Feb. 4, 2013 — Farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Feb. 20, 2013 — Tomatoes grown on organic farms accumulate higher concentrations of sugars, vitamin C and compounds associated with oxidative stress compared to those grown on conventional farms, according to research published February 20 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Maria Raquel Alcantara Miranda and colleagues from the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont says he will continue to push for declaration on packaging of genetically modified ingredients.
The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said his amendment was an attempt to clarify that states can require the labels, as several legislatures have moved toward putting such laws into place. The Vermont house and the Connecticut senate voted this month to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.
The Senate rejected the amendment on a 71-27 vote, during debate on a wide-ranging, five-year farm bill that includes generous supports for crops like corn and soybeans that are often genetically modified varieties. Senators from farm states that use a lot of genetically modified crops strongly opposed the amendment, saying the issue should be left up to the federal government and that labels could raise costs for consumers.
The Food and Drug Administration does not require such labeling, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have stepped up their efforts to lobby for labels, arguing that the modified seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating pure crops. Such groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers wary of processed and modified foods.
Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, to add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. Agribusiness and seed companies say their products help boost crop production, lower prices at the grocery store and feed the world, particularly in developing countries. The FDA and Agriculture Department say the engineered foods they have approved are safe – so safe, they do not even need to be labeled as such – and cannot be significantly distinguished from conventional varieties.
Sanders said he would continue to push the issue in Congress. He said he offered the amendment in order to protect states that approve labeling laws from lawsuits by major biotech companies, like Monsanto, that engineer the seeds. “The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” Sanders said.
The Senate may consider more amendments to the farm bill this week, including others dealing with genetically modified foods. The legislation sets policy for farm subsidies, other rural programs and domestic food aid.
The Senate passed a similar farm bill last year, but the House did not consider it. The House agriculture committee approved its version of the farm bill last week, and the full House is expected to vote on the bill this summer.
Organisers say that two million people marched in protest against seed giant Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across the US and in more than 50 other countries on Saturday.
“March Against Monsanto” protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Founder and organiser Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities across 52 countries.
Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits, or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment.
The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labelling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.
The “March Against Monsanto” movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on 28 February calling for a rally against the company’s practices. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said, two million responded to her message.
Together with Seattle blogger and activist Emilie Rensink and Nick Bernabe of Anti-Media.org, Canal worked with A Revolt.org digital anarchy to promote international awareness of the event. She called the turnout “incredible” and credited social media for being a vehicle for furthering opportunities for activism.
Despite the size of the gatherings, Canal said she was grateful that the marches were uniformly peaceful and that no arrests had been reported.
“It was empowering and inspiring to see so many people, from different walks of life, put aside their differences and come together today,” she said. The group plans to harness the success of the event to continue its anti-GMO cause.
“We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?”
Monsanto, based in St Louis, said on Saturday that it respects people’s rights to express their opinions, but maintained that its seeds improve agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy.
The US Food and Drug Administration does not require genetically modified foods to carry a label, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have intensified their push for labels, arguing that the modified seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating traditional crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.
The Senate this week overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to require the labelling of genetically modified foods.
The Biotechnology Industry Organisation, a lobbying group that represents Monsanto, DuPont & Co and other makers of genetically modified seeds, has said that it supports voluntary labelling for people who seek out such products. But it says that mandatory labelling would only mislead or confuse consumers into thinking products weren’t safe, even though the FDA has said there is no difference between GMO and organic, non-GMO foods.
However, state legislatures in Vermont and Connecticut moved ahead this month with votes to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages. And supermarket retailer Whole Foods Markets Inc has said that all products in its North American stores containing genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018.
Whole Foods says there is growing demand for products that don’t use GMOs, with sales of products with a “Non-GMO” verification label spiking between 15% and 30%.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to the farm bill Monday that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.
A bakery is defined as any place, premises or establishment where any bakery product is regularly prepared, processed or manufactured for sale other than for consumption on the premises where originally prepared, processed or manufactured. Bakery products include bread, rolls, cakes, pies, doughnuts, cookies, biscuits, crackers and all similar goods, to be used for human food. We issue bakery licenses for the bakery departments that are a part of multi-department grocery stores. If a store does not have a bakery department but they regularly purchase bakery goods that require heating and possibly icing and packaging, than the store is typically issued a bakery license. If a retail store purchases bakery goods that do not require further processing, than a retail license type 77 is sufficient. Most convenience stores, for instance, carry packaged breads and often purchase donuts that are delivered and sold bulk – these examples do not require a bakery license. Even if the store has to ice the donuts, we do not typically require a bakery license unless the donuts have to be baked prior to icing.
An Oregon senator has introduced an amendment to the U.S. Senate farm bill to repeal a biotech rider previously attached to a spending bill.
In a statement released May 20, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., characterized the rider as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as “an outrageous example of a special-interest loophole.”
The rider, known officially as the Farmer Assurance Provision, allows farmers under partial deregulation to plant genetically engineered crops in cases where courts have overturned USDA approval of the crops.
