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MOF&G Cover Spring 1999

  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 1999News – Spring 1999   
 News – Spring 1999 Minimize


Events
• Global Climate Change in Maine: The Risks and Opportunities
• School for Beekeepers
• 3rd Annual Wildgathering
• 5th Annual Herb FEST 99

Organic Issues
• Victory for Organic Meat Producers and Consumers
• Organic Agriculture Growing Fast

Food Issues
• “Diluted” EPA Market Basket Brochure
• Irradiation Labels Shrink

Pesticides
• Consumers Union Calls for Insecticide Ban
• Pesticide Sellers Have Inadequate Training
• Chemicals Leach from Pressure-Treated Lumber

Pests & Pest Control
• Asian Longhorned Beetle a Potential Threat
• Grants Target Weed Control
• Can Bug Zappers Spread Disease?
• Deterrent Urine – Cruel Collection?

Genetic Engineering
• MOFGA Pushing Harder Against Engineered Organisms
• Chefs Support Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food
• IFOAM Rejects Genetic Engineering
• Canada to Nix rBGH


Global Climate Change in Maine: The Risks and Opportunities

This important conference will take place on April 7-8, 1999, at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston, Maine. The cost of $70.00 per person until March 15, and $80.00 after that, includes meals and conference materials for the full two days. Brochures are available upon request from Pam Person, phone 469-6770, email phppwp@aol.com or Joan Saxe, Maine Chamber Energy and Environment Center, 775-1200, or horizons@juno.com

A panel dealing specifically with "Farms and Food Supply" is one of five concurrent panels dealing with the Potential Impacts from and Adaptations to Global Climate Change. Speakers on this panel are: Kirk Maasch from the University of Maine Quaternary Institute, Rich Kersbergen from Waldo County Cooperative Extension, Andrew Plantinga, University of Maine Department of Resource Economics and a representative from the Maine Grocers Association. This panel will be from 1:30-3:00 PM on Wednesday, April 7th. Each panel will allow time for questions and discussion with the audience.

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School for Beekeepers

A school for beginning and intermediate beekeepers will be held by the Tri-County Beekeepers Association. All-day classes will be held in the Prospect Community Building on three Saturdays: March 6, 13 and 20. Enrollment will be limited to 35 participants.

All requirements for the successful raising of vigorous and productive first-year colonies will be discussed and demonstrated. Equipment will be assembled in the classroom.

An experienced group of beekeepers will lead the school, including Anthony Jadczak, Maine State Apiarist; Rick Cooper, Maine’s only certified master beekeeper; and Robert Egan, commercial beekeeper. Jadczak will concentrate on bee diseases and pests, while Cooper will discuss management practices. Egan will talk on the merits of the various bee varieties suitable to Maine, and other practical issues concerning beekeeping.

The course fee will be $25 for individuals, including study and reference materials. The family fee will be $30. For further information, call Rene Dubois, 567-3890.

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3rd Annual Wildgathering

The third annual Wildgathering will be held on Saturday, May 22, 1999 at the Athens Fairgrounds in Athens, Maine from 9 am to 5 pm. Blessed Maine Herb Company of Athens, Maine sponsors this event. This is an all day celebration of the wild earth. There will be educational workshops happening all day as well as a marketplace of vendors selling seedlings, herb plants, trees, shrubs, herbal products, craft items and much more. Food will be available for pur- chase for those who don’t bring their own.

All proceeds from this event will be used for children’s educational projects and activities to teach the next generation how to create and do things to benefit our planet. For more information contact Gail Edwards at Blessed Maine Herb Company, PO Box 4074, Athens, Maine 04912.

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5th Annual Herb FEST 99

Whether you are just getting interested in herbs or have been growing herbs and making your own tinctures for years, Herb FEST will be the place to be on Saturday, June 5, 1999.

