Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

USDA “Organic” Standards Lambasted
New Exhibits at Shaker Museum
Bicycle Trekkers to Compost Organic Wastes
Blight-Resistant American Chestnuts for Maine?
Belding’s Exhibit for MOFGA Wins Prestigious Award
United Plant Savers Replant in Hawaii
Botanist Says Shrink Your Lawn
Alternatives to Factory Farms for Hogs
Dairy Families – and Others – at Risk for Osteoporosis
IPM Conference Highlights Barriers, Future Directions
Organic Farming Research Foundation Grant Applications
Biotech Activists Oppose the “Terminator Technology”
European Greens Hail Successful Gene Tech Conference


USDA “Organic” Standards Lambasted

As of April 30, some 150,000 people had swamped the U.S. Department of Agriculture with messages about its proposed organic standards – and those comments were overwhelmingly negative. On the following day, Washington Post reporter Rick Weiss reported that an administration official said that Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman decided that genetically engineered and irradiated food, and crops fertilized with sewage sludge, should not be allowed to be labeled as “organic.”

These were the “big three” obvious, blatant variations from what U.S. consumers consider “organic.” However, many more issues existed in the proposed standards. MOFGA and other large organizations submitted detailed comments on these others, which included excess use of antibiotics and use of nonorganic feed in livestock, excess confinement of livestock, and many more points. Even dozens of members of Congress signed letters criticizing the proposal.

Genetic engineering giant Monsanto supported delaying the inclusion of genetically engineered foods on the national list of approved organic products – possibly to avoid a permanent ban. Weiss quoted Monsanto spokesman Philip Angell: “We are in the process of developing extensive data showing the sustainable agriculture benefits and the other benefits of some biotech crops … that are in keeping with the concept of organic.”

Glickman reportedly hopes to get a final rule passed by the end of the year. If he retains the authority of the USDA to add products to a national list of approved organic foods, a lawsuit will likely follow.

Source: Washington Post, May 1, 1998, p. A02, article by Rick Weiss


New Exhibits at Shaker Museum

The Shaker Museum opens for its 1998 season on May 25th with a new exhibit. “The Whole Sacredly Kept: A Decade of the Shaker Library in Its New Home” will become part of the Introductory Tour. Visitors will see through the use of many items from the Library collections how the Shakers celebrate Christmas. On July 1st, “The Fruitage Will Never Fail: The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Orchards” opens and tells the ongoing story of the 200-year-old orchards at Shaker Village. Tours, workshops, lectures and crafts demonstrations are part of the 1998 season, as well. A complete special events calendar is available by calling (207) 926-4597 or e-mail:

The Shaker Museum is located in the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Route 26, New Gloucester, Maine. Museum hours are 10-4:30, Monday through Saturday (closed Sundays), Memorial Day – Columbus Day. Web site:


Bicycle Trekkers to Compost Organic Wastes, Thanks to MOFGA Volunteers

Trek Across Maine, Maine’s premier bicycling event, will remember the late MOFGA member Andy Wynn during this year’s trek as several MOFGA members offer to compost trekkers’ banana peels, apple cores, and other organic wastes.

Trek Across Maine is a three-day (June 19-21, 1998), challenging, 180-mile bicycle ride that goes from Sunday River Ski Resort to the Univ. of Maine at Farmington on the first day, on to Colby College in Waterville on the second day, and finishes at the Samoset Resort in Rockport on the third day. It is a fundraiser organized by the American Lung Association of Maine. Last year, over 1400 cyclists participated and raised more than $750,000 for the programs of the Lung Association. Each trekker raises a minimum of $350 for the event and pays a $50 application fee.

Cyclists have ranged from 5 to 70 years old, and there are no age requirements to participate, although those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and no baby buggies are allowed. Trekkers receive a Trek T-shirt; breakfast and dinner at UMF and Colby and lunch at the Samoset finish; transportation of a duffel bag, sleeping bag and tent, medical support, rest stops and snacks, showers, special evening programs, a weekend to remember – and, most of all, a way to promote lung health in Maine.

This year, MOFGA members Amy Leblanc, Rosey Guest, Elise Glinski, Denis Culley and Warren Balgooyen have offered to compost organic waste generated by the Trek as part of the Lung Association’s Wynn Project. Compostables will be left in containers at rest stops along the way, and MOFGA volunteers will check and empty them daily.

The Wynn Project was conceived as a memorial to one of the Lung Association’s most dedicated volunteers, Andy Wynn, who died unexpectedly in February, 1997, while cross country skiing. The Lung Association remembers him for his passionate concern for the environment and human health, his love of the outdoors, and his unwavering sense of service both to his friends and to the larger community. He was involved in Trek Across Maine for many years, both as a rider and volunteer. He also helped the Lung Association in educational and policy initiatives designed to achieve clean air. Through the Wynn Project, the Lung Association will ensure that the Trek will be done with minimal environmental impact.

