On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit in late March against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs sued preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
For the full story from The Cornucopia Institute, a list of plaintiffs, and a copy of the lawsuit, see www.cornucopia.org.
Food & Water Watch issued a nationwide public safety alert warning the nation that leaders in Washington, DC are proposing to cut food and water safety protections which would put more Americans in jeopardy of becoming sick or even dying from foodborne illness, and would severely restrict the ability of municipalities to maintain their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
The original Republican proposal (House Resolution 1, or H.R. 1) for cutting the current FY 2011 federal budget would cut the budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspections by $88 million, and would return funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to less than last year’s levels‚ putting them even further behind in meeting requirements of the new food safety law passed late last year. President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget would cut the USDA’s meat inspection budget by $9 million and increase the FDA’s budget but not enough to implement the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
Federal funding for water infrastructure has also been targeted by the House, whose proposal cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds for clean water (sewerage) and drinking water by $1.9 billion to finish out the current fiscal year. These funds would also be drastically reduced under Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget.
For more from Food & Water Watch