The fifth annual Herb FEST, which until now has been held in Farmington, is moving to MOFGA’s Common Ground site in Unity, in search of space to spread out. Ever since its beginning in the West Farmington Grange in 1995, Herb FEST has been expanding. That first year, we had 10 vendors, a few speakers and no idea how many people would come. We boldly advertised in national herb magazines as well as in the Maine Times and the local papers. And people came. The time was right. People came down from Dover-Foxcroft and up from Kennebunkport and converged on Farmington – not everyone’s regular destination.

The following year, Herb FEST moved to the local ski area, Titcomb Mountain. We rented tents to set up the booths, doubled the number of speakers, and more and more people came. As the festival grew, it became necessary to spread out the organizational work, and last year, the event was sponsored by six herbal businesses, Entwood Farm and Nursery (Burnham), Herbal News (Phillips), Hoof ‘n Paw Farm (New Sharon), Mainely Herbs (New Sharon), Mountain Mama of Maine (Anson) and Skyscraper Hill Organic Gardens (Brooks). We were also fortunate to have the help of many volunteers.

Our new location at the Com- mon Ground site will allow us to include more vendors, and we are going to establish herb gardens that will be used for teaching in the coming years. New to this year’s FEST will be a gardening component, with herbalists and gardeners giving workshops and answering gardening questions. Of course, attendees will also be able to take classes on subjects such as growing herbs, herbal cosmetics, herbs for animals, medicinal plants, and flower essences, and to go on herb walks. A big attraction last year was a panel discussion that included two of Maine’s best known herbalists, Deb Soule and Corinne Martin, on the subject of “Standardized Extracts versus Whole Plant Medicines.” The festival also includes activities for children.

Herb FEST is starting to be something of an institution. Last year, a woman told me that she had been coming since the first Herb FEST and that to her it meant that summer was here. For many herbalists it is a meeting point before they plunge into a busy season. Herb FEST is also becoming known as a resource for people who have medical problems but as yet have little knowledge of alternative healing. It is a chance for someone with a medical problem to perhaps hear a class on that particular problem, or if such is not offered, to talk to the different herbalists at their booths and ask for advice. People who know very little about herbs and do not know where to start come to the festival for their first class. To help those attendees, this year’s classes for beginners will be clearly labeled.

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Organic Issues

Victory for Organic Meat Producers and Consumers

Thanks to organic industry advocacy there’s been a change in United States Department of Agriculture policy – consumers will soon be able to buy meat, poultry and egg products with the certified organic label. The organic industry has been advocating for changing the USDA’s meat labeling policy for eight years. Until this policy change, certified organic meat products were the only category of certified organic products prohibited from including the word “organic” on the label. The new policy is effective immediately.

“This is a victory for the organic industry and for consumers,” said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the 900-member Organic Trade Association (OTA), the business associationrepresenting the organic industry. “George Siemon, chair of OTA’s Livestock Committee was instrumental in making this change happen. His leadership and persistence rallied meat producers around the country to advocate for this change in USDA policy.”

“In rendering this decision, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has recognized the enormous contribution of the fast-growing organic agriculture sector in helping family farmers survive and thrive,” said George Siemon, chair of OTA’s livestock committee. OTA estimates that the organic industry is growing 20 to 24 percent per year, with overall sales of about $4.2 billion.

Organic meat, poultry and egg products come from farms that have been inspected to verify that they meet rigorous standards, which mandate the use of organic feed, prohibit the use of antibiotics, and give animals access to outdoors, fresh air and sunlight. Certified organic producers must have comprehensive management plans that cover all aspects of production including not only growing and handling but also manure management. Organic agricultural production methods are selected based on criteria that meet all federal, state and local health regulations, work in harmony with the environment, build biological diversity, and foster healthy soil and growing conditions. Healthy soil and growing conditions in turn lead to healthier plants and animals that are better able to resist pests and disease without the use of toxic, persistent pesticides, antibiotics and parasiticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Source: The Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass.