If you are interested in working on the Wynn Project, please contact Norm Anderson at the Lung Association, 1-800-499-5864 X109 or at For more information about the Trek, contact the Lung Association at 122 State St., Augusta ME 04330-5689, 622-6349 or 800-499-LUNG or


Blight-Resistant American Chestnuts for Maine?

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), begun 16 years ago, is now past the midpoint of its six-generation chestnut breeding program; truly blight-resistant American Chestnut trees will be ready for mass propagation and reforestation in about eight years. Until now, however, most of the breeding has been done in Virginia, with Virginia chestnut trees. To have blight-resistant American chestnut trees for Maine, TACF needs a breeding program in Maine, and the way to do this is by creating a Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation.

The national office of TACF is eager to include Maine and other states in its breeding program (Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut already have active chapters) so that all regions of the original range will have blight-resistant chestnuts that are native and, therefore, most likely to thrive. In order to form a Maine chapter, Maine must form and run a provisional chapter, achieving a total membership of 100, for two years.

In anticipation of bringing this program to Maine, Welles Thurber of Belfast and Eric Evans of Camden harvested 800 chestnuts last October in Knox County, about half of them open-pollinated and half from controlled pollinations made by Thurber with advanced-breeding-line (blight-resistant) pollen from Virginia. This year Thurber and Evans want to find all of Maine’s remaining chestnut trees and hand-pollinate the best specimens in all regions of the state.

The two, along with Neal Lash and General C.O. Totman, also have a development plan for their work for the next year. The plan includes educational activities, preserving the remaining gene pool of the American chestnut in Maine, and a breeding program. Possible sites for breeding nurseries include the Maine State Arboretum in Augusta, Merryspring Horticultural Park in Camden, Medomak Valley High School, MOFGA’s permanent site in Unity, as well as private sites.

For more information about joining the Maine chapter of TACF, contact Eric Evans, RR 2 Box 4672, Camden ME 04843.


Belding’s Exhibit for MOFGA Wins Prestigious Award

“In the Heart of a Seed,” a design conceived and planted for MOFGA by MOFGA volunteer Sue Belding at the Portland Flower Show, held true to the spirit of the late Lyle Littlefield – and so won the Lyle Littlefield Award for Underutilized and Unusual Plants awarded by the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association. The garden was “excellent” and embodied Littlefield's philosophy of using interesting plants, says Rick Churchill, who teaches landscaping at Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute and was a friend of Littlefield.

Littlefield, from Monroe, worked at the University of Maine from the late ’40s until the late ’80s, where he “spent much of his career bringing [mostly woody] plants to Maine that hadn't been used here before,” focusing especially on crabapples, says Churchill. The University was his life, and he worked there 12 hours a day, seven days a week, teaching students and testing plants for hardiness and suitability to Maine's climates. He was known as the “Dean” of horticulture because his breadth of knowledge encompassed everything from soils to woody plants. His dedication and knowledge were so great, in fact, that “it took two people to replace him,” says Churchill. The Lyle Littlefield Trial Gardens were named for him. Churchill considers the Littlefield Award “one of the most prestigious” given at the show because Littlefield “was extremely important to our industry.”

Edith Ellis, Co-Director of the Flower Show, says she “was impressed by the diversity of plant material and unusual, underused annuals” in Belding’s design. Judges appreciated the same qualities, as well as a sense of simplicity and open space; a serene, elegant, inviting atmosphere; the soothing, subtle use of color; the “wonderful child appeal” and “whimsical bee theme.”

Belding and her family own and operate Old Stage Farm in Lovell, where Sue specializes in raising and arranging flowers, especially for wedding bouquets. The farm was featured in the March-May 1997 issue of The MOF&G, and Sue’s design for the Garden Show was depicted in the March-May 1998 issue.


United Plant Savers Replant in Hawaii

The United Plant Savers Board of Directors held its annual board meeting on The Big Island of Hawaii in Puakho on January 14 and 15. United Plant Savers is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect native medicinal plants and their natural habitat while ensuring an abundant supply of medicinal herbs for the future. One UPS goal is to encourage the growth of wild stands of medicinal plants through land stewardship and sustainable harvesting while developing guidelines for environmentally responsible cultivation of wild medicinal plants that are at risk or already endangered. During our meetings we voted on goals for various committees. A list of these committees and projects will appear in the next UPS newsletter.

On Jan. 17, UPS sponsored a Native Medicinal Plant Conservation and Cultivation conference at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens in Captain Cook, south of Puakho. Work­shop presenters included employees from the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, local farmers and herbalists, and board members from the mainland. One hundred and seventy people attended the conference and some good networking occurred.

