The MOF&G Online
Cherryfield Foods Will No Longer Apply Pesticides Aerially
In October, Cherryfield Foods Inc.--Maine's largest blueberry grower--announced that it would apply pesticides to its crop by ground rather than aerially from now on. The announcement came just a few days before the company would have faced a lawsuit, filed by the Toxics Action Center, Beyond Pesticides, Environment Maine and the Sierra Club, for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act by polluting Maine’s waterways via aerial spraying. Penalties for violating the Clean Water Act can be as high as $32,500 per day.
Matthew Davis of Environment Maine says that he hopes other companies will follow Cherryfield’s lead; Cherryfield’s attorney, William Kayatta, said that the change was long-planned rather than a response to the lawsuit.
Source: "Berry grower to halt aerial spraying of pesticides," by Justin Ellis, ***Portland Press Herald,*** Oct. 5, 2004.
Scientists Study Effects of Mustard on Pests
Agricultural Research Service scientists are growing cultivated mustard and other ***Brassica*** species as possible alternatives to using chemical fumigants to rid crop fields of nematodes, weed seeds and other soilborne pests. The "biofumigant" effect of mustards is attributed to isothiocyanates, chemical byproducts of the plants' decomposition that make the soil toxic to nearby pests. Indeed, farmers in parts of the United States and Europe have sought to exploit this phenomenon by preceding their crops with stands of mustard, rapeseed and other ***Brassica*** species.
But how these biofumigant plants control pests, the conditions ***Brassicas*** prefer and their cumulative effects on the soil environment are not well understood, according to Rick Boydston, an agronomist in ARS' Vegetable and Forage Research Unit at Prosser, Washington. He and other scientists are finding delayed germination of redroot pigweed seed that was dug from beneath stands of white mustard, sorghum-sudangrass, winter wheat or an oat-hairy vetch mixture; but 99 percent of the pigweed seeds from fumigated plots didn't germinate at all.
In greenhouse studies, scientists monitored the effects of crushed seedmeal from brown mustard and field pennycress on potted irises and three pests: chickweed, prickly lettuce and root-knot nematodes. The irises suffered no ill effects, but more than half of the weeds failed to sprout, and nematode numbers fell by 70 to 80 percent.
Source: Agricultural Research Service News Service, USDA; Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630, email@example.com; October 12, 2004. A longer article describing these and other mustard studies appears in the October issue of ***Agricultural Research*** magazine at www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/oct04/pest1004.htm.
North American Farming Systems Association Listserve
The North American Farming Systems Association, one of six regional associations of the International Farming Systems Association, is being revitalized, starting with a Listserv to share information and questions about projects, programs, events, opportunities, publications, materials and ideas related to on-farm participatory research, whole farm systems approaches, and farmer learning in the United States, Mexico and Canada. To subscribe to the NA-FSA listserv, email sejohnson@ smallfarm.org. To help get the listserv started and build the North American Farming Systems Association, please email a brief summary of your interdisciplinary, on-farm research or farmer participatory development activities or questions related to Farming Systems in North America when you subscribe. To distribute information through the listserv (or with questions or problems about subscribing), contact Sue Ellen Johnson, 413-323-4531 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit www.fao.org/farmingsystems/ifsa_en.htm.
Report Highlights Corporate Control at USDA
Corporate influence over the USDA has reached a crisis point. "USDA Inc: How Agribusiness Has Hijacked Regulatory Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture" describes links among USDA appointees and agrochemical or food industry corporations, trade groups and consulting firms that have undermined the regulatory mission of the agency in favor of the interests of agribusiness.
Produced for the Agribusiness Accountability Initiative (AAI) by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, the report reviews agency decision making and the backgrounds of key employees in five case studies: biotech foods, concentrated animal feeding operations, meat inspection polices, competition in meatpacking, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The report finds the positions of USDA are "much more closely aligned with the mega corporations of the food industry than with consumers, small farmers, or the environment."