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Organic Agriculture Growing Fast

Many of the presentations at the 12th International IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) Conference showed that in many parts of the world, organic farming enjoys annual growth rates in the range of 20% and is leaving its marginal existence behind, successfully establishing itself in mainstream society and markets. Proceedings of the conference, entitled Organic Agriculture – The Credible Solution for the 21st Century, are available for $28 plus tax and postage from IFOAM, Okozentrum Imsbach, D-66636 Tholey-Theley, Germany; fax: +49- 6853-30110; email: IFOAM@t-online.de. The IFOAM conference for 2002 will be held in British Columbia.

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Food Issues

“Diluted” EPA Market Basket Brochure

Released five months after a deadline set by Congress in 1996 under the Food Quality Protection Act, the final version of an EPA Market Basket Brochure omits references to organic food and finesses risk communication – to the dismay of pesticide-use proponents and opponents. The brochure is to be distributed nationally through grocery stores.

The EPA revised an earlier draft of the brochure after receiving pressure from the food industry. Among those revisions: the title, Pesticides and Food, has been changed from Pesticides on Food; a section suggesting that consumers concerned about pesticides should consider buying certified organic food now reads, your grocer may be able to provide you with information about the availability of food grown using fewer or no pesticides; another section on health risks says, studies show that some pesticides cause health problems at certain levels of exposure, but omits the following statement from the earlier version: Some pesticides have been shown to cause health problems such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer and other toxic effects in laboratory animals.

Consumers Union said that the brochure lacked fiber, calling it “a propaganda piece for the food industry.” The Grocery Manufacturers of America opposes the brochure because “it still promotes organic foods in a brochure that was supposed to be about pesticides.”

Source: “‘Diluted’ U.S. EPA Market Basket Brochure,” in Communicator, the quarterly publication of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control; Paul Gregory, editor; Jan. 8, 1999. This valuable publication is available free by contacting The Maine Board of Pesticides Control, 28 State House Station, Augusta ME 04333-0028; Tel. 287-2731; e- mail: afpgreg@state.me.us

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Irradiation Labels Shrink

Having trouble determining whether a food has been irradiated or not? That may be because the FDA ruled last summer that such labeling, which previously had to be prominent, could now be smaller – as small as the typeface used to list ingredients. Irradiation is approved in the United States for spices, fruits, vegetables, pork, poultry and red meat.

Source: Reuters, 8/20/98; Thanks to Judy Berk for sending this article to The MOF&G.

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Pesticides

Consumers Union Calls for Insecticide Ban

A Consumers Union report, highlighted In the November issue of Consumer Reports, calls for the EPA to phase out two classes of insecticides: high risk organophosphates and carbamates used on children’s foods. It also recommends a doubling of funding for research on pesticide alternatives. The report, “Worst First: High-Risk Insecticides, Children’s Foods, and Safer Alternatives,” reviews the 40 uses on nine fruit and vegetable crops that together account for a large portion of children’s dietary insecticide exposure and risk. “Our ‘Worst 40’ uses should be high-priority targets for EPA action under the Food Quality Protection Act’s ‘worst first’ mandate,” the report says. If the EPA eliminated the “Worst 40” insecticide-food combinations identified, the report estimates that the risks associated with the nine crops Would decrease by about 95 percent.

The report also concludes that “there are many viable alternatives growers can use to manage crop pests.” The alternatives listed include ‘ bio-based alternatives and natural control products, such as pheromone products used in mating disruption; and bio-IPM practices, such as crop rotation, soil fertility and irrigation management, building and maintaining populations of natural enemies of insects, and measures to block or disrupt reproduction. “The FQPA provides an opportunity and an incentive for growers to build on the success that many have already achieved, to share experiences with safer insect pest management systems, and to accelerate progress away from dependence on the higher-risk organophosphate and carbamate insecticides,” according to the report. “The sooner this transition is com- pleted, the better off farmers and chil- dren will both be.”

