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FDA “Protectin?g” the Public from Locally Grown, High Quality Food: An Interview with Deborah Stockton

Powerful corporate interests  have become proficient in colluding with the state to shield themselves from having to compete in the free market. In this podcast, Deborah Stockton, Executive Director of the National Independent Consumers & Farmers Association speaks with Michael Ostrolenk about how the heavy-hand of government over-regulation is forcing many small, independent farms across the United States to close.  The FDA labyrinth of  “food safety” rules do not actually protect the public but rather protect the corporate farming industry from competition while restricting consumers’ access to high-quality, locally-grown food.

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New Food-Safety Rules Threaten Small, Organic Farms

By Jane Palmer, Mercury News Correspondent
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Tom Willey is so concerned about food safety he is willing to bet the farm on it.


Willey and his wife, Densesse, own an organic farm just outside of Madera in the central San Joaquin Valley, where they grow lettuce, carrots, cabbage and nearly 50 other hand-harvested vegetables. They supply 800 local families and West Coast retailers with a year-round supply of fresh produce.

But in the last three years, a dark cloud has gathered over Willey’s farm. He and other organic farmers say stricter food-safety regulations, developed after a cluster of outbreaks of bacterial contamination in spinach and lettuce in 2006, threaten the principles upon which their farms are based.

While Willey already adheres to the voluntary food-safety regulations deemed necessary by the organic farm community, he feels that many of the rules — which include cutting bare buffer zones around crops, using poison to kill rodents and washing produce with chlorinated water — run contrary to growing healthy and safe food.

“Healthy produce cannot be grown in sterile environments,” Willey said. “That’s both ignorant and dangerous.”

Moreover, opponents of the regulations say that the new measures are threatening the livelihood of small-scale and organic farms. Willey, who refuses to adhere to regulations he believes are ultimately harmful, runs the risk of not being able to sell his crops. Other small farms that do comply face burdensome

But supporters of the regulations, part of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, argue that all farms should comply in the interests of food safety.

“For the smaller growers, I don’t think it is reasonable to throw up their hands and say it doesn’t apply to us, or we are not the problem or we can never be the problem,” said Trevor Suslow, a food-safety expert and plant pathologist at UC Davis whose research helped form the basis of the regulations.

The incentive for the California agreement was a virulent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in spinach grown in San Benito County in 2006. It resulted in the hospitalization of more than 200 people in the U.S. and Canada, and the death of three. The pathogen also claimed another victim: the leafy greens industry.

“Spinach was off the menu nationwide,” said Paul Simonds, spokesman for the Western Growers Association. The outbreak cost the industry $100 million in lost sales as customer confidence in all leafy greens plummeted.

Pesticides in Kids Linked to ADHD

By JoNel Aleccia, Health writer via

Exposure to pesticides used on common kid-friendly foods — including frozen blueberries, fresh strawberries and celery — appears to boost the chances that children will be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, new research shows.

Youngsters with high levels of pesticide residue in their urine, particularly from widely used types of insecticide such as malathion, were more likely to have ADHD, the behavior disorder that often disrupts school and social life, scientists in the United States and Canada found.

Kids with higher-than-average levels of one pesticide marker were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as children who showed no traces of the poison.

“I think it’s fairly significant. A doubling is a strong effect,” said Maryse F. Bouchard, a researcher at the University of Montreal in Quebec and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The take-home message for parents, according to Bouchard: “I would say buy organic as much as possible,” she said. “I would also recommend washing fruits and vegetables as much as possible.”

Diet is a major source of pesticide exposure in children, according to the National Academy of Sciences, and much of that exposure comes from favorite fruits and vegetables. In 2008, detectable concentrations of malathion were found in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of fresh strawberry samples and 19 percent of celery samples, a government report found.

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Consumers Skeptical of Organic, All-Natural Claims But Still Buy: Study


Organic Food

Aug 20, 2009

When it comes to all-natural and organic foods, today’s consumers are wiser to the differences than most marketers might think and eager to purchase them if the price is right. More than three-quarters of respondents in a recent survey said they’d prefer to purchase organic and all-natural goods if those items were comparably priced with other leading brands.

That was one of several insights revealed in a study conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-based marketing agency Pavone, whose roster includes several food and beverage clients, and marketing research firm Leap, also based in the state capital.

The findings were good news for an industry that’s poured millions of dollars into educating the public about the value of all-natural and organic products, but looming consumer skepticism about all-natural and organic benefits also places increased pressure on manufacturers to make sure their products support the claims made on the packages.

“Consumers are smart and getting smarter, especially in this economy,” said Pavone president Michael Pavone. “They’ve been inundated with products claiming to be all-natural or organic, so they’re naturally skeptical. It’s up to manufacturers to explain very clearly why their product meets certain criteria and why consumers should believe it.”

The study was conducted in April 2009 with 353 adults (78 percent female, 22 percent male) who identify themselves as their household’s primary shopper. Findings showed consumers are well aware of the differences between the two food categories and can accurately define process-based organic foods — those produced without the use of chemicals, contain no artificial ingredients and are minimally processed — and ingredients-based all-natural products — foods that contain no artificial ingredients.

Overall, organic foods faired slightly better in the study than their all-natural counterparts. In terms of health benefits, 79 percent agreed that organic foods are “better for my health” than non-organic foods, vs. 71 percent with the same opinion of all-natural foods.

“The best news is that the desire to purchase remains high,” said Pavone, noting that shoppers remain open to trying new things, “as long as it doesn’t break the budget.”

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