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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

BioCycle Magazine is a publication serving the interests of the sewage sludge industry. In March 2013, it became the official magazine of the sewage sludge industry front group the U.S. Composting Council (USCC).[1] Previously, it had been published under various names since 1960, when it was published by the Rodale Press, part of the Rodale Institute. BioCycle promotes the production of food on farms and gardens treated with sewage sludge, which it euphemistically calls "biosolids." The magazine works closely with the Water Environment Federation (WEF), Kellogg Garden Products, the USCC, Rodale Institute, and other promoters of growing food in sewage sludge.

Nora Goldstein is the current editor of the magazine, begun by her father Jerome Goldstein. Nora Goldstein writes, "In January 1978, ownership of BioCycle shifted from Rodale Press to The JG Press, Inc., and the publication’s name was expanded to Compost Science/ Land Utilization (CSLU). In his January-February 1978 editorial, 'Turning The Corner With Compost Science,' Jerry notes that the magazine was not only in a transition of ownership, but in a transition of focus. '... now it’s time to be an action publication as well - one that makes a great impact upon waste management decisions throughout the nation and the world.' "[2] Most of BioCycle’s content is available online for subscribers.

Sally Brown is a research associate professor at the University of Washington. Her column in the March 2011 issue attacks as "ecoterrorists" the Organic Consumers Association and others who led the successful movement that on March 4, 2010 stopped the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission from giving away sewage sludge as “organic biosolids compost” for home and school gardens. Sally Brown wrote: “Here, six ecoterrorists have the City of San Francisco quaking in its boots, leading officials to stop a compost giveaway program that was making hundreds happy." Climate Change Connections: "Compost Security." Brown, Sally, BioCycle Magazine, March 2011.

2011 BioCycle 11th Annual Conference on "Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling"

In late 2011, BioCycle held its 11th Annual Conference on "Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling" in Middleton, Wisconsin. The Center for Media and Democracy attended the conference as an observer. Panels included "Codigestion At Wastewater Treatment Plants," on digesting toxic sludge along with food waste and "FOG" (fats, oils and grease) together in anaerobic digesters in order to increase energy output.

EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman has called anaerobic digestion, or using sludge to generate methanol or energy, the "most environmentally sound approach, but also the most expensive," to sludge disposal. However, anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, while it reduces the volume of the sludge and heats it to a temperature that kills many pathogens, still leaves behind what BKT and others in the industry call "digestate" or, more specifically in this case, "biosolids." These "Class A Biosolids" (so-called because the Environmental Protection Agency has stricter limits on pathogens and "vector attraction" for Class A than for Class B Biosolids, i.e. they must not attract disease-carrying insects or rodents, etc.) still contain other sludge contaminants, including Dioxins and Furans, Flame Retardants, Metals, Organochlorine Pesticides, 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (DBCP), Naphthalene, Triclosan, Nonylphenols, Phthalates, Nanosilver, and thousands more substances.

The EPA's 2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey (TNSSS) concluded that all sewage sludge, Class A, Class B or otherwise, contains toxic and hazardous materials, including large numbers of endocrine disruptors. The TNSSS results are described in two EPA reports published in 2009. EPA found that dozens of hazardous materials, not regulated and not required to be tested for, have been documented in each and every one of the sludge samples EPA took around the USA.[3] And yet Class A "Biosolids" may be applied to cropland with no restrictions and sold or given away to gardeners as "organic fertilizers," and hundreds of municipalities and companies do so.

Exhibitors and participants in the conference included (list in progress as of November 3, 2011)[4]:

BioCycle's Gene Logsdon

Gene Logsdon is a long-time reporter for BioCycle, a small-scale farmer and author who advocates strongly for using sewage sludge as fertilizer. In 2010 Chelsea Green published his book Holy Shit!.

Logsdon's boosterism for growing food in sewage sludge is described on page 121 of is the book Toxic Sludge Is Good For You written by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton in 1995. Stauber and Rampton write: "As horror stories like these [about sludge poisonings of people and animals] have begun to leak out, advocates of sludge farming are responding. 'There is no doubt, among sludge scientists in general, that their long and arduous efforts to convince society of the safety of sludge have been set back a few years,' wrote Gene Logsdon in BioCycle magazine. 'One good effect ... is that it should become easier ... to get funds to mount education programs.' Logsdon advocated 'funding a road show' starring scientist-advocates like Terry Logan 'and a star-studded supporting cast of waste-water treatment plant operators. Put another way, this is a job for a creative advertising agency. If the nuclear industry can convince the public that nuclear energy means clear air, then improving the image of sludge would be, pardon the pun, a piece of cake.' [5]

Promoting Sewage Sludge as "Organic Compost"

Sludge Compost Facilities is a 2010 report was created by BioCycle and the North East Biosolids & Residuals Association, NEBRA, to update the list of sewage sludge (aka biosolids) composting facilities around the United States. A total of 265 sludge compost facilities were found and are listed here.[6]

No Such Thing As "Certified Organic"

In a March 2010 BioCycle article, managing editor Dan Sullivan defends the leaching of agricultural chemicals into so-called "organic compost." Based on the controversy over findings of the pesticide bifenthrin in wheatgrass grown in compost, the article details how maintaining the current "certified organic" standards in the soil and crop industry in California is "impossible."[7]

The article features opinions by Chuck Benbrook of The Organic Center (TOC) and Rachel Oster of Recology--both interviewees explain that pesticides are an unavoidable risk in compost and that the USDA should take a "broader stance" on evaluating composts and soils.

Food Rights Network Fights Back Against 'Ecoterrorist' Smear

Leading organic gardening and food safety advocates who oppose growing food in sewage sludge are attending the national BioCycle magazine conference Tuesday, April 12, 2011 in San Diego to demand an apology and retraction from Sally Brown, a columnist and editorial board member of BioCycle magazine, and from Nora Goldstein, the executive editor, who are calling organic and safe food advocates "ecoterrorists."

Magazine Staff

Editorial Board

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Michael Virga, U.S. Composting Council, US Composting Council & BioCycle Magazine Form Publication Partnership, organizational press release, March 13, 2013.
  2. BioCycle Celebrates 50 Years, BioCycle April 2009, Vol. 50, No. 4, p. 42,
  3. Environmental Protection Agency, TNSSS: EPA-822-R-08-016 and EPA-822-R-08-018, January 2009
  4. BioCycle, Exhibitor Directory, publisher's website, accessed November 3, 2011
  5. [1] Click on this link and scroll down to a PDF containing this chapter of Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!
  6. NEBRA report: Sludge Compost Facilities, Accessed December, 2010.
  7. CERTIFIED ORGANIC COMPOST UNDER THE GUN IN CALIFORNIA, BioCycle Magazine, March 2010 BioCycle Article Accessed April 12, 2011.

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