The report’s other recommendations include: the EPA should reduce or eliminate residues from all organophosphate and carbamate uses on key children’s foods; USDA and Congress should fund farmer education on safer alternatives to the “Worst 40” uses; EPA should expedite registration for safer alternatives; and USDA and Congress should double funding for research on IPM and safer alternatives within the CSREES IPM program, the Pest Management Alternatives Program, and area-wide IPM research in the Agricultural Research Service. “Worst First” is available on the Internet at www.consunion.org; a technical analysis is at www.ecologic-ipm.com

Source: Alternative Agriculture News, Dec. 1998.

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Pesticide Sellers Have Inadequate Training

According to a survey done in Illinois in 1998, only 34 percent of some 600 retail stores with garden departments trained their employees about pesticides; about half of the employees considered their training inadequate. Usually, store personnel or chemical company representatives gave the training; only 12 percent of the employees received training from Cooperative Extension or college classes. Many of the employees relied on the Ortho Problem Solver book to diagnose problems and recommend chemicals.

Source: “Basic Training,” by Greg and Pat Williams, In Plants & Gardens News, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Winter 1998; original reference: G.F. Czapar, M.P. Curry and JohnE. Lloyd, “Survey of Integrated Pest Management Training Needs among Retail Store Employees in Illinois,” J. of Soil & Water Conservation 52(1), First Quarter 1998, 31-33. (Soil & Water Conservation Soc., 7515 N.E. Ankeny Rd., Ankeny IA 50021)

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Chemicals Leach from Pressure-Treated Lumber

The older a deck of pressure-treated wood is, and the closer a soil is to that deck, the heavier the concentration of heavy metals in that soil will be. Those conclusions were reached by researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station after they measured concentrations of copper, chromium and arsenic in soil under and up to 15 feet away from the decks. Soil under the oldest decks was highest in metals, generally. Copper and chromium concentrated in the top 3 inches of soil under some decks, although the concentrations were well below federal and state guidelines. Concentrations of arsenic in the top 6 inches of soil under some decks, however, greatly exceeded government guidelines. Paints and stains reduced the leaching of these toxic elements.

Source: “Leaching of Heavy Metals from Pressure-Treated Lumber,” Hortldeas, April 1998; original reference: “Be Aware of Leaching from Pressure-Treated Lumber,” by John W. Bartok, Jr., Greenhouse Management & Production, Jan. 1998.

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Pests & Pest Control

Asian Longhorned Beetle a Potential Threat

New infestations of the Asian longhorned beetle were found in Chicago, Illinois, in August 1998. This beetle is a foreign pest that has now infested trees in Illinois and New York. The first sightings were in Brooklyn and Long Island during 1996; over 2,000 trees have been cut down in the infested areas of New York in an attempt to eradicate the beetle, and at least 300 trees have been destroyed in Chicago. The beetle has also been intercepted in warehouses by inspectors in 14 states.

The Asian longhorned beetle usually enters the United States in solid wood packing materials, such as pallets, crates and dunnage. All infestations are thought to have originated in China, although this beetle occurs in other Asian countries as well.

Based on its distribution in China, researchers believe that the beetle can survive in climates that exist from southern Canada to Virginia. No effective chemical or biological controls are known, although research is underway. Currently, infested wood is cut, chipped and burned to prevent spread of the pest.

The beetle kills living trees, sometimes in less than three years. Sugar maples are its preferred host, although it also feeds on other maple species, such as Norway maples, birch, poplar, horse chestnut, willow, ash, black locust, apple and more. Limbs weakened by the beetle are a risk in sugarbushes and in urban and suburban areas.

The adult beetles lay eggs directly beneath the bark. When they hatch, larvae feed there and then tunnel into the heartwood. Adult beetles emerge from June through November, making an exit hole that is a little smaller than a dime. After mating, the beetle lays more eggs and the cycle begins again.

Source: “Asian Longhorned Beetle: A Major Forest Threat,” Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. ofAg., Nov. 18, 1998; originally from Univ. of Vermont Entomology Dept.

