Category: Organic

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(NaturalNews) Some organic food experts are worried that the term used to describe non-genetically modified crops and produce may soon become nearly meaningless, thanks in large part to undue (read corporate) influence on the Department of Agriculture.

According to Jerome Rigot, PhD, writing in a blog posted at the Cornucopia Institute, which promotes food safety backed by science, it may no longer be accurate to rely on the USDA’s “organic” labeling as remaining “true to its mandate of assuring consumers that food under this label is truly healthy and grown or raised with minimal impact to the environment,” as well as respecting “the health and well-being of the workers and animals involved.”

Rigot notes that, among other concerns, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently downgraded its rating of the Agriculture Department’s organic seal and label. The director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Center for the magazine, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, testified to the National Organic Standards Board in late 2014: “Organic is slipping. And as a result, we have downgraded its rating from highly meaningful to meaningful.” He further noted that the rule of the magazine “is to help educate people about what organic means as well as what it doesn’t mean.”

Regarding these concerns, Rigot wrote:

As an example, the Cornucopia Institute filed formal legal complaints with the USDA in December 2014 against 14 giant poultry and dairy CAFOs (read: concentrated animal feeding operations or “factory farms”) for allegedly violating the USDA organic regulations requiring outdoor and pasture access. Each complaint was summarily dismissed, without an investigation, by the enforcement division of the National Organic Program (NOP), which stated, “The NOP has reviewed these complaints and has determined that investigation is unwarranted.”

Inept, corporatists or lobbyists

The determination was odd, says Rigot, because literally hundreds of high-res photos, satellite imagery and state regulatory documents were submitted as evidence to the NOP which, together, should have produced more than enough doubt to motivate someone to launch an investigation.

A former NOSB board member who manages the country’s first certified organic dairy farm, Kevin Englebert, was clearly disappointed by the NOP decision, seeing it as a lapse of the organization’s responsibilities.

“For the NOP to not even investigate these facilities means one of three things: 1) the personnel who made that decision are inept, 2) they are too close and friendly with corporate lobbyists and multimillion-dollar certifiers that are involved in the process, or 3) the most likely scenario, corrupt politicians are preventing them from enforcing the law,” he said, as quoted by Rigot, who intimated that elements of all three reasons might be at play.

He noted that the National Organic Program is a very small part of the Agriculture Department. However, many large corporations have a significant vested interest in organic foods, especially the processed foods industry (including General Mills, Smuckers, Coca-Cola, etc.), and similar to GMO corporations, they’ll do whatever it takes to expand their bottom line.

“Circumstantial evidence makes it reasonable to conclude that the same type of undue industry influence that appears to have prevented Vilsack and the USDA from acting quickly to end the Salmonella outbreak [in 2014] and limit the health toll is behind efforts to dilute the federal organic standards, control the NOP leadership, and limit or obstruct the ability of the congressionally authorized National Organic Standard Board from doing its job efficiently and with integrity,” Rigot wrote.

For more breaking news regarding organic agriculture, check out, powered by

Compromised board members

In September 2014, we reported that the Cornucopia Institute had conducted a study to examine the voting records and backgrounds of the 15 members of the NOSB.

The board is an advisory body created by the secretary of agriculture to make recommendations aimed at preserving and protecting the organic farming industry. What’s more, the board is also required to maintain and update the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances – a list that identifies substances and other compounds that cannot be used in organic crop and livestock production.

The NOSB’s seats are supposed to be filled with members representing farmers, environmentalists, public interest advocates, handlers, retailers, scientists and a USDA certifying agent. However, Cornucopia found in its study that corporate representatives were filling seats intended for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders, often leading to decisions that were not beneficial to the organic food and livestock industry.

Details surrounding that study are posted here.


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Planning a garden in advance can help you enjoy local, homegrown food year-round! Estimate how much to grow or buy and learn how to achieve food security with these guidelines.
By Cindy Conner
October/November 2012
A well-planned garden can provide your family with the freshest, most nutritious produce, plus a more secure, self-reliant lifestyle.
Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer

Providing high-quality food for your family year-round takes foresight and planning, plus healthy doses of commitment and follow-through. Whether you grow as much of your food as you can or you source it from local producers, the guidelines here will help you decide how much to produce or purchase. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” later in this article will also help you estimate how much space you’ll need — both in your garden to grow the crops, and in your home and pantry or root cellar to store preserved foods. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you make the best use of your garden space (or farmers markets) to move toward homestead food self-sufficiency.

