Friday, November 28, 2008

Organic Shmorganic

Sort of a good news/good news day in organic world.

First, the USDA has oddly decided to start monitoring and enforcing National Organic Program guidelines on cheap Chinese "organic" products. Of course, they have something like three guys in China.....but it is a start.

Also, the USDA has finally promised to close the loophole that allows crap milk producers like Horizon and "O" organics to market supposedly organic milk that actually comes from old-school, factory-style intensive confinement facilities. If you buy from these companies....which bottle for Costco, by the would be better off buying regular Safeway milk and lighting the three dollars a gallon price difference from the pretend organic milk on fire in the parking lot. At least your money would not be stolen, and you would not be encouraging liars and thieves.

The next step might be in organic and "natural'' meats. Unless you know your shipper and packer, most outfits selling on the mass market ape the dairy boys: the maintain an organic finishing facility and cycle non-organically raised critters through every couple of weeks. Like sending Rosie O'Donnell to the Golden Door for two weeks and pretending she is now Pamela Anderson. Stay tuned.

Next, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap is gaining some traction in its lawsuit against Whole Foods and a bunch of other suppliers of "organic" bodycare products. Dr. Bronner's actually makes organic soap, and is annoyed at the non-organic competition getting away with......well, murder. Or attempted murder.....which is one take on including known carcinogens in your organic bodywashes. The science is kind of geeky.....but the list is informative. Once again, shop at Whole Foods at your peril: fish, produce, bodycare products.....have a nice day. We love Alan in the wine section, and LaBrea bakery bread. Oh, and the charcoal......even though the presence of obvious construction site waste (hardwood flooring, etc) is a little still makes a nice fire and the pieces are the right size. Still better than briquets!

In fish land, the NOSB has recommended allowing the labeling of fish as organic......including farm raised fish fed organic feeds. This rule has not yet been adopted which is nice, since it flies in the face of all science and all efforts to establish sustainable and healthy standards for both fish and the ocean they swim in. Oh......Whole Foods has a majority share in California Gold.....a "organic" salmon fish farm. I won't belabor the continuing environmental disaster that salmon farming brings to our feed or no.

Good news from fish land, though, comes from a new study from our own UC Santa Barbara (Chris Costello and Stephen Gaines). This is a possible solution to the last, famous doomsday report from last summer that predicted all the world's fish gone by 2048.

The good professors from the land of sunshine and wildfires recommend privatising the ocean. Yipes.

The privatisation comes in the form of ITQ's.....Individual Transferable Quotas, or catch shares.

Current rules in most fisheries have a total ceiling on the tonnage of fish caught, or limit the kind of gear that can be used, or shrink the season. In the Mediterranean, the tuna season is sometimes two days......which leads to every boat that can float killing every tuna that can be found. Two day seasons mean two days of fresh fish, and 363 days of frozen fish. Also, the supply of fish in two-day seasons goes from zero with high prices, to a temporary glut with low prices for the fisherman on catch day. The guy has to catch more and more to make up for the low prices.

ITQ's divide up the total catch among the fishermen as a long-term right. This invests the fisherman with a stake in the long-term preservation and management of the catch. Fisherman who want more fish can simply buy out their competitors rather than strip the oceans. Prices rise, as do profits. Harvests rise as well.

Not many catches are protected by ITQ's. Alaska halibut and king crab are. The fresh halibut and crab season now lasts for eight months, not three days. The frenzy that inspired "The Deadliest Catch" is and rescue missions for crabbers are down 70% since the ITQ system was introduced. Prices and quality are way up.

The downside is that only 121 ITQ's exist amongst the world's 10,000 fisheries. Their principal enemy? Globalization folks......who think that lower prices for producers trump all other concerns. Russian, Chinese and Japanese factory ships off Monterey? Fine, just fine.

The most radical idea is probably the best. Ban all fishing in international waters.

Yipes!! No, it turns out that 90% of all fishing is done in national waters.....where ITQ's have a hope of being supported and enforced.

Stay tuned.......and meanwhile, get your fish from the SeafoodWatch list.....

And stay out of Whole Foods.


Blogger azazl said...

Well...yes and no.
Sometimes its just about trying to pick the lesser of the evils. Shopping has gotten much like politics it seems. For instance- Horizon is a member of the Nature Conservancy, so though their cows may be as miserable as any others, but they supposedly have conserved and re-vegitated wetlands etc. I dont know how true that is. I worked on a dairy for 2 years in college, mostly with my arm shoulder deep up a cows ass, and I can tell ya, dairy products are kinda all from an unpleasant matter how 'organic' they are. Which is why I bought my own hiefer and bull calf this spring....fresh raw milk from a critter I have already grown fond of and perhaps someday even my own cheese! Seafood is also a 'lesser of evils' conundrum. I like wild alaskan salmon, farm raised trout and all the crustaceans and filter feeders I can afford (which these days isnt much) I do my best to shop responsibly....sometimes ya just have to shrug it off and pick something to eat and hope its not full of chinese melamine or causing the rainforest to burn....ack, what a world we live in.

5:08 PM  

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