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MOF&G Cover Winter 1998

 



  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 1998-1999News – Winter 1998   
 News & Events – Winter 1998-1999 Minimize


Herb FEST on the Move
Sunflowers for Snow- and Windbreaks
Gardening for Community Service in Rockland
Plant a Row for the Hungry
Portland Public Market Opens
Maine’s 11th Annual Beef Conference
Conference to Delve Into New Ways With Paper
Organic Cotton Directory Available
Two Grant Programs for Northeast Producers
Farmers’ Cooperative to Save Seeds
Project Seeks Sustainable Farmers’ Stories
Herbicide and Insecticide Harm Frogs
Pesticide Companies Using Humans in Lab Studies
NGOs Want Informed Consent on Pesticides
Organic Dairy Producers Increase Profits
Congress to USDA: Organic Research Required

Herb FEST on the Move

Herb FEST, the oldest annual Maine festival devoted entirely to herbs, is moving from Titcomb Mountain in Farmington to the MOFGA fairgrounds in Unity. Herb FEST ’99 will be held on Saturday, June 5, 1999, at the site of the Common Ground Fair. The new location will allow the festival to include a few more vendors and especially to establish herb gardens that will be used for teaching.

Herb FEST is 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).

Anyone who is interested in being a vendor or in helping with the organization of the next Herb FEST should contact Theresa Martin, Mainely Herbs, PO Box 101, Farmington, ME 04938, (207) 778-9210, or e-mail kdunham@somtel.com.

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Sunflowers for Snow- and Windbreaks

David Nielsen of the USDA Central Great Plains Research Station at Akron, Colorado, says that sunflower stalks make great windbreaks and snow fencing on wheat farms in the Plains. Sunflower heads are harvested, leaving stalks that are about 30-inches tall.

Source: HortIdeas, Sept. 1998, “Sunflowers for Snow Fencing and Windbreaks,” by Greg and Pat Williams, 750 Black Lick Rd., Gravel Switch KY 40328. Original reference: “Sunflowers Can Be a Combination Snow Fence, Wind Barrier and Cash Crop...” Quarterly Report of Selected Research Projects, April 1-June 30, 1998, 3. (ARS information, 6303 Ivy Lane, 4th Floor, Greenbelt, MD 20770.)

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Gardening for Community Service in Rockland

By Carol Howe

In 1998, the gardening kids of Rockland’s Community Service Project grew and donated 654-1/2 pounds of vegetables to soup kitchens, food pantries and the Salvation Army. That’s not counting such incidentals as herbs, giant pumpkins and the green tomatoes they made into salsa. They were taking part in Plant A Row for the Hungry, a venture promoted by the Garden Writers Association of America.

Only a prospect a few years ago when the Community Service Project office was in downtown Rockland, the garden began in 1997. By that time, CSP had found a house with a little land, next to Rockland District High School.

The garden started as a small plot; in 1998, it expanded – with permission – onto school property. Now, its various beds have yielded herbs, tomatoes, salad makings, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and root crops.

Along one boundary a big-headed row of sunflowers stood. A compost bin sits nearby. (Potatoes sprouted in that bin, so volunteers delayed turning the compost until the bonus harvest was ready.) A place for birds to snack is part of the garden.

“We’re still learning!” says CSP Program Director Shannon Thompson, whose infectious enthusiasn sparked the project. Different groups of boys and girls have helped with the gardening part of the many-sided organization: volunters 14 and younger, kids court-ordered to perform community service, people referred by school guidance counselors and social workers and – during the academic
year – students from alternative schools.

“We have a terrific mix of kids!” boasts Thompson. They’re learning basic and useful skills: growing, weeding, harvesting, recording vegetable weights, using the computer. Those who have volunteered for 30hours go on reward trips: overnight camping in Acadia, kayaking in Jackman, traveling to Boston.

Staff members Colleen Boyle, Shannon Post, Lisa Padulo and carpenter-in-residence Bill Adams are among those who have helped the young ones produce this fruitful garden. (Adams and some of the kids built cold frames and a compost bin.) Volunteers include Bill Paradis, proprietor of Friendship Organics, an herb farm.