On January 19, UPS sponsored a replanting by 20 volunteers of native Hawaiian plants northeast of Puakho. The project was organized by Ed Johnston and Jerry Konanui, both growers of kava, and Richard Liebman, the UPS executive director. Over 100 plants were donated by Alia Point Awa Nursery, the Hawaiian Growers Association and The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens.

We UPS board members loaded ourselves into a variety of 4-wheel-drive vehicles and headed to the town of Kohala, where we met with our friends and their trucks filled with plants and followed them to the planting site. Supporters of UPS allowed us to plant on an isolated piece of their land. We entered a field and traveled 20 minutes uphill along bumpy hummocks and passed through several gates, which had to be unlocked. Once we parked, having 20 pairs of helping hands made hauling plants and tools down the hill into a lovely river gorge easy.

For the UPS board members from the mainland, this planting was an interesting experience, as most of the plants were unfamiliar to us. Many of the herbalists.were excited to be planting Awa, known as kava (Piper methysticum) to western herbalists. We had experienced a traditional Awa ceremony, facilitated by a large group of native Hawaiians, the night after we arrived. The ceremony included each of us praying aloud before we drank awa from a special bowl. We also planted three varieties of ginger, a few types of bananas and Noni (Morinda citrifolia), which is becoming popular in the medicinal herb trade.

One of the highlights of the project for some of us was jumping into a large pool of water that had a beautiful waterfall cascading into it and carefully climbing on mossy rocks to sit behind the waterfall. The coolness of the water spraying on us and the sweet fragrances filling the air made for one of those moments I will always remember.

On a more sober note, one-third of the flora of the Hawaiian islands is either extinct or in danger of becoming so. Hawaii has been referred to as the extinction and endangerment capital of the United States. Native plants and native birds are challenged here, where extinction is beginning to occur faster than we know on the U.S. mainland and continues to occur in numerous rainforests around the world. Very few native birds are left in Hawaii. The various ecosystems found on this string of islands is fragile and has been impacted greatly by humans. The Hawaiian islands are one of the most isolated places on earth – over 2000 miles separate them from the nearest continent. Any introduction of an alien species of plant, animal or bird disrupts the natural ecosystem. For example, we visited a bird sanctuary at 6000 feet which is doing wonderful work replanting three specific native trees on which a few different native birds depend. Some of the reasons the native birds have become endangered is because of the bird malaria introduced onto the islands when large ships dumped their barrels of water upon arriving. These barrels harbored mosquito larvae that carried a strain of malaria that kills birds. Rats also came with the ships and began to kill bird eggs. A small weasel-like mammal called a mongoose was brought from India to kill the rats. Well, the mongoose is active during the day and rats at night, so they rarely interact with each other. Mongoose also eat bird eggs. For anyone interested in reading more about endangered plants, I recommend Restoring Diversity: Strategies for Reintroduction of Endangered Plants, edited by Donald Falk, Constance Millar and Margaret Olwell (Island Press, 1996).

I slept outside at the edge of the ocean for the first week I was in Puakho and awoke each morning to watch many Humpback whales breaching. One morning I saw the white color under a whale’s tail reflected in the early morning sun as the whale disappeared into the ocean. Another morning all the board members went sailing and saw many humpbacks. We even heard them singing because the captain of the boat put a hydrophone into the water. I cried when I heard them singing. The humpbacks migrate during January and February to the Big Island to give birth and mate. I learned soon after returning home that the Navy began doing low frequency active sonar (LFAS) testing to see if it has any negative impact on whales. For more information, call or write State Representative David Tarnas (chair of Aquatic Resources) at (808) 586-8510 or email: reptarnas@ If you are concerned that your tax dollars may be spent injuring whales and other aquatic life, you could also write to your congresspeople in Washington for more info on LFAS and whales.

If you wish to become a member of United Plant Savers and receive the newsletter, write UPS, P.O. Box 420, East Barre, VT 05649. Website:

– Deb Soule


Botanist Says Shrink Your Lawn

Most gardeners want to grow lawns, but a botanist at Connecticut College wants to shrink them – and his ‘SALT’ method should not only do the job, but will reduce noise, air and water pollution.

“America’s lawn-care fetish has become passé – a bourgeois obsession that’s increasingly regarded as gilding the lily. The wave of the future is the naturalistic, ecology route – using native shrubs and plantings that are both attractive and environmentally sound,” says Connecticut College Prof. of Botany William A. Niering, a conservationist with the Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies at the College.

Niering has launched SALT, or Smaller American Lawns Today, a national movement to reverse the “lawn mania” in America by “restoring home and industrial grounds to more harmonious, productive, ecologically-sound, naturalistic landscapes.”