Individuals with corporate affiliations and financial ties to the agrochemical industry staff USDA at all levels. USDA Secretary Ann Veneman, for example, began her career at USDA in 1986, where, as Deputy Secretary under the first Bush Administration, she announced the agency would no longer regulate the genetically engineered FLAVR SAVR tomato. Veneman served on the board of Calgene, which developed the tomato before returning to USDA in 2001 as Agriculture Secretary.
Key aides to Veneman as well as heads of various USDA agencies are political appointees with career experience working for agribusiness companies and trade associations. Veneman's chief of staff Dale Moore was Executive Director for Legislative Affairs of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations Mary Waters was a senior director and legislative counsel for ConAgra Foods, one of the country's largest food processors.
USDA's lax regulation of genetically engineered (GE) crops indicates its support for the biotech industry despite scientific warnings and overwhelming public concern and opposition to GE foods. The department has allowed GE test plots to risk contamination of nearby non-GE crops; from 1987 to 2002 USDA rejected only 3.5% of applications for test sites and authorized 15,461 field releases of transgenic organisms. USDA currently requires only that corporations notify it when they conduct field trials.
Two primary factors drive the trend toward corporate control of government agencies: regulatory changes allowing collaborative research and investment, and rapid consolidation of the agriculture and biotechnology sectors. Frequent mergers and acquisitions during the 1980s and 1990s in the agrochemical sector created mega corporations with deep pockets for public relations and political lobbying. These corporations also benefit from the 1986 Federal Technology Transfer Act (FTTA), which enables USDA to enter into business ventures and partnerships with private corporations. The terms of FTTA allow any corporation funding USDA research to gain exclusive license on inventions resulting from the project.
"USDA Inc." recommends reorienting the agency to the public interest by overhauling and enforcing federal ethics rules regarding apparent conflicts of interest; increasing congressional oversight for regulatory appointees; reconsidering the compatibility of USDA's promotional role with its regulatory function; and investigating specific conflicts of interest stemming from the "revolving door" between industry and the agency.
Sources: Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, Sept. 16, 2004. Pesticide Action Network North America, 49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102, Phone: (415) 981-1771; Fax: (415) 981-1991; email@example.com; www.panna.org; "USDA Inc: How Agribusiness has Hijacked Regulatory Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture," Agribusiness Accountability Initiative, www.agribusinessaccountability.org.
U.S. Blocks Phase Out of Lindane in North America
In October, U.S. representatives diverted from Canada and Mexico by announcing that the United States would allow continued use of the pesticide lindane, which persists in air and water and has been found at high levels in the Arctic. Canada plans to eliminate agricultural uses of lindane by the end of 2004, and Mexico plans a full phase-out of agricultural, veterinary and pharmaceutical uses of the pesticide. Representatives from the three countries met in Montreal in September to draft a North American Regional Action Plan for lindane through the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America established by the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA).
Public health, indigenous and environmental groups have called for elimination of lindane, a neurotoxin banned in 52 countries and restricted in 33 more. Pam Miller, of Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) representative on the task force, called the U.S. position "downright shameful."
Environmental groups have asked Bayer CropScience to voluntarily withdraw lindane from the North American market. Bayer recently acquired Gustafson LLC, the primary distributor in the U.S. of lindane seed treatment products.
International treaties on toxic chemicals have also targeted lindane. Included on the Prior Informed Consent list of hazardous chemicals in the Rotterdam Convention, lindane will likely be a top candidate considered for addition to the list of chemicals slated for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Lindane is a neurotoxin that causes seizures, damages the nervous system and weakens the immune system. Exposure may cause cancer and disrupt human and animal hormone systems. Because lindane is highly persistent and travels globally via air and water, its continued use in agriculture can exposure people far from the source. Lindane is one of the most abundant pesticides in Arctic air, water and wildlife; northern indigenous peoples consuming traditional diets risk lindane exposures above levels considered safe. Lindane residues have been reported in common foods in the United States.