1. Establish Your Goals

Make a list of the foods you and your family eat now — and note the quantities as well. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” further along in this article assume a half-cup serving size for fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a 2-ounce serving for dry grains. If your servings differ from the charts, be sure to adjust your calculations accordingly.

Decide what you’d like to grow, noting the foods your family prefers and recognizing that not every crop will grow in every climate. Research different crop varieties: Some crops — such as melons — require long, hot days to mature, but certain varieties need fewer days to reach maturity, which allows them to be grown in areas with a shorter growing season.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build gradually toward food self-sufficiency. A good starting goal might be to produce all of a certain crop that you use. An early milestone for me was growing all of the green beans we needed for a year and all of the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce I canned. Maybe you’ll aim to eat at least one thing from your garden each day. Keep your goals in mind as you’re planning a garden.

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Posted: 04/02/2014 9:55 am EDT Updated: 04/02/2014 5:59 pm EDT


When most Americans think about organic meat or eggs, they picture animals on small farms, allowed to root in the soil, feel sun on their backs, and engage in their natural behaviors. What they don’t picture is tens of thousands of hens crammed into massive sheds with no access to soil and extremely limited outdoor access.

Unfortunately, the USDA stamped its seal of approval on the latter scenario by refusing to implement its own advisory board’s animal welfare recommendations, which would have created a level playing field for the hundreds of small organic farms that were the basis for the standards. These recommendations would not have required “good” conditions, but they would have set a reasonable floor by requiring improvements from the five massive “organic” egg farms that provide the worst hen welfare.

The USDA’s decision doesn’t just violate our moral intuitions and the expectations of organic consumers; it also violates the Department’s legal mandate in at least two distinct ways.

First, USDA is statutorily required “to establish national [organic guidelines that] meet a consistent standard.” In 2005 and again in 2010, USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that animal welfare standards were applied inconsistently, in violation of the Act’s legal requirement that USDA ensure “that [organic] products meet consistent, uniform standards.”

By requiring improvements from the five mega-farms such that their hen welfare standards would align with that of the hundreds of smaller farms, adopting the advisory board’s recommendations would create this statutorily-mandated consistency. Ignoring those recommendations places USDA in violation of its legal mandate.


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Medical syringeBarbara H. Peterson

Farm Wars

Did you know that genetically engineered vaccines are approved for use in livestock for the USDA National Organic Program? Straight from the horse’s mouth:
At present, the National List identifies all vaccines, as a group, as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production. Vaccines are not individually listed on the National List, but rather are included on as a group of synthetic substances termed “Biologics Vaccines,” that may be used in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4)).

Genetically Modified Organisms
of the Substance
GMO vaccines are composed of inactivated or weakened viral or bacterial organisms
thathave had genetic material added, deleted, or otherwise modified. Vaccines may also contain suspending fluids, adjuvants (additives that help stimulate an immune response, most commonly aluminum salts and oil/water mixtures) stabilizers, preservatives, or other substances to improve shelf – life and effectiveness of the vaccine(CDC, 2011)
Additives in GMO vaccines do not differ from conventional vaccines
(OIE, 2010)
Approved Legal Uses of the Substance:
Under regulations issued by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) pursuant to the Organic Food Production Act of 1990, genetic modification is considered an “excluded method,”which is generally prohibited from organic production and handling under 7 CFR 205.105(e). However, the prohibition of excluded methods includes an exception for vaccines with the condition that the vaccines are approved
in accordance with §205.600(a). That is, the vaccines must be included on the
List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (hereafter referred to as the National List)
At present, the National List identifies all vaccines, as a group, as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4))
Vaccines are not individually listed on the National List, but rather are included on as a group of synthetic substances termed “Biologics  — Vaccines” that may be used in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4))
According to livestock health care standards specified in 7 CFR §205.238, organic livestock producers must establish and main preventive healthcare practices including vaccinations. In addition, 7 CFR §205.238 specifies that any animal drug other than vaccinations cannot be administered in the absence of illness
Any animal treated with antibiotics may not be sold, labeled, or represented as an organic (205.238(c)(7)).
Livestock vaccines are regulated by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics under authority of the Virus-Serum-
Toxin Act of 1913. In particular, all vaccines used in agricultural animals must be licensed, and vaccines created using biotechnology (i.e., made with GMOs) must adhere to the same standards for traditional vaccines. Specifically, vaccine makers
are required to submit a Summary Information Format (SIF) specific to the type of vaccine (Roth and Henderson, 2001). A SIF must present information regarding t
he efficacy, safety, and environmental impact of the vaccine being registered. The purpose of the SIF is to characterize the vaccine’s potential for, and likelihood of, risk. Occasionally, peer-review panels are formed to complete risk assessment of
vaccines; this was the case for the currently licensed live vector rabies vaccine (to reduce rabies in wildlife