The Rockport garden centers Plants Unlimited and Green Thumb have donated to the project, and manure, compost and hay have also been donated. The latest gift included a greenhouse from a local donor and raised bed frames and cold frames for the winter crops CSP hopes to raise in the new greenhouse. In October, seedlings were already sprouting for that latest project, intending to follow Eliot Coleman’s lead in four-season gardening.

When asked whether pesticides had been used on the CSP garden, Shannon Thompson looked horrified. “Oh, no!” she answered. “We’re growing all these vegetables and herbs organically!”

And now, Community Service Projects of Rockland, Maine, is a new member of MOFGA.

Rockland’s Community Service Project

The Mission of Community Service Project is to help young people commit to themslves and their community through a program of service-learning and volunteering, particularly for the elderly. That’s the mission statement of this unique group of older girls and boys, which was one of President Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light.”

The group has built wheelchair ramps; weatherized and repaired homes for older folks on fixed incomes; cleaned beaches and helped at special community events; and volunteered at local soup kitchens.

For the past two years, CSP people have grown vegetables in a new garden behind CSP’s center – next to Rockland District High School – at 420 Broadway.

– Carol Howe

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Plant a Row for the Hungry

“What can we do to reduce the problem of hunger?” That’s what the Garden Writers Association of America asked some years ago.

Borrowing from an Alaskan scheme begun by then-GWAA President Jeff Lowenfels of Anchorage (who had asked his readers to “plant a row for Beans,” the local soup kitchen), Garden Writers have been asking gardeners to Plant a Row for the Hungry.

It’s easy. When you put in your vegetable garden, simply plant a row for the hungry. Record the weight of the crops that you donate to a soup kitchen, food pantry, the Salvation Army or people known to need good food.

I will gladly coordinate such efforts. Send me the weight of that donated food to add to the country’s tally. “A Million by the Millenium” is the GWAA goal.

To borrow a “Plant a Row for the Hungry” video, featuring Jeff Lowenfels and the Victory garden’s Jim Wilson, or for more information, write to Carol Howe, 60 Summer St., Rockland, 04841.

– Carol Howe

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Portland Public Market Opens

A new era in Portland’s rich food history began in October with the opening of the city’s new, year-round, fresh food hall. “The people of Maine can feel immensely proud of this new landmark building, which offers us Maine’s best foods fresh from the farmers and food producers who grow them,” said Owen Wells, president of August Corporation and Libra Foundation, at the opening of the market. Development of the building, which cost over $6 million, was funded by the generous contribution of the late philanthropist Elizabeth B. Noyce.

The Portland Public Market reestablishes the tradition of indoor public markets in Portland. From 1825 to 1882, a market hall stood at the center of town, at the site of what is now Monument Square, one-half block from the new Public Market. Since the turn of the century, an outdoor farmers’ market has operated continuously. The seasonal farmers’ market will remain at its current location at Monument Square, and additional farmers will be invited to set up on Preble Street, outside the Market building.

Inside the new market building, 22 locally owned businesses sell a wide range of fresh food products from Maine, including natural beef, free-range poultry, fresh and smoked seafood, produce, farm fresh milk, American bison, soups, fresh baked breads, pies and cheesecakes, fresh-squeezed juices, specialty bottled products, and flowers. Stone Soup Foods features not just hot and cold soups but stock, dried beans, grains and soup mixes to make your own soup–and culinary training and employment opportunities for clients of the Preble Street Resource Center. A year-round selection of imported food rounds out an enticing collection of products for shoppers’ convenience.

In addition to fresh products, several vendors prepare foods to eat on the premises or to take home. Fresh soups, rotisserie chicken, German meats, fresh bread, aged cheese and delicious desserts can be enjoyed in the seating area on the mezzanine or outside in the tree-shaded plaza. A seafood cafe features steamed mussels, crab cakes, lobster dishes and more.

The Market is a place to meet and eat–and to be entertained. Throughout the year, festivals and events will highlight local harvests and celebrate Maine’s bounty.

Daystalls at the market provide an opportunity for Maine farmers and food producers to sell their products within the new Public Market on a short-term basis. Products sold by daystall vendors are meant to complement the other fresh foods and flowers sold by the permanent Market tenants, thereby offering customers the best of what’s grown or made in Maine. Spaces are available on a daily basis, year-round.

The market is open year-round, seven days per week, although Monday is an optional day for vendors to open. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Public Market Garage offers free indoor parking via Maine’s first elevated skybridge.

