The Babies of BlogHer

July 31st, 2009

Much has been written about BlogHer. How over-the-top everything was.  The big sponsors. The huge bags of swag. The blow-out parties. The larger-than-life amazing, inspirational speakers. The networking.  It’s true – all of that was amazing.

But what really blew me away was something much smaller.

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The babies. The babies of BlogHer.

They were everywhere you looked.

I’m old enough to have  graduated from college at a time when I thought I needed man-tailored suits, a leather briefcase, and  short hair to make it in the Big Apple.  My first byline was the androgenous “L.A. Miller,” lest I appeared like a “Southern Belle” for using my full name – Lynn Anne Miller.

I remember being one of the few women in the room at most of the 300 or so conferences I attended during my years in corporate marketing.

I’ve never, ever been to a conference with babies.

It was amazing.

Amazing to see women free to pursue their own interests, all while caring for their babies.

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So now you know who I am. I was that woman running all over the place taking pictures of the babies of BlogHer. I wish I had captured them all. But here are eight of the wonderful babies of BlogHer, some pictured alongside their smiling mothers.

If you recognize the babies (or their mothers) please leave a comment so I can add a caption to each picture. (Or similarly, if you would like a picture to be removed, just let me know!)

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This last picture is of my Big Boys and their Dad at the airport, soon after my return from Blogher. After looking at all those little babies, it  made me realize that my boys truly are not babies any more. They’re growing up much too fast.

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– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Greenies in BlogHer Land: SwagHer

July 27th, 2009

I arrived at BlogHer, the world’s largest conference for female bloggers, excited to write a parting post about how to find cheap, eco-friendly gifts to bring back to the kids as souvenirs of our time away in Chicago.

I was going to include this photo of the postcards and maps my husband brings back as gifts from his meetings in far flung places.

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And I was planning to include this picture I took of the many great free maps and guides that could be picked up around Chicago.

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And I even snapped photos of local “Chicago chocolate” in case some greenies just couldn’t resist the impulse to bring back more of a traditional gift for the kids – a little box of something consumable.  Hey, at least it would be local and cheap (although not fair trade).

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I never wrote that post – it didn’t seem appropriate at BlogHer.  And I’m embarrassed to confess that I left the conference loaded down with “BlogHer swag.” (Swag= stuff we all get).

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My children? They’re getting the Chicago maps and brochures I picked up at the train station. But they’re also getting a teddy bear, a DVD about puppies, and a book about Spiderman. My husband? He gets a new backpack (eco-friendly of course, made of recycled plastics). And me? Books, a T-shirt, and a new water bottle.

And that’s considered a “light load” from SwagHer. (I mean, BlogHer).

What happened?

I didn’t really need any of this stuff except for the backpack. My husband’s backpack is hanging by a shoulder thread – he’s been putting off that purchase. The kids? Yes, they’ve wanted to visit Build-a-Bear, but I’ve never taken them. Now we have discount coupons and bears to “dress.” And me? All I really wanted was an autographed copy of my friend Jennifer Taggert’s new book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide. (Thank you, Jennifer!)

Call it the “herd mentality.”   We follow others’ leads.  And there were very few women at the conference who didn’t participate in the conspicuous consumption.  At times the blow-out parties and swag made me wonder if it was ’99 instead of ’09. It sure didn’t seem like the Great Recession at BlogHer.

Hey, I knew my kids would love those teddy bears even though they already had bears at home.   Everyone else was taking bears back to their kids! And they were blogger bears! And I was right, wasn’t I? Doesn’t Boo look cute cuddling that bear?

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The notion of feting women bloggers, of celebrating their achievements, and of giving gifts to women who may not treat themselves to much in life (especially the Moms) – was heartwarming. But with so many extravagant parties and suites, the evening scene at BlogHer turned into a combination of Halloween trick-or-treating and Mardi Gras. And with so many sponsored bloggers  interrupting others conversations to give a product pitch, heck, at times BlogHer seemed like a crazy reality TV show that was interrupted by sponsored programming!  Don’t get me wrong…a lot of it was fun. Who doesn’t like parties? But somewhere, somehow, things seemed to become a bit…excessive.

