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This edition of organic update features System of Rice Intensification. SRI has been shown to achieve considerable increases in rice yield by improving the way the plants roots grow in the soil. It is a system that is ideally suited to organic agriculture and most importantly for the hundreds of millions of small holders who cultivate rice as their staple.

There yet another study linking the widely used herbicide Atrazine to serious health problems. This study is significant in that it shows that atrazine damages the cell mitochondria, causing Type 2 Diabetes. It is also raises major questions about other herbicides that disrupt similar cellular systems.

October Is Organic Month

The campaign for October is Organic Month has been a great success with events in nearly every state and territory. It has ensured that organic issues received a lot of positive media. The highlights have been the launch of the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products during Trust Organic Fortnight, Victoria announcing $400,000 in grants for organic projects and the 2009 Compost and Organic Conference in Adelaide.

Best Regards,
Andre Leu

World Organic News

Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

High Yields of Organic Rice Production Using SRI

The adoption of simple and improved organic practices continues to show that organic systems can feed the world. SRI stands for the System of Rice Intensification and is a cultivation system that is ideally suited to organic production.

SRI can out yield many of the current conventional rice production systems in developing countries. Rice is an important food staple with hundreds of millions of the world's small holder farmers cultivating it.

Researchers at Cornell University in the USA reported: 'Several different studies in Madagascar, where average rice yields are currently 2 t/ha, have shown that with SRI methods an average yield around 8 tons per hectare (t/ha) is attainable. High yields are in the 12-15 t/ha range, while some low yields of 3-4 t/ha.'

'Maximum yields, obtained with the most skillful use of SRI techniques and after soil quality has been improved by good management methods, are in the range of 15-20 t/ha, and a few farmers have topped 20 t/ha.'

The method is now being adopted in rice growing areas of Asia such as Cambodia with similar results.

Most significantly SRI uses between 25 to 50% less water than traditional paddy systems. SRI shows that there are low cost ways to effectively improve farming yields without the expensive and unnecessary investments in GMO's and toxic chemicals.

Source: http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/

Atrazine Damage to Mitochondria Causes Diabetes

The previous editions of organic update have featured several studies showing a link between pesticide/herbicide exposure and Type 2 Diabetes. Korean researchers have now established one of the biochemical pathways that causes this disease in animals.

Many herbicides such as Atrazine damage disrupt a plant cell organelle called the chloroplast. Chloroplasts are the part of the plant cell that is responsible for photo synthesis - the process where plants use the sun's energy to combine water and carbon dioxide and produce glucose. Glucose is the basic molecule of life - the energy source of all cells and the building block of most of the organic molecules that all living things need to grow and survive.

Chloroplasts are part of a group of cell structures called organelles. The most important of the cell organelles is the mitochondria. This is the central engine of the cell - it regulates glucose, DNA, RNA and other key functions.

Because chloroplasts and mitochondria are very similar, the Korean researchers wanted to see if small doses of Atrazine affected the mitochondria of mammals and disrupted the metabolism. They chose Atrazine (ATZ) because there is an apparent overlap between areas in the USA where the herbicide ATZ is heavily used and obesity prevalence maps of people with a Body Mass Index of over 30.

The researchers wrote in the journal PLoS ONE '... ATZ decreased basal metabolic rate, and increased body weight, intra-abdominal fat and insulin resistance without changing food intake or physical activity level.'

'A high-fat diet further exacerbated insulin resistance and obesity. Mitochondria in skeletal muscle and liver of ATZ-treated rats were swollen with disrupted cristae. ATZ blocked the activities of oxidative phosphorylation complexes I and III, resulting in decreased oxygen consumption. It also suppressed the insulin-mediated phosphorylation of Akt.'[These are a group of proteins that are important for correct functioning and signalling of cells]

Another study published in May 2009 in the journal Current Diabetes Reviews found:
'The role of altered mitochondria function has recently emerged as an important mechanism for the development of diabetic complications. Altered mitochondria function has also been implicated in the ageing process, defective insulin secretion, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, ischemia-reperfusion injury and apoptosis.'

Altered mitochondria have been shown to cause many diseases - not just Type 2 Diabetes. These include: visual loss, hearing loss, multiple sclerosis, dementia, neuropathy, progressive myoclonic epilepsy, lactic acidosis and exercise intolerance. Many other diseases, not on the previous list have been linked to altered mitochondria because they are the central powerhouse of cells.

This research opens up more serious questions on the use of Atrazine given the numerous studies linking it to a range of cancers and damage to the reproductive system in animals. It was banned in Europe because of this.

Just as importantly this study opens up the need for urgent research into the numerous herbicides such as glyphosate that disrupt the photosynthesis processes in plant chloroplasts. Because Chloroplasts and Mitochondria are very similar it needs to be shown that these herbicides do not affect the mitochondria of animals - especially humans and most importantly the unborn and the new born.

Lim S, Ahn SY, Song IC, Chung MH, Jang HC, et al. (2009) Chronic Exposure to the Herbicide, Atrazine, Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Insulin Resistance. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005186

Friederich, Malou; Hansell, Peter; Palm, Fredrik (2009) Diabetes, Oxidative Stress, Nitric Oxide and Mitochondria Function. Current Diabetes Reviews, Volume 5, Number 2, May 2009, pp. 120-144(25)

Ireland Adopts GMO-Free Policy

The Irish Government will ban the cultivation of all GM crops and introduce a voluntary GM-free label for food.