Vendors who are interested in selling at the Market can call the management office at 207-228-2000. The Market director is Ted Spitzer of Market Ventures, Inc., of Portland –co-author, with Hilary Baum, of Public Markets and Community Revitalization (Urban Land Institute, 1995).

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Maine’s 11th Annual Beef Conference

The 11th Annual Beef Conference will be held on Saturday, December 5, 1998, at the Ramada Inn in Bangor–at a new facility and with an expanded program and trades show. The theme this year is “Quality Beef is Everyone’s Business;” it will feature two speakers. Dr. Connee Quinn of Elanco Animal Health will give presentations on the Beef Quality Assurance Program and Profitability Points for Cow Calf Producers. Quinn is also a cow-calf producer from Nebraska. John Crouch, Director of Performance Programs with the American Angus Association, will speak on EDPs – A Tool for Beef Quality and The Value of a Herd Bull. Crouch’s responsibilities with the American Angus Association include overseeing the Angus Herd Improvement Program and genetic evaluation program for the Angus Sire Evaluation.

The conference has been expanded this year to include a feedlot topics segment. Speaking on Ration Development with By-Product Feeds is Shane Murphy, Beef Specialist with Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture. Dr. Ib Hagsten, a veterinarian with Hoechst-Roussel, will talk about ways to improve rate of gain on the feedlot by using feed additives and implants. The daylong program will conclude with presentations from three local beef producers: Matt Randall, a commercial cow-calf operator from southern Maine; Duane Theriault, feedlot operator and potato farmer from Aroostook County; and Erick Jensen, Farm Manager for Wolf’s Neck Farm, retail marketer of natural beef.

The trades show will feature the traditional participants as well as computer software demonstrations.

For more information, contact Dee Potter, Extension Educator, at 800-287-1421 in state or 207-834-3905 out of state.

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Conference to Delve Into New Ways With Paper

The Second Annual Alternative Paper Conference is scheduled to take place at Bates College on March 14, 1999. It will expand on the highly successful 1998 conference, which explored the use of alternative fibers for paper. The Second conference will look especially at the needs of college students as they work for changes in paper use on their campuses.

This conference is an important opportunity to bring students, farmers, environmentalists, economists, paper producers and paper mill workers together to learn about and discuss papermaking and more environmentally and economically-friendly alternatives. Our paper choices have huge environmental and economic impacts and we must understand the issues and work together to develop and promote “new” choices.

For more information, or to help with the conference, contact Heather Burt, Compassion Unlimited–Respect­ing Everyone (C.U.R.E.), PO Box 100, Edgecomb ME 04556; Tel. 207-882-6405; e-mail: adburt@wiscasset.net.

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Organic Cotton Directory Available

The Organic Trade Association’s Fiber Council is offering the first-ever Organic Cotton Directory – a comprehensive guide for organic cotton companies and their products. More than 125 companies listed offer a wide range of organic cotton products for men, women, children and infants: apparel, sportswear, undergarments, sleepwear, personal hygiene items, tampons, diapers, bed and bath linens, sheets, toys and much more. Indexes ensure quick access to everyday organic cotton products and the companies that sell them.

The Directory contains listings and complete contact information for organic cotton growers, brokers, mills, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers providing a complete networking tool for the growing organic cotton industry. The Directory also includes hard-to-find information on the organic cotton market, world acreage and the environmental and human health problems associated with conventional cotton production.

New developments and strategies adopted by the apparel industry are stimulating a renewed demand for organic cotton, which is currently at an all-time high. Acreage estimates for the 1998 organic cotton crop are up by 11%, to more than 10,000 acres. Organic cotton poroduction on 10,000 acres represents a total reduction of approximately 3 million pounds of agrichemicals and pesticides typically applied to conventional cotton. Organic cotton farmers use such natural farming methods as crop rotations, cover crops and compost to build soil fertility, and beneficial insects to manage pests. By choosing organic cotton, consumers can make a difference in how cotton is grown in the United States.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the business association representing the organic industry in the United States and Canada. Its 750 members include growers, processors, shippers, retailers, certification organizations and others involved in the business of producing and selling organic products. The Organic Fiber Council (OFC) was formed in 1997 to address topics of interest to all sectors within the organic fiber industry. As a council of the Organic Trade Association, OFC is made up of organic cotton farmers, consumer organizations, manufacturers, mills, wholesalers and retailers involved in the organic fiber industry.