Pharmaceutical use of lindane also contaminates drinking water sources. The Los Angeles County Sanitation District estimates that one dose of a lindane treatment for head lice can pollute six million gallons of water to levels exceeding drinking water standards. This threat, and the enormous costs of clean up, prompted California to ban lindane shampoos and lotions in 2002. Mark Miller, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, an academic representative to the task force meeting in Montreal, said that more effective and less toxic treatments exist for head lice. Children are particularly vulnerable to this chemical that presents a danger to the young nervous system, he added. The 2002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Re-registration Eligibility Decision allows lindane to be used as seed treatment for corn, wheat, barley, oats, rye and sorghum. These treatments account for 99% (up to 233,000 lbs. active ingredient) of U.S. lindane use.
The draft North American Regional Action Plan for lindane is scheduled to be open for public comment in January 2005.
Sources: News Release, Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, Oct. 7, 2004, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.panna.org; www.epa.gov/REDs/factsheets/lindane_fs.htm; Statement in Support of the Elimination of Lindane Use in North America, PANNA, Alaska Community Action on Toxics; North American Regional Action Plan on Lindane, Background Document, Commission on Environmental Cooperation of North America; email@example.com;www.cec.org. Contacts: PANNA, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.akaction.org/.
More California Counties Vote on GE Agriculture
On August 3, 2004, Trinity County, California, became the second county in the nation to ban production of genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals. By a vote of three to one, Trinity County Supervisors banned GE crops and animals in order to protect Trinity's local economy, including its growing organic sector, and the environment. On March 2, voters in Mendocino County, Calif., banned GE crops, and in November, four more of California's 59 counties (Marin, Butte, Humboldt and San Luis Obispo) were to vote on ballot measures to ban genetically engineered organisms (GMOs). Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Bayer corporation have vowed to crush this growing "Biodemocracy" movement, but public opposition to GE crops has put the industry on the defensive. On May 10, Monsanto was forced to cancel plans to commercialize GE wheat, while other GMOs in the pipeline--including trees, fish and biopharmaceutical crops--face increasing worldwide opposition.
Source: Biodemocracy News & Action Alert, Organic Consumers Assoc., August 4, 2004, www.organicconsumers.org.
Battle of the Biotech Brutes
Syngenta, the world's largest agrichemical company, has sued Monsanto, whose genetically engineered corn, cotton, canola and soybeans are grown on 70 million U.S. acres. Syngenta is accusing Monsanto of unfair business practices, claiming Monsanto has "maintained and increased its monopoly power in multiple markets through a series of coercive tactics and exclusive dealing arrangements designed to keep out all competition." Monsanto responded that the company "will vigorously defend against these allegations." Source: ***Organic Bytes*** #39, 8/31/2004. www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.htm.
Monsanto’s GE Grass Mowed Down for Now
Monsanto and Scotts corporations have patented a genetically engineered (GE) creeping bentgrass for golf courses that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup, but the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management raised concerns that pollen from the grass could transfer herbicide resistant traits to create superweeds. Now a study from the Environmental Protection Agency has documented that pollen from these GE plants can travel as far as 13 miles. Based on this study and increasing public criticism, the USDA decided to require a full Environmental Impact Statement on the grass before determining whether it can be commercially released.
Source: ***Organic Bytes*** #40, 9/29/2004. www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.htm. "Study: Genes From Engineered Grass Spread for Miles," by Andrew Pollack, ***New York Times,*** September 21, 2004, www.nytimes.com/2004/09/21/business/21grass.html.
Kenyan Farmers Reject GE Crops
According to ***The Kenya Times*** (Aug. 25, 2004; www.kentimes.com/25aug04/nwsstory/news19.html), the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KESSFF) rejected new GE crops and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), since they threaten their farming and livelihoods. High seed costs and the probability that indigenous varieties will be contaminated influenced the decision.
Canadian Government Agreed to Conduct Secret GM Wheat Field Trials
Documents obtained by Greenpeace through the Access to Information Act reveal that Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) agreed to conduct field trials of genetically modified wheat at three secret locations in Western Canada in 2004 on behalf of biotechnology company Syngenta--despite overwhelming market rejection of GE wheat and concerns that such wheat will escape into the broader environment. Fellow biotechnology giant Monsanto abandoned commercialization of GE wheat earlier this year. Syngenta is attempting to genetically modify the wheat to be fusarium resistant, while Monsanto's was herbicide resistant.