A Garden Club of America medalist, Niering says his method of lawn care cuts down substantially on noise, air and water pollution, while keeping America beautiful. He advocates smaller lawns planted with more native species (instead of the maintenance-demanding grass), meadows, orchards, vegetable gardens, perennials or annuals, trees and shrubs. Also, “remember to set aside an area for a solar clothes dryer (or clothesline) to help save energy,” he adds.

Neiring notes that 67 million pounds of pesticides and about 3 million tons of fertilizer are used annually on lawns in the United States. He also estimates that one hour of power mowing emits the same amount of air pollution as a car that has been driven 350 miles, not to mention the noise pollution.


Alternatives to Factory Farms for Hogs

Maine almost found itself in the dubious company of North Carolina, Iowa and other states when factory-farmed hog operations were proposed for Aroostook County this winter. Fortunately the state legislature put a one-year moratorium on these types of operations when it passed a bill regulating nutrient runoff from farms.

Factory farms “result in severe physiological as well as behavioral afflictions in animals,” according to The Humane Farming Association (HFA). Illnesses such as anemia, influenza, intestinal diseases, mastitis, metritis, orthostasis, pneumonia and scours – and more – can flare up under conditions of intensive confinement and are countered by administering continuous doses of antibiotics and other drugs to the animals. “Approximately 50% of all antibiotics manufactured in the United States,” says HFA, “are poured directly into animal feeds… The squandering of these important drugs in livestock production is wreaking havoc for physicians in the treatment of human illness” as organisms become resistant to penicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotics.

Among the stresses that impair animals’ immune systems are overcrowding and, at the opposite extreme, isolation in individual cages where animals are unable to groom, stretch their legs or even turn around – or interact with others of their species. “If a private citizen confined a dog or cat in a manner common in factory farms,” says HFA, that person “could be charged with cruelty to animals.”

Is there an alternative to factory farms that benefits both the animal and the farmer’s bottom line? Apparently there is. “Innovative Minnesota farmers are finding efficient and economically viable alternatives to the intensive confinement, mega-hog operations that are taking ownership and decision making out of the hands of small and medium-sized farmers in the Midwest,” according to the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems newsletter. “Among their methods are pasture farrowing and modest-cost hoop houses that appear to work well even in a difficult winter climate.

“Dwight Ault of Austin is farrowing in porta units on pasture and also in a remodeled barn. After a trip to Sweden, he learned about using collapsible pens about 7' by 8' in size in a barn with straw bedding. Rollers on the front keep pigs in. Dwight uses 6" PVC pipe set in wooden troughs to make self feeders for sows, and probably would use 8" PVC next time. He has no guard rails and no supplemental heat in the pens, and takes them down when the pigs are about 10 days old. He is currently considering remodeling a 20-year-old slatted confinement barn to create a deep straw bedded finishing house.

“Osage farmer Steve Weis is raising 150 head of feeders in each of several hoop houses that are 30' by 72' in size. His operation has evolved from a more conventional stall gestation barn (1988) and a modern finish shed (1993) to the current interest in hoop houses built in 1996. Steve’s three hoop houses are rated at 200 head per house; he prefers to stock them at 150 head, giving over 14 square feet per animal. He thinks that 12 square feet per pig is the minimum space needed. Steve starts with oat straw, and later uses corn stalks for building up the bedding. He has heard that some farmers bring in compost from past cleanings and cover with straw for extra heat. Compared to more conventional hog houses, he says that in hoop houses, daily gain is slightly less, feed efficiency is slightly worse (0.2 pounds feed per pound of gain), overall health is better, and the bottom line is about the same. Steve is enthusiastic about the low initial cost of $65 per head of capacity compared to $200 per head for the conventional finishing barn and the flexibility of the new hoop house system.”

Sources: “The Truth About Factory Farming,” The Humane Farming Assoc., PO Box 3577, San Rafael CA 94912; Tel. 415-771-CALF; Fax 415-485-0106; “Hoop Houses and Pasture Farrowing for Swine,” by Bob Hendrickson and Charles Francis, Center for Sustainable Agriculture Systems Newsletter, March-April 1998, Univ. of Nebraska- Lincoln, PO Box 830949, Lincoln NE 68583-0949. For more information, contact the Land Stewardship Project, 2200 4th St., White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (612-653-0618); Practical Farmers of Iowa, 2035 190th St., Boone, IA 50036-7423. You can also purchase a 16-page bulletin entitled “Hoop House Structures for Grow-Finish Swine,” (AED 41), written by Univ. of Nebraska and Iowa State Univ. scientists. Send $4 to Midwest Plan Service, 122 Davidson Hall, ISU, Ames, IA 50011.


