FOUR SEATS OPEN ON THE ORGANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL
A new year brings new openings on the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has announced that nominations are open for four seats on the Council.

The 12-member Council meets quarterly to guide the development of organic education and marketing opportunities for Wisconsin farms and businesses as well as providing input on state and federal policy that affects organic agriculture.

The four open seats on the Council include: an organic farmer, an organic business, a consumer representative and an ‘at-large’ seat. Members serve a three-year term and are eligible to serve more than one term.

Interested individuals should complete the short two-page application form and provide two letters of support. Materials must be received at DATCP by March 8, 2013.

Nominations will be evaluated by a nominating committee and approved by the DATCP Secretary and Agriculture Board. Selected nominees will be seated at the Council’s July meeting.

The Council initially convened in 2007. Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in the number of organic farms and is first in the nation in the number of organic dairy farms.

The application is available online at: datcp.wi.gov/Farms/Organic_Farming/Advisory_Council. Paper or electronic copies are also available from DATCP’s Laura Paine at 608-224-5120 or laura.paine@wi.gov.


24TH ANNUAL MOSES ORGANIC FARMING CONFERENCE COMING TO LA CROSSE
The annual Organic Farming Conference organized by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will be February 21-23, 2013 at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The MOSES Conference is the largest gathering of organic producers and agriculture professionals in the country. It will feature more than 70 informative workshops; 10 day-long pre-conference Organic University courses; more than 170 trade show exhibitors; nationally known keynote speakers; and locally sourced organic food.
Keynote speakers are:

  • Filmmakers Jeremy Seifert and Joshua Kunau who will discuss their new film, GMO OMG, and what they learned from talking to farmers, seed sellers, and scientific experts about the issues with GMOs.
  • Carmen Fernholz who will share his vision of the roles we as producers and consumers should play in an ideal organic food production system.

The conference includes a special track for new and young farmers, the New Organic Stewards program, which aims to educate, inspire, and empower new farmers to succeed as organic producers.

The conference also includes the Organic Research Forum, which brings the growing body of research on organic farming practices directly to farmers at the MOSES Conference.

To register or get more information, see the MOSES website, www.mosesorganic.org or call 715-778-5775 to request a conference registration booklet.


FDA MOVES TOWARDS APPROVAL OF FIRST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD ANIMAL DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION AND QUESTIONABLE RESEARCH
Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
“Today [December 21, 2012], despite insufficient testing and widespread opposition, AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon took the final step towards becoming the first FDA-approved GE food animal. Today the Food and Drug Administration released its draft Environmental Assessment, clearing the way for this transgenic organism to be approved by the agency under its new animal drug approval process. Food & Water Watch is far from alone in condemning this historic decision—one that disregards numerous polls revealing that the vast majority of consumers oppose GE salmon. Over 40 members of Congress and scientists at other federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, have also voiced strong opposition to GE salmon, citing the lack of scientific rigor and expertise at the FDA.

“To add insult to injury, this product may be hitting the market without labeling, meaning that concerned consumers who have demanded labeling will be unable to identify GE from non-GE salmon. Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it is simply bad for business, as many will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.

“The FDA, which has been tasked with protecting consumer safety, failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if it is safe to eat or even if the fish can live up to AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates. And, by releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations.

“Congress can still keep FDA from unleashing this dangerous experiment. Bipartisan legislation would ban the commercialization of this controversial fish. Food & Water Watch will be examining legal options to force FDA to do a more thorough assessment of this new GE food animal.

Although this latest FDA decision is a blow to consumer confidence, we encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and demand this reckless decision be overturned.”

Food & Water Watch and its allies will be collecting comments to deliver to the FDA during their public comment period for the next 60 days [through February 18, 2013].


DESPITE FOOD SAFETY PROBLEMS, AUSTRALIA’S PRIVATIZED MEAT INSPECTION DEEMED “EQUIVALENT” TO U.S. BY USDA
The consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to review its decision to allow the newly privatized meat inspection system of Australia to be considered equivalent to U.S. inspection. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the group pointed to repeated discoveries of meat imported from Australia that was contaminated with fecal material and digestive tract contents.

Australia is not the only country exporting meat to the United States that is operating a privatized inspection system, and is not the only exporting country with food safety problems. In 2012, there was a recall in the United States for 2.5 million pounds of Canadian beef products that were potentially contaminated with E. coli produced using a privatized inspection system that the USDA had secretly recognized in 2006.
“U.S. consumers should not be endangered by unsafe imports from Australia or from any other country exporting to the United States,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It is time for USDA to revoke the equivalency determinations of privatized meat inspection schemes, and to abandon its attempts to privatize inspection here in the United States.”

For more from Food & Water Watch, see www.foodandwaterwatch.org.


PUBLIC INTEREST GROUPS CHALLENGE FDA ON USE OF CONTROVERSIAL ANIMAL GROWTH DRUG
Center for Food Safety and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for the immediate reduction in the allowable levels of ractopamine, the controversial animal feed additive widely used in industrial factory farms to accelerate weight gain and promote feed efficiency and leanness in animals raised for meat. The petition urges FDA to conduct comprehensive studies on the long-term effects of human consumption, immediate health impact on animals, and a thorough review of international standards.

In December 2012 when Russia announced a proposed ban of imported pork that was not certified ractopamine-free, challenging U.S. agriculture trade and affecting hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Additionally, a new report by the research and testing publication Consumer Reports investigating 240 U.S. pork products for ractopamine found that one in five products tested positive for ractopamine residues.

Ractopamine has also been shown to have significant health impacts on animals. Fed to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of pigs in the U.S. meat industry, ractopamine use has resulted in more reports of sickened or dead pigs than any other livestock drug on the market. Ractopamine effects may include toxicity and other exposure risks, such as behavioral changes and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, reproductive, and endocrine problems. It is also associated with demonstrations of high stress levels in animals, “downer” or lame animals, hyperactivity, broken limbs, and death.
Based on available evidence, many countries have taken a cautionary approach to the use of ractopamine in their national food systems. Currently, approximately 160 countries ban or restrict ractopamine, including all the nations of the European Union, China, Taiwan, and Russia.

To read the full story from the Center for Food Safety and a link to the petition to the FDA, see www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
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