Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jaimes and I, after much thought and consideration, are making some unconventional choices in our plans for raising our baby. I haven't written or talked much about this, because, having grown up in the Midwest, I generally seek to avoid confrontation. In their unconventionality, and because people seem to have strong opinions in general on child-rearing, I felt that our choices might spark some level of confrontation or, at the very least, disdain.

For all that, in a moment of rash abandon, I've decided to have out. Here it is, out in the open, a rough road map for the next several months and years:

  • I'm working full time now, and will up until the birth, but do not plan to return to my job afterwards. When the baby is a little bigger I will start doing more massage out of my home studio, and will continue to teach some small amount of private dance lessons from our home as well.

  • We're planning on a home birth.

  • I plan to breastfeed exclusively (no cereals, juices, water, or other foods) for the first half-year, and to continue breastfeeding for quite some time after that.

  • We are considering "elimination communication" instead of traditional potty training.

  • We plan to sleep with our baby in our bed.

  • We are not planning to own strollers - rather, we will get slings to carry the baby on our own bodies. We are both strong believers in the power of touch from a very young age.

  • I had an ultrasound at 17 weeks, but due to some concern about the advisability of exposing the baby to ultrasound unneedlessly I will not get another one (except in the case of some unforeseen problem with the pregnancy or suspected problems in the course of fetal development). It is for this reason that we do not know the sex of our baby, and may not know until the birth.

  • While we may vaccinate at some point, especially in light of Jaimes's possible world travels, we are going to hold off for the first several years.

  • I am in a committed caring relationship with the father of my baby, but we are not married and have no plans to marry in the near future. It is likely that we will give the baby my last name.
Yesterday I saw An Inconvenient Truth, the global warming documentary featuring Al Gore. It was good, although for my taste it was a little heavy on the scare-side, with almost no mention of what we can or should be doing to address global warming now. I found it slightly interesting/ironic that they chose, numerous times throughout the film, to feature a shot of Gore looking all pensive and thoughtful, riding in a car. This is a documentary about the frightening effects of CO2 emissions, and here we have this recurring shot of Gore, the primary focus point, over and over again in his car.

On a related note, there was an interesting article in the NYTimes today about a small town in Indiana trying to make serious inroads in achieving energy independence: One Farm Town's Drive for Energy Independence.
The future of the organic label is looking dim.

From The New York Times today, The Way We Live Now: Mass Natural, an article on the impact that Wal-Mart's push towards "organic" may have on the industry and on the worldwide organic farm economy.

Frankly, I find it disheartening and scary that our government's definition of a single word, "organic", might have such far-reaching impact on a market that has been steadily growing over several decades and that I strongly subscribe to. And I've always found Wal-Mart's relationship with and treatment of its vendors to be decidedly abject (along with its behavior in any other number of arenas - this is why I have not shopped at Wal-Mart for over 10 years, and have no plans to step into one again any time soon). The article does bring up some interesting positive outcomes that I hadn't considered, though, among them a drop in world exposure to pesticides and other nasties that our government (and/or others) are slow to regulate or ban on their own.

Some previous information:

Compiled from The Organic Consumers Association: Campaigning for Health, Justice, and Sustainability (a great site to keep up on what's going on with the organic industry and what you can do to help safeguard it), compiled from their pages devoted to safeguarding organic standards:

The USDA has announced a very short public comment period (ends May 12, 2006) on a proposal to amend the
National Organic Program (read the proposal here) in a manner that would weaken organic standards. The USDA's actions were requested by a very small handful of Republican members of Congress. Take action now and tell the USDA you support strong organic standards!

In late 2005, despite receiving over 350,000 letters and phone calls from OCA members and the organic
community, Republican leaders in Congress attached a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to
weaken the nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale food manufacturers.

This rider was voted on in conference committee. Here is a list of the members of that committee who pushed this rider through:

Sen Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)

"Congress voted to weaken the national organic standards that consumers count on to preserve the integrity of the organic label," said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The process was profoundly undemocratic and the end result is a serious setback for the multi billion dollar alternative food and farming system
that the organic community has so painstakingly built up over the past 35 years.

As passed, the amendment sponsored by the Organic Trade Association allows: Numerous synthetic food additives and processing aids, including over 500 food contact substances, to be used in organic foods without public review. Young dairy cows to continue to be treated with antibiotics and fed genetically engineered feed prior to being converted to organic production. Loopholes under which non-organic ingredients could be substituted for organic ingredients without any notification of the public based on "emergency decrees." OCA will work to reverse this rider with an "Organic Restoration Act" in Congress in 2006.

Background of the Sneak Attack
After 35 years of hard work, the U.S. organic community has built up a multi-billion dollar alternative to industrial agriculture, based upon strict organic standards and organic community control over modification to these standards.

Now, large corporations, such as Kraft, Wal-Mart, & Dean Foods--aided and abetted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and members of the Organic Trade Association, have succesfully weakened organic standards by allowing Bush appointees in the USDA National Organic Program to take away the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) traditional lead jurisdiction in setting standards. What this means, in blunt terms. is that USDA bureaucrats and industry lobbyists, not consumers, will have near total control over what can go into organic foods and products.

Organic Standards Under Fire:

Agribusiness front groups, such as the Farm Bureau, big food corporations like Kraft, biotech companies such as Monsanto, right-wing think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute, and industry-friendly government agencies have consistently tried to undermine organic standards and get the USDA to allow conventional chemical-intensive and factory farm practices on organic farms. Unless strict organic standards are maintained, consumers will lose faith in the organic label.

Federal Funding for Organics:
The current five year $220 billion US Farm Bill allocates less than $5 million annually for organic research, promotion and marketing...approximately one-hundredth of one percent. This means that Congress is using billions of our tax dollars to reward chemical-intensive, factory farm style operations, while penalizing non-chemical farmers. This, despite
the fact that organic food has been the fasting growing segment in the food marketplace for over 13 years. To move beyond using pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified seeds, conventional farmers need government subsidies and conversion programs that prioritize local and regional organic production. These misguided priorities must be reversed in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill.

Preserving Organic Farms and Consumer Choice:
Genetically Engineered (GE) crops pose a serious pollution threat to organic food and farms. Windblown pollen from GE crops and commingling of seeds in grain elevators or transport vehicles are contaminating organic farms and seed stocks of corn, soy, cotton and canola. The OCA is calling for strict legal liability on all GE crops utilizing the "polluter pays" principle, to protect the property rights of farmers growing organic or non-GE crops. The OCA is also calling for mandatory labeling on GE foods- similar to laws already in place in Europe and other countries- so that consumers have a choice whether or not to buyGE foods.
And another NYTimes article published on May 12, 2006, eyeing Walmart's proposed organic shift: Wal-Mart Eyes Organic Foods.