Dairy Families – and Others – at Risk for Osteoporosis

While the calcium in milk can help prevent osteoporosis, the body needs vitamin D to help absorb that calcium, and vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods. Cod liver oil, sardines, salmon and egg yolks are good sources but are not popular choices for every day. For this reason, vitamin D is added to milk sold in stores. Vitamin D is made on the skin when it is exposed to sunlight, too, but Maine is too far north for this to happen from November to April. Because Maine dairy families live too far north to make vitamin D and they often drink their own milk before it has been supplemented with vitamin D, they need to ensure that they get enough of this vitamin in other ways.

Source: Maine Dairy Industry Association Newsletter, Nov. 1997. Thanks to Sue Sergeant for sending this clipping to The MOF&G. (Actually, more than dairy farmers may be as risk for vitamin D deficiency, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found the deficiency even among young and healthy adults and among almost half of those taking a multiple vitamin.)


IPM Conference Highlights Barriers, Future Directions

Farmers, researchers and extension specialists gathered on March 3 at the University of Maine for a healthy brainstorming session on the past, present and future of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Maine. Organized by the Agricultural Council of Maine in cooperation with the University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture, the Cooperative Extension, and the Board of Pesticides Control, the conference grew in part out of discussions around MOFGA’s pesticide reduction bill last legislative session. The agricultural community had perceived a need to gather all involved in IPM to assess accomplishments to date and to map potential future directions for further reductions in reliance on pesticides.

The one-day conference offered little opportunity to develop a consensus, either statewide or within commodity groups, about future directions or to prioritize concerns. Nor was much perspective offered on activities in other states that may have advanced well beyond Maine. An effort to have Dean Zulegar, Executive Director of the progressive Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, come as a keynote speaker fell through. The Wisconsin growers’ group last year announced a major partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to finance the development of quantitative pesticide reduction goals, a program to accomplish those goals, and an IPM labeling program. Wisconsin has also developed the WISDOM computer program to help potato farmers apply IPM methods to the specific conditions of their farms, resulting in significant pesticide reductions. Conference participants occasionally noted the development in Massachusetts of an IPM Council, and an IPM labeling and certification program, but no one from Massachusetts was present to offer insights into these developments.

Within the confines of its structure, however, the conference helped highlight some widely perceived barriers to further progress for IPM in Maine. The conference was well attended, with approximately half of the 111 attendees being growers. The program began with summaries for most of the major commodity groups of accomplishments from the 1970s, when IPM began to take hold in Maine, to date, then broke into commodity working groups for discussions, returning to report at the end of the day.

Perhaps the most frequently cited barrier to further IPM development was the need for more trained IPM scouts to advise farmers on day-by-day IPM strategies. Other concerns were lack of a working definition of IPM to guide farmers and educate the public, lack of recognition for farmers practicing IPM, and general public hostility toward farming practices. Farmers expressed widespread concern about loss of funds for both University research and extension services, and about a need to move toward privatization of IPM consulting services. Many questions arose about the practicality of making those services profitable, however, given the short growing season, great travel distances, small size of individual commodities, substantial start-up costs in training, and frequent loss of skilled workers to other states. Suggestions to address this problem included training University of Maine faculty and grad students or high school science teachers for summer jobs in IPM scouting and advising. The concept of training farmers to do their own scouting was generally dismissed: farmers simply don’t have the time. Participants also suggested that the Board of Pesticides Control spend more time on IPM training and promotion and less on regulation.

The working groups for structural pest control, apples, blueberries and cranberries, and turf expressed some interest in investigating IPM certification and labeling to enhance recognition for farmers practicing IPM. Concerns about this included increased divisiveness among farmers, the difficulty in defining standards for recognition, and confusion about the significance of the label. Ford Stevenson, reporting for the small fruit and vegetable growers, suggested that “if marketing IPM suggests we’re using less chemicals, that may not be true.” Stevenson suggested that the future for IPM lay in genetic engineering, and the BPC’s denial of registration for genetically engineered corn last year was “like opposing the gasoline engine.”

The blueberry and cranberry growers, the most well attended working group, expressed keen concern about public criticism of their pesticide use practices. As summarized by Dave Yarborough, the group felt the biggest IPM barrier was “lack of understanding about what it takes to grow a crop, that people aren’t involved in recreational spraying.” Blueberry grower Travis Drake commented, “Our residues aren’t that bad. The most dangerous thing we have is the uninformed people.” Cranberry grower Dean Bradshaw suggested that once “the dust settles on the Food Quality Protection Act,” some residues were going to be established as safe. But convincing the public of that was another matter: “We have the public running away from the idea of any residues … It’s going to be real bedlam. It’s a question of whose job it is to educate.” Bradshaw expressed frustration about a government that put “thumbscrew pressure” to induce farmers to develop cranberry operations, but wasn’t doing enough to educate the public about the safety of pesticides.