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Grants Target Weed Control

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is interested in receiving applications for grants of up to $10,000 each (although proposals in the $5,000 to $7,000 range are encouraged). After reviewing the results of the 1997 National Organic Farmers’ Survey, the OFRF Board has a special interest in receiving research project proposals emphasizing the study of weed management strategies in organic production systems. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 15,1999; recipients will be notified by November 30. To receive a copy of OFRF’s “Procedures for Grant Applications,” contact OFRF at P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz CA 95061; email: research@ofrf.org; webpage: www.ofrf.org; or call 831-426-6606.

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Can Bug Zappers Spread Disease?

Electric bug zappers have been criticized because they kill beneficial as well as harmful insects. Can they also spread disease? According to Vermont Agriview, when common house flies get zapped, they explode, and millions of bacteria on the surface of the insects scatter into the air, as far as 6 feet. Because bacteria covering the legs and bodies of house flies come from human or animal waste, zappers may spread more diseases than they prevent. Vermont Agriview recommends keeping people and food at least 6 feet from zappers and keeping zappers away from air currents from fans, vents or open windows. Better yet, nix the zappers.

Source: “Unhealthy Bug Zappers,” Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. ofAg., Dec. 16, 1998.

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Deterrent Urine – Cruel Collection?

Some gardeners use bottled urine collected from foxes, raccoons or other animals to deter deer and other critters from their gardens – and jokingly wonder how the urine was collected. For PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), that collection is no joke. While investigating urine collection farms, PETA found that animals were kept in tiny, filthy cages with no bedding; the animals often had untreated sores and wounds – as well as symptoms of having gone “cage crazy.”

When PETA sent its information to Home Quarters and K Mart, which had been selling fox urine, these companies stopped selling the product. Never buy bottled urine for your garden, says PETA, and ask your local stores not to sell the product.

Source: “The Scent of Fear – PETA Investigators Uncover Cruel Ingredient in Gardening Product,” PETA’s Animal Times, Winter 1998. For more information, contact PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk VA 23510; Tel. 7S7-622-PETA; Fax 757-622-0457.

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Genetic Engineering

MOFGA Pushing Harder Against Engineered Organisms

MOFGA has taken two steps recently to oppose GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). We have joined organic farming groups across the country in a lawsuit against EPA led by Greenpeace and IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. The lawsuit argues that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to properly investigate the impact of genetically engineered crops that contain the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium or its toxin, such as New Leaf potatoes from Monsanto and several corn varieties, and that their approval should be rescinded.

In addition, the MOFGA Board and certification committee have tightened restrictions on the use of GMOs by farmers who want to be certified as organic. We already prohibited the use of living GMOs on organic farms. Now we are moving to prohibit their use on land owned by the same farmer. We are doing this for two reasons. The simpler includes the potential for cross-contamination through pollen (as in the case of corn) or the potential for development of resistant pests (in the case of the Bt-potatoes and corn). The more complex reason is based on the desire of the Board and Certification Committee to create a clear boundary between organic food production and the use of genetically modified organisms. If no system is in place to label conventionally produced foods that do not include genetically modified ingredients, organic may be the only label that can provide that assurance.

Along with these two actions, the Board has encouraged the submission of a bill to the Maine Legislature to require labeling of genetically engineered foods in Maine. That bill, printed as LD 723, will be heard by the Maine Legislature’s Agriculture Committee about the time you receive this newspaper. Contact your Legislator to express support.

– Russ Libby

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Chefs Support Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food

The 1,000-member Chefs Collaborative 2000, an organization of professional chefs founded in 1993 to support organic farming and sustainable agriculture, is joining the fight for labeling of genetically engineered food, according to The New York Times (December 9, 1998). Earlier in 1998, a coalition of consumer groups, chefs, and scientists filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration, demanding labeling and safety testing. Now the chefs’ coalition is involved, with its first move being a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to petition the Food and Drug Administration. “Many chefs instinctively mistrust the genetic engineering of food,” wrote author Marian Burros. “Other chefs … worry about unintended consequences” that cannot be anticipated now. “Many Europeans are furious about the technology, but most Americans have only the vaguest idea of what it is. Both industry and government continue to assure consumers that genetic engineering...is not only safe but will also increase the food supply and reduce the need for pesticides,” according to the article.