Aside from the environmental implications of all “that stuff” we really don’t need, the other major impact of “SwagHer” was that for many women,  all that time lining up to get into swag suites came at the expense of deeper  conversations with the women we commune with online everyday.   It’s sad that so many women left Blogher bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have time to really talk and connect with the women they met.  What were we doing?

I think next year BlogHer will be different…many of us “greenies” — and even those who don’t consider themselves “green bloggers” have been emailing and tweeting  about options for next year – everything from a new track within BlogHer to swag-free conference to a separate online or “in real life” conference. We’re in the brainstorming stages.

Still,  BlogHer was a fabulous experience. Although I personally thought some of it was over the top, everyone is different. In fact, one of the great things about BlogHer was to see how diverse the blogging community is – something you could get a sense for at the “Birds of a Feather” luncheons.   (No, it’s not all about Mom bloggers…And full disclosure, I’m co-authoring a marketing report about the conference with Maryanne Conlin, aka @mcmilker. )

Here are some pix of the fabulous women I enjoyed so much at Blogher .

gmcphotoPhoto: Some of the Green Moms Carnival Members at BlogHer: Top Row, LtoR   – Lynn of OrganicMania; Micaela of Mindful Momma. Bottom Row, L to R: Maryanne of Not Quite Crunchy Parent; Lisa of Condo Blues; Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Diane of Big Green Purse.  Missing: Sommer of Green and Clean Mom and Jennifer of The Smart Mama.

greenleadershipphotoThe Eco-Leadership Panel at BlogHer. L to R: Diane of Big Green Purse, Siel of Green LA Girl, Sommer of Green and Clean Mom , and Jennifer of The Smart Mama.

My trip to BlogHer was made possible by my sponsors. Last year I missed BlogHer. And as I blogged here, I wasn’t even planning to go to BlogHer until Stonyfield Farm approached me about a sponsorship. Getting to a major conference and back is expensive – especially for someone with a small business still in “upstart” mode. So a huge thank you to wonderful @StonyfieldSarah from Stonyfield Farm. It was great meeting you at BlogHer! And thanks to my other sponsors – my former client Mom Made Foods and Snikiddy, a local Mom-led company based right where I live and work in Bethesda, Maryland. Thanks to them, thanks to Blogher’s corporate sponsors, and thank you to the founders of BlogHer for pursuing an incredible vision of blogging community that has brought so much to so many.

See you in New York!  I think we’ll all be treading a bit more lightly on Mother Earth at the next conference!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Two New OrganicMania BlogHer Sponsors Join Stonyfield: Snikiddy and Mom Made Foods

July 21st, 2009

Last year at this time, I blogged about shaking my head in bewilderment at all the buzz about the BlogHer conference.  I wasn’t sure I was ready to attend – and the cost of the trip just  made it impossible (although I didn’t disclose that publicly – I was too embarassed).

This year it’s a different story. Thanks to Stonyfield Farm’s BlogHer sponsorship, I’m going to finally participate in the BlogHer conference, the premiere conference for women bloggers.  When I announced the Stonyfield sponsorship, I put out a call for two more sponsors to help defray the costs of the trip.  I’m so grateful that two local, Mom-owned food companies stepped forward to join Stonyfield in sponsoring OrganicMania at BlogHer: Snikiddy and Mom Made Foods.

Last year’s interview with Mom Made Founder Heather Stouffer aka  @mommadefoods remains one of OrganicMania’s most popular posts, and led to me filling in for Mom Made’s Marketing Director, @jennifermommade, when she was on maternity leave last summer, and then continuing on for an additional six months as a consultant. I no longer work for Mom Made, but I’m so pleased that they’ve stepped forward to help with my trip and to provide some great rebate coupons for me to pass out at BlogHer so that other Moms  have an easy way to try Mom Made Foods organic children’s foods.