The potato farmers expressed general satisfaction with the level of IPM implementation for insect and weed control. “I don’t know any potato farmer who doesn’t do scouting,” commented BPC inspector Roger Beaulieu. Aside from Eleanor Groden’s summary of the findings of the University of Maine’s Maine Potato Ecosystem Project in her opening remarks, however, no discussion ensued of further steps to implement those findings in the field. (The project’s research plots in Aroostook County have accomplished 26% reductions in pesticide use over current Cooperative Extension IPM recommended levels, without any reduction in yields.) Participants generally agreed, however, that IPM had fallen along the wayside in the battle against late blight. The greatest barrier for potato farmers to taking chances with IPM was the risk of devastating crop loss. For control of late blight, farmers recognize no alternative but heavy calendar spraying of fungicides. (Without heavy increases in fungicide sales in Maine since 1991, the state would have seen an overall reduction in pesticide sales for agriculture). MOFGA’s Russell Libby noted in the potato working group that organic grower Jim Gerritsen has used a manure tea foliar spray as his primary blight control for the last few years, with excellent success. While no conventional farmers in the session appeared inspired to adopt the approach, University of Maine researcher Eleanor Groden noted that compost teas produce antibiotics, which “could be a very productive alternative [for plant disease control] in the future … it fits the criteria we’re looking for.”

The conference might be a first step in establishing a serious action plan for further research and expansion of IPM in Maine, following the lead of such states as Wisconsin and Massachusetts. However, no imminent plans for followup appeared to be emerging. “We might have the resources to repeat this conference every two or three years,” commented Agricultural Council of Maine member Dave Bell. The University of Maine will publish proceedings of the conference, including papers for most major commodity groups summarizing IPM accomplishments over the years, current research and future research needs. People interested in receiving the conference report should contact Gary Anderson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, 5741 Libby Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5741.

– Sharon Tisher


Organic Farming Research Foundation Grant Applications

OFRF funds research into organic farming methods, dissemination of research results to organic farmers and to growers interested in making -the transition to organic production systems, and education of the general public about organic farming issues. Projects should involve farmers in both design and execution and take place on working organic farms whenever possible and appropriate.

We encourage modest proposals of $3,000 to $5,000; most project awards will be well under $10,000. Matching funds from other sources and/or in-kind contributions from cooperators are encouraged but not required.

Your application should begin with a short (1 to 2 paragraph) summary of your proposed project, and then continue by addressing, in order, each of the 10 points outlined below. The successful proposal will provide a clear rationale for the project, showing that there is. a significant need for the research or educational project proposed. It is important that the objectives for your project be clear and well-structured. Throughout the application, demonstrate why your project is necessary and what, specifically, you hope to accomplish. In terms of funding, OFRF grants can only be used for expenses directly relating to your original research or education project; general overhead and operational costs may not be included in your budget proposal. You may include an appendix with any additional documents you feel are necessary. Normally, OFRF will retain 10% of grant funding until completion of the project and submission of a final report by the grantee.

Application: In your project summary, please address the following points in order, and number them in your proposal:

I. List the name(s) and address(es) of all the researchers and collaborators involved in the project.

2. What is the problem that you are addressing, and.why is it important? Feel free to include background information that will help demonstrate the significance of the project.

3. What are. the project objectives and what, specifically, do you hope to accomplish?

4. What steps have you taken to determine that the project you’re planning has not already been done or solved? What literature search(es) have you done, and what other researchers or farmers have you consulted? What did you find out?

5. What is your methodology for this project? Include details of the actual mechanics of your project, including treatments, materials, measurements, etc. In addition, include a description of any controls that may be necessary for your experimental design.

6. How have you involved farmers (or other users of the results) in the choice of the problem and in the planning and execution of this project?

7. What is your plan for delivering the information from the project to farmers or other appropriate users? Each project MUST have a plan for dissemination of information, e.g., field day, publication, video, etc. If you develop a publication or video, describe how it will be distributed.

8. What are your qualifications to do this work? Include the qualifications of any researchers or growers that you are collaborating with.

9. How long will the project take? Provide a timeline or calendar of important milestones.

10. How much money do you need from OFRF, and how will it be spent? Are there other sources of support as well? Your budget should detail labor, materials, travel, etc., with justification for each.

OFRF generally will provide funding for: labor and other expenses for recording, analyzing, documenting and disseminating results; rental of equipment necessary to the project.

Ordinarily, OFRF does not provide funding for: faculty salaries, labor for farming or other expenses that primarily benefit the farm; permanent equipment.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will OFRF pay institutional overhead or indirect expenses; all expenses must be directly related to the project.

