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Organic Counts: Organic Valley Launches First Online Calculator to Measure Personal Impact of Food Choices
Date:9/24/2009

LA FARGE, Wis., Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Organic Valley, America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands, today launched the first online calculator that shows consumers the toxic burden prevented by their choices of organic vs. non-organic and "natural" foods. The calculator is available at www.organicvalley.coop.

Much like an online shopping experience, the Organic Valley calculator invites visitors to put their favorite Organic Valley dairy products into a simulated shopping basket to weigh the positive impact of their organic food choices. As each food product is placed in the basket, the calculator automatically adds up and displays the amounts of pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers avoided by that product, as opposed to a comparable conventional product. The numbers are derived from a calculation of USDA conventional agriculture data compared with twenty years of parallel data from Organic Valley member-farms.

"Organic Counts!," the online calculator, shows that Organic Valley farmers and consumers collectively kept 89.5 million pounds of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 1.25 million pounds of synthetic pesticides and herbicides from America's soil and water from 1988 to 2008. To reduce that down to a personal level, a shopper who purchased two blocks of Organic Valley cheese, two containers of cream and a gallon of milk, for example, would prevent an entire pound of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer from being applied to soil and leaching into our drinking water.

"We did this to show our customers that they really do make a difference when they buy products from our farmer-owned co-op, and they should feel good about it," said George Siemon, chief executive officer and founding farmer at Organic Valley. "The numbers add up quickly, and every bite counts. These metrics are real, just as the threat to our health and environment is real. That's why we have always been, and will always be organic."

"Pesticides are poison and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer damages soil and water. We've been talking about this for years; now you can see it yourself," said Theresa Marquez, chief marketing executive at Organic Valley. "Add it up. The data presented in our calculator quantifies--from the perspective of an individual's grocery list--how going organic prevents a toxic burden on ourselves and our planet. And that's just from dairy products! Imagine the positive impact of choosing ALL organic foods. It's not a time to doubt or water-down organic. It's a time to look at the numbers and facts and take action. Organic is the future for all of us."

A Fun Way to Learn and Share

Using the calculator is simple and highly educational. At any time during the simulated shopping experience, the visitor can explore the colorful, illustrated display and discover a great deal of information about the health, social, and economic benefits of organic agriculture and organic food, as well as the risks of using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to produce food. The calculator also provides extensive references to scientific research and links to sources for more information.

Like a computer game, the calculator experience is also engaging with an animated interface and personalized results. It also incorporates social networking tools to let users share their results and challenge friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email to calculate the environmental impact of their own dairy buying purchases. It even features a printable certificate so users can share their impact at home - on the refrigerator door, for example.

The Story Behind the Numbers

The numbers presented in the calculator are unique to Organic Valley's products and don't necessarily apply to all organic dairy products. In 2008 and in celebration of its 20th anniversary, Organic Valley began analyzing data and measuring the collective positive impact of the cooperative's organic farming practices. To create the Organic Counts! online calculator, Organic Valley entered its farm-by-farm, state-by-state and year-by-year production data from the past 20 years, as well as parallel data from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to show the average amounts of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides used on the average agricultural acre each year. The Organic Counts! online calculator then computes an individual's results by running the Organic Valley numbers against the NASS conventional averages. More about the methodology used to create the calculator can be found on the site in the information section, "The Story Behind the Numbers."

According to the ADA's Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Group, public health costs associated with pesticide poisoning and cancer are estimated at $1.1 billion per year. For adults, exposure through diet has been linked to infertility, Parkinson's, testicular cancer, birth defects and much more. More than one million children in America age five and under ingest at least 15 pesticides daily. Early exposures are suspected in the sharp rise in health problems including autism, obesity, asthma, brain cancer and other childhood cancers.

The EPA has documented that synthetic nitrogen fertilizer runoff leaches into drinking water supplies, and groundwater contamination has been found in all 50 states. Synthetic fertilizers contain forms of nitrogen that can break down into nitrates that threaten human health.

To visit the Organic Counts! online calculator and measure the positive impact of eating Organic Valley products, please visit www.organicvalley.coop.

To learn more about how organic food and farming heals the environment and improves your personal health, you can also visit www.organic-center.org and www.rodale.org.

Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned

Organic Valley is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,333 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province, and achieved $527.8 million in 2008 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie Family of Farms label. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.coop and the cooperative's farmer website, www.farmers.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter www.twitter.com/organic_valley and Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Organic-Valley/20674850824.


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SOURCE Organic Valley
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