Letters for the week of January 26-February 1, 2005

Support for the post-organic movement, amid much concern about continued weakening of the federal standard and worries about genetic contamination.

“The O Word,” Feature, 1/5

The first homeopath
Thanks for publishing Will Harper’s piece about the befuddlement of growers and consumers by an apparent government-sanctioned commercial hijacking of the “organic” appellation. What is puzzling me, however, is Harper’s assertion that Rudolf Steiner “is perhaps best known as the father of homeopathic medicine.” That distinction belongs, if to anyone, to the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), who coined the term. Even in the United States, the practice of homeopathic medicine was widespread well before Steiner was capable of fathering anything. Homeopaths established the nation’s first medical society in 1844, antedating the AMA by two years; Steiner was born in 1861.

Paul Morrison, Oakland

Editor’s note
The letter writer is correct.

Join the critics of genetically modified organics
The Knolls’ refusal to label their crops “organic” exposes the FDA’s role in the “organic” label’s declining value to consumers. What the article fails to mention is that the “corporate face” of organic regulation continues to manifest itself, not only in current inadequate organic standards, but also in the FDA’s increasing deregulation of genetically modified [GM] crops.

Currently the FDA refuses organic certification to farms containing GM crops, but does not address the problem of genetic contamination: the naturally occurring cross-pollination caused by wind and insects that allows GM crops to contaminate farms we trust as “organic.” The FDA’s recent draft guideline allows agribusiness to self-regulate, requiring virtually no governmental regulation on genetic contamination from untested crops (Docket # 2004D-0369).

Last week’s article discussed agribusiness’ influence on current federal organic standards; now, the FDA’s GM deregulation exists as the next step in degrading the definition of “organic.” Farmers like the Knolls as well as consumers must continue to preserve the intended meaning of “organic” not only by rejecting current standards, but also by preventing the situation from worsening. For more information, check out GMOFreeAC.org and CalGEFree.org.
Alisa Dodge, Oakland

Cover the fight
It is sad but understandable that some are turning away from organics at this critical time. After over a decade of fighting for a tough national standard, few in the organic movement were fully satisfied with the final USDA rule. However, many of the longtime organic advocates involved in that struggle recognize the importance of a unified national standard and are still working, from within and outside of USDA, to insure the integrity of the organic label. They have identified and are working to stop many threats to organics, and have organized supporters in mass numbers to protect and strengthen the national standard. It was this mass movement, in fact, that forced the USDA to abandon its original organic proposal that would have allowed genetic engineering, irradiation, and sewer sludge to be used in organic production.

While it is interesting to read about other approaches, it would also be useful for the Express to cover this ongoing fight within the organic movement. Until then, readers are welcome to contact me at [email protected] for a resource list of organizations fighting for organic integrity.
Charles Margulis, Center for Environmental Health, Oakland

About the chlorine
Overall an excellent article on the Knolls, who I know from my CCOF inspections on their farm. I admire the Knolls and they deserve good press. One thing bothered me about the article, however. Right at the beginning, the article gives the untrue impression that organic farmers commonly wash their produce in chlorine-laden water. Yes, it is allowed (at up to four parts per million, which is the same that’s allowed in municipal drinking water); however, in the countless farm inspections I’ve performed, none of the small organic farms are adding chlorine to their wash water. It isn’t necessary as long as they have safe well water, which they test for. Some of the big corporate organic operations may add a nominal (four parts per million) amount of chlorine to wash water.

Sean Feder, inspection director, California Certified Organic Farmers, Davis

“Take Two Buses and Call Me in the Morning,” City of Warts, 1/5

The trash wagon keeps rolling
Nice to see Chris Thompson keeping his arrogant classist racist trash wagon rolling along in your pages. This time, it’s a West Oakland community project that is “naive” and unprofessional,” but this just follows up on his attack on Berkeley activists as “nitpicking harpies” and “hysterics” (June 16, 2004), or, in Emeryville’s case, “absurd” (September 15, 2004). Praise be to Thompson’s pointing out to the West Oakland Food Project that poor people, and in this case especially poor people of color, are hooked on fast food (compared to whom?) and not interested in healthy food.

Reading Thompson over the years, but not too closely, the impression might be that he’s engaged in some serious critiques of the ruling elite. A closer look, for instance, at articles like this and the others cited shows that Thompson is really his own elite, and he has no qualms about writing off grassroots communities and organizations in the most extreme (dare we say unprofessional, hysterical, and absurd) terms. A word to Chris — get over yourself and quit trashing real people engaged in real struggles.
Richard Grow, Berkeley


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