Be sure to supply the name, address and telephone number for the principal investigator for the project.

Send eight copies of your proposal (please do not fax copies) to: Grants Program, Organic Farming Research Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA 95061.

If you have additional questions, write or call (408) 426-6606.

Review: Proposals will be reviewed by the members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. We reserve the right to seek outside technical consultation as necessary.

Deadlines and notification dates: Proposals are considered twice a year. For the next granting cycle proposals must be received by July 15, 1998 and applicants will be notified by Nov. 30, 1998.


Biotech Activists Oppose the “Terminator Technology”

The twelve thousand-year-old practice of farm families saving their best seed from one year’s harvest for planting the next season may be coming to an end. On March 3rd, an American cotton seed company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they had received a patent on a technique that genetically disables a seed’s capacity to germinate when planted again. US Patent No. 5,723,765, granted to Delta & Pine Land Co., doesn’t cover just the firm’s cotton and soybean seed business but potentially all cultivated crops, according to RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International).

Under a research agreement with the USDA, the company has the exclusive right to license (or not) the new technology to others. While only cotton and tobacco seeds have been shown to respond to the new technique, the company plans to have what RAFI’s Research Director Hope Shand has dubbed “Terminator Technology” ready for a much wider range of crops shortly after the year 2000.

According to USDA spokesman Willard Phelps, the primary targets for the Terminator are “Second and Third World” markets. Priority crops include rice, wheat, sorghum and soybeans – crops largely ignored by agribusiness breeders because they aren’t readily hybridized. By and large, seed companies have shunned these crops because the returns don’t match those for hybrid crops like maize and many vegetables. With the patent announcement, the world’s two most critical food crops – rice and wheat, staple foods for three-quarters of the world’s poor – potentially enter the realm of private monopoly.

The patent has taken plant breeders by storm. The technique – if it works as advertised – has profound implications for agriculture. But the news has also created division. Some of those contacted by RAFI see benefits to the new technology. “For the first time, private companies will be encouraged to invest in the world’s most vital food crops. We can look forward to a new flow of investment into crops whose yields have stagnated or even declined in the Nineties. Now such poor people’s crops as rice and wheat will get the research support they so desperately need,” one crop economist advised. The patent’s defenders acknowledge that the Terminator Technology will mean a hefty hike in seed costs as farmers who now buy seed only when they change varieties are forced to make annual purchases. But they defend hiking seed prices by saying farmers will opt for the “sterile” seeds only if they offer a big advantage. Otherwise, farmers will keep with the current publicly-bred varieties.

RAFI’s Hope Shand disagrees. “Don’t forget, the Terminator was developed by the public sector (USDA) together with the private sector. There will be enormous pressure on public breeders to adopt the technique in order to feed cash-starved government and university research department with corporate dollars.” Edward Hammond of RAFI concurs, “Biotech companies that are already patenting specific crop genes and traits will probably insist that other breeders licensing their germplasm use the Terminator to protect their monopoly. It won’t take long,” Hammond adds, “before farmers run out of choices. Either they pay for the Millennium Seed or they replant older varieties from abandoned breeding programs.”

“This is a patent that really turns on the greed gene,” says Camila Montecinos of the Chilean-based Center for Education and Technology, “It’s too profitable for companies to ignore. We will see pressure on national regulatory systems to marginalize saved-seed varieties and clear the way for the Terminator. One point four billion farm families are at risk.”

Aside from skyrocketing seed costs, Neth Daño of the Philippines-based civil society organization SEARICE sees a threat to the environment and to long term food security. “We work with farmers who may buy a commercial variety but its breeder wouldn’t recognize it five years later. Women select the best seeds every year and – over time – the rice molds itself to the farm’s own ecosystem. Women also cross the commercial variety with other rice strains to breed their own locally-adapted seeds. The Terminator could put an end to all this and increase crop uniformity and vulnerability. It poses a threat to the culture of seed sharing and exchange that is led primarily by women farmers.”

Camila Montecinos of Chile-based CET is calling for a global boycott of the Terminator Technology. “Governments should make use of the technology illegal,” she insists. “This is an immoral technique that robs farming communities of their age-old right to save seed and their role as plant breeders. It should be banned.” To this, corporate breeders argue that the new technology simply does for hard-to-hybridize crops what the hybrid technique did for maize. Hybrid seed is either sterile or fails to reproduce the same quality characteristics in the next generation. Thus, most maize farmers buy seed every year. “Poor farmers can’t afford hybrids either;” Montecinos points out, “but there’s a key difference. The theory behind hybridization is that it allows breeders to make crosses that couldn’t be made otherwise and that are supposed to give the plant higher yields and vigor. The results are often disappointing but that’s the rationale. In the case of Terminator Technology, there’s absolutely no agronomic benefit for farmers. The sole purpose is to facilitate monopoly control and the sole beneficiary is agribusiness.”

