We want you to stay informed about the agriculture industry so we have provided the following news highlights. Items of special importance are those that will affect the health of our customers and sustainability of our environment. We strive to make an impact by educating policy makers and industry leaders on the benefits of hydroponics.
2012 Farm Bill to Slash Subsidies; California produce farmers rally to avoid the cut and shift the national focus towards conservation & nutrition. Read more by Len Richardson from the California Farmer here
On Jan. 31, a Federal District Court judge agreed to hear oral arguments for a landmark lawsuit - Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto.
Monsanto filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss the case in July - this hearing will determine whether the case can move forward.
It was standing room only as family farmers from around North America filled the New York City courtroom.
Over 300,000 people are represented by 83 plaintiffs from 36 organizations in the case against Monsanto.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Monsanto's patents on genetically modified (GMO) seeds and to prohibit the company from suing those whose crops become genetically contaminated because they drift through the air.
Monsanto has created a culture of fear in the rural community by aggressively pursuing lawsuits against farmers for "genetic trespassing."
Dozens of farmers have been driven into bankruptcy and many organic and non-GMO farmers are now afraid to plant seeds.
Wouldn't it make more sense if organic farmers could sue Monsanto for contaminating their crops with their GMO seed?
The suit points to studies citing harm caused by Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, including human placental damage, lymphoma, myeloma, and other impacts on human health.
Plaintiffs also condemn Monsanto for preventing independent research on its transgenic seeds and for its successful lobbying efforts to ban GMO food labeling.
It also confronts Monsanto's propaganda that transgenic seeds improve yield and reduce pesticide use, when research shows the opposite is true. In fact, using GMOs is resulting in the emergence of resistant super-weeds.
"Thus, since the harm of transgenic seed is known, and the promises of transgenic seed's benefits are false, transgenic seed is not useful for society," say the plantiffs.
The Federal District Court judge will make a decision on whether the case can move forward by March 31st.
Should the court agree that transgenic seeds fail the test of patent law, the suit could potentially reverse patent approval on all biotech seeds, impacting BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta, and others.
Occupy Wall Street Food Justice, Occupy Big Food and Food Democracy Now! assembled at NYC's Foley Square to support farmers on the front lines of the struggle against corporate domination of the nation's food system.
They held a Citizen's Assembly, depicting Monsanto's infamous 100 year history including Agent Orange, Dioxin, PCBs and now GMO food. Speakers addressed topics ranging from sustainable agriculture to risks associated with GMOs to issues of food justice.
Meanwhile, a former Monsanto lobbyist, Michael Taylor, serves as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) food safety czar!
Learn more about the lawsuit and OSGATA.
Sign this petition to get the Monsanto lobbyist fired:
Correction: An earlier version of this column misidentified Mary-Ann Warmerdam as the director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. Ms. Warmerdam is the former director; she resigned in March 2011 to accept a position in the private sector.
Among the crops produced in Monterey County, strawberries rank No. 1, producing gross revenues of $751 million on over 10,000 acres in 2010, according to the Monterey County Crop Report. The loss of this high-revenue crop would be tragic for the county's economy.
Harvesting strawberries is labor intensive, requiring large numbers of field workers who receive fair wages and benefits for their hard work and expertise. In my opinion, if methyl iodide is not used on strawberry fields in Monterey County, the crop will be greatly reduced, along with employment of workers in strawberry production, sending unemployment rates and welfare costs soaring, with an attendant hardship for families of farmworkers.
Anti-pesticide groups and farmworker advocates have launched an effort to block the fumigant methyl iodide on strawberry fields, to replace methyl bromide, which was deemed unsafe. The alternative to fumigants is use of organic methods such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or limits use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides and plant growth regulators such as hormones.
All of this is good practice in appropriate
situations. In my experience, and contrary to popular belief, organic methods are not effective in control of soil-borne disease, which is the culprit in our county strawberry fields, and cannot be controlled except by fumigation.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation's study of methyl iodide was the most comprehensive, thoughtful and detailed review in recent memory. In my 40-year career in agriculture, and as a licensed pest-control adviser, I have gained respect for the CDPR in its efforts to protect producers and consumers of California crops.
According to former department director Mary-Ann Warmerdam, "The use restrictions have been clarified and strengthened, including stricter buffer zones, a requirement that only DPR-approved highly retentive tarps be used, more ground water protections, reduced application rates and stronger protections for workers. In addition, as part of its obligation to continuously evaluate all registered pesticides, DPR will conduct sampling of water and soil in areas with high methyl iodide use to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.
"Methyl iodide is the most evaluated pesticide in the department's history. Methyl iodide can be used safely under our tough restrictions by only highly trained applicators at times, places and specific conditions approved by the county agricultural commissioners."
Methyl Iodide is licensed for use in 47 other states. The proposed use in California has the nation's most stringent restrictions, making imported strawberries a chancy choice for consumers. The consumer will pay the high price for imported strawberries produced where fumigation is allowed.
Glen Kardel was educated in agriculture science at Michigan State University before being transplanted to the Salinas Valley in 1961. He was engaged for 40 years in seed production in the United States, Mexico, Australia and South Africa.
In a development celebrated by the organic plaintiffs, Judge Naomi Buchwald announced that oral arguments on Monsanto's motion to dismiss the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto will be heard in federal district court Jan. 31, 2012, in Manhattan.
