Organic Federation of Australia

Organic update : December 2005

Organic Food News

Increase in Sales of UK Organic Milk There has been large increase in sales of organic milk in the UK since scientific research showed that it has higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins E and A and antioxidants. UK experts are anticipating a 30% shortfall in production that will need to be supplied by imports. Low-Fat Milk Causes Weight Gain; Full-Fat Milk Does Not

A study that followed 12,829 children ages 9 to 14 years found that weight gain was associated with drinking reduced-fat milk but that drinking full-fat milk was not associated with weight gain. The study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, June 2005.

Farmers have known for decades that pigs fed whole milk stay lean and do not get fat; but pigs fed skimmed milk gain weight easily. Now we have scientific confirmation that this seeming paradox holds true for humans as well.

Butterfat in whole milk, particularly butterfat in milk from cows that graze outside on green pasture, provides unique nutrients that support thyroid function and help the body put on muscle rather than fat. Source: Weston A Price

Organic Sector News

Diploma Course in Organic Farming Systems The Organic Agriculture Association (OAA) is pleased to advise the Diploma of Agriculture (organic farming systems) will be offered again in 2006 by the OAA in conjunction with Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE. The 2006 Diploma Course is a flexible program and will be offered in three locations across Victoria. Information and enrolment details are available by contacting the Organic Agriculture Association Inc on 03 5152 2276, or directly to John Liddicoat on 407 038 438.

Large Corporations Expand into Organic Markets An article in the New York Times, last month shows that large corporations are continuing to expand into organic markets

McDonald's in the USA will be serving a certified Organic Fair Trade coffee because it meets higher standards in the treatment of coffee workers. They already sell organic milk in their UK franchises. Wal-Mart the world’s largest supermarket has started selling organic products. "We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food," Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive said.

General Mills markets the Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen, two of the world largest organic brands. Kraft owns Back to Nature and Boca Foods. Dean Foods, the dairy giant, has acquired Horizon Organic and White Wave. Groupe Danone, the French dairy company, owns Stonyfield Farm. These are all large organic brands.

Organic Standard News

The following editorial from the New York Times shows the potential problems in having government legislation for an Australian organic standard rather than self regulation controlled by the organic sector. Since the introduction of the National Organic Program, the US organic sector is constantly fighting to stop their government from weakening their organic standard by allowing unsuitable practices and products.

Legislation of a standard usually results in the control and the power over changing it passing to a government regulatory authority. This is the reason why the OFA prefers self regulation such as a domestic standard with Standards Australia. It will mean that the organic sector will maintain control. Editorial, New York Times, November 4, 2005

Organic food has become a very big business, with a 20 percent annual growth rate in sales in recent years. But popularity has come at a price. Ever since 2002, when the Department of Agriculture began its program of national organic certification, there has been a steady lobbying effort to weaken standards in a way that makes it easier for the giant food companies, which often use synthetic substances in processing, to enter the organic market.

That's exactly why many organic farmers greeted the USDA’s organic seal with real trepidation. They know that the one thing the department has always done especially well is to capitulate to the lobbying pressure of big food and big agriculture.

Last week, an amendment was slipped into the agricultural spending bill without meaningful debate in a closed-door Republican meeting. It would do two things. It would overturn a court decision reinstating the old legal standard that prohibits synthetic substances in organic foods. And it would allow the agriculture secretary to approve synthetic substances if no organic substitute was commercially available.

In part, this is a battle over a label. The big producers, which often use synthetic materials in processing, want to call their processed foods organic because that designation commands premium prices. They do not want to say their products are made with organic ingredients - a lesser designation that allows more synthetics. This is also a cultural battle, a struggle between the people who have long kept the organic faith - despite the historic neglect of the USDA - and industry giants that see a rapidly expanding and highly profitable niche that can be pried open even further with lobbying.

"Organic" is not merely a label, a variable seal of approval at the end of the processing chain. It means a way of raising crops and livestock that is better for the soil, the animals, the farmers and the consumers themselves - a radical change, in other words, from conventional agriculture. Unless consumers can be certain that those standards are strictly upheld, "organic" will become meaningless.

Organic Farming News

Organic Farming Combats Flood Dangers The following article on how organic farming can lessen flooding was written by Prof. Dr. Dr. Ewald Schnug, Head of the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, Federal Agricultural Research Center & Deputy President of the International Scientific Centre of Fertilizers, Braunschweig, Germany. Although the number of floodings over the last centuries has been more or less constant, their magnitude has steadily increased during the last decades. Very few countries have been free of flood disasters. In Germany the 2002 once a century flood of the Elbe River destroyed whole cities, and at present Austria and Switzerland are suffering from extreme floods.

Soil compaction and slaking result in a reduction of a soil's infiltration capacity for water. Trigger factors for this "stealth or silent sealing" of our soils are due to decreasing organic matter contents, decreasing biological activity and increasing compaction caused by high mechanic stress of soil structures. But, conversely, high infiltration rates of healthy soils can reduce the intensity of flood incidents.

Scientists of the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science and the Institute of Organic Farming at the Federal Research Center for Agriculture (FAL) in Germany have examined the connections between physical, chemical and biological soil parameters and the infiltration capacity of soils on different sites. It is known from numerous investigations, that soil cultivation techniques that do not use the plough, ("conservation tillage") on conventional farms contribute to better infiltration. But on organic farms a much larger number of positive factors for the development of "bio-pores" in the soil exist. Such bio-pores are the key to improved infiltration and are mainly created by earthworms.