Costs and ordering information: Non-OTA members – $15, plus $3 shipping and handling (Mass. residents add .75 sales tax); OTA members – $10, plus $3 shipping and handling (Mass. residents add .50 sales tax); Phone orders – Tel. (413) 774-7511; Fax (413) 774-6432; e-mail ofc@igc.org.

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Two Grant Programs for Northeast Producers

Applications are now available for the Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program 1999 farmer grants.

Northeast SARE now offers two kinds of grants to producer-initiated and managed projects that will advance knowledge about alternative production and marketing practices.

“These grants provide a wonderful opportunity for farmers interested in evaluating new ideas,” says Northeast SARE Program Coordinator Fred Magdoff. “Many farmers and growers have had an idea but didn’t have the time or the resources to fully test it. Here’s a program which helps farmers to try something new that may end up significantly helping their farms.”

Through the seven-year-old Farmer/ Grower Grant Program, SARE helps producers conduct farm-based experiments to answer their own production and marketing questions. Farmer/Grower Grant proposals may address any food, non-food or forest crop production or marketing issues. Project activities may include small research trials, educational activities and demonstrations.

Through its two-year-old SEED (Special Evaluation, Education and Demonstration) initiative, Northeast SARE will provide grants to producers willing to farm-test selected, alternative practices. Previous SARE-supported research has shown that these practices improve farm profitability, reduce pesticide use, protect soil, and/or enhance quality of life.

The goal of both programs is to develop and refine systems and practices that promote stewardship of natural resources, prevent agricultural pollution and improve farm profitability.

Northeast SARE will award up to $150,000 through its producer grant programs. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to farmers in the 12-state region. In the past, grants have ranged from $300 to about $8,000.

Reviewers will give preference to proposals that clearly define local sustainable agriculture problems or issues and propose innovative solutions. Projects must be led by one producer or more, must include a professional technical advisor (an extension agent, for example), and must outline a plan for sharing gained information with others in the community.

Any producer within the Northeast is eligible to apply; however proposals based at research or educational institutions are not eligible for farmer grants. Proposals from those institutions are eligible for funding through SARE’s two other grant programs. (For more information on those programs contact the SARE office at 802-656-0471.)

The Northeast region includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington D.C.

All farmer grant applications must be postmarked by December 11, 1998. Decisions will be announced in March 1999.

To obtain a grant application, visit the SARE website at http://www.uvm. edu/~nesare/, call 802-656-0471 or write Northeast SARE at 10 Hills Building, University of Vermont, Burlington Vermont, 05405-0082.

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Farmers’ Cooperative to Save Seeds

The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGP) is a collaborative effort to return farmers and gardeners to the practice of characterizing and saving seed. With support from the Fund for Rural America and administered by Oregon Tilth, the FCGP explores the feasibility of a cooperative marketing structure that rewards producers for maintaining our nation’s most vital resource base–the seed.

Seeds are the source of agricultural enterprise. Hybrid corn, wheat and rice improvements ushered in a new era of agriculture throughout the world. Unfortunately, farmers have become increasingly removed from the genetic resources upon which they depend. Consolidation of the seed industry, the rush to patent varieties, and recent technological developments all result in a narrowing of the genetic base on which agriculture stands.

Gardeners have been affected, too. Over two-thirds of the nearly 5,000 nonhybrid vegetables varieties offered in 1984 seed catalogs were dropped by 1994. Less than 10% of the seed companies in the world were responsible for over 63% of the varieties offered in 1997. As seed companies are lost, traditional and heirloom varieties of crops are lost – along with thousands of years of breeding effort.

National and international efforts to save seed and other genetic resources are hampered by insufficient funding and by political and economic barriers to information sharing. Private efforts often lack the guidelines for maintaining populations and reproducing true seed.

Of the world’s estimated two million plants, the U.S. genetic repository, the National Plant Germplasm System, has approximately 450,000 varieties of plants in storage – many at risk. The NPGS lacks sufficient diversity for almost half of the major crops to reduce crop vulnerability. Much of the collection is insufficiently characterized.

