This article in Mother Earth News has the best explanation yet on why consumers are increasing the demand for organic seed. Gwenael Engelskirchen from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont is quoted as saying, “When you buy organic seed, not only are you getting a ‘safe seed’ and one that is grown in organic conditions like your own farm or garden, you are supporting the future of organics.” For the full article click here: Organic Seed Companies Respond to Increasing Demand
In an earlier post, I said I believe the availability of renewable, clean energy is the most important issue facing us at this time. A major component of the Stimulus package passed by congress this weekend was investment in clean energy. Of the $800 billion approved by congress, over $115 billion is allocated to clean energy investments which are consistent with the comprehensive measures proposed in the New Apollo Program. For a good summary of the initiatives included in the Stimulus package for energy related investment see the summary on the Apollo Alliance website.
I have previously posted on the importance of the work being done by the Apollo Alliance. The Stimulus package, more formally known as The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill, that is being debated in Washington this weekend is the single largest spending proposal in American history. While the economic merits and future effects on our economy of increasing the deficit to “stimulate” the economy can be debated by the Keynesians (for) and monetarists (against), the good news is that the bill strongly addresses the nation’s need for alternative energy. Much of what the Apollo Alliance represents is being incorporated in the bill. For a great summary and chart showing the Apollo Alliance proposal compared to the Stimulus bill, see Data Points: Comparing Approved House Stimulus With Apollo Recovery Act. The Apollo Alliance and its supporters should be applauded for their efforts to make this bill into something that will benefit us now AND in the future.
Check out this great video by Mark Bittman, food columnist and author of How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition): 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food. Bittman talks about the unsustainability of our current eating habits and how they have lead to global warming and health problems. A few of nuggets from the video:
- The optimal amount of red meat in the American diet is 1/2 pound per week. On average, we consume seven times that amount.
- The world consumes over 1 billion Cokes per day. That’s a lot of empty calories.
- Packaging and processing of “healthy” foods have made them more like junk food. For example, yogurts have become ice cream and granola bars have become candy bars – just read the labels.
I encourage you to watch for yourself.
By the way, Bittman released his latest book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipesin January, 2009. He explores the link between global warming and other environmental challenges, obesity and lifestyle diseases, and the over consumption of meat, simple carbohydrates, and junk food. Food Matters analyzes how the American diet is taking a toll on both human and planetary health, and it offers a viable solution to this dual problem in the form of a dietand recipesbased on eating more rationally.
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The regulations under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) with regards to seed state:
§ 205.204 Seeds and planting stock practice standard.
(a) The producer must use organically grown seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock: Except, That,
(1) Nonorganically produced, untreated seeds and planting stock may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available: Except, That, organically produced seed must be used for the production of edible sprouts;
(2) Nonorganically produced seeds and planting stock that have been treated with a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced or untreated variety is not commercially available;
(3) Nonorganically produced annual seedlings may be used to produce an organic crop when a temporary variance has been granted in accordance with §205.290(a)(2);
(4) Nonorganically produced planting stock to be used to produce a perennial crop may be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced only after the planting stock has been maintained under a system of organic management for a period of no less than 1 year; and
(5) Seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock treated with prohibited substances may be used to produce an organic crop when the application of the materials is a requirement of Federal or State phytosanitary regulations.
There are two main reasons consumers look for Certified Organic products:
(A) Food Safety – Organic Certification assures consumers that their food is free from potentially harmful substances used in the growing and production process, and/or
(B) Green – Organic Certification assures consumers that no harm has been done to the environment in the growing process.
On the surface, it makes sense to require organic seed for organic production. However, lets analyze the NOP exceptions one at a time, examining them taking into consideration the reasons consumers want organic products.
(1) (Food Safety test) Non-organically produced, untreated seeds for organic production of food will not add any harmful substances to the food being produced, so this exception passes the Food Safety test.
(1) (Green test) Non-organically grown seed is not as friendly to the environment as organically produced seed, thus this exception fails the Green test.
(2) (Food Safety test) If we assume that substances included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production have been thoroughly tested and are harmless for human consumption, this exception would pass the Food Safety test, especially considering that the chances of a chemical treatment on seed being transferred to the harvested fruit in quantities large enough to have an effect are negligible.
(2) (Green test) Since the non-organically produced seed in exception (1) did not pass the Green test, chemically-treated, non-organically produced seed surely does not pass.
(3) (Food Safety test) I get worried when words like temporary variance are used to allow something to become certified. Isnt it either organic or not organic. What use is the label if the standards can be varied. And, since we are talking about a young plant vs. a seed, the potential for transferring harmful substances to the finished product is greater. This exception fails the Food Safety test.
(3) (Green test) Fails no question.
(4) (Food Safety test) This exception may make sense for some crops, but troubles me because it is at odds with other organic regulations, such as the requirement that land be free from any chemical applications for three years before being certified for organic production. Fail this test on principal.
(4) (Green test) Oddly, this exception passes the green test, since the planting stock has been maintained organically for at least a year. This exception encourages more organic production due to the ability to implement faster.
(5) (Food Safety test) Why should a conflict between regulators allow something to be called organic when it clearly is not? This is a ridiculous exception and an example of bureaucratic B.S. In no case, should a consumer who thinks they are buying a certified organic product get a product treated with prohibited substances. If state regulations require treatment with prohibited substances, then those products are not organic. Period.
(5) (Green test) Duh Fails.