Organic Consumers Association

GMO Vaccines in Organic

  • Public Comments to the National Organic Standards Board
    By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director
    Organic Consumers Association, May 22, 2012
    Straight to the Source

TAKE ACTION: Get GMOs Out of Organic Baby Food!
TAKE ACTION: Tell Organic Baby Food Brands to Stop Using GMOs!
TAKE ACTION: Get Genetically Engineered Vaccines Out of Organic!
TAKE ACTION: Stop Factory Farm Production of “Organic” Poultry and Eggs!
The Organic Food Production Act and the regulations that implement it are very strong. Unfortunately, there’s been some resistance to following the law and regulations.

And, in most instances, when large companies violate national organic standards, the response from Congress, the National Organic Program and the National Organic Standards Board, has been to change the law and regulations to match non-compliance rather than to strengthen enforcement.

The most striking example of this was in 2005 when the Organic Trade Association went to Congress to overturn a federal court ruling in favor of an organic blueberry farmer Arthur Harvey. The original version of OFPA limited the National List exemptions for prohibited substances used in handling to non-organics that were also non-synthetic. When the court in Harvey v. USDA ruled that synthetic ingredients were being illegally approved for use in organic foods, the OTA got Congress to reverse the decision legislatively.

Another more recent example is DHA/ARA. The National Organic Program admitted that these synthetics used in baby formula, baby food and baby cereal, were illegally approved for use in organic foods, but instead of enforcing the law, the NOP asked the manufacturer to petition the products for placement on the National List and the National Organic Standards Board approved them at the last meeting, even though it was clear that the NOP had not properly vetted DHA/ARA to determine whether they were produced using excluded methods of genetic engineering.

Two more examples of the organic industry’s refusal to obey the law — and the NOP’s unwillingness to enforce the law — are open questions before you: GMO vaccines and animal welfare standards.

Under current regulations, GMO vaccines can’t be used unless they are successfully petitioned for use on the National List. To date, no GMO vaccines have been petitioned, so one would assume that they’re not being used in organic.

But, we know they are being used. This was first admitted to publicly by the National Organic Program staff at the May 2009 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board. Richard Matthews announced to the board that, in fact, since the beginning of the program, all vaccines had been routinely allowed in organic, without a review as to whether or not they were genetically engineered, and he recommended that, instead of the NOP enforcing the law against this violation, the NOSB should recommend a change in the law and that’s what the NOSB did.

Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy wisely rejected that recommendation, but the NOP still hasn’t made any attempt to enforce current law. The NOP should have immediately collected information on which vaccines are being used in organic and prohibited those that are genetically engineered. At that point, prohibited GMO vaccines that had been used in organic could be petitioned. And we’d be back on track with current law.

Instead, the NOP seems to have left the ball in the NOSB’s court. And we still have an acknowledged failure to follow and enforce the law.

This isn’t right. The National Organic Standards Board should stop work on GMO vaccine recommendations until there are assurances from the NOP that they’re going to stop the illegal use of GMO vaccines.

We have a similar problem on the issue of animal welfare. You all are trying hard to establish some measurable standards for animal welfare, but the irony is that while you try to improve animal welfare, the current regulations are being violated.

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johnny mars

Published on Mar 22, 2013

Val and Eli take us on a tour of their permagarden in Jacksonville FL. They have created a wonderful, natural space filled with self-sustaining fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicines, colors, water, fragrances, and wildlife…. at their fingertips.

View more permaculture videos here:…

Val can be reached at 904-476-6388,, and at

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LearnHowToGarden LearnHowToGarden

Published on Apr 5, 2013

Thought I would share with you how to make a no dig potato bed. This type of bed is easily constructed and can save you so much time and effort as well as producing a brilliant crop.

Mark Abbott-Compton

Ten Minute Gardener

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Music at the  beginning of the  video  is extremely  loud so please be sure  to  lower  your  volume settings  as I  have no  control over the settings  used to  create  the  original  video.

