information gathered from the Organic Consumers Association
The FDA has officially closed its investigation on a 2003 food safety mishap, wherein nearly 400 bioengineered pigs, developed for research, mistakenly ended up in the U.S. food supply. The University of Illinois says it accidentally sold the pigs to a livestock dealer, instead of incinerating them, as is required by law. The FDA claims it cannot make a statement regarding potential risk to human health, given the fact that the researchers kept insufficient records. The mishap follows on the heels of a similar situation occurring in 2001, when genetically engineered pigs were stolen from the University of Florida, and later turned up in the sausage served at a funeral in High Springs, FL.
In the last three years, 287 bills related to kicking junk food out of schools have been proposed in some 45 states. The junk food industry has lobbied hard against these laws and has successfully defeated over 85% of them. As the exception, New Jersey and Maine recently passed “junk food laws” that will remove soda, candy and other junk foods from schools (pre-kindergarten through high school) by the end of 2007.
Weighing the importance of ethics vs. affordability
Is it really just too hard and expensive to produce organic food? A group of market analysts and public officials in California say it is. In response, the state and federal government have approved a half million dollar grant to begin certifying food products to a lesser standard with a new “Sustainable” label. Although organic farmers say this will weaken demand in the organic market and confuse consumers, proponents of the new label say it provides consumers with an affordable alternative to pricey organic products. The new certification system has requirements for wildlife protection and soil/water management but allows the use of pesticides and a wide gamut of synthetic processing agents.
A summer 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports “significant increases” in pesticide poisonings of children in schools since 1998. Nearly a third of the cases were attributable to drifting pesticides from applications taking place off-site, while the majority were due to the use of insecticides inside schools. Study authors also addressed chronic exposure to herbicides due to repeated applications on school yards, saying “the potential for chronic health effects from pesticide exposures at schools should not be dismissed.” A piece of legislation that would reduce these chemical risk factors in schools is currently stalled in the House of Representatives.
Over 7,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have called on Congress to pass a moratorium on the use of fluoride in drinking water, citing a series of new studies directly connecting the chemical to cancer. The group, made up predominantly of EPA scientists, has sent letters to key Congressional committees and the EPA Secretary, calling for the EPA to classify fluoride as a human carcinogen. At this point, it appears the National Academy of Sciences is being instructed to review relevant studies and report to Congress and the EPA on the topic in early 2006.