The agreement specifies that the Government will "Declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants". The official text also states "To optimise Ireland's competitive advantage as a GM-Free country, we will introduce a voluntary GM-Free logo for use in all relevant product labelling and advertising, similar to a scheme recently introduced in Germany."

Michael O'Callaghan of GM-free Ireland said the policy signals a new dawn for Irish farmers and food producers:

"The Irish Government plan to ban GM crops and to provide a voluntary GM-fee label for qualifying animal produce makes obvious business sense for our agri-food and eco-tourism sectors]. Everyone knows that US and EU consumers, food brands and retailers want safe GM-free food, and Ireland is ideally positioned to deliver the safest, most credible GM-free food brand in Europe, if not the world."

The international market for GM-free produce is growing rapidly.

The Organic Consumers Associations states: 'Across Europe, hundreds of leading food brands (including the largest dairy coop, Friesland Campina) and dozens of leading retailers (including the largest, Carrefour) now offer premium meat, fish, eggs, poultry eggs and dairy produce made without the use of GM feedstuffs. These are backed by GM-free labels and Government regulations in Austria, Italy, Germany, with France to follow later this year. Sales of GM-free milk have skyrocketed since the label came into effect in Germany.'

'In the USA, to which Ireland exports vast quantities of dairy produce (including milk powder and casein for cheese production), leading food manufacturers, retailers, processors, distributors, farmers, seed breeders and consumers have set up joint venture called the Non-GMO Project, which already provides GM-free labels for over 1,000 food products by individual manufacturers in addition to thousands of GM-free private retail brands.'

Source:Organic Consumer Association


OFA Organised NSW Launch of Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products

After years of working with the major stakeholders in organic agriculture, Standards Australia released the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products at the OFA organised launch at the Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour on 9 October 2009.

OFA has spent over 5 years championing the Australian Standard and it has been one of our major activities. The new Australian Standard will help consumers identify credible organic products and will ensure that certified organic products have regulatory protection in Australia.

Guest speakers at the launch included:

  • Kylie Kwong- Renowned chef, and TV presenter
  • Catriona Macmillan- Organic Federation of Australia (OFA)
  • John Tucker- CEO Standards Australia
  • George Davey- Deputy Director General NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Craig Sahlin- Chair Standards Australia Organic & Biodynamic Technical Committee FT-032
  • Nici Andronicus- leading organic manufacturer Organicus

The Breakfast was sponsored by supporters and members of the organic industry: Novotel Hotel Group, Eco Farms and Organicus.

Trust Organic is sponsored by members of the organic industry: Temple Bruer Wines, Pure Organic Milk (Parmalat), Spiral Foods, NASAA, and CleanFood Organic.

The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products can assist Australia's regulatory authorities, such as the ACCC, in using existing regulatory laws, such as the Trade Practices Act, to ensure the integrity of products that are sold as organic or biodynamic in Australia.

This will be a co-regulatory system, rather than a mandated or self regulatory system. Co-regulatory systems are where the sector and the government work together.

$400,000 to Support Victorian Organic Food Sector

Regional and Rural Development Minister Jacinta Allan announced $400,000 funding to support Victoria's organic food sector.

Ms Allan said the Brumby Government's $205 million Future Farming package had allocated funding of $1.08 million over three years to support the growth and resilience of the organic sector.

"The Support For Organics Program will provide $400,000 over two years to enable transparent and equitable access to Future Farm Statement funding by individual enterprises and groups, with the aim of contributing a more productive, competitive and sustainable organic sector," Ms Allan said.

"The Support for Organics Program will encourage production, consumption and export of Victoria's organic products.

"On top of the Support for Organics Program, we are planning a data collection project to provide a benchmark against which future growth can be measured, and a series of workshops to raise consumer and producer awareness of organic products and to assist in developing business expertise."

Ms Allan said organics had become the fastest growing segment of the global food industry in recent years and Victoria was well-placed to capitalise on the growing appetite for organic food.

"And we are helping the organic sector grow as a unique and specialised food sector through initiatives such as the Future Farming Statement.

"Our $1.08 million allocation under the Future Farming Statement is helping the organic food sector's to be resilient, to differentiate its food product and capture emerging opportunities."

For further information and how to apply contact the Program Officer:

Rowena Cann
Tel: 03 5623 5046
Email: rowena.cann@rdv.vic.gov.au

2009 Compost and Organic Conference

The OFA joined forces with Compost Australia to hold a combined conference in Adelaide on Oct 15-17. The conference was well attended and with valuable presentations on composting and organic farming systems.

Useful information was presented showing that using compost in organic systems can sequester significant amounts of carbon into the soil. Very importantly the research showed that it can be achieved in Australian soils. This is good news as the official position by Australian climate change scientists is that our soils are too old to store carbon. Organic systems using compost can build up the carbon levels in any soil.

Organic Update is a publication of the Organic Federation of Australia
Phone +61 1300 657 435
PO Box 369 Bellingen NSW 2454 Australia

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