~Desert Rose~


medfaxx medfaxx

Uploaded on Apr 27, 2009

Healthier more robust plants, better drainage, improved uptake of nutrients, preserves beneficial living organisms, more organic matter, more humus, better water infiltration, holds more water, break down and recycle soil nutrients.
Video by Dr. Milton Ganyard at HerbFest to benefit the Graham Johnson Cultural Arts Endowment,

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September 19, 2013 by NATASHA LONGO

Why You Can No Longer Trust The USDA Organic Label

“USDA Organic” is simply a marketing term those who take government ethics at face value. The goal has always been to increase agricultural sales, not promote organic farming. The public seems to confide in this label through sheer ignorance. The National Organic Program (NOP) which governs the “USDA Organic” label has no interest in organic farming, improving soil, quality of the produce, or factors that pollute the environment. In another blow to their organics program that will further downgrade consumer confidence, the USDA announced this week that the agency has changed the process for exempting otherwise prohibited substances (such as synthetics) in food that carries the “organic or “made with organic” label. This decision makes it easier to continue use of artificial ingredients and substances, undermining integrity of the organic label.

Why You Can No Longer Trust The USDA Organic Label

According to the National Organic Program, the organic label indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used…until now.

Under the federal organic law and prior to the announcement, there was a controlled process for allowing the use of substances not normally permitted in organic production because of extenuating circumstances. Under the Organic Foods Production Act 7 USC 6517 (e) Sunset Provision, “No exemption or prohibition contained in the National List shall be valid unless the National Organic Standards Board has reviewed such exemption or prohibition as provided in this section within 5 years of such exemption or prohibition being adopted or reviewed and the Secretary has renewed such exemption or prohibition.”

Under the law, these exemptions are authorized for a five-year period, in order to encourage the development of natural (or organic) alternatives. The exemptions are required by law to expire, known as “sunset,” unless they were reinstated by a two-thirds “decisive” majority vote of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and include a public review. While this is the law, USDA has said it will no longer operate the program in this manner.

USDA organics has been hijacked by big agriculture and their food scientists for some time. Senior food scientist Toby McDonald insists that the only way to protect the population is through current and modified sterilization techniques that will make food safe for all. “Current and modified practices including irradiation and pasteurization are extremely effective in reducing harmful bacteria and pathogens in the food supply,” he proclaimed. MacDonald says that as food demand reaches its climax, proper sterilization will be necessary at all levels.” An increase of 50 percent in food demand by 2030 will require more funding into food monitoring infrastructures so that all food with the potential to produce outbreaks can be properly sterilized to prevent those outbreaks,” he added.

The USDA’s recent decision now puts the burden of identifying exempted materials for removal largely onto environmentalists and consumers. It largely suggests that the alternative media will now have to step up their efforts to identify all genetically modified and toxic sources which the USDA will eventually label as organic.

Under the new policy, an exempt material could be permitted indefinitely unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB votes to remove an exempted (synthetic) substance from the list.

Read More Here

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Food Freedom News

Fall in love with fall gardening

fall veggiesBy Vicki Mattern
Mother Earth News

With tomatoes, peppers and melons now hitting their late summer stride, it’s easy to forget that autumn and early winter can be as abundant as spring and summer. Those who seize the opportunity for a second season of growth will find the planning and planting well worthwhile.

The steps to a bountiful fall garden are simple. Choose crops suited to fall growing conditions (see the list of crops and recommended varieties at the end of this article). Ensure your chosen site has organically enriched soil and adequate water. And start now. If you don’t have seeds on hand, use our online seed finder.

You can replace spring-planted lettuces, peas and brassicas (broccoli and its relatives) with new plantings that mature in fall. Seeds and transplants will take off quickly in the warm summer soil. They’ll appreciate cooler nights, too.

Look forward to peak flavor and performance for many crops that do not prosper in summer heat. Lower temperatures are ideal for producing crisp lettuces without the bitterness or bolting that can occur in hot weather. Frost-kissed kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage have a special sweetness. Carrots, beets and turnips also thrive in the fall garden and, after harvest, can be kept in a pantry or root cellar so you can enjoy their goodness well into winter. Collards, mustard and other greens also like cool weather.

Favored Crops for Fall

When deciding what to plant now for fall harvest, gardeners throughout most of the country should think greens and root vegetables, advises John Navazio, a plant-breeding and seed specialist at Washington State University and senior scientist for the Organic Seed Alliance in Port Townsend, Wash., which conducts annual tests of crops and varieties to evaluate their cold hardiness.

Leafy greens (such as lettuces, spinach, arugula, chard and mâche) and root veggies (such as beets, carrots, turnips, radishes and rutabagas) as well as brassicas (including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and Chinese cabbage) and peas will all thrive in the cooler weather and shorter days of fall. In many regions, some of these cold-hardy crops will even survive the winter to produce a second harvest in spring. (See “Stretching the Season,” below.)