RAFI will be working with its partners around the world to encourage a global ban on the use of Terminator Technology. “By the time it’s ready for market shortly after the year 2000, we hope that the Millennium Seed will succumb to the Millennium Bug,” concludes RAFI’s Shand.

RAFI is a nonprofit international civil society organization headquartered in Canada. For more than 20 years, RAFI has worked on the social and economic impact of new technologies on impact rural societies.

CET is Centro de Educacion y Tecnologia, an NGO based in Santiago, Chile, with a long history of work on rural and agricultural issues.

SEARICE is the Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education – a nonprofit international civil society organization based in the Philippines. SEARICE has more than two decades of work on rural development and agricultural biodiversity work at the community, regional, and international level.

For further information (persons quoted in this release):

Hope Shand, Research Director, Edward Hammond, Programme Officer; RAFI-USA, P.O. Box 640, Pittsboro, NC 27312 USA. Tel: (919) 542-1396; Fax: (919) 542-0069; E-mail:;

Neth Daño, Executive Director, SEARICE, 83 Madasalin St., Sikatuna Village, 1101 Quezon City, Philippines. Tel: 63 2 4337182; Fax: 63 2 9217563; E-mail:

Camila Montecinos, CET (Centro de Educacion Y Tecnologia), Casilla 16557, Correo 9, Santiago, Chile. Tel: 56-2-234-1141; Fax: 56-2-233-7239; E-mail:

RAFI’s New International Headquarters: RAFI, 110 Osborne St., Suite 202, Winnipeg MB R3L 1Y5 Canada. Tel: (204) 453-5259; Fax: (204) 925-8034; E-mail:;


European Greens Hail Successful Gene Tech Conference

In March, over 300 participants at the Green Conference on Genetic Engineering in Brussels heard a panel of distinguished scientists pull apart the official line that risks from genetically modified organisms are under control through strict application of the precautionary principle.

Dr Mae-Wan Ho, Professor of Biology at the UK Open University and author of “Genetic Engineering: Dreams or Nightmares?” told the conference, “Science is not bad, but there is bad science. Genetic engineering is bad science working with big business for quick profit against the public good.”

Kjetil Hindar, Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, examining the case of transgenic salmon said, “To enable us to make accurate predictions about the risks, we need to understand fully the genetic make-up and behavior of the fish. Today we know almost nothing.”

Heikki Hokkanen, Head of the OECD Research Programme on Biological Resource Management and Professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland, warned of the dangers of making only short-term risk assessments. Speaking on the commercial use of plants engineered to be toxic to insects, he said, “If we assume that there are no harmful effects from GMO releases just because they are not obvious at the beginning, we will be repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Beatrix Tappeser, Head of the Department of Genetic Engineering and Risk Management at the Oko Institute in Freiburg, also highlighted this knowledge gap. “In 1977 we were told that isolated DNA was fully broken down and neutralized in the human gut. In 1994 we were told that this was an unproven assumption.”

“Ninety-five percent of the human genome is called ‘junk DNA’. This is because we don’t understand what it is there for,” commented Jean-Claude Perez, author of “DNA Decoded.”

Jean-Marie Pelt, Director of the European Institute of Ecology in Metz, France, also criticized the risks we are taking. “Because the Titanic was declared to be unsinkable, the risks from icebergs were thought to be negligible. Scientists today are equally compartmentalized in their thinking.”

Huib de Vriend of the Dutch Consumer and Biotechnology Foundation demonstrated the futility of trying to impose an arbitrary labeling regime for gene foods. “Labeling based on physical detection of GMOs in consumer end-products is not a realistic option,” he told the conference, arguing that the only workable scheme was one based on certificates of origin throughout the food chain.

The Green Group drafted a six-point Declaration drawing on the findings of the Conference:

1. Uses of genetic engineering in agriculture, animal husbandry and food production pose potentially unacceptable risks for humankind and the environment.

2. Strict liability for damage to human health or to the environment should be imposed on all users of GMOs in field trials and commercial applications in the European Union.

3. An independent and multidisciplinary scientific tribunal should be established to investigate the long-term impact on human health, the environment and biodiversity of the uses of genetic engineering in agriculture, animal husbandry and food production.

4. No transboundary movements of living modified organisms should be permitted before the implementation of a comprehensive U.N. BioSafety Protocol.

5. No patents should be allowed on humans, animals or plants or their component parts.

6. All products derived from genetic engineering techniques should be clearly labeled as such.

Source: Press release, Green Group, European Parliament, March 9, 1998.


MOF&G Cover Summer 1998