This post is meant to point out the complexity and problems associated with the NOP regulations surrounding organic certification, as well as the silliness of some of the exceptions to the certification process. Lets assume that the primary concern by the consumer for organic certification is food safety. For seed produced crops, no potentially harmful chemicals used in seed production pass to the finished organic product. So, why require organically produced seed at all? Lets get some common sense into our regulations.
I firmly believe that during this century the availability of energy will determine the course of mankind. If we are wise enough to invest the resources necessary in new sources of renewable, clean energy, the future will be bright for mankind. If we continue to rely on the same dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, the next century will be marred by fighting over those resources. This is THE most important issue facing us at this time.
Early indications are that the Obama administration is heading in the right direction on energy policies. Among their plans are the following:
- Provide short‐term relief to American families facing pain at the pump. Easier than it looked – this may be the only benefit from the current state of the economy. We need to be careful that the temporary low fuel prices do not derail plans for alternatives.
- Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years
to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. During the campaign, $150 billion looked like a big number. The bail-out and economic stimulation bills have put that in perspective. The good news is that according to a January 25, 2009 Washington Post article, “Obama wants to double renewable energy capacity within three years, creating enough additional capacity to power 6 million homes, and he plans to leverage $100 billion to finance private-sector clean-energy initiatives.”
- Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela
combined. We better. Oil production peaked several years ago in most of the middle east and world consumption, with the exception of this (hopefully) short hiatus due to the economy, continues to increase.
- Put 1 million Plug‐In Hybrid cars cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon on the road by
2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America. If they get 150 mpg, they can come from Botswana.
- Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by
2025. Only 25% in 16 years? If our consumption grows at slightly over 1% annually, that might cover our increase in demand. We have to act quickly!
- Implement an economy‐wide cap‐and‐trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80
percent by 2050. Hopefully, there will be some dry land and breathable air left by then.
All kidding aside, the plan is certainly an about-face from our previous administration and is setting us on the right course.
Several large privately-funded groups have formed to promote their ideas concerning the need for alternative or “green” energy. In the February 19, 2007 post on this blog, an overview of some ideas from the Apollo Alliance were presented. In this post, two more groups will be reviewed – The Pickens Plan and Wecansolveit.org.
The Pickens Plan is focused on removing our addiction to foreign oil. They are lead by T. Boone Pickens, a Billionaire who made his fortune on oil, but has recognized we need to find an alternative. Their plan is:
- Create millions of new jobs by building out the capacity to generate up to 22 percent of our electricity from wind. And adding to that with additional solar capacity/li>
- Building a 21st century backbone electrical grid
- Providing incentives for homeowners and the owners of commercial buildings to upgrade their insulation and other energy saving options
- Using America’s natural gas to replace imported oil as a transportation fuel.
Almost 1.4 million people have joined the Pickens Army and Boone has the ear of many of the most influential businessmen and politicians from both parties.
From their website: “We can Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years. Doing so would deliver the affordability, stability and confidence our economy needs, as well as help solve the climate crisis. All it takes is the political will to support national policies that
- Get the most out of the energy we currently produce.
- Rapidly deploy the clean energy technologies we already know can work.
- Create a new smart, integrated grid to deliver power economically from wherever it is generated to wherever people live.”
Wecansolveit.org has over 2 million members and growing.
The grass roots support for these relatively new organizations coupled with the new mentality in Washington bodes well for our ability to solve the critical issues we face in solving our energy problems.
If you have not seen the Organic Trade Association’s promotional video called, “Grocery Store Wars“, it’s a must see. Watch Obi Wan Cannoli, Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli battle the evil Lord Tader. It’s a riot!
Last May, I attended the All Things Organic Trade show in Chicago. Besides a world class trade show and a very interesting Keynote address by Steve Levitt, author of,
“Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything“, there were some excellent meeting sessions. One of these sessions was called “The Organic Legacy: Creating a better world for our children.” Speakers were Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Organic Center, and Alan Greene, M.D. Founder and CEO, Dr.Greene.com
Some of the highlights of this session were:
- The wealthiest, highest educated segment of the American population is less healthy than the poorest segment in England.
- Sperm counts in the U.S. have dropped by 2/3 from 1934 to 2006. The steepest drop occurring in agricultural regions.
- Our genetic make-up can be altered by things we do during our life. This is called epigenetics. In a study of identical twins, it was found that they had 50 times the variance in genetic make-up as adults than they had as children. These changes can be passed on to their children. For more on epigenetics see Epigenetics: A web tour
- There has been a startling drop in population levels of amphibians during the last several decades.
All of these facts can be significantly attributed to increased pesticide use in the growing of food crops.
If you find this interesting and would like to attend the 2007 show, here is a link:
Anyone interested in organics and the Green Movement, probably has a keen interest in renewable energy. Those who have not yet heard of the Apollo Alliance may be surprised. This is a non-profit organization devoted to spending the time and money to make the nation energy independent using clean, renewable sources. Similar to JFK’s call for the nation in 1961 to put a man on the moon within a decade, this organization calls for the U.S. to be energy independent within a decade. When JFK challenged the nation, pundits decried it as a waste of money and resources. Little did they foresee that it would lead to the information age and the high tech boom that has driven our economy for decades. For more about the Apollo Alliance visit their website at:
The Apollo Alliance has a 10 Point Plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence that is one of the best common sense proposals on energy yet. The full plan is in the following link:
Everyone who cares about our planet and the future of this country should support this organization. If you have the resources and would like to donate follow this link: