Organic Consumers Association
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is another charter member of the organic-food-industry-funded smear campaign against genetically improved foods. OCA was founded by anti-technology zealot Jeremy Rifkin and originally bore the name “Pure Food Campaign.” Since changing its name in 1998, the group has been headed by experienced activist Ronnie Cummins, who has since brought his group and its neo-Luddite message into the Internet age. OCA frequently takes part in Fenton Communications’ larger projects. In addition to foundation support, this group has received five-figure donations from the International Center for Technology Assessment and Aveda “natural” hair-care mogul Horst Rechelbacher.
OCA works alongside the Chefs Collaborative, Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth on the “Keep Nature Natural” campaign, which is designed to disparage genetically improved foods. This campaign gets its operating funds from several organic marketers, including Whole Foods and Eden. OCA is also a charter member of the Fenton Communications–run “GE Food Alert” coalition, which was responsible for the 2000 StarLink corn scare.
OCA’s most notable press came in the Spring of 2001 when it announced it was going after the Starbucks coffee chain with an organized protest campaign. Activists (many of them borrowed from sympathetic organizations) have picketed coffee shops in 40 states, demanding that Starbucks (1) stop selling dairy products from cows raised with bovine growth hormone; (2) pledge to never use genetically improved coffee beans; and (3) feature coffee sold by so-called “fair-trade” growers.
In addition, OCA has joined with Public Citizen and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in opposing potentially lifesaving food-irradiation technology.
After the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted a final rule on “National Organic [food] Standards” in 2000, OCA’s Ronnie Cummins was so happy to declare victory that he let the cat all the way out of the bag. In BioDemocracy (OCA’s newsletter), Cummins spelled out his group’s (and his movement’s) game plan. “The challenge over the next months and years will be to see if organic consumers, environmental organizations, farm activists, churches, and public interest groups can build upon this tactical victory and begin making headway in the bigger battle — driving genetically engineered crops off the market all over the world, beginning to phase-out [sic] the most dangerous practices of industrial agriculture, and jump-starting the conversion of the majority of the world’s agriculture to organic methods as soon as possible.”
OCA’s political director, Alexis Baden-Mayer, was arrested by White House security in 2012 while trying to deliver a petition in favor of GMO labeling (she had been ignored after repeated requests for a meeting with the Obama administration). She was also arrested at a Whole Foods in 2011.
The Organic Consumers Association seems bent on disparaging any form of agriculture or food supply that isn’t 100% organic. While this leaves Ronnie Cummins with a wide array of targets, he seems most interested in fighting those battles that will gain his organization an entrée into the talks that would precede new federal regulations.
When the USDA announced its National Organic Standards in early 2000, OCA marshaled the forces of thousands of activists to deluge the government agency with political ultimatums. In a newsletter shortly thereafter, Ronnie Cummins claimed that the USDA had “given in to most of the demands of the organic community,” but cautioned his followers that they would “need to bury the USDA once again with thousands of comments to keep them on track.” The “track” OCA continues to propose is one including “billions of dollars” in government subsidies to organic farmers. The plan of attack is designed, in Cummins’ words, to “make organic farming the dominant form of American agriculture” whether we like it or not.
Major funders of OCA include:
Educational Foundation of America ($300,000)
Pond Foundation ($201,312)
John Merck Fund ($200,000)
Dr Bronners Family Foundation ($145,000)
Horst Rechelbacher Foundation ($121,800)
Wallace Genetic Foundation ($100,000)
Foundation for Deep Ecology ($77,000)