In late-September national consumer organization Food & Water Watch told the FDA it must halt the approval of AquaBounty’s AquaAdvantage salmon until the agency could do its own studies regarding the long-term effects of human consumption of genetically engineered (GE) meat.
The organization noted the results of a recent poll it conducted with Lake Research Partners showing that 78% of Americans believe AquaBounty’s GE product should not be approved for human consumption. Opposition grows even stronger for genetically engineered meat, with 91% saying the FDA should not allow transgenic pigs, chicken and cattle into the food supply until the agency could perform its own safety studies.
“The FDA is on the verge of approving a product that an overwhelming number of Americans will reject unless the agency can conduct its own studies showing that it’s safe, which it hasn’t done,” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The FDA has publicly disclosed four studies that it considered in this process. One was nearly 20 years old, and the other three were from AquaBounty itself—that hardly qualifies as independent analysis of the safety risks involved with this untested method.”
To read the full press release, click on www.foodandwaterwatch.org/press/press-releases/national-consumer-organization-halt-approval-of-genet....
Bacon, Potato and Cheddar Quiche... Hickory Nut, Bourbon, and Caramel Pie... Savory Autumn Vegetable Tart... Hungry yet?
REAP Food Group’s sixth annual Pie Palooza—Madison’s favorite celebration of sweet and savory concoctions, sold by the slice or entire pie—will be held 9:30am–1:30pm, Sunday, November 7th, at Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St.
A ticket to this pie-licious Sunday brunch covers a choice of two slices of pie (sweet and savory), a farm-fresh salad and a beverage. Pies are baked by some of the area’s finest chefs and bakers using fresh locally grown ingredients. Previous Pie Paloozas have attracted sell-out crowds, and this year is expected to be no different. Tickets sell for $16 in advance and $18 at the door. (Order online at www.reapfoodgroup.org, or in person at the REAP office at 306 E. Wilson St.)
Back by popular demand, whole ready-to-freeze apple or pumpkin pies will be sold for those thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. Whole pies will sell for $15. Online orders for these two kinds of pies will be taken before Pie Palooza at www.reapfoodgroup.org or can be purchased at the event until sold out.
Expect by-the-slice selections to again be wide-ranging. Savory pie choices will appeal to vegetarians and meat lovers. Sweet pies will include traditional favorites and innovative creations. Pie bakers already developing their recipes are: Bloom Bake Shop, Beans ‘n Cream Coffeehouse, Blackhawk Country Club, Bunky’s Café, Crema Café, Dayton Street Grille, Fresco, Grace Cheesecakes, Harvest, Honey Bee Bakery, Hubbard Avenue Diner, L’Etoile Restaurant, Lombardino’s, Market Street Bakery, Nostrano, Nutshell Catering, Porchlight Products, Sunprint Café and Monty’s Blue Plate Diner.
All proceeds from Pie Palooza support REAP Food Group programs, which promote the inclusion of healthy, local, sustainably grown foods in schools, restaurants, grocery stores and home kitchens. Find more information at reapfoodgroup.org or by calling 608-310-7836.
The Natural Heritage Land Trust has been named 2010 Wisconsin Land Trust of the Year by the statewide conservation organization Gathering Waters Conservancy.
In its 27 years of land conservation work in and around Dane County, the Natural Heritage Land Trust has helped permanently protect cherished Madison parks, including over 300 acres at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, parts of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve along Lake Mendota, and two segments of the popular Capital City bike trail.
“We are honored to receive this award in recognition of our long record of local land conservation,” says Natural Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Jim Welsh. “We try to focus our work on meaningful landscapes, where people connect with nature and become inspired to support more land conservation. It’s nice to know that strategy has so many supporters.”
According to Gathering Waters Executive Director Mike Strigel, “We’ve bestowed this award annually since 2004 and the Natural Heritage Land Trust received a record number of glowing nominations. This is an organization admired by landowners, the County, the DNR, municipalities, farmers and the land trust community as effective and exemplary.”
Founded in 1983, the Natural Heritage Land Trust has permanently protected more than 6,500 acres in and around Dane County at 13 conservation parks and natural areas, 14 scenic areas, in five hunting and fishing areas and 23 working farms. The Land Trust is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to preserving cherished local lands.
The Cornucopia Institute released an independent report that focuses on widespread abuses in organic egg production, primarily by large industrial agribusinesses. The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, developed the report, “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture,” following nearly two years of research into organic egg production. The report also contains a scorecard rating various egg brands on how their eggs are produced in accordance with federal organic standards and consumer expectations.
