so serious that Chicago beaches must be closed to protect the public from becoming sick from bacteria in the water during these events.

In addition to addressing the problem of sewage overflows into Lake Michigan, hastening the completion of the tunnel and reservoir plan would reduce the frequency of lock openings that could allow invasive Asian carp into Lake Michigan.

Action Needed:
Ask Illinois to ensure the treatment plant permits do more to protect Lake Michigan from sewage contamination

    Points to make in comments include:

  • The permits should require that the public be notified when locks are opened releasing sewage into Lake Michigan during heavy rains;
  • The permits should require installation of equipment to disinfect wastewater and remove harmful bacteria;
  • Plant operations should be improved to maximize the flow to the plants to reduce the amount of sewage going into the water during CSOs.
  • As the Stickney WRP has had a steady decline in treatment capacity in recent years, the Stickney WRP permit should define flow maximization, include enforceable conditions to ensure it occurs and require the problems causing decreased treatment capacity to be addressed;
  • The permits must include deadlines for TARP completion and interim benchmarks to measure progress. Specifically, the permits should require completion of the Thornton Composite Reservoir and Stage 1 of the McCook Reservoir before the permit expiration in 2015;
  • All these measures must be enforceable, rather than simply voluntary.

E-mail comments to:
E-mailed comments must specify “MWRDGC NDPES Permits” in the subject line of the e-mail and be received by midnight April 8, 2010.

Mail comments to:
Hearing Officer Dean Studer
Mail Code #5      Re: MWRDGC NPDES Permits
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
1021 North Grand Ave. East
P. O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276.

Comments must be postmarked by April 8, 2010.

For more information visit www.greatlakes.org/mwrd
or contact Lyman Welch at 312-939-0838 ext. 230 or lwelch@greatlakes.org.

Also please feel free to share this alert with your friends, family and contacts.

Posting sponsored by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. If you have any comments or questions about this e-action alert, please contact Frances Canonizado at fcanonizado@greatlakes.org.

Dear Empirical Operans-

We have to take a moment to heartily endorse this  workshop.

It’s educational presentations and trainings cover sustainability efforts in Land, Water, Air, Energy and Community. It connects you with excellent, motivated, and resourceful citizens committed to activist projects. And it connects you with resources from the City of Chicago’s Dept. of the Environment and Chicago Center for Green Technology.

Check it out; orientation sessions happening this week!

Spring 2010 Leader Training

C3 Outreach info listed below and flyer linked here

Chicago Conservation Corps (C3)
You care. Do Something. We’ll Help.

Spring 2010 Environmental Leadership Training Series
The Chicago Conservation Corps is now recruiting for its Spring 2010 Environmental Leadership Training Series. During the training, you’ll learn from community and environmental leaders about urban environmental challenges and opportunities for change; then you’ll lead an environmental service project in your community with C3 support and resources.

Attend one of the orientations listed below to learn more. For questions or to reserve a seat, please contact (312) 743-9283 or conservation@cityofchicago.org.

Thursday, March 25 – 7pm – 8pm
South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60649

Saturday, March 27 – 1pm – 2pm
Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N. Sacramento Blvd., Chicago, IL 60612

Monday, March 29 – 12pm – 1pm
City Hall 11th Floor, 121 N. Lasalle, Chicago, IL 60602

To apply for the C3 Leadership Training Series, you must be a City of Chicago resident and attend one orientation. The Spring 2010 training will be held at the Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N. Sacramento Blvd, Saturdays, April 10, 17, 24, and May 1 from 9:30am – 1:30pm.  A mandatory field trip will take place on Saturday, May 8.  A $75 fee covers course participation and project support. Financial assistance is available upon request.

For more information about the Chicago Conservation Corps Leadership Training Course, the Chicago Conservation Clubs, or to learn about other volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.chicagoconservationcorps.org.

Promoted by E.O. member, Jason Greenberg (2009 Chicago Conservartion Corps Leader)

As a ‘graduate’ from this program, I can tell you it was a great experience and it supports a valuable social mission: literally the empowering of the individual (YOU) to make a difference in your community.

$85 billion Jobs Bill ignores transit funding

Dear Empirical Operans,

The Senate is pushing forward a major Jobs Bill, but it does nothing to solve our transit funding crisis. Not one dollar of the $85 billion addresses the severe service cuts that have resulted in major job losses.

The Jobs Bill needs to fund public transit with flexibility to fund transit operations.  Investments in public transportation produce twice as many jobs as investment in highway projects.

