ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS BENEFIT FARMERS AND LOCAL ECONOMIES, REPORT FINDS
The organic dairy sector provides more economic opportunity and generates more jobs in rural communities than conventional dairies, according to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The first-of-its- kind study, Cream of the Crop: The Economic Benefits of Organic Dairy Farms, calculated the economic value of organic milk production.

“Over the past 30 years, dairy farmers have had a choice: either get big or get out. Dairy farmers either had to expand dramatically and become large industrial operations or they went out of business,” said Jeffrey O’Hara, agricultural economist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS and author of the report. “However, organic dairy production offers farmers another option—one that is better for the environment, produces a healthier product, and leads to greater levels of economic activity.”

Based on 2008-2011 financial data from two major milk-producing states, Vermont and Minnesota, the report evaluated the economic impact of organic dairy farms. Vermont’s 180 organic farms contribute $76 million annually to the state’s economy and support 1,009 jobs. In Minnesota, 114 organic farms add $78 million to Minnesota’s economy annually and have created 660 jobs.

The report also compared the economic value that would be generated by conventional and organic farms in the two states if both experienced the same hypothetical level of increased sales. In Vermont, organic dairy farms under that scenario would be expected to contribute 33 percent more to the state’s economy than conventional farms, and employ 83 percent more workers. Similarly, in Minnesota, organic dairies would increase the state’s economy by 11 percent more and employment by 14 percent more than conventional dairy farms.

To read UCS’s report, see www.uscusa.org.


CORPORATE MILLIONS, DECEPTIVE ADS ONLY NARROWLY SHUT DOWN PROP 37; MOVEMENT FOR GE FOOD LABELING STRONGER THAN EVER
The following statement from Kristin Lynch, Food & Water Watch Pacific Region Director, was released following the defeat of California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered ingredients in foods:
“In the face of unrelenting deceptive advertising funded by giant chemical and processed food corporations to the tune of nearly $50 million, California’s Proposition 37 calling for a simple label on genetically engineered (GE) food narrowly lost with 47 percent of the vote. While support for GE food labels has never been stronger, the incessant drumbeat of misleading and outright false industry advertising was barely able to defeat this popular measure. While disappointed in the result, we believe that this movement to label GE foods is stronger than ever and we will continue to build a robust national grassroots campaign to push for mandatory labeling across the country.

“Pesticide companies led by Monsanto and DuPont, and processed food corporations led by Pepsi and Kraft spent an unprecedented amount of money to confuse and deceive Californians into voting against their right to know what’s in their food. But we should not be surprised—honesty and transparency are clearly not the priority of corporations that spend millions keeping consumers in the dark about whether or not their food has been genetically altered in a laboratory. However, one bought election does not change the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans want to join the more than 60 other countries around the world in knowing whether or not their food has been genetically engineered with a simple label. As we’ve done with other initiatives like nutrition and country-of-origin labels, we will continue to stand up to these corporate forces until consumers have the basic right to choose for themselves whether or not to buy and eat GE foods.”

“Prop 37 may not have passed, but it brought together and galvanized people from across California, the country and the world who believe deeply that people have the right to know whether their food has been genetically engineered, and this momentum will only grow. We are already organizing in over a dozen states and in the coming year will be ramping up our campaign across the country to let consumers decide and make GE labeling the law.”

See www.foodandwaterwatch.org.


SUSTAIN DANE’S MPOWER BUSINESS CHAMPION PROGRAM NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS
Sustain Dane is now taking applications for the MPower Business ChaMpion Program to help your business build capacity from within and use sustainability to meet your business goals.

Sustain Dane’s MPower Business ChaMpion Program is a one year, fully-customizable way to take advantage of dozens of sustainability resources and experts in an effort to reduce waste and energy use, increase employee engagement, and create a healthy, vibrant workplace. We work with participating businesses to help them develop and roll out a sustainability strategy that will enable them to achieve measurable results. Qualified businesses will be accepted into the program on a first come basis as space allows or until January 18th, 2013.

The program begins in February 2013, free of charge, thanks to a grant from the U.S. EPA, MGE and the City of Madison. 2013 will be the last year that this valuable program will be offered at no cost to participants. Please note that businesses do not need to be located in Madison to apply.

Learn about the program by visiting sustaindane.org/going-sustainable/at-work/mpower-business/.


PROVISIONS WOULD LIMIT USDA’S ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging members of the United States House of Representatives not to include certain provisions in the Farm Bill that would limit the government’s authority to conduct environmental analyses of genetically engineered crops.

The bill language at issue would specifically limit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) regulatory review to specific issues, such as whether the engineered crops could act as “plant pests”—a scenario CSPI says is not supported by science. Instead, CSPI suggests Congress should write stand-alone legislation that would give USDA specific regulatory authority over genetically engineered crops and consider the full range of actual potential problems with such crops, such as the development of weeds or insects that were resistant to the crops’ technology, and the impact of gene flow to weedy relatives.

In a letter to agriculture committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Jaffe wrote that the current regulatory process at USDA is not only too slow, but does not even focus on the most important risks of genetically engineered crops. CSPI believes that foods made from currently marketed genetically engineered crops are safe to eat, and that with effective oversight the crops’ environmental impact could be managed safely. But CSPI also supports legislation that would require mandatory pre-market approval of genetically engineered crops before they enter our food supply—authority government regulators at FDA still lack.

For more from CSPI, see www.cspinet.org.


AFTER HALT TO PLANTING, COURT ORDERS ERADICATION OF UNLAWFUL GE PLANTS ON SOUTHEASTERN WILDLIFE REFUGES
In an early November decision, a federal court formally halted the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops on all National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeastern United States. The court also ordered steps to mitigate environmental damage from the previous illegal cultivation of GE crops. The decision marks the conclusion of a successful lawsuit brought by the public interest groups Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Beyond Pesticides.

After finding in October that prior approval of GE crop planting by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) violated environmental laws, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg directed FWS, which operates national wildlife refuges, to halt planting of GE crops in any of its cooperative-farming agreements throughout the ten-state Southeast Region until FWS lawfully complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and Wildlife Refuge Act. To reduce harm from the prior unlawful GE plantings on 25 refuges, Judge Boasberg also ordered FWS to:

Reveal where the GE crops were planted, their number, the type of crop and the types of pesticides used, including the dates and amounts of application;
Conduct field surveys through 2014 to locate any “volunteers” (new GE plants germinating), “and remove or destroy any such volunteers. FWS will report to the plaintiffs on the quantity and location of any volunteers that are located and how they were removed or destroyed.”

For more on the story, see www.centerforfoodsafety.org.