“After visiting over 15 percent of the certified egg farms in the United States, and surveying all name-brand and private-label industry marketers, it’s obvious that a high percentage of the eggs on the market should be labeled ‘produced with organic feed’ rather than bearing the USDA-certified organic logo,” said Mark A. Kastel, The Cornucopia Institute’s co-director and senior farm policy analyst.
The new report comes at a critical juncture for the organic poultry industry. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the expert citizen advisory panel set up by Congress to advise the USDA on organic policy, has been debating a set of proposed new regulations for poultry and other livestock that would establish housing-density standards and a clearer understanding of what the requirement for outdoor access truly means. The industry’s largest operators, along with their lobbyists, have been loudly voicing their opposition to requirements for outdoor space.
“Many of these operators are gaming the system by providing minute enclosed porches, with roofs and concrete or wood flooring, and calling these structures ‘the outdoors,’” stated Charlotte Vallaeys, a farm policy analyst with Cornucopia and lead author of the report. “Many of the porches represent just 3 to 5 percent of the square footage of the main building housing the birds. That means 95 percent or more of the birds have absolutely no access whatsoever.”
At previous meetings of the NOSB, United Egg Producers, an industry lobby group, represented industrial-scale producers and publicly opposed proposals to strengthen regulations requiring outdoor access.
“As in organic dairying, we discovered similar flagrant violations of the law in the organic egg business,” lamented Kastel. “Some of the largest operators even have a note from their veterinarian, or some state official, saying ‘we recommend that you not let your birds outside to protect their health.’ And some accommodating, corporate-friendly organic certifiers have signed-off on this,” Kastel said.
To read more on this issue, view the report, and to view Cornucopia’s organic egg brand scorecard, click on www.cornucopia.org/2010/09/scrambled-eggs-report-spotlights-systemic-abuses-in-organic-egg-production.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that the California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded $180,000 in federal funds to finance an agribusiness-chemical industry plan to combat its critics—Environmental Working Group and other health, consumer and organic farming advocates who have campaigned against overuse of pesticides on food crops.
California officials announced that the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), a California, trade association representing more than 50 large produce growers and marketers and pesticide and fertilizer suppliers, would receive $180,000 to “correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues.”
“The block grant program supports some initiatives that we believe are worthwhile,” Cook said. “But the grant in question shows how a good program can be distorted. I think most taxpayers would say this is exactly the kind of thing they don’t want their money spent on. It ends up going to serve the agribusiness agenda. If these well-heeled corporate farming interests want to talk people out of buying organic or low-pesticide food, they ought to spend their own money to do it.”
To read more from EWG, see www.ewg.org/release/pesticide-industry-to-use-tax-dollars-to-attack-critic.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), hundreds of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees who work with food safety said public health has been harmed by their agencies deferring to business interests, according to a survey released mid-September.
“Hundreds of scientists and inspectors responsible for food safety have personally experienced political interference in their work, and that’s bad for public health,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program. “Both the administration and Congress need to act.”
Dean Wyatt, a USDA veterinarian who oversees federal slaughterhouse inspectors, said his agency regularly punishes inspectors for writing up legitimate safety violations. “Upper level management does not adequately support field inspectors and the actions they take to protect the food supply,” said Wyatt. “Not only is there lack of support, but there’s outright obstruction, retaliation and abuse of power.”
The results were not all bad. Respondents said that interference had decreased under the Obama administration, compared to the Bush years. However, the improvement was very small.
The Senate is currently considering bipartisan food safety legislation that includes many of the reforms supported by respondents. The bill would grant the FDA the authority to test widely for pathogens, and bolster the agency’s ability to trace outbreaks back to their source. Most importantly, it would give the agency the power to recall contaminated foods and fine companies that knowingly sell them. Currently, the agency only has the power to request that companies conduct recalls.
“There’s no question that the FDA needs to improve its efficiency and effectiveness,” said Robert Wallace, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Iowa, who has studied the FDA’s food safety system extensively and spoke at the UCS press conference. “Also, it needs better support for its scientific and regulatory activities and a better communication program, and it needs to more fully incorporate risk-based methods into all of its programs.”
The current system is based on a law enacted in 1906, when the major problems were parasites that inspectors could actually see. “Our biggest threats now are microbial, which are much more difficult to detect,” said Grifo.
Grifo said the FDA is starved for resources. The agency is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the country’s food supply, yet it has half the number of inspectors as the USDA. In part because of this lack of staff, the FDA inspects food production facilities only once every 10 years.
For more information see www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/fda-and-usda-scientists-survey-0402.html.