Patenting plants threatens our continued access to agricultural resources, as it obliges farmers to pay royalties on every generation of seed; as breeders no longer have free access to genetic resources to develop new varieties; and as consumers end up paying higher prices for food and medicine. To “publish” a variety bars the patenting of that plant. Describing or characterizing a variety and publishing that description in a catalog or on the internet goes a long way toward locking that variety into the public domain.

The FCGP is a three-year project to assemble a farmer-owned seed cooperative. Participants in the effort will learn how to work with the U.S. repository of seeds (the National Plant Germplasm System) and other seed resources; how to characterize or describe varieties; how to grow true seeds; and how to develop plant varieties for preservation and sale.

From the windowbox growing condominium dweller to the production farmer, the FCGP is open to everyone. Gardeners who want to help characterize plants can participate; growers can reproduce seeds and make them available for sale in a cooperative marketing effort. The FCGP has three principles:

1. Growers characterize varieties according to guidelines, including photographs, growth descriptions, susceptibility and resistance to pests; 2. Seeds are grown according to guidelines for seed regeneration that are acceptable to the National Plant Germplasm System and other international seed preservation efforts; 3. Member growers work with at least one other member to ensure that the terms of the cooperative are met.

In addition to facilitating trialing, development and distribution of seed varieties, the FCGP will familiarize growers with seed resources, the art of seed growing and the business of cooperative development.

For more information, contact the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project, Oregon Tilth Research and Education, 30848 Maple Dr., Junction City OR 97448; Tel. 540-998-3069; e-mail jhaap@tilth.org; the contact person is J.J. Haapala.

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Project Seeks Sustainable Farmers’ Stories

Know any good sustainable farmers or ranchers? If so, “1000 Ways to Sustain U.S. Agriculture,” a pilot project funded by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program, wants to hear from you.

SARE and project partners hope to paint a clearer picture of sustainable agriculture by profiling successful farmers and ranchers. While the case studies will describe production and marketing practices, they also will detail how these practices improve profitability, the environment, rural communities and the families’ quality of life.

“Sustainable agriculture defies simple definition,” says Dr. John Ikerd, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri-Columbia and coordinator of the project. “The best way to communicate the meaning of sustainable agriculture is through real-life stories of people who are developing these systems in their own fields.

“To be sustainable, these operations must be profitable,” adds Ikerd, who is also coordinator of the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program at the University of Missouri. “But these producers aren’t maximizing profits at the expense of family, community and the environment.” Craig Cramer, former editor of The New Farm magazine and author of the Sustainable Farming Connection web site, will research and write the profiles.

To recommend a farmer or rancher, to comment on the project, or for more information, contact Cramer (cdcramer@clarityconnect.com or 607-753-8925) or visit the project’s web site (http://1000ways.baka.com).

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Herbicide and Insecticide Harm Frogs

Two sets of studies suggest that an herbicide and an insecticide may be partly responsible for the decline in frog populations and for the increased observations of deformities in frogs.

In September, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) released results of a preliminary test that suggested that sulfonylurea herbicides – used on corn, along railway beds and by utilities in Vermont – caused deformed limbs to develop when frogs were exposed to high rates and, in lower concentrations, slowed the rate at which frogs reabsorb tails as they develop from tadpoles. The latter suggests that the herbicides may also affect thyroid activity – and consequently the multiple developmental stages controlled by thyroid hormones. This could indicate that the herbicide may harm humans, as well. These tests reflected laboratory and not field conditions. VPIRG wants the state or federal government to take the studies further.

Meanwhile, Michael Berrill of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, an his colleagues exposed eggs and tadpoles of the wood frog, green frog and American toad to the organochlorine compound endosulfan, simulating conditions that may occur when endosulfan drifts from farms into drainage ditches, ponds and other wet areas where these animals breed.

The eggs hatched normally but highest rates of endosulfan depressed the frogs’ “avoidance behavior” temporarily, possibly increasing their vulnerability to predation. Tadpoles either died (30 to 100% death rates, depending on the pesticide concentration) or exhibited hyperactivity–whiplike convulsions followed by temporary paralysis. Growth was also slowed.

Endosulfan is commonly used against aphids and other insects, and mites, on many fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, oilseed and cotton. Berrill and his coworkers say that its hazard to frogs and toads “is sufficiently great to warrant its replacement by less toxic alternatives wherever possible.”

