California to be the first organic state?

With all the controversies around pesticides, herbicides, and other -cides it would be good for California to accelerate its move towards organic farming and become the first fully organic state in the U.S. I know it will take time, but better to once again be on the leading edge rather than wait for a major scandal in the agrochemical business to drive a call to rush towards organic food.

My suggestion for lawmakers are the following:

  1. Remove Section 11501.1 of the California Food and Agricultural Code. Section 11501.1 was written by the agrochemical industry (yes, corporations often provide text for laws and regulations!) and says that individual counties and cities in the state cannot have stricter standards than what state law provides. Removing it will allow cities and counties to make their own decisions, so the transition can happen over time. This will be a slow process, but it is a way for politicians to show they are looking ahead, and lets cities and counties respond to constituents’ concerns.
  2. All “-cides” must be proven by independent scientists to be safe before entering the market.
  3. No desiccants are allowed in California.
  4. No spraying of crops are allowed the last month before harvesting. This will remove some toxins at least.

If we are to make California the first organic state in the U.S., a time- and goal- based strategic plan is needed. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Planning for the transition. We need to educate farmers, and that means partnering with organic organizations, agriculture students, colleges and universities. We need the drafting of well thought-out proposed laws (that include backup plans for emergencies).
  2. Much of the agriculural land in California has been abused for years. Insect, soil, and plant diversity is out of balance. Buffer zones and some wild areas here and there will need to be included as balance is restored. During the first couple of years, spraying will be allowed if absolutely necessary.
  3. Farmers are going to need financial support during the transition as well as education and practical support. Current water policy favoring the large landowners in the Centeral Valley as well as farming subsidies will need to be altered to meet the changing needs. Cooperatives of farmers, experienced organic growers, and consumers may be a way to keep the growing and distribution system together during the transition.

The major obstacle to this plan is the economic clout of the agrochemical business and their sway over politicians at every level of government. We can be sure donations to politicians will skyrocket the moment this plan is suggested. Their next move will be to hit all the media with a food-security alert message to farmers and to the general public, saying that we can’t have farming without -cides. Yes we can! This is California! We can do anything!


The label organic means it should be free of all dangerous pesticides and herbicides and additives. Right? Mostly that is correct. However, over the years big corporations came in on the board and have been adding substances that are questionable. USDA took over the decision making and made NOSB an advisory board. How this will affect the organic food and labeling is to be determined. You can read the National list of Allowed and Prohibited Substances here.

Carrageenan is the additive that is on the list that I will focus on in this post since it is one of the most used, and one of the most controversial for me. Food companies and manufacturers say it is not harmful, but other studies suggest it is. In Europe it has been banned from use in infant formulas. I have not been able to find any studies that are funded by the industry that has been peer-reviewed.

It has been used since 1995 in a long range of products to stabilize food. Among those you should check are ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, soy milk, chocolate milk, bread, jelly, jam, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, soy desserts, soy pudding, sliced turkey, prepared chicken, nutritional drinks, canned soup, broth, microwaveable dinners, frozen pizza, canned pet food, cosmetics, toothpaste and other processed foods.

There are two main different types of carrageenan. Undegraded are used in food and degraded are not. Some animal studies shows that undegraded carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation. One type of carrageenan is listed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen.”

A report from 2002 by US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health says that they can not find any problems with undegraded carrageenan. However, this report from 2007 by WHO says it is inadvisable to use it in infant foods. To make this completely confusing: Here is another report from WHO about a different carrageenan that says it is advisable to give to infants. The reasoning is that those infants that have problems will normally be under supervision by doctors anyway.

Now to the newer studies and reports and why I personally think we should remove carrageenan from our diet. Joanne K. Tobacman made a review of carrageenan in 2001 that destroyed the above reports. Then in 2015 she and two other researchers found that carrageenan inhibits insulin signaling.

Why is this important?

Inflammation in the digestive tract is linked to Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease and some cancers at the moment. Diabetes has also been connected to it, but we need more studies. The research of the digestive tracts and the link to diseases have only been done for a few years and there is a lot we need to figure out.

After reading all of these studies and articles, my advice is to be careful if you have any problems with your stomach or intestines. Like Sara Baker in this story. And please be careful with kids. I know ice cream is popular, but find brands that are not using carrageenan in their products.