The scenario occurred with genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets in recent years, two crops with the Monsanto “Roundup Ready” gene.
The rider was inserted to protect farmers who make planting decisions based on a USDA deregulation of a crop, only to have a court overturn the deregulation, said Karen Batra, communications director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The rider, which is in effect until the spending bill lapses in September, stipulates the USDA “shall” issue permits or a partial deregulation order that would temporarily allow farmers tocontinue growing and selling the crop until USDA completes a re-evaluation of its environmental effects.
“This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health,” Merkley said in a prepared statement. “That is unacceptable.”
The amendment would repeal the rider in its entirety.
Monsanto is hosting a “Bee Summit.” Bayer AG is breaking ground on a “Bee Care Center.” And Sygenta AG is funding grants for research into the accelerating demise of honeybees in the United States, where the insects pollinate fruits and vegetables that make up roughly a quarter of the American diet.
The agrichemical companies are taking these initiatives at a time when their best-selling pesticides are under fire from environmental and food activists who say the chemicals are killing off millions of bees. The companies say their pesticides are not the problem, but critics say science shows the opposite.
Die-offs of bee populations have accelerated over the last few years to a rate the U.S. government calls unsustainable. Honeybees pollinate plants that produce roughly 25 percent of the foods Americans consume, including apples, almonds, watermelons and beans, according to government reports.
Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others blame the devastating rate of bee deaths on the growing use of pesticides sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn. Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and other agrichemical companies say other factors such as mites are killing the bees.
“This is a difficult, high stakes battle,” said Peter Jenkins, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, which sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March on behalf of a group of U.S. beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups over what they say is a lack of sound regulation of the pesticides in question.
“They may have a lot of money. But… we’re going to win,” Jenkins said.
The uproar worries officials at Bayer and Syngenta, who make the pesticides, as well as Monsanto, DuPont and other companies who used them as coatings for the seed they sell.
“Everybody is concerned by it,” said Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley in an interview.
Monsanto plans to host a summit in June for experts from around the country to analyze the issue and discuss potential solutions. Bayer is breaking ground on a facility in North Carolina to study bee health.
The European Union said this month it would ban the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” used for corn and other crops as well as on home lawns and gardens. Similar constraints in the United States could cost manufacturers millions of dollars in sales.
“We are concerned… that the science sometimes gets trumped by the politics,” said Dave Fischer, an ecotoxicologist at Bayer CropScience who is meeting with bee keepers and studying the bee deaths. He said critics “are searching for a culprit.”
The companies point to a vicious insect mite as one of many factors harming the bees.
Corn seed treatments
But environmental scientists say evidence increasingly points to pesticides coating corn seeds as the problem, not mites. In recent years, U.S. corn seed suppliers have offered more corn seed pre-treated with types of neonic insecticides so that as the plant grows it repels harmful pests.
A study published last year by scientists at Purdue University in Indiana found evidence that planting the coated corn generates dust that contains very high levels of the neonics that can move beyond the fields where the seeds are planted. The researchers said they found the poison in the soil as well and in pollen collected by bees as food. The neonics were present on dead bees collected for study.
The study’s co-author, Purdue University scientist Christian Krupke, said the issue needs more research.
Syngenta and Bayer say they are doing just that. This month both companies announced they were helping fund research grants awarded to Iowa State University and Ohio State University and a Canadian farm group to study the impact of insecticidal seed treatment dust on bee losses.
“This research will provide valuable information,” Jay Overmeyer, an ecotoxicology expert at Syngenta, said in a statement.
A May 1 report funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly one in three managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost over the winter of 2012-2013. The losses are 42 percent higher than losses seen the previous winter, the report found. Fewer bees spells higher food prices, according to the government.
U.S. officials say there is no conclusive proof that pesticides caused the bee deaths, and they cite many other factors, including the mites.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it is “working aggressively to protect bees and other pollinators from pesticide risks through regulatory, voluntary and research programs” but sees no need for a moratorium on pesticides. The EPA has said it will study the situation, but many experts say immediate action is needed.
“One third of the food supply depends on pollinators to be productive,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s hard to say that these are definitively the cause of major bee declines. But there is a lot of data coming together that should be seriously examined.”
Dairy industry petitions the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve aspartame as a hidden additive in milk, yogurt, eggnog and cream.
The integrity of our food supply is poised for another blow with a citizens petition submitted to FDA by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). These industry groups are asking FDA to alter the definition of “milk” to include chemicalsweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose without listing these additives on the front panel.
While aimed principally at replacing sugar in flavored milks served to school children, the petition also asks for the right to put hidden artificial sweeteners in a host of dairy productsincluding nonfat dried milk (always added to reduced-fat milks), yogurt, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, eggnog and whipping cream. Truly, no conventional dairy product will be safe if the petitioners get their way.
Jim Schriver has been farming since he graduated from Ohio State University in 1963. The 72-year-old grandfather of two grows corn, soybeans and livestock on his 1,600-acre farm in north central Indiana.