ECUADORAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMS DEAL TO LEAVE OIL UNDER YASUNI PARK
President Raphael Correa of Ecuador approved an agreement with the United Nations (UN) to leave the country’s oil reserves in Yasuni National Park untouched in exchange for $3 billion. The money will come from voluntary contributions and transactions in the carbon market. Yasuni National Park is within the Amazon rainforest, which has been determined to be the most biodiverse area in South America.

For more information and stipulations of the initiative, see www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2010/2010-04-26-02.html.

 


NEW ADMINISTRATION AT USDA STEPS UP TO END ORGANIC CORRUPTION
The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) recently reversed a ruling that previously allowed synthetic ingredients in organic food products. The issue stemmed from infant formula manufacturers having added synthetic omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to organic products.

Through documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), The Cornucopia Institute found that Dr. Barbara Robinson, the former head of the USDA’s organic program, had been lobbied by the formula industry, and as a result, she overruled the USDA’s previous conclusion that the synthetic fatty acids violated federal organic standards.

In response to the news that the USDA will no longer permit synthetic additives, Mark Kastel, codirector of The Cornucopia Institute said, “We have to say we are continuing to be impressed by the ethical turnaround at the USDA, in their oversight of the organic industry, since the new administration took control in Washington and Secretary [of Agriculture] Vilsack promised members of the organic community that he would appoint leadership who ‘shares our values.’”

For more information on The Cornucopia Institute’s investigation into the use of synthetic ingredients in organic production see www.cornucopia.org/2010/04/new-administration-at-usda-steps-up-to-end-organic-corruption/.


INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE RECOMMENDS QUICK GOVERNMENT ACTION TO REDUCE SALT IN THE FOOD SUPPLY
Earlier this spring, the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) filed a report calling for immediate government action to reduce salt in packaged and restaurant foods. Current dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium consumption to 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day, but according to the IOM report, sodium intake has continued to increase since the 1970s. The Center for Science in the Public Interest cites the average American’s sodium intake to be greater than 4,000 mg per day. Some restaurant meals can contain more than the daily recommended amount of sodium in a single meal. Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael F. Jacobson stated, “Limiting salt in packaged and restaurant foods is perhaps the single most important thing that the Food and Drug Administration could do to save hundreds of thousands of lives and save billions of dollars in health-care expenses.”
For more information on this subject and to read the official IOM report, see www.cspinet.org/new/201004201.html.


MILITARY URGES CHILD NUTRITION EXPANSION
A group of 130 retired generals, admirals, and other senior United States military leaders has cited national security and preparedness in their endorsement for increasing the funding for school meal programs, claiming millions of young Americans age 17 to 24 would be rejected for military service due to weight problems. Retired rear admiral Jamie Barnett claimed, “Our national security in 2030 is absolutely dependent on reversing the alarming rates of childhood obesity.” School meal programs began in 1946 as a result of World War II draftees failing to qualify for military service due to diet-related health problems; however, the concern sixty years ago was malnutrition, not obesity. For more on this story from Foodlinks America, see tefapalliance.org/blog/archives/595#more-595.


CITY ALDERS PASS RESOLUTION DESIGNATING MADISON AS FAIR TRADE CITY THANKS TO WISPIRG
At a meeting in April, the Madison City Council adopted a resolution declaring Madison a Fair Trade City, making it the sixteenth in the nation. After two years of working with city council members, Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group’s (WISPRIG) Fair Trade Committee is now seeing its resolution come to fruition. The resolution only encourages city businesses and private businesses in Madison to purchase Fair Trade products, but the ambition is to eventually require city businesses by law to purchase Fair Trade products such as coffee, tea, and sugar. Fair Trade products aid farmers in developing countries by providing them with a living wage and healthy labor conditions.

For more on Madison becoming a Fair Trade City, see badgerherald.com/news/2010/04/14/gordon_commons_appro.php?sms_ss=email. For more information on Fair Trade, click on www.transfairusa.org.


CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY PRESENTS ARGUMENTS BEFORE SUPREME COURT ON BIOTECH ALFALFA
In late-April, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) began presenting its case against Monsanto and its genetically engineered crops (GE) to the United States Supreme Court. This is the first case involving GE crops heard by the Supreme Court; lower courts previously agreed that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to study the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa on farmers and the environment. Due to the USDA’s lack of analysis, the lower courts concurred that the planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa must cease.

In 2006, CFS filed a lawsuit on behalf of farmers who wanted the choice to plant non-GE alfalfa. The CFS lawsuit cited the contamination of non-GE alfalfa with Monsanto’s patented GE alfalfa due to the nature of the crop’s open pollination.

Speaking on the current lawsuit being heard by the Supreme Court, Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director CFS, said, “[We] will have the privilege of speaking on behalf of family farmers, the environment, and the protection of an organic alternative. The law and the facts are on our side and we look forward to presenting our case before the Court.”

For up-to-date information on this case and to read briefs filed by farmers’ unions, food companies, scientific experts, and legal scholars in support of CFS, click on truefoodnow.org/2010/04/27/center-for-food-safety-presents-arguments-before-supreme-court-on-biotech-alfalfa/.


NEW UCS GARDENING GUIDE OFFERS TIPS FOR CLIMATE-FRIENDLY GARDENS AND YARDS
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has released a guide, The Climate-Friendly Gardener, for home gardeners to reduce the impact of climate change. Although home gardening practices alone will not solve global climate change, the UCS guide provides tips that “can point the way to climate-friendly farm policies that will have a bigger impact.” The guide includes these five tips for a climate-friendly garden:

 

  1. Minimize carbon-emitting inputs.
  2. Don’t leave garden soil naked.
  3. Plant trees and shrubs.
  4. Expand recycling to the garden.
  5. Think long and hard about your lawn.

To read more about these tips and how to implement them into your own gardening practices, see www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/what_you_can_do/the-climate-friendly-gardener.html.