information gathered from Organic Consumers Association
The Cornucopia Institute filed a formal complaint with the USDA’s National Organic Program asking them to initiate an investigation into alleged violations of the federal organic law by a factory farm operating in Colorado. At issue is whether it is legal to confine cows in an industrial setting, without access to pasture, and still label milk and dairy products organic.
“It is our contention that you cannot milk 3000-6000 cows and offer them true access to pasture as required by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst, at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, a progressive farm policy research group.
One of the owners of the large Colorado farm, Mark Retzloff, has justified an exemption from the requirement for pasture based a lack of rain in the area to support it. Federal law does give the farmer the ability to remove cows from pasture for “temporary” reasons based on weather, environmental, or health considerations.
“This just puts rank-and-file organic dairy producers, who are operating with integrity, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Tony Azevedo, a California dairy farmer and the first certified organic dairy producer in the San Joaquin Valley. “Pasture is the cornerstone of organic dairy farming. It is a great way to protect the soil, create wildlife habitat, and makes an ideal filter system. There is also evidence that pastured cows are healthier than cows that are routinely confined.”
Action For Nature has, for the second year, named its International Young Eco-Hero Awards winners. The Award is designed to recognize and reward the work of young people between the ages of 8 and 16 who have done unique environmental work.
Winners this year include founder of Kids Saving the Rainforest, Janine Licare (aged 14) of Costa Rica. She formed this organization to help save endangered animals, organize tree plantings, and preserve the rainforest. Christina Faust (aged 16), of Athens, Georgia, was another winner. She has studied “riparian buffers,” the natural areas along the banks of a stream or river, and has written research papers, given talks, and exhibited at science fairs to show how important these areas are to ecosystems. For more information or to apply for next year’s awards, go to actionfornature.org or write to Action For Nature, 2269 Chestnut Street, #263, San Francisco, CA, 94123.
Organic Consumers Association: On December 8, congress passed and the President signed an omnibus appropriations bill that created the following cuts in farm conservation programs:
• The Environmental Quality Incentives Program cut by $182 million.
• The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program cut by 55% ($38 million).
• 100,000 acres (38%) cut out of the Wetlands Reserve Program.
• The Conservation Security Program cut by $80 million.
• The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program cut by $12 million.
Activists in California’s Sonoma County, have successfully placed an initiative on the ballot for a 10 year moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) crops. After 500 grassroots volunteers collected a record 45,387 petition signatures, proponents of the ballot initiative are optimistic the vote will turn out in their favor. The proposal is considered slightly more moderate than bans that passed in Mendocino, Trinity, and Marin counties last year, since it calls for a 10-year moratorium on commercial cultivation of GE crops, rather than a permanent.
Monsanto found guilty of international bribery
Monsanto, the leading global producer of genetically engineered seeds and crops, has been found guilty of bribing government officials in Indonesia. The Justice Department has fined Monsanto $1.5 million for bribing the Indonesian Ministry of Environment to allow the company to ignore required environmental impact studies before proceeding to plant genetically modified crops.
A well-respected and popular professor at the University of California in Berkeley has been fired after publishing a scientific paper regarding the uncontrolled contamination of irreplaceable native Mexican corn varieties by genetically engineered corn. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose corn contamination article was published in the science journal “Nature,” was denied his tenure due to pressure from the biotech company Monsanto on the University (the UC Berkeley tenure review panel had actually voted almost unanimously to approve his tenure). Professor Chapela was told to have his office cleaned out by December 31. Sign a petition to demand a review of Dr. Chapela’s tenure denial here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/uc.htm.