Eric Darier, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner, says, "Given the weak testing protocols established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), it is inevitable that continued secret testing of GM wheat will eventually lead to a contamination event."
"For farmers and our markets, GM wheat--any GM wheat—is market poison. Over 82% of our customers say that they will stop buying all Canadian wheat if we introduce GM varieties," says Stewart Wells of the National Farmers Union. "It makes no difference to our customers whether the genetic modification is to resist Roundup or fusarium." The documents also suggest that the government may have entered into a collaboration agreement with Syngenta to develop GM wheat. A draft copy of the document states: "Partnership with Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc., is very welcome."
Earlier this year, research by AAFC revealed a link between glyphosate formulations and the development of fusarium. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many pesticides, including Roundup, used extensively on GE crops in the Prairies.
"Farmers in parts of Canada have been devastated by fusarium, but GM varieties are not the answer," continued Mr. Wells. "If successful, GM fusarium-resistant wheat would increase supply but would decrease demand. We believe the effect on all farmers would be negative, and rather than working for Syngenta, the government should be aggressively pursuing fusarium-resistant varieties through traditional plant breeding."
Source: Greenpeace press release. For more information, contact Eric Darier, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner, (514)933-0021, ext. 15, Cell: (514) 605-6497; Stewart Wells, President, National Farmers Union, (306) 652-9465; Darrin Qualman, Director of Research, National Farmers Union, (306) 652-9465.
Court Orders Biopharm Crops Disclosed
A federal district court judge has ordered the USDA to disclose locations of open-air field tests of biopharmaceutical crops in Hawai`i. The USDA and the biotech industry had resisted public disclosure of test plot locations, citing fears of "espionage," "vandalism," and "civil unrest." However, on August 5, 2004, District Court Judge David A. Ezra ordered USDA to provide crop locations to the parties in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice for PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America), the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and KAHEA -- The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance. The court order also required locations of the test sites to be publicly announced within 90 days unless USDA provides better evidence of specific harm.
Pharmaceutical and biotech corporations are interested in biopharming--growing genetically engineered (GE) food crops to produce industrial or pharmaceutical chemicals and drugs--as a relatively inexpensive way to produce large quantifies of chemicals, including contraceptives, hormones, vaccines and other potent, biologically active substances. Biopharm test crops are frequently grown outdoors in open fields and are virtually indistinguishable from edible varieties. As a result of the ruling, neighboring farmers and residents can learn whether biopharm test crops are located near conventional varieties that may be at risk for cross pollination or are being grown in ecologically sensitive areas or near schools and homes.
Despite its designation as a biological "hot spot" with a high number of endangered species, Hawai`i has been the site of more than 4,000 open-air field tests of GE crops, including biopharmaceuticals. Conducted by corporate agribusiness and industrial chemical giants such as Monsanto, Prodigene, DuPont and Dow, the tests produce crops that have not been approved for human or animal consumption or for general release into the environment. In 12 years of open-air testing, not one biopharmed drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Potentially disastrous slip-ups in biopharm field tests have already occurred. In 2000, USDA quarantined and destroyed 500,000 bushels of Nebraska soybeans meant for human consumption because the crop had been contaminated with corn engineered to produce a pig vaccine. That same year, potential contamination led to destruction of 155 acres of conventional corn in Iowa. Prodigene, the grower in both instances, is currently conducting open-air tests in Hawai`i.
"Almost everything about the regulation of gene-altered crops suggests that the federal agencies are far more responsive to industry than to the public," says PANNA's Skip Spitzer. "That the court has to step in to force disclosure of such basic information highlights that problems like biopharming come from big agribusiness having too much control over our food." He adds that the court victory "poses a real problem for the agribusiness industry if this precedent, as expected, stimulates challenges, and hopefully positive rulings, elsewhere."