If you garden in the South or other areas with mild winters, you can grow all of those crops as well as heat-loving favorites. “Here, we can set out tomato transplants in late August,” says David Pitre, owner of Tecolote Farm, a certified organic farm near Austin, Texas. Pitre also plants okra, eggplant, peppers, winter squash, cucumbers and potatoes in August and September for winter harvest. Plant cool-season crops in the garden after temperatures cool — late September or later.

Fall is also prime garden season in the Pacific Northwest, where abundant rain and cool (but not frigid) temperatures are ideal for growing brassicas, root crops and leafy greens planted in mid- to late summer. The hardiest of these crops often hang on well into winter if given protection, such as row covers or cold frames.

(For full details on which crops to plant now in your region for fall and winter harvests, check out our What to Plant Now pages, or sign up for a free, 30-day trial of our online Vegetable Garden Planner — MOTHER)

Hardy Fall Varieties

After you’ve decided which crops to grow for fall harvest, zero in on specific varieties. “There are big differences in cold hardiness among varieties,” Navazio says. “Some are better able to photosynthesize at cooler temperatures.”

For the past several years, the Alliance has been conducting trials of as many as 170 varieties of 11 different crops for their quality and performance in fall and winter. Among them, kale, radicchio and Swiss chard have been tested extensively and confirmed cold hardy to 14 degrees Fahrenheit with no protection. Several varieties stood out for the Alliance and market gardeners.

Broccolis. Opt for varieties that produce plenty of side shoots, rather than a single large head. “‘Diplomat’ and ‘Marathon’ can survive the heat of late summer and thrive when cool weather arrives in fall, producing a second cutting as late as Thanksgiving,” says Elizabeth Keen, co-owner of Indian Line Farm, a 17-acre organic operation in Great Barrington, Mass. In Austin, Texas, Carol Ann Sayle, co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, grows ‘Packman’ and ‘Diplomat’ for harvest by Thanksgiving and cuts ‘Marathon’ by Christmas.

Carrots. Consider storage ability when choosing carrots for your fall garden, says Thomas Case, owner of Arethusa Farm, a certified organic farm near Burlington, Vt. Both Keen and Case like ‘Bolero’ for fall growing and winter storage.

Lettuces. Whether you garden in the North or South, lettuces are a mainstay of the fall garden. Several European heirloom varieties are especially durable: ‘Rouge d’Hiver’ (a flavorful romaine whose leaves blush red in cool weather), ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ (also called ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons,’ a sweet and tender butterhead with red-edged outer leaves) and ‘Winter Density’ (also called ‘Craquerelle du Midi,’ a compact bibb type with deep green leaves) are good bets. Even in Zone 5, these lettuces will hang on into December and, with the protection of heavy mulch or a cold frame, will often return with renewed vigor in early spring.

When the lettuces go dormant in winter, you can count on mâche to fill your salad bowl. Mâche (or corn salad) is delicious and will survive and continue to grow in colder weather longer than any other salad green, says Eliot Coleman in his classic book Four-Season Harvest. In his Zone 5 Maine garden, Coleman seeds mâche inside a cold frame from September through early November for harvest until April, when overwintered lettuce resumes its growth.

Kale. Of the popular Lacinato-type kales, ‘Black Tuscan’ consistently rated best in the Alliance tests for cold hardiness, vigor, flavor and stature. The Alliance also recommends ‘Winterbor’ (a tall Dutch kale), ‘Red Russian’ and ‘White Russian’ (two tasty Siberian kales). It’s hard to go wrong with kale in fall, no matter the variety: All have superior flavor when temperatures drop into the 20s or below. “Sugar is the plant’s natural antifreeze, so as the temperature drops, more starches are converted to sugar, sweetening the flavor of kale and other brassicas,” Navazio says.

Radicchio. Still considered a specialty vegetable by many, radicchio thrives in the cool conditions of fall and offers a wealth of possibilities in the kitchen. Of the more than 20 varieties tested by the Alliance in the past two years, a few Italian open-pollinated varieties proved most cold-hardy. ‘Variegata di Luisa Tardiva’ and ‘Variegata di Castlefranco’ produce upright, variegated heads similar to romaine lettuce, with beautiful hearts and radicchio’s signature bitterness.

“Grown in cool weather, they are delightful, with a mild spicy flavor,” Navazio says. Although some of the plants’ outer leaves were “toasted” at 14 degrees in the Alliance trials, you can strip off any damaged leaves and enjoy the tasty interior.

Navazio suggests slicing the heads, then wilting the leaves in a pan with cipollini onions, as cooks do in Italy, or dressing the heads lightly with olive oil and roasting them on the grill or a campfire. For cold hardiness and flavor, Navazio also recommends ‘Rossa di Verona’ and ‘Grumolo Rossa.’

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