Snikiddy is a company I’ve followed closely for years. Based right where I live in Bethesda, Maryland (heck, Snikiddy’s owners live in my friends’ old home!), Snikiddy is another one of  those great “Mompreneur” success stories I love hearing about – and supporting. Founded by Mary Shulman, (aka @Snikiddy),  along with her mother, Snikiddy puts a healthier spin on snack foods –with no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors, no trans fats, and no preservatives.

One of the things that is hardest about making a switch to more organic, green and natural products is knowing what to buy. As I blogged yesterday, I still haven’t completed the switch myself. That’s one reason I’m so glad I’ll have coupons and rebate forms for Stonyfield’s organic Greek Oikos yogurt, Snikiddy, and Mom Made. I can give them to other women at BlogHer – to help them try these products and figure out if it’s worth it to them to make a switch.  So if you’re going to be at BlogHer, come up, say  hi, and don’t be shy about asking for a coupon or rebate form!

And again thanks to these great companies for reaching out to support this Mompreneur and so many other blogging women –   – Stonyfield Farms, Snikiddy, and Mom Made Foods.

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Why I Hope the EWG is Wrong

July 20th, 2009

No one makes a habit of displaying the inside of their medicine cabinet. But I’m doing it to make a point.

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The other night I took my skeptical husband to watch the filming of what’s being billed as “ ‘Inconvenient Truth’ for environmental health.” The Environmental Working Group’s  President,  Ken Cook, has presented “10 Americans” to countless groups across the country, and it’s even available on the web. But at this filming at DC’s Source Theatre, the EWG captured the reaction of a group of Washingtonians who gathered  to hear that:
•     82,000 chemicals were declared safe for use in household and personal care products with little or no data to support their safety;
•    the US has the highest cancer rate in the industrialized world;
•    industrial chemicals are showing up in the womb. In other words, embryos are being exposed to chemicals in the mother’s body before birth;
•     chemical exposures in people are increasingly associated with a range of serious diseases and conditions from childhood cancer, to autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility, and birth defects.

So why am I showing you my medicine cabinet? I’m like most Moms – my heart is “deep green,” but my buying patterns are a lighter shade of green.   The items I buy organic and green are those that my family consumes most often, particularly those items that are most often used by my children. But we still buy plenty of conventional  products (although we try to use them sparingly).

When I first learned about the linkages between probable human carcinogens and everyday personal care and household products,  I was shocked. That’s why I reached out to industry representatives to get some reassurances, as you can read here. And their reaction? While they spend hundreds of thousands to court Mom bloggers at  BlogHer and other conferences and launch fancy viral advertising campaigns, they still haven’t answered these three simple questions I posed here.

- What is your stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
- What do you think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
- Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

In fact, as I blogged here, the Industry reps did everything they could to discredit the Moms asking these questions.

So now you know why I hope the EWG is wrong. Because like so many of you, I still use a lot of these products.

And as for my skeptical husband?

As he put it after watching Ken Cook in action,

DDT used to be called safe too.”

Watch the video yourself and tell me what you think.


@ Yahoo! Video

If you want to do something now that you’ve seen this video, visit the EWG’s Action Page.

And please leave a comment and let me know  your thoughts!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Part II of the Unofficial BlogHer Stay-at-Home Spouse Survival Manual

July 17th, 2009

Yesterday I blogged here about my #1 tip for helping your husband to cope with his temporary single parenthood while you’re whooping it up at BlogHer.

( Avoid sending fabulous pictures back to your mate who is stuck at home with the kiddos!)

Sure, I was half-joking, so today’s tips are a bit more on the serious side. They really helped me muddle through with the kids when my husband was away on business travel.

Got any  tips? Please leave a comment and share!

#1. Read it here.

#2.  Make sure the fridge is stocked with all the groceries you’ll need while your spouse is away.     In our household, we’ve decided that not having coffee   and beer  is a “criminal offense.”   Here is a pic of the beer stock my husband left before his last trip.

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Upon his return, DH checks to see how much is still there   – a good indicator of how things went while he was away!

#3.  Think about everyday routines that may become more difficult with one person gone. For example, in my family we have two different camp drop-offs in the summer time – in two different directions. I arranged to install a carseat in a neighbor’s car and she was able to take my little guy in several mornings, saving me more than an hour of precious time each day.