Source: Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, Aug. 26, 2004, press release. Contacts: Center for Food Safety, email@example.com; PANNA, www.panna.org.
Will GE Seeds be the WMDs in Iraq?
When former Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer III left Baghdad after the so-called "transfer of sovereignty" in June 2004, he left behind 100 orders he enacted as chief of the occupation authority in Iraq. Among them is Order 81 on "Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety." This order amends Iraq's original patent law of 1970 and unless and until it is revised or repealed by a new Iraqi government, it now has the status and force of a binding law. A report by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South claims that this new legislation prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. (GRAIN is an international non-governmental organization that promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.) You can view the report at www.grain.org/articles/?id=6 (posted Oct. 15, 2004).
Commissioner Thinks GE and Organic Can Coexist in Maine
Commissioner Robert Spear believes that Best Management Practices (BMPs) for GMO and non-GMO crops will enable Maine growers who do and do not use GE crops to coexist. At the Maine Farm Days at Wright Place in Clinton on August 24, Spear introduced a fact sheet on BMPs for producers of GE crops and for organic, transitional organic, identity preserved (IP) and other non-GMO producers. Coexistence, said Spear, "will require planning, effort, communication and tolerance on behalf of both growers but can lead to a stronger future for all farmers." The fact sheet addresses isolation, timing of planting, and other factors that can influence genetic drift.
A copy of the fact sheet is available from the Maine Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry at (207) 287-3891, at www.maine.gov/agriculture and at www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter/feature_3.htm.
Johnny’s ‘Bonbon’ Winter Squash --Fifth All American Selection for Company
Rob Johnston of Johnny’s Selected Seeds says that improving on Buttercup squash has been his Holy Grail for about 30 years. "I'm the most severe critic of my own varieties, and I know that ‘Bonbon’ isn't perfect. But it improves on the standard Buttercup, ‘Burgess Strain,’ in earliness, yield, appearance and taste. Enough of the judges at the official All America Selections trials gave it high scores that it will be honored as a 2005 AAS Winner. It's pretty exciting -- this is our fifth AAS award!" Seeds are available in Johnny’s 2005 catalog
Hemp Ban in Foods Reversed
Three years ago the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced a new law banning hemp ingredients in natural and organic food products. After a long and costly legal battle waged by the Hemp Industries Association and bolstered by public interest plaintiffs including the Organic Consumers Association, the U.S. federal government backed off in September, making hemp foods legal once again.
Hemp seed is most commonly used as a nutritional supplement in a variety of foods. It offers an ideal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and contains insignificant levels of THC (tetrahyrdocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that results in psychotropic effects. Eating hemp foods does not interfere with workplace drug tests; in fact, THC levels in hemp foods are below those of opiates found in poppy seeds in muffins and breads. The hemp food industry expects a major boom in sales as a result of the removal of the DEA ban. It is still illegal for U.S. farmers to grow industrial hemp, even as Chinese, Canadian and European farmers supply a rapidly growing international market for hemp food ingredients, animal feed, clothing, paper, nutritional supplements and biodiesel fuel.
Source: ***Organic Bytes*** #40, 9/29/2004, www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.htm
Horse Rescue Operation in Vermont
Spring Hill Horse Rescue in Vermont rescues and rehabilitates abused, neglected and slaughter-bound horses, including foals of mares that are kept perpetually pregnant to produce estrogen for Premarin. For a reasonable cost of transport, people can acquire and save a foal from ending up in a slaughter house. See www.springhillrescue.com/avail.shtml for more information. Thanks to MOFGA member Charlotte Coopersmith for this information.
Fungus Provides Varroa Mite Relief for Bees
A natural fungus could help beekeepers control the parasitic varroa mite, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists in Weslaco, Texas. Researchers selected strains of the fungus ***Metarhizium anisopliae*** that proved highly pathogenic to the mites.
