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Threatened Breakdown of Organic Standard Enforcement for Milk, plus more on Mad Cow Prions

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To be considered ‘Organic,’ the cows that produce our precious organic milk must be able to feed on pasture land, not be confined expediently, as in other forms of factory farming. Also, be aware that Mad Cow prions are now being discovered in muscle (‘meat’), not just in brains, spinal cords, in new experiments. Check the details…..

“ORGANIC” FACTORY FARMS?

The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal complaint with the USDA National Organic Program against an “organic” dairy farm in Colorado. The industrial sized feedlot, Aurora Dairy, claims its milk is organic, despite the fact the facility houses 5,600 dairy cows in a factory farm setting with no real access to pasture (which is required by the National Organic Standards). A similar factory farm in Idaho supplies Horizon Organic (now owned by dairy giant Dean Foods) with much of its “organic” milk. Mark Kastel, Cornucopia’s Senior Farm Analyst, said that such factory style operations go against the spirit of organic standards and threaten the livelihood of genuine organic family farmers. Almost immediately following the complaint submission, the USDA issued an internal memo, asking the National Organic Standards Board to develop strict policies on the pasture requirements.

Meanwhile, remember that the USA is one of only THREE industrialized nations that allow their cows to be injected with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) — as current figures show 22% of our USA cows are every two weeks.
Studies have shown increased incidence of colon, breast and prostate cancer from drinking such milk. Organic milk does not allow this rBGH practice. Unfortunately, much of this dangerous rBGH’ed milk is not labelled as such, and is mixed with non-rBGH milk to contaminate our non-organic milk supply.
Thus, the reason for the big corporations, and those not truly organic-minded profiteers, trying to get into the milk-dairy market that is expanding by a 132% rate annually.

See full article at http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/cornucopia011205.
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More below now re the Cornucopia story:

_ “This just puts rank-and-file organic dairy producers, who are operating with integrity, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Tony Azevedo, a Merced County, California, dairy farmer. Azevedo, who ships his milk to the Organic Valley marketing cooperative, was the first certified organic dairy producer in the San Joaquin Valley. “Pasture is the cornerstone of organic dairy farming. It is a great way to protect the soil, create wildlife habitat, and makes an ideal filter system Azevedo. There is also evidence that pastured cows are healthier than cows that are routinely confined.

In addition, what cows eat affects the nutrients in their milk. The Danish Institute of Agricultural Research recently reported that organic milk higher in omega-3 fatty acids preferable to omega-6 fatty acids, and 200% – ?300% higher in antioxidants than conventional milk. “The quality of our milk, and our production practices, is the very essence of why consumers are willing to pay a premium for our product,” the California dairyman affirmed.

The Cornucopia Institute said in their communiquÈ that they expect the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agencies, and the independent certifiers responsible for oversight and enforcement to take this formal complaint very
seriously and to respond in a timely manner.

“The consumers in this country, who go out of their way to purchase organic milk believe they are supporting an environmentally sound system of agriculture, humane animal husbandry practices, and family-scale farmers.
The USDA needs to deal decisively with corporations who pay lip service to the ethics of organic agriculture at the expense of family farmers and the consumers who so loyally support them,” stated Kastel.

SPEAKING OF MEAT… BAD NEWS FOR MAD COWS
Mad Cow disease may be far more widespread than scientists had previously thought. This week the journal Science revealed that prions, the mysterious misshapen proteins that are responsible for spreading the fatal disease, may be found throughout the infected animal, contrary to prior theories. Researchers from Zurich, the Institute of Neurology in London, and Yale University School of Medicine confirmed study results showing prions are not restricted to areas of the animal body like the spinal column, nervous tissue and the brain, but may also exist in muscle tissue (the meat). This means that infected meat and blood may be currently entering the human food supply, at least in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Mexico, where comprehensive, universal testing for the disease is not required. Given the serious public health implications of these findings, researchers are calling on the global community to take action. No case of Mad Cow has ever been detected in an animal raised its entire life on an organic farm. Organic farms prohibit the feeding of blood, manure, and slaughterhouse waste to animals.