# 4. It may sound counter intuitive,  but inviting people over can really be less work, not more!   I hosted several playdates  when DH was gone   – putting  up with five children between the ages of 2 and 7. Believe it or not, it actually made things easier. If they’re happy, guess what? You’re happy.

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5.  Slow food, schmow  food.  I really like to take it easy when DH is out of town. Frozen organic meals? Bring ‘em on.  Natural  snack food?   Pass the bag. Go ahead. Stock up on easy to fix meals like pasta, frozen pizza, and more. Make dinner plans as simple as possible.

6  Book a sitter for at least one night, or even for just for “the witching hours.”   Get out and relax, even if just  for an hour.

7. Consider paper plates. As I blogged here they even sell recycled plates at the grocery store now. Yes, I know it’s a bit of  a waste, but looking at an overflowing sink is a waste too…

8.  Stick to your family routines. When my DH travelled, I used to sometimes stay up past my usual bed time to talk on the phone to friends in other time zones, blog, or tweet. Then I’d pay for it the next day when I was too exhausted to deal cheerfully with the children. Abiding by  routines is easier on the kids too. Stick to the routine as much as possible – make sure regular dinner time, bed times, and night-night routines are followed.

9. Prepare yourself for a mess upon your return. Make no  comments on the state of total disrepair that you find the house in.   If you see Mount Clothesasaurius (as my DH calls the piled up laundry), just smile and move on. (Or pick up the laundry and start folding!)

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10.  Book a sitter for the first or second night back. Take your DH out to dinner and a movie. Listen to him. Let him unwind.

Hope you have a great trip – to BlogHer – or wherever your travels take you. Got any other survival tips? Please leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

The “Unofficial” BlogHer Stay-at-Home Spouse Survival Manual: 10 Tips

July 16th, 2009

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Hear that groaning and moaning? It’s a long, low whine coming from husbands all over America as they realize that they get to watch the kids for a night or two – or even three – while the wives are away at the BlogHer ’09 conference in Chicago.

“What?,” he says.
“When?”
“But I don’t remember you telling me!”
“Where is it on the calendar?”

“But I have a meeting..I have golf..I have…”

A few weeks ago I blogged here about how hard it was for me when my husband left town for a ten day business trip. I felt like a single Mom.

Paybacks are hell. (Evil grin).

Back in the rip roaring ‘90s, when I was single and childless, I was one of the “tech road warriors.” Flying across the country every week, I’d often settle in to my airplane seat next to some mild mannered middle aged man who was on the phone with his wife or kids.

Later we’d chat and he’d say, “Oh, my wife has it much harder than me,” as he mumbled “Diet Coke” to the flight attendant.

Sure, I thought dismissively, in my know-it-all 20-something way. She’s at home with the kids. What’s so hard about that?

Flash forward 15 years and now I know what’s so hard about that.

And I have a feeling that the men of America are about to find out what’s so hard about that too.

So here’s my first tip about helping your husband to cope while you’re away.

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Isn’t that a gorgeous castle by the sea? Actually, that’s the view my husband enjoyed from one of the wonderful resort hotels he stayed in for 10 days while in Italy.

That photo came through on my iPhone just as I was finishing up dinner with our 2-year-old and 6-year-old boys. This was my view.

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That’s the bunch of hair and dirt and spaghetti and feta cheese I swept up after our dinner.

I didn’t feel too great when I compared his view to mine.

My wonderful husband says he wants me to have fun in Chicago, he hopes I have a great time, and I can send him all the crazy photos I’d like and he’ll be fine with it.

But still…I’m not so sure. My advice? No matter how beautiful Chicago  is, gals, don’t send your husbands pix of the great time you’re having while he’s dealing with your wonderfully mannered children who will be on their best behavior while Mommy is gone.

Check out OrganicMania tomorrow for more tips to share with your worried spouse as he prepares to be a single parent.    And leave me a comment with any tips to share on how you’re preparing your spouse!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Green Moms Carnival Is Up!