This potent fungus, which also kills termites, doesn't harm bees or affect queen reproduction. To test the fungus, the scientists coated plastic strips with dry fungal spores and placed them inside the hives. Since bees naturally attack anything entering their hives, they tried to chew the strips, thereby spreading the spores to the colony. In field trials, all bees in the hive were exposed to the fungus within 5 to 10 minutes, and most of the mites on the bees died within three to five days. The fungus provided excellent control of varroa without impeding colony development or population size. ***Metarhizium*** was as effective as the chemical control, fluvalinate, even 42 days after application. The scientists are fine-tuning the strategy for transfer to producers.
For more information, see ***Agricultural Research,*** Oct. 2004, at www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/oct04/bees1004.htm. Source: Agricultural Research Service News Service, USDA, Alfredo Flores, (301) 504-1627, firstname.lastname@example.org
Organic Farming Boosts Biodiversity
The October 11, 2004, edition of ***New Scientist*** supports what most of us probably already knew: that organic farming increases biodiversity at every level of the food chain, from bacteria to mammals. So concludes the largest review ever done of studies worldwide comparing organic and conventional agriculture, says ***New Scientist.***
Independent scientists from English Nature (a government agency) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reviewed data from 76 studies done in Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the United States that looked at biodiversity in organisms ranging from bacteria and plants to earthworms, beetles, mammals and birds. Sixty-six of 99 comparisons of groups of organisms showed that organic farming benefited wildlife; eight that it was detrimental; and 25 found no difference or mixed results.
Benefits of organic farming come from using fewer pesticides and inorganic fertilizers, and from managing uncropped habitats to benefit wildlife (especially birds)--by not weeding close to hedges, for example, and by mixing arable and livestock farming.
In one study, bats foraged 84% more on organic farms; two bat species were found only on organic farms.
For more, see www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996496.
Research Dispels Myth that U.S. Food is Safest and Cheapest
The U.S. food supply is reportedly the cheapest and safest in the world, but reports using government data question the accuracy of these claims; point to unsafe levels of chemical pesticides in our food and bodies; and show an increased probability of exposure in those most sensitive to the negative effects of pesticides -- the elderly, pregnant women and children.
Dr. Charles Benbrook, an agronomist working with the Organic Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center in Sandpoint, Idaho, compared systems of food safety and supply in various nations for 25 years and notes that a purely fact-based international ranking system for the safety of food does not exist. He argues that testing is not done for all factors most likely to affect food safety, including testing for everything from pesticide residue to microbial contamination. Once all the necessary factors are taken into account, several counties -- including France, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Japan -- would score much higher than the U.S. in terms of food safety. These countries have made substantial investments in food safety standards and monitoring and have farm more comprehensive systems than those in the United States.
Pesticide residues tops Benbrook's list of factors affecting food safety. In a report released in May 2004, Minimizing Pesticide Dietary Exposure Through Consumption of Organic Foods, Benbrook concludes that eating organic produce drastically reduces the likelihood of ingesting pesticide residues and thus increases the safety of the diet. According to his report, conventional crops are three to four times more likely to contain pesticide residues at levels 3 to 10 times higher than levels found in organic crops. Some of the most contaminated foods are those frequently consumed by children, including apples, pears and celery, and children are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of pesticides. The recent PANNA report, "Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability," concludes that children carry some of the highest levels of pesticides in the U.S. population.
Benbrook's work disputes the claim that the cost of food in the United States is less than in other countries. Using the most common comparison--the proportion of average income devoted to food--the United States does have the cheapest food, devoting only 9.7 percent of per capita income to food. This means only that our food is affordable based on the average U.S. income. For consumers with incomes lower than the U.S. average, costs are substantially higher.
Benbrook compares food prices based on the income spent per 1,000 calories in a given day. The United States ranks far worse using this method, spending $2.28 per 1,000 calories, compared with $0.39 in Sierra Leone. "Some 90% of humanity spends less per calorie of food than Americans," said Benbrook. He notes that U.S residents pay for lots of convenience, packaging and services.