Judge Buchwald's decision will establish if organic farmers are to see their day in court.
The 83 family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations comprising the organic plaintiff group represent over 300,000 individuals. The landmark lawsuit, filed in March 2011, challenges the validity of Monsanto's transgenic/GMO patents and seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed.
"We are grateful that Judge Buchwald has agreed to our request to hear oral argument on the motion," said Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff OSGATA. "Last August we submitted our written rebuttal and it made clear that Monsanto's motion was without merit. Our legal team, from the Public Patent Foundation, is looking forward to orally presenting our position. The family farmers deserve their day in court. We are anxious that this case go to trial as soon as possible so that our innocent farmers may receive Court protection."
OSGATA is a membership organization composed primarily of farmers and seed businesses. Their mission is to develop and protect the organic seed industry along with their growers. In an effort to raise funds, OSGATA has launched a "Farmers Travel Fund" enabling family farmers from the plaintiff group to attend the court proceedings and related events. See www.osgata.org.
Background information on the OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit may be found athttp://www.osgata.org.`
|11/17/2011 02:39 PM||ShreThis|
Are GMOs, synthetic preservatives and weak animal welfare standards what you expect in organically certified foods?
Absolutely NO, but they are headed for a vote in the USDA organic program on November 30. The panel who will vote on this is divided among corporate agribusiness representatives and organic advocates.
The 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was created by Congress to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on organic policy and rulemaking. Upcoming votes concern the use of genetically modified and synthetic additives that have been petitioned for use in organic foods and drinks, including baby foods and formula.
Corporate representatives are from General Mills, Campbell Soup, Monsanto and others.
Under the Bush and Obama administrations, the USDA Secretaries have been criticized for appointing a significant number of corporate representatives, whose primary interest is loosening federal organic standards, allegedly in pursuit of enhanced profits.
"We think this meeting may well decide the fate of organic food and agriculture in this country," says Mark Kastel, co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, which represents family-scale organic farmers and their consumer allies across the U.S.
Additives being recommended for use in organics include nutritional oils manufactured by Martek Biosciences, part of the $30 billion multinational conglomerate Royal DSM. These oils, genetically modified to provide isolated omega-3 and omega-6 nutrients DHA and ARA, are derived from algae and soil fungus, and stabilized with a wide variety of synthetic ingredients.
When incorporated in infant formula, the oils are processed with a neurotoxic solvent, n-hexane. A byproduct of gasoline refinement, n-hexane is regulated by the EPA as a hazardous pollutant. The recommendation to approve Martek's oils, processed with hexane, has industry observers scratching their head since solvents, commonly used in conventional food production, are expressly forbidden in organic food production.
"What is most egregious about the NOSB push to approve the Martek Biosciences Corporation petition is that these DHA and ARA oils are in no way essential in organics, as claimed by Martek," states Kastel. "Other organic manufacturers have successfully used fish oil and egg yolks as legal and natural alternative sources of supplemental DHA."
According to a poll of nearly 1,500 Seattle area organic consumers, conducted by PCC Natural Markets, the largest member-owned food cooperative in the United States, the overwhelming majority of shoppers would reject organic products with Martek's oils if they knew the manufacturing details of Martek's "Life'sDHA®".
NOSB will also vote on a petition allowing the use of the synthetic preservative sulfur dioxide (sulfites) in wine. Winemakers who currently use sulfites are prohibited from using the USDA organic seal on their labels.
The success of a growing number of certified organic winemakers that shun artificial preservatives proves that this synthetic is not essential to making a high quality organic wine.
"If the standards are weakened by the USDA, allowing these synthetics, it will significantly narrow the difference between organic and conventional wine," says Paul Frey of Frey Vineyards. "A major strength of the organic standards comes from consumers trusting that organic foods are wholesome and free from artificial preservatives and other threats to health and environmental stewardship."
Meanwhile, the Livestock Committee of the NOSB, which is refining the standards aimed at ensuring high levels of animal welfare on organic farms, appears to be backing away from adopting strong, enforceable standards for laying hens and other species.
"They are caving to the factory farm lobby, listening to giant vertically integrated egg producers, and ignoring the voice of rank-and-file family farmers," says Tim Koegel, a nationally prominent certified organic farmer producing pastured eggs and chickens. "The NOSB has an opportunity to make organics the true gold standard in terms of animal husbandry but instead might choose to make the organic label a joke."
The proposal for chickens would give animals as little as one square foot of living space. "This woefully inadequate standard would violate the organic law that requires animals be allowed to exhibit their natural instinctive behaviors," adds Koegel. "Hell, those birds will not even be able to fully span their wings, let alone forage outside for insects, seeds and worms."
This is not the first time the organic community, farmers and consumers, have come together to defend the integrity of the organic label. In the mid-90s, when the Clinton Administration first suggested allowing antibiotics, genetic engineering and sewage sludge in organics, over 300,000 citizens recorded their objections with the USDA-and they won.
"We hope many people who care about organics, will make their voice heard, says Kastel.
Here's Cornucopia's testimony and analysis on Martek Biosciences Corporation and sulfites in organic wine and animal welfare standards.
You can sign Cornucopia's proxy letter here. Cornucopia will hand-deliver the letters at the NOSB meeting in Savannah:
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