CONSUMERS AND FARMERS SHOW USDA HOW TO STAND UP FOR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELING
Food & Water Watch released a legal memo that provides a roadmap for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stand up for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on beef and pork in the face of challenges to these commonsense labels at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The memo was developed with consumer group Public Citizen and farmer groups National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

“Consumers deserve clear, transparent and informative COOL labels and the WTO has no place meddling in American grocery carts,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “President Obama campaigned to protect country of origin labels in 2008 and he can do so again by implementing these straightforward improvements to COOL rules.”

In 2008, years of effort by consumers and farmers resulted in mandatory country of origin labels for meats, poultry, vegetables, fruits and some nuts being included in the Farm Bill. But the WTO has ruled that these popular labels are in violation of international trade rules.

The WTO ruling found that current rules for COOL labels imposed a regulatory cost to imported livestock and meat that exceeded the consumer benefit. “The logical way to respond is to defend the integrity of the country of origin labels by simplifying the information provided on the labels and making them clearer for consumers,” said Hauter. “The new legal memo demonstrates a reasonable next step for USDA that makes labeling more meaningful to them.”

For more information, see www.foodandwaterwatch.org.


CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY CALLS ON EPA TO FOLLOW EUROPEAN CUE, FIND BEE-KILLING INSECTICIDES UNSAFE

New European Pesticide Agency study reports “unacceptable” dangers to bees; supports suspension of use in U.S.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to follow the cue of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and immediately suspend the most dangerous outdoor uses of several pollinator-endangering insecticides. Based on a just-released series of reports by EFSA, the main neonicotinoid insecticides are shown to present both acute and chronic risks to the survival of honey bees and other beneficial insects. In February, CFS called for the agency to consider EFSA’s finding and suspend their use until the health, safety and environmental questions raised by the EFSA research are fully answered.
Neonicotinoid chemicals were first registered by the EPA in the 1990s and came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. At the same time beekeepers started observing widespread cases of Colony Collapse Disorder—the emptying and vanishing of whole hives. Yet, EPA has continued to approve more than 100 neonicotinoid products for unrestricted use on dozens of crops, including the vast majority of corn seed planted in North America, cotton, soybeans and dozens of other crops covering an estimated 200 million total acres.

In March 2012, the Center for Food Safety and a coalition including 25 prominent beekeepers filed an Emergency Petition with the EPA asking the agency to suspend the use of certain neonicotinoids until they are proven safe to pollinators, the environment and future food security. The agency indicated it will not finish its Registration Review for these substances until 2018.

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


AS CHALLENGE OVER SEED RIGHTS APPROACHES SUPREME COURT, NEW REPORT EXPOSES DEVASTATING IMPACT OF MONSANTO PRACTICES ON U.S. FARMERS
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save Our Seeds (SOS) launched their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers, which investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.
     Among the report’s discoveries are several alarming statistics:

  • As of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states.
  • Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
  • Seed consolidation has led to market control resulting in dramatic increases in the price of seeds. From 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; for cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent.

The report also disputes seed industry claims that present seed patent rules are necessary for seed innovation. As Bill Freese, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety and one of the report’s contributors notes: “Most major new crop varieties developed throughout the 20th century owe their origin to publicly funded agricultural research and breeding.”

For the full report click on www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf.


CREATE A FARM TO SCHOOL SITE IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Promoting healthy eating habits and increasing access to local foods in schools are two goals of the AmeriCorps Farm to School program in Wisconsin. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is now accepting applications to be an AmeriCorps Farm to School site for the 2013-2014 school year to help make that happen.

Host sites for the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program can be a non-profit organization, state agency, university, school, school district or group of schools. Each site must have a letter of support from the schools it will serve. New sites would begin August 15.

Each site receives at least two half-time AmeriCorps members. One will focus on community outreach, connecting schools to farmers and the community. A nutrition education member will implement educational activities within the school.
Sites must be able to provide support to their AmeriCorps members, help create a local Farm to School task force in their community as well as complete pre and post evaluations of the program. Sites must also contribute $5,500 for each full-time member and $2,000 for each half-time member to be used as a cash match for operating expenses of the program.

Wisconsin is soliciting new AmeriCorps Farm to School sites in anticipation of receiving funding from the Corporation of National and Community Service. The statewide program is possible with partnerships between DATCP, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Rural Partners and the UW-Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.
The application is due to DATCP by 4:30 p.m. on April 26. Applicants are highly encouraged to complete a notice of intent to apply by 4:30 p.m. on March 17 to assist with program planning.

To receive an application, visit datcp.wi.gov/Business/Buy_Local_Buy_Wisconsin/Farm_to_School_Program. For more information, contact DATCP’s Camilla Vargas at 608-224-5017 or camilla.vargas@wi.gov.


NEW EPA RULES USE FOOD CROP BIOFUELS TO MAKE UP FOR CELLULOSIC SHORTFALL
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed biofuel mandate volumes for 2013. The new requirements used so-called “advanced” food-based biofuels such as biodiesel and sugarcane to make up for a shortfall in cleaner cellulosic biofuels, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The volume requirements were adopted under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which was designed to promote renewable fuels that don’t compete with food supplies.

“EPA should exercise more discretion to reduce competition between food and fuel,” said Jeremy Martin, senior scientist with UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program, noting that markets for corn, sugar and vegetable oil are tight and thus any expansion of mandates for any food-based biofuels will put pressure on food prices and accelerate agricultural expansion and deforestation. “This year’s drought reminded us that our food supplies can be easily disrupted,” Martin added. “Cellulosic biofuel production is behind schedule, but that doesn’t mean we need to accelerate mandates that threaten our environment and our food supplies.”

 “Cellulosic fuels still offer the best bet for replacing large amounts of oil without disrupting our food supplies,” Martin said. “Along with vehicle efficiency and other technology, cellulosic fuels can help us to cut our projected oil use in half over the next 20 years.”

For more from UCS, see www.uscusa.org.
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