Source: Pesticide Action Network Updates Service, July 9, 2004; www.panna.org; Benbrook, C. "Minimizing Pesticide Dietary Exposure through Consumption of Organic Foods." The Organic Center for Education and Promotion, May 2004, http://ocep.spiralfx.com/pics/Executive%20Summary200dpi.pdf; ***Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability.*** PANNA, May 2004, www.panna.org; Press Briefing, Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. September 26, 2003, www.census.gov/hhes/income/income02/prs03asc.html.
Prozac in U.K. Drinking Water
So many Britons are taking the antidepressant Prozac that it is showing up in the water supply. With 24 million prescriptions for the "happy pills," the drug is finding its way into the water via treated sewage. Experts are debating possible impacts to the environment and human health.
Source: ***Organic Bytes*** #38, 8/12/2004, www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.htm.
University Accepts Livestock in Lieu of Tuition
Lindenwood University, near St. Louis, Missouri, is bartering to cover enrollment fees as part of its Pork for Tuition program. The university allows students who demonstrate financial need to pay tuition with cattle and hogs. The livestock can be processed at any USDA-approved plant at cost to the University, for use in the school's cafeteria. The program is aimed at helping rural families send their children to school.
Tuition is $11,200 per year, but students who qualify for the program are required to provide only $2,200 worth of hogs or cattle at market rates. Typically, that translates into about fifteen 300-pound hogs or two steers weighing 1,200 each.
The practice of trading goods for college tuition does not exist in public institutions, because of limitations associated with government funding. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities says 15 or fewer private institutions nationwide let families barter goods and services for tuition.
To date, 24 students have taken advantage of Pork for Tuition since its launch in 2000. In future academic years, Spellman foresees accepting bushels of tomatoes, artwork and even hand-woven baskets in lieu of monetary tuition.
Source: ***Agriculture Today,*** Maine Department of Agriculture, Sept. 1, 2004, www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter/nb11.htm
Guelph University senate approves organic agriculture major
The Guelph University Senate has approved an organic major in the Department of Plant Agriculture, Horticultural Science division, of the Ontario Agriculture College. According to the university website (www.oac.uoguelph.ca/learning/learn_bscagroa.asp), the Organic Agriculture major offers students an integrated exposure to the rapidly expanding world of organic agriculture. Courses encompass not simply food production, but also food security, processing and marketing, environmental health, and rural community sustainability. A systems approach is taken to the design and operation of crop and livestock production systems which are socially responsible, ecologically sound, agronomically feasible, and economically sustainable.
From: Agriculture Today, Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Nov. 10, 2004, www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter
Direct Marketing Conference Scheduled
The New England Farmers' Direct Marketing Conference (NEFDMC) will be held on Feb. 11 and 12, 2005, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, in Boston, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Convention, Feb. 7 -14, 2005. The convention features the annual conference of the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA). The conference is held in a different region of North America each year, and has not been held in the Northeast since 1996.
The leading farm direct marketing association in the world, NAFDMA (www.nafdma.com) promotes and fosters the growth of farm direct marketing throughout North America. Its members support their family farms by selling millions of dollars worth of farm-grown produce directly to consumers at farm stands, farmers' markets, pick-your-own operations, consumer-supported agriculture, agri-tourism venues, and other ever-growing innovations in direct producer-to-consumer agricultural marketing methods.
By combining the NEFDMC with the NAFDMA convention, farmers have an outstanding opportunity to experience a NAFDMA convention without having to travel across the country. And this year, if they don't want to drive, they can board a bus or the subway to get downtown to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
NAFDMA is pleased to celebrate its 20th annual convention in Boston. The convention's theme, "Start a Revolution," reflects more than the Northeast's role in American history. It also reflects the attitudes of the farmers who more than 20 years ago founded the association, which at the time was called the National Farmers' Direct Marketing Association. These farmers--and those who followed--embrace direct marketing as a way of life and as a means for them and their family to remain on the family farm by employing revolutionary new ideas and innovations.
Through the years, the conference has evolved into a full convention. It now includes a pre-conference bus tour, full-day workshops, two-day conference, trade show and post-conference bus tour. The 2005 conference features nine tracks with 45 educational sessions, six optional full-day workshops, and a pre-conference bus tour with four tour options.