Sources: “Interest Group Requests Study of Herbicides,” Bangor Daily News, Sept. 4, 1998; “Common Pesticide Clobbers Amphibians,” Science News, Sept. 5, 1998.

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Pesticide Companies Using Humans in Lab Studies

According to a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), entitled, “The English Patients: Human Experiments and Pesticide Policy,” results from four experiments testing pesticides on humans have been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1992, and EPA regulators believe that more are underway in the United Kingdom. Human subjects are being used increasingly to get around U.S. regulations that require that a safety factor be added when the toxicity of pesticides is tested on animals other than humans. Chemical companies are using the tests to claim that U.S. limits for some pesticide residues in foods are too high.

For decades, pesticide manufacturers have been feeding their products to rats, rabbits, mice and guinea pigs in thousands of controlled laboratory studies, all designed to satisfy government regulatory requirements for pest control chemicals. Studies on lab animals are still routinely conducted for pesticides, but in recent years, in a number of studies that are raising ethical and scientific questions inside and outside government, the products are being tested on humans–primarily in England and Scotland, according to “The English Patients.”

Last year, Amvac Chemical Corporation, a California pesticide company, hired a lab in England to conduct three related feeding trials using people to test the toxicity of dichlorvos, a common ingredient in pet collars and pest strips. In one, volunteers drank the neurotoxic insecticide when it was mixed with corn oil. In a 1992 study in Scotland commissioned by Rhone-Poulenc, the French chemical giant, volunteer subjects were paid to ingest the extremely toxic insecticide aldicarb mixed with orange juice. People in both tests suffered neurotoxic effects.

Neither U.S. nor U.K. pesticide guidelines require studies on humans. Officials at EPA informally discourage such studies on ethical and scientific grounds, refusing even to review study methods beforehand. In fact, EPA has no policies or oversight system in place to ensure that humans involved in such experiments are protected. According to EWG, however, the agency is nonetheless accepting human experimental studies submitted by pesticide companies, several of which have been used in at least two recent cases to weaken EPA regulatory decisions.

The report states that by substituting people for lab animals, pesticide companies have, in effect, been able to increase the amounts of pesticide that can be used legally on crops or detected on foods, in water or in air. More studies are underway in the United Kingdom, according to EPA scientists, although they do not know how many, where they are being conducted, or for what pesticides. The EWG strongly opposes experiments that deliberately expose humans to pesticides or other environmental toxins in order to determine “safe” or “acceptable” levels of pollution for people. It is asking EPA to conduct a comprehensive study on the use of human subjects in past and recent environmental research, modeled after the landmark 1995 Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Once the study is completed, EWG says, EPA should issue policy and guidelines for public comment on the use of humans in environmental research. The rules must provide for thorough monitoring, EWG says, including consideration of special ethical considerations that distinguish research on humans with toxic contaminants from research for drugs and medicines.

The EWG also recommends an immediate moratorium on human experimentation of the type conducted for dichlorvos, aldicarb and perhaps other pesticides for purposes of pesticide regulation. The group also asks EPA to suspend any pesticide approvals if the agency is unable to affirm that the studies were conducted according to U.S. ethical standards.

“The English Patients” is available from EWG for $5 plus $3 for postage and handling. The report is also available at www.ewg.org.

Sources: Press release from the Pesticide Action Network of North America, 8/14/98; Science News, “Human pesticide experimentation,” Aug. 22, 1998.

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NGOs Want Informed Consent on Pesticides

On September 10, 1998, ministers and senior officials from approximately 100 countries signed the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. The Convention must be ratified by 50 governments before it takes effect. A coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) negotiated and welcomed the agreement and called for its speedy implementation. The coalition included Consumers International (UK), International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF), Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment, Pesticides Action Network (PAN): Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America Regional Centers, and the Pesticides Trust (UK).

The purpose of the binding Prior Informed Consent (PIC) agreement is to provide governments with information about certain hazardous chemicals and allow them to decide whether imports of the chemicals should continue. To be included on the list, a pesticide must be banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons in at least two countries in different regions. Initially the agreement will include 22 pesticides and five industrial chemicals already covered by the voluntary PIC procedure, with the possibility of more being added.