Here’s more of the story. Sorry to say that the research did employ the techniques described in its paragraph #1 below:

Findings Suggest BSE Risk May Be Higher Than Thought

CP Online
01/21/05 7:31 AM PT

http://www.technewsworld.com/story/news/39897.html

Scientists injected prions into mice suffering from one of five
different conditions causing inflammation in the kidney, pancreas or liver. They then looked to see if they could detect the misfolded proteins in those organs. They did, in all of the mice.

The human food chain may not be as well protected from BSE as everyone hopes, scientists admitted Thursday in the wake of publication of new research showing the malformed proteins that cause the brain-wasting disease can be found in more tissues than previously thought.

Experts admit the findings are worrisome, but note the additional risk, if confirmed, may still be low because it is believed there is very little bovine spongiform encephalopathy — mad cow disease — in current cattle herds.

Good News and Bad

“I don’t want to provoke hysteria here,” senior author Dr. Adriano Aguzzi said in an interview from Zurich, where he is a researcher at the institute of neuropathology at University Hospital.

“The bad news is that the prions are likely to distribute in the body more broadly than we would have thought possible — and that’s obviously bad news.

“But … the good news is there is very little BSE left in Europe and there has always been very little BSE in North America.”

A prion expert at the University of Toronto said if the findings are confirmed in cows — the research was done in mice — current regulations aimed at keeping high-risk meats from entering the food chain will have to be reconsidered.

“The specified risk material ban is to protect us from being exposed to BSE prions. If there’s a way for BSE prions to circumvent this barrier to actually propagate in muscle meat, then we’re in trouble again,” Dr. Neil Cashman said.

“I think it’s a clear threat and it deserves ample consideration.”

Too Early?

But the director of animal health laboratory services at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it is too soon to conclude the risk of acquiring variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease — the human form of BSE –
from eating beef is higher than previously thought.

“Are we concerned about it? Too early to tell,” Dr. Shane Renwick said.

“We certainly are very interested in it. And I think there’ll be a lot of interest around the world in this research. But it is preliminary in nature.”

Renwick defended the current regulations, built around ensuring that tissues considered high risk — brains and spinal cord, gut and lymphatic tissue — don’t enter the food chain.

“Given what we know I think the firewall is excellent,” he said from Ottawa.

The research was published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Researchers from Zurich, the Institute of Neurology in London and Yale University School of Medicine set out to see if there was a link between inflammation and prions.

Their theory was that inflammation might provoke migration to and propagation of prions in tissues where they are not normally found.

Prions Widespread

The scientists injected prions into mice suffering from one of five different conditions causing inflammation in the kidney, pancreas or liver. (Those organs, normally thought to be prion-free, were randomly selected.) They then looked to see if they could detect the misfolded proteins in those organs.

They did, in all of the mice.

“Three organs, five different inflammatory conditions — this makes a very tight case,” Aguzzi said.

“I have hardly any doubt that these findings can be extrapolated to additional organs as well.”

Cashman pointed out a caveat, calling it “a ray of hope.” The prions used in the experiment were the type that cause scrapie, the brain-wasting disease that afflicts sheep.

Scrapie is believed to have jumped the species barrier to cows — triggering BSE — but has not been found to be a direct risk to humans.

The scrapie prion and the one that cause BSE don’t work exactly the same way, Cashman noted. But it’s crucial that additional research is done to see if what happens in mice will also happen in cattle.

“Clearly the experiments have to be done with inflamed bovine muscle,” he said.

Aguzzi agreed, but said he cannot work with such large animals in the laboratories in Zurich. Instead, his team is testing the thesis in sheep.

“I predict that they the results are probably very well extrapolated to sheep,” he said.

“I don’t know how much of this will hold true for the cow and this needs experimentation. It could be either way.”

In the interval, authorities should stringently enforce regulations aimed at ensuring sick cows don’t make it into the food chain, Aguzzi said. “If sick cows were reliably not entering the human food chain, then there would be no reason to worry because of our new findings.”