The convention this year fully embraces the breadth and diversity of the farm direct marketing industry. For example, a full track is devoted to livestock, particularly beef and dairy. Other tracks focus on agri-tourism, retail market and local food initiatives.
A full-day workshop by attorney Michelle Carron explores issues surrounding the transfer of the family farm from one generation to the next. An educational session explores best management practices to reduce liability in direct marketing. Another session, held in a Town Hall-style format, asks the provocative question, "Do we really need another farmers' market?"
For convention information, visit www.nafdma.com, e-mail email@example.com, or call (413) 529-0386. Registration is available on-line. The pre-registration deadline is January 6.
Lamb Producers Encouraged to Sign-Up for Ewe Lamb Replacement & Retention Program
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices across Maine are encouraging producers to sign-up for the $18 million Ewe Lamb Replacement & Retention Payment Program. The sign up, which officially began October 25, 2004, is designed to provide payments to sheep and lamb producers to encourage the replacement and retention of ewe lamb breeding stock and achieve sustained market competitiveness.
An estimated 66,800 sheep and lamb operations in the United States have experienced long-term poor market conditions, which has led to reduced incomes. Increased imports and extreme drought in domestic sheep-producing areas have forced producers to decrease production and flock size. The 2003 lamb crop is expected to total 4.13 million, down five percent from 2002.
Subject to the availability of funds, producers will receive $18 for each qualifying ewe lamb retained or purchased for breeding purposes during a specified period. If the amount of approved applications exceeds available funding, USDA will uniformly apply a national factor to reduce payments to producers.
An eligible producer must have purchased or retained ewe lambs for breeding purposes between August 1, 2003, and July 31, 2004, and must have retained the qualifying ewe lambs in the herd for at least one complete offspring lambing cycle. The producer must not have received funds under USDA’s Lamb Meat Adjustment Assistance Program for the same ewe lamb and be engaged in the business of producing and marketing agricultural products at the time the application is filed.
In addition, during at least part of the base period (August 1, 2003, to July 31, 2004), qualifying female ewe lambs must not have been older than 18 months and must not have produced an offspring.
No sign up deadline for the program has been determined yet. Producers must apply for the program by completing form FSA-384, “Ewe Lamb Replacement/Retention Payment Program Application.”
Cranberries May Reduce Damage From Strokes
Cranberries may reduce neuronal damage associated with strokes. Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, offers a compelling reason for recent stroke victims and those at risk for stroke to consume cranberries.
In the study, researchers administered a concentrated cranberry extract to rat brain cells exposed to simulated stroke conditions. The stroke was simulated either by depriving cells of oxygen and glucose to mimic ischemic stroke in which brain cells are starved of oxygen and die, or by exposing cells to hydrogen peroxide, simulating the action that takes place following a stroke when oxygen begins to flow to the brain again. Exposure to the highest concentration of extract, which was roughly equivalent to half a cup of whole cranberries, caused a 50-percent reduction in neuronal death. Those cells not exposed to cranberry extract experienced no benefit.
"This study shows that cranberries have the potential to protect against brain cell damage that occurs during a stroke event," said Catherine Neto, Ph.D., a study investigator. "It may not stop a stroke from occurring initially, but it may reduce the severity of stroke."
The study's authors do not know yet how many cranberries or how much cranberry juice people should consume to have an optimal effect against stroke. The study was funded by the University of Massachusetts and the Cranberry Institute.
French Goat Tests Positive for BSE
A report in The Times of London says that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has jumped species for the first time, with a goat in France testing positive for the disease. The goat is believed to have been fed bovine bone meal and other byproducts, a practice that was discontinued in 2001.
According to the report, over 140,000 goats have been tested for BSE throughout the European Union, with only this one case discovered. The rest of the infected animal's herd was tested, with all returning negative results.
The test results are being validated at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in England, but scientific experts said they believe the tests will confirm the BSE infection. The European Food Safety Authority is waiting for confirmation before deciding whether new restrictions on French goat meat, milk and cheese are necessary.
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