July 14th, 2009

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This month’s Green Moms Carnival is about Food. Food Matters. Of course it does. We all depend on a steady supply of healthy, nutritious foods. I wish all of our food could come from places like the beautiful, certified-humane organic Ayrshire Farm, pictured above. I snapped this photo on Monday while touring the picturesque 1,000 acre farm in Upperville, Virginia.

Check out the posts over at A Passion for Green Business. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about why Food Matters.

– Lynn

Food Matters: The Response to that Post Article about the National Organic Program

July 12th, 2009

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Nearly two years ago I started OrganicMania because I was going crazy trying to figure out when it made sense to go green and organic.

Once I finally understood the food labeling systems (USDA Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, Green, Natural, etc), I felt a bit more sane.

But as I blogged here last week, the news that Organic Standards may not be all that they seem has turned my world upside down again. Two years later, and I’m still being driven crazy trying to sort out green and organic claims!

The  Washington Post ‘s coverage of the controversy surrounding the National Organic Program touched off interesting reactions from organics advocates and observers. I was barely digesting that story and the reaction to it when Whole Foods announced they’ve joined the non-GMO project, and Dean Foods announced  a move toward “natural” milk – two developments that will throw yet another wrinkle into the food shopping game.  I don’t typically do news summaries here at OrganicMania, but I think these developments are so significant that they merit a recap.

So this is News? Samuel Fromartz, author of “Organic, Inc,” blogged that “The tension discussed in the [Post] article, between those who have always sought to expand the industry and those who seek a more purist vision…. wasn’t particularly news…As for synthetics in processed food, there will always be two camps on this — and both present risks. If synthetics are taken out ..organic processed foods would fade off the shelves. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but the organic industry would be a lot smaller. If, on the other hand, too many synthetics are let in, and we start getting more organic junk food with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, that will spell the end of organics too.”

It’s So Unfair! The Organic Trade Association issued this press release taking issue with the criticisms aired by The Washington Post reporters. I wish I had seen more reaction from organics advocates, but this was the best response I could find after much online searching, so I’ve included the key points below.

o “The federal organic standards have not been ’relaxed.’ Rigorously enforced standards can and do go hand-in-hand with growth… Organic agriculture and products remain the most strictly regulated, as well as the fastest growing, food system in the United States today.”

“Organic agriculture protects the health of people and the environment by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences from asthma to cancer. Extensive pesticide residue testing by the U.S.D.A. has found that conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are, on average, three to more than four times more likely to contain residues than organic produce, eight to eleven times more likely to contain multiple pesticide residues, and contain residues at levels three to ten times higher than corresponding residues in organic samples.”

o “..There is a very specific process that materials must go through before they are permitted for inclusion in organic products. In regards to fatty acids, the USDA regulators followed the recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)… Because the position of the reporters’ sources did not ‘carry the day’ in this public review by no means makes the process illegal, and to characterize it as such is a great disservice to the public.”

Also last week, Whole Foods announced it will begin certifying certain of its  private label 365 brand foods through the Non-GMO Project. I believe this will be the first major non-GMO labeling effort of its kind  – something we should all support. But I predict that Whole Foods’ move will drive more consumers away from organics and toward the new non-GMO label,  since many people buy organics primarily to avoid GMOs.

Perhaps USDA Organic is not the “be all and end all” that its most ardent supporters claim. But it’s one of the best indicators we have of quality food, particularly in the supermarket.  As consumers, we need to continue to push for strong organics standards, meaning no relaxation of the current  USDA Organic standard.  Check out this campaign promoted by Terressentials Organics to solicit consumer support for upholding organic standards.  You  have until August 31st to have your voice heard by the National Organics Program.

My bet is that the continued expansion of organics, the growth in the natural foods and green categories  and the new non-GMO label will continue to make food shopping a challenge – meaning I’ll still be going crazy! (At least it will give me plenty to blog about here at OrganicMania!)

Check out the other wonderful posts in this month’s  Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Alline at A Passion for Green Business.