Source: Alternative Agriculture News, Jan. 1998

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IFOAM Rejects Genetic Engineering

Delegates from more than 60 countries representing the world’s leading organic farming organizations at the 12th Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) at Mar del Plata, Argentina, issued the following statement: “IFOAM is calling for governments and regulatory agencies throughout the world to immediately ban the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and food production since it involves:

• Unacceptable threats to human health;

• Negative and irreversible environmental impacts;

• Release of organisms of an unrecallable nature;

• Removal of the right of choice, both for farmers and consumers;

• Violation of farmers’ fundamental property rights and endangerment of their economic independence;

• Practices which are incompatible with the principles of sustainable agriculture as defined by IFOAM.”

The international organization is committed to promoting organic agriculture as a sound and sustainable alternative to current intensive farming practices. It is urging its member organizations throughout the world to campaign on a national and local level to help achieve this objective.

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Canada to Nix rBGH

After going through a nine-year review process in Canada, Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (Posilac), will not be approved there. This decision resulted largely from a 90-day feeding study on rats, who received high doses of the genetically engineered hormone. The study, done by Monsanto, showed that 20 to 30 percent of the rats absorbed the hormone into their bloodstream; that some male rats developed cysts in the thyroid; and that higher levels of the hormone were found in the prostate. These findings differed from those of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which had said that the same data showed no evidence of hormone absorption.

The six-member panel of animal health experts appointed by the Canadian Veterinary Medicine Association at the request of the Canadian government said that animal welfare was a concern with use of the hormone: It could increase the risk of clinical mastitis (udder infection) by 25 percent in treated animals; increase lameness by about 50 percent; and reduce the cows’ lifespan.

The review process in Canada raised questions of corporate ethics as six scientists from Health Canada alleged that they were pressed to approve rBGH even though they thought it may not be safe; after going public with their concerns – and being reprimanded for going public by the Canadian government – the scientists’ allegations were dismissed by a labor board. One of the scientists said that Monsanto had even tried to bribe the government scientists with research money if they approved rBGH; Monsanto denied this allegation and said that the money it offered was for overseeing studies.

In light of the analysis of the Monsanto rat study in Canada, the drug is being challenged anew in the United States. The Washington D.C.-based Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed with the FDA in December to withdraw or suspend use of the drug and charged that the FDA has ignored evidence of its potential health hazards. The FDA has 180 days from the time of that filing to investigate the drug and either reject the claim or pull rBGH from the market. Andy Kimbrell, direct of CFS, expects the action will go to federal court, since “the FDA throughout has been very recalcitrant on this drug to come clean.” Kimbrell, who was the attorney chal- lenging rBGH in Wisconsin, said that Monsanto’s assurance that rBGH could not be absorbed was the crux of its approval there and nationally and convinced the U.S. government to approve rBGH without long-term toxicity studies.

In the meantime, Vermont Senators Jim Jeffords (R) and Patrick Leahy (D) have urged Health Secretary Donna Shalala to review the federal approval of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. Not waiting for a review, the school board at Central School in Newbury, Vermont, has voted to make its school the first in the state to explicitly ban milk products that come from cows treated with the recombinant hormone, citing the absence of studies of long-term effects of consuming those products.

University of Wisconsin-Madison data from July 1997 show that 12 percent of the state’s dairy farmers use rBGH, compared with 6.5 percent in 1995; that it is used by 50 percent of farms with more than 200 cows and 4 percent of farms with 50-cow herds. Assistant professor of agricultural economics at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Brad Narham says that the recombinant hormone increases the milk supply by only 1 to 2 percent. In California and Idaho, where herds are larger, the drug is used more widely.

In June 1997, the United Nations Food Standards Committee voted to continue a ban on the use of rBGH and to delay review of the drug for two years. The drug is also banned in Europe.

Monsanto is challenging Canada’s stand on recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone.

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