President Obama has said he is concerned that the goal of quickly boosting employment with shovel-ready projects may conflict with making long-term investments in America’s future. These results show that investing in public transportation produces the most return for the money in both categories:

* it is a more effective direct job creator; and
* it builds the transportation systems we need for the future.

-Smart Growth America

Please speak out and let our elected representatives know that investments in transportation mean more than highway repairs and individual user/car-focused infrastructure. Alternative transportation options–especially public transportation systems–should be the focus of much of our public funded investments for the future.

More info on this issue at Smart Growth America

Please Act Now!
Urge Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris to save jobs by saving transit!

Sen. Richard Durbin: 202.224.2152 or 312.353.4952
Sen. Roland Burris: 202.224.2854 or 312.886.3506

This issue promoted by
Active Transportation Alliance
Chicagoland’s voice for better biking, walking and transit

The United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is now considering approving the use of agri-chemical company Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa. You may not think about alfalfa much when you’re drinking organic milk, but organic alfalfa is important to organic farming, as a nourishing animal feed that’s also a nitrogen-fixing soil enhancer. Once Genetically Engineered (GE) alfalfa is introduced, its contamination of non-GE plants – including organic – is all but inevitable. And because alfalfa is fed to dairy cows and other livestock, contamination puts organic dairy and meat at risk, too!

Speak Out Against Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Monsanto’s Alfalfa has patented GE components that make it sterile, so it is impossible for farmers to harvest, store and plant these seeds in a naturally recurring cycle. In this way Monsanto can effectively monopolize the seed market for this essential cover crop. The newest version of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is Monsanto’s attempt to continue their monopoly with a new patent on their alfalfa now that their current patent is about to expire. While this standard operating procedure makes good business sense for Monsanto, it takes the control out of the hands of farmers who are trying to manage their farms sustainably and holistically along organic or biodynamic principles.

If the USDA helps make conditions favorable for the new Roundup Ready Alfalfa, then independent farms and alternative seed-banks will be dealt a serious blow and organic alfalfa crops will be increasingly easily compromised with GE materials. Now is your chance to be heard. Tell the USDA to protect organic food and farmers from GE contamination, and NOT TO APPROVE Monsanto’s GE Alfalfa. You CAN make a difference. Tell the USDA that you care about GE contamination and your right to GMO-free organic foods.

Your Participation is Critical! Take Action by February 16

A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010.  This is the first time the USDA has done this analysis for any GE crop, so the final decision will have broad implications for all GE crops. The failure of the agency to address the impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences for farmers and organic consumers. Let’s not be Monsanto’s guinea pigs!

Where to Take Action:

Submit comments via the Center for Food Safety Action Center tool If you have time to write an original response, you can also submit your comments directly to the USDA.

By Mail: A written letter is very powerful. Mail your comments to:

Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Talking Point Suggestions

  • Let the USDA know you do care about GE contamination of organic crops & food
  • Tell USDA that you will reject GE-contaminated alfalfa and alfalfa-derived foods
  • If GE alfalfa is deregulated, widespread GE contamination of non-GM and organic alfalfa is inevitable.
  • Organic alfalfa is a critical component for organic farming and feed.
  • Remind USDA it’s their job to protect Organic farmers, and all farmers who choose to grow non-GE crops.
  • GE alfalfa would significantly increase pesticide use and thereby harm human health and the environment.
  • Harm to small and organic farmers is significant.
  • USDA should extend the comment period.

More In-Depth Information:

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deregulating the crop.  An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision.  The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS. They released a draft EIS on December 14, 2009. Draft EISSupplemental documents

It appears USDA again intends to deregulate GE alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment. In the new EIS, the USDA has completely dismissed the fact that GE contamination will threaten export and domestic markets and organic meat and dairy products.  And, incredibly, USDA is claiming that there is no evidence that consumers care about GE contamination of organic. We know that’s not true.

Learn more and get talking points from the Organic Valley Family of Farms website: http://www.organicvalley.coop/farm-friends/. Then take action at the Center for Food Safety, or submit comments online to the USDA directly.

After you write, let us know at rootstock@organicvalley.coop. We’ll post some comments on our website to inspire others to speak out.

Thanks for all your support for family farmers and a sustainable organic future for all!

Note: The majority of thus information is sourced from Organic Valley Family of Farms.
Additional information is integrated from an investigative piece that was broadcast on Chicago Public Radio in late January.