Rodale Institute

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

Rodale Institute is a non-profit organization that publishes information promoting organic gardening and farming, but also promotes and demonstrates the making of sewage sludge "compost" in an online video produced with the US Composting Council and partners R. Alexander Associates, Inc. and Filtrexx International, and "uploaded by Filtrexx on Apr 5, 2011."

"Rodale Institute was founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale to study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people. He moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania in the late 1930's where he was able to realize his keen personal interest in farming.

"He learned about organic food-growing concepts being promoted by Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard and theorized that to preserve and improve our health we must restore and protect the natural health of the soil. Developing and demonstrating practical methods of rebuilding natural soil fertility became J.I. Rodale's primary goal when World War II's sudden shortage of nitrogen fertilizer – as it was diverted to making munitions - exposed the natural nutrient poverty of the nation's soil. In 1947, J.I. founded the Soil and Health Foundation, forerunner to the Rodale Institute." [1]

Shumei International Connection

"To expand the global reach of Shumei’s agricultural efforts, we formed a partnership with The Rodale Institute of Pennsylvania. Joint programs include educational projects directed to farmers and youth that explain the principles and benefits of Natural Agriculture. We now have a Natural Agriculture Garden at the Rodale Institute." [1]

Rodale Institute's "Using Compost" Video Promotes Sewage Sludge "Compost" - Using Compost for Landscape and Nursery Production: A production of the US Composting Council and the Rodale Institute, with partners R. Alexander Associates, Inc. and Filtrexx International

The video titled "Using Compost for Landscape and Nursery Production" is a "production of the US Composting Council and the Rodale Institute, with partners R. Alexander Associates, Inc. and Filtrexx International." Funding apparently came from the United States Department of Agriculture (via USDA CSREES Grant 91-COOP-1-6159). Also involved is the University of Hawaii. It promotes making "compost" with sewage sludge, which in the video is called by the PR euphemism "biosolids."

The online hosts are Ron Alexander of R. Alexander Associates, Inc., described as a "leading compost marketer," and Rod Tyler, Filtrexx International CEO, with the misleading title, "America's compost gardener." Both promote sewage sludge compost, as of course does the Us Composting Council.

USDA chief soil scientist Rufus Chaney is a long-standing advocate of putting sewage sludge on food-growing land. The closing credits report that the "compost" used in the video was "supplied by Lehigh County Office of Solid Waste Management Composting Facility and the Rodale Institute Experimental Farm."

Additional funds for this sludge industry PR video came from Houston-based Browning Ferris Industries, one of the nation's largest waste management companies. BFI companies are trademarked under the enormous waste management umbrella company, Allied Waste Industries.

Rodale Articles Showing Opposition to Growing Food in Sewage Sludge

Rodale Institute's production of a video promoting "compost" making with sewage sludge, in partnership with sludge industry characters and organizations, flies in the face of some articles on their website that clearly show that some writers at Rodale understand that growing food in sewage sludge is inappropriate. For example, see these articles below:

  • "Take action: Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate triclosan in consumer and household products and ban its non-medical use. And tell the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee to keep sewage sludge off our farmland." [2]
  • "Scientists have found that the long-term application of biosolids to crop lands could lead to dangerously high dioxin levels in food. As dioxins move through the food chain, they bioaccumulate and could be harmful to human health." [3]
  • "The problem is, not all compost is created equally, and some manufacturers even use human sewage sludge (which means, yes, human waste, though the industry terms it biosolids). This sludge can be laced with virtually anything that homeowners, hospitals, or industrial plants put down their sinks—endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals and shampoo chemicals, industrial solvents, and heavy metals. And who wants to grow vegetables in that?" [4]
  • "This obstruction to truly organic gardening occurs because sludge companies are allowed to take the sludge, bag it, and sell it as an organic amendment in garden centers and big box stores, unbeknownst to many organic gardeners. This is a real problem, considering the sludge is chockfull of pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, industrial waste, and gender-bending, hormone-disrupting chemicals—all of the nonsense organic-minded souls are trying to avoid in the first place. This stuff is even making its way into school garden programs, according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog organization that aims to keep organic truly organic."[5]

Connections with Sewage Sluge Promoter "BioCycle" Magazine

The Rodale Institute has shared employees with BioCycle magazine, originally published by the Rodale Press, a part of the Rodale Institute. Dan Sullivan, managing editor for BioCycle, worked at the Rodale Institute for five years and Organic Gardening magazine for 3 1/2 years. BioCycle is a major promoter of growing food in sewage sludge. Nora Goldstein is the current executive editor of the magazine, begun by her father Jerome Goldstein, who worked for Rodale as editor of Organic Gardening magazine.

Mission Statement

According to its website, Rodale is "dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For over sixty-years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and ... educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet."

Board of Directors

Maria Rodale, co-chair: Rodale is the great-granddaughter of J.I. Rodale. Besides her Rodale Institute board chairmanship, she is a board member of the New York Restoration Project and a board member of the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. (Rodale won the 2007 Americans for the United Nations Population Fund Award for her work to promote the "health and dignity of women." She also received The National Audubon Society’s “Rachel Carson Award” for “Working to Ensure a Healthy Environment for Future Generations” in 2004.)

Paul A. McGinley, co-chair

Anthony Rodale, chair emeritus

Ardath H. Rodale, co-chair emeritus in memoriam

Christiane Baker

Drew Becher

George W. Bird

Lorna Donaldson

Mark Kintzel, recording secretary

Kim Larson

Ethne Clarke

Helen Piszek Nelson

Louise Schorn Smith, CPA

Arran Stephens


Mark Smallwood, Executive Director

Jeff Moyer, Director of Farm Operations

Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist

Maya Rodale, Director of Communications and Outreach

Megan Kintzer, Director of Development

Elaine Macbeth, Director of Finance and HR

Kim Schroeder, Director of Facilities

Contact Information

  • Rodale Institute
  • 611 Siegfriedale Road
  • Kutztown, PA 19530-9320 USA
  • Ph: 610-683-1400/1443/1381/6009
  • Fax: 610-683-8548
  • Email: Online contact form

Contact Information

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. About, Rodale Institute, accessed December 12, 2011.
  2. Keep triclosan out of our food and sewage sludge off our farmland, RI Website Accessed April 12, 2011.]
  3. Biosolids Could Be Raising Dioxin Levels, RI Website Accessed April 12, 2011]
  4. Leah Zerbe, How to Buy Compost, Rodale Institute, June 16th, 2010, Accessed May 9, 2011.
  5. Leah Zerbe, 'Organic' Compost Laced With Human Sewage Sludge—Don't Buy It!, Rodale Institute, May 9, 2011, Accessed May 9, 2011.

External resources

External articles

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