Barbara Dinham of the Pesticides Trust, part of the PAN network, said, “The need is urgent. There is pressure on global agriculture to increase production, and developing countries frequently provide a market for older, cheaper and hazardous pesticides. This Convention will alert governments to health and environmental concerns and help them stop unwanted imports.”

The coalition welcomed the agreement to include “severely hazardous pesticide formulations” in the Convention. This will cover pesticides that cause either health or environmental problems under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition. In these cases, just one notification that a pesticide will be banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons will be enough to alert attention and call on the Secretariat to assist in collecting information needed to determine whether it should be put on the PIC list.

Concerns still exist, however. To be included as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation, the agreement requires that information must be compiled on specific incidents in developing countries, the adverse effects, and the way in which the formulation was used. Experience of NGOs confirms that such detailed evidence is extremely difficult to compile. Incidents occur far from medical facilities and regulatory authorities, and many farmers are unaware of what pesticides they are using, since pesticides are often sold in unmarked sachets.

PIC is jointly operated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Plant Protection Division and U.N. Environment Programme through its International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Geneva. Pesticides banned or severely restricted are: 2,4,5-T, aldrin, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, dieldrin, dinoseb and dinoseb salts, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), fluoroacetamide, HCH (mixed isomers), heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, mercury compounds used in agriculture, pentachlorophenol. Severely hazardous pesticide formulations are: monocroptophos, methamiodophos, phosphamidon, methyl parathion and parathion.

Source: Pesticide Action Network North America press release, 49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102; 415-981-1771.

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Organic Dairy Producers Increase Profits

Vermont organic dairies boosted their profitability and more farms are joining their ranks, thanks in part to a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)-supported study answering farmers’ questions about producing milk organically. Market demand–in 1997, Vermont’s Organic Cow dairy paid $18 per hundredweight of milk, nearly $6 more than conventionally produced milk–has sparked producer interest in organic production. The project features case studies of eight organic and transitioning farms, comparing such diverse factors as economics, milk quality and herd health in a whole-farm system approach. Dairy producers who have adopted some project recommendations–such as using management-intensive grazing, feeding quality forages and replacing commercial fertilizers with green manure–have seen profitability soar. At one farm, profits climbed 40% over the three years of the project as the farmers improved management and reduced expenses. At another organic operation, the cost of producing milk dropped by $5,000 over the three years. A third farm increased gross income from $125,000 to $165,000, cutting its debt-to-cow ratio in half. Because the project emphasizes outreach, it assisted many farmers beyond the study group.

Source: SARE 1998 Project Highlights, available from Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405-0082; Tel. 802-656-0471; email nesare@zoo.uvm.edu

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Congress to USDA: Organic Research Required

President Clinton signed the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reauthorization Act of 1997 last June. The bill’s inclusion of the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative marks an important milestone in federal policy.

“This language marks the first time that Congress has specifically directed the USDA to award funding for research and extension in the field of organic agriculture,” said Mark Lipson, Policy Program Director for the Organic Farming Research Foundation. “For 50 years organic farming research has been practically taboo,” Lipson added. “Now it has been recognized as a legitimate part of federal agricultural policy.”

The impetus for the Organic Farming Initiative came from the October, 1997 release of the report, Searching for the “O-Word,” published by OFRF. The study showed that the USDA devotes less than one-tenth of one percent of its budget to organic farming systems. Only 34 research projects were found that explicitly studied organic farming, out of 30,000 projects in the USDA’s Current Research Information System (CRIS) database.

“Our original intention was to document the absence of organic research as a way of stimulating dialogue within the research community. We hoped that USDA wouldn’t need an act of Congress to add organic farming to their research portfolio,” said Bob Scowcroft., OFRF’s Executive Director. “When the report was circulated by the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, and several other Washington-based sustainable agriculture groups, it quickly generated bipartisan support for an amendment to the Research Reauthorization bill. It’s another great example of one person and one report making a difference.”

The language for the Organic Initiative was introduced by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Monterey, CA).“With the inspiration of the organic community and OFRF’s policy analysis, this authorization marks a new beginning,” stated Farr. “The full potential for organic agriculture is just starting to be realized.”

Copies of the report, Searching for the “O-Word” are available from the Organic Farming Research Foundation for a suggested donation of $15. For more information on OFRF’s Policy Program in particular or the research and education program in general, please contact: OFRF, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061 or visit the web page at www.ofrf.org.

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