Organically managed soils show approximately seven times more earthworms and twice as high infiltration rates as soils on conventional farms. Employing crop rotations with forage crops (for example clover or grass) and catch crops, as well as an optimal supply of organic materials results in a higher humus content in organically managed soils. Research results from FAL show a positive effect of such organic farming techniques on soil structure and infiltration rates after only three years.

Bearing in mind the recent disastrous flood incidents, the scientists at the institutes propose the maintenance of site specific high infiltration rates as a powerful means for flood prevention. In this context, they say, substantial support of organic farms is justified to pay for a service provided by the farms to the community which does not itself pay for the higher costs of organic farming They also conclude that support for organic farming could be an efficient measure to counteract anthropogenic soil consumption which contributes to flooding dangers.

GMO News

GMO’s Need to be Tested

There is a need for all genetically modified plants to be tested with independent, rigorous peer reviewed feeding trials. The CSIRO decision to end the genetically modified field pea project adds to the growing body of science linking some genetically modified foods with illness. (See article in this issue)

This issue first surfaced with numerous deaths due to L-trytophan produced from genetically modified bacteria. This amino acid was previously extracted from milk and sold as food supplement to generate a peaceful nights sleep. The process of genetic modification changed the beneficial nutrient into a lethal toxin. Several years later one of the leading biotech scientists, Dr Arpad Pusztai, create controversy when he stated he would never eat GM foods after his feeding studies on genetically modified potatoes showed serious damage to the organs of the test animals.

Recently a study by Irina Ermakova, a leading scientist at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences found that over 50% of the offspring of female rats fed a GM soy died compared to 3% in the control. (See article in this issue) Many of the current generation of commercial GM crops have not been adequately tested in animal feeding trials as the US FDA does not require any safety tests on genetically modified foods when biotech companies declare their foods safe. This is based on a 1992 policy that states, "The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way."

Researchers have shown that the current methods of inserting transgenic DNA sequences damage the chromosomes. Analysis has shown that the chromosomes are broken up and only partially repair themselves. This means that the existing plant genes along the chromosomes are rearranged in new random sequences and this may change the way they function.

Further research is showing that as genetically modified plants grow and the cells divide, the inserted genes are unstable and can change their arrangements in the chromosomes. This can alter the functioning of other genes, creating new and unintended amino acids, proteins, hormones, oils, fats, enzymes or toxins. These new compounds could adversely effect the body biochemistry, immune system, organ tissues and organ function when consumed. Without thorough testing there is no way of discovering if this is occurring.

GM crop project scrapped after mice made ill A genetically modified field pea, developed by CSIRO to be almost completely resistant to insect attacks has been shown to cause illness when fed to mice. CSIRO decided to abandon the project when the mice developed lung inflammation.

The deputy chief of CSIRO plant industry, TJ Higgins, said "The reaction of the mice to the protein might reflect something that would happen to humans". Source ABC News 18-11-05

Offspring Died When Mother Rats Ate Genetically Engineered Soy

According to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, a Russian study has shown that eating genetically modified soy can adversely effect the offspring of female rats.

Irina Ermakova, a leading scientist at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), added GM soy flour to the diet of female rats. Other females were fed non-GM soy or no soy at all. The experimental diet began two weeks before the rats conceived and continued through pregnancy and nursing. Ermakova’s first surprise came when her pregnant rats started giving birth. Some pups from GM-fed mothers were quite a bit smaller. After 2 weeks, 36% of them weighed less than 20 grams compared to about 6% from the other groups.

The real shock came when the rats started dying. Within three weeks, 25 of the 45 (55.6%) rats from the GM soy group died compared to only 3 of 33 (9%) from the non-GM soy group and 3 of 44 (6.8%) from the non-soy controls.

For more information see:


BioFach, Germany, February 16-19, 2006
A permanent fixture on the World Organic Calendar and one of the largest trade fairs of its kind, BioFach Germany boasts over 2,000 exhibitors of organic and natural food products and around 33,000 trade visitors each year.

For further information on exhibiting at the event in 2006, under the banner of 'Australian Organic' - supported by Austrade - contact the NASAA Office on (08) 8370 8455 or e-mail to

EcoV 5 – 7 May 2006 Bendigo

EcoV – The Global Organics & Sustainability Show has launched a major competition for schools. The EcoV Greenplanet Organic Vegie Challenge is very simple. Schools, both primary and secondary, just have to produce up to five kilograms of five types of organic vegetables by Friday 5 May 2006 – the opening day of EcoV.

The Organic Federation of Australia (OFA), the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA,) and Australian Certified Organic (ACO) are Gold Sponsors of EcoV.

Exhibitor Packs are available on the web site Brian Abbott (03) 9889 5631, 0404 06 1404,

Enviro 06 Conference Melbourne May 9 - 11 2006

Enviro 06 will consist of 24 one-day streams in three areas, energy, waste and water. Organic farming will feature in recycled organic stream.

For more information: Quitz Event Management 02 9410 1302, or

Organic Expo: organics for everyone, Sydney July 21-23

The 2006 Show will feature: * Celebrity endorsement & appearances * Key industry speakers & involvement * Premier Location @ Sydney Exhibition Centre * Creative Layout & Exciting Interest Features * Organic Café * Highly successful and proven show

Early Bird Discount for bookings by 31.12.05 Phone - 02 9451 4747 Email -

The Third OFA National Organic Conference July 22 2006

Darling Harbour Sydney Saturday 22nd July 2006 in conjunction with the organic expo.

The 2nd OPAQ Queensland Organic Conference Beerwah Queensland August 30-31 2006

Contact Keith Morris Ph 0500581469

Organic Update is a publication of the Organic Federation of Australia

Phone +61 1300 657 435 PO Box 166 Oakleigh South Vic 3167 Australia