What do you think? Are you still going crazy trying to sort this all out? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Lessons Learned When a Boy is Nearly 7

July 10th, 2009

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When a boy is nearly 7 (or 6 years and 11 months old to be precise), the things that used to annoy his Mom no longer seem so annoying.

When he asks you for help with his socks, you know that this is his way of saying he wants to be close to you.

When he tells you he doesn’t like the rubber duckies his little brother left behind in the bathtub because they get in the way of his shower, you’re puzzled. Wasn’t it only yesterday that he loved rubber duckies?

When his friends ask, “Which girl do you think is cute?” and he responds, “My mom,” your heart melts as you realize how lucky you were to hear his answer.

When he asks you to join the  hide-n-seek game, there’s a bittersweet realization that at  this time next year, he may no longer ask you to play with him and his friends.

When a boy is 6 years and 11 months old, his Mom realizes time goes by quickly and he won’t be a boy much longer.

Play with your children,

Do things with your children,

While they still want you around.

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

5 Things You Can Do About Those National Organic Program Rumors Repeated in The Washington Post

July 3rd, 2009

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For some time now, I’ve come across rumors of troubles with the National Organic Program (the body responsible for bestowing the coveted USDA Organic Seal and Certification).   Whether it was comments from disgruntled farmers on message boards and blogs, grumblings from members at my biodynamic CSA, the time a Chilean woman came up to me at Whole Foods and laughed in my face for buying organic grapes before delivering  a lecture on how “organic” food is really grown, or a half-dozen or so similar encounters…well…I’ve wondered. But what was I going to do? Blog about rumors? Some blogs run that way, but I like to have facts on my side. (I’m still a former newspaper reporter, after all!)

Now those rumors have gained more credence with a  Washington Post article which makes the following allegations:

1.  USDA Organic does not mean pesticide-free.

  • According to The Post, “The original law’s mandate for annual pesticide testing was also never implemented — the agency left that optional…  In 2004, Robinson [ the administrator of the USDA Organics Program] issued a directive allowing farmers and certifiers to use pesticides on organic crops if “after a reasonable effort” they could not determine whether the pesticide contained chemicals prohibited by the organics law.”

2. The list of non-organic substances allowed in USDA certified organic foods has increased from 77 to 245 substances since the standard was created in 2002. As The Post says, “The goal was to shrink the list over time, but only one item has been removed so far.”

3. The Post alleges that there are quality differences in organic certifying bodies, with some practicing more stringent certifications protocols than others. One it singles out for particular criticism is Quality Assurance International (QAI).  The organic certifying body’s seal is on organic packaged items, although typically the seals and the country of origin are printed in very small type, so I’ve found that you have to look carefully to find these seals.

4.   USDA Organic may NOT even mean 100% GMO-free. This is particularly troublesome given that avoiding GMOs is one key reason people, particularly parents, pay extra for the organic seal.

So what’s a frustrated shopper to do?  I’ve taken the following steps.  And based on the Post article, I’ll redouble my efforts to do so:

1.  Find a local CSA or farmer’s market that you trust. Local is always better, because fresh-picked food retains more nutrients and because the carbon footprint involved in food transport is smaller. (Disclosure: I recently welcomed  one of the  nation’s leading farmer’s markets, FRESH FARM Markets, as a consulting client).

2.   Avoid imported organic foods from countries with questionable food safety, heavy pollution,  and lax regulations. For me, this means China.  Soybeans are particularly suspect. It can be a challenge to find USDA organic soybeans that are not imported from China.

3. Purchase frozen foods from countries with strong health and safety records. When I’m not buying fresh veggies,  I always look for frozen organic veggies produced in the US. Sometimes I  buy  frozen foods from France, as I blogged here. They may not be organic, but I know they don’t contain GMOs because they’re forbidden by law in the EU.

4.  Think about whether you really want to pay a premium for the USDA organic seal on processed foods. If you’re buying some chips for the kids as a treat, maybe the “natural” label or plain old conventional food will do.

5.  Demand accountability from Washington. The USDA Organic Seal should stand for pure, organic food free of GMOs, chemical pesticides, and synthetic additives.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share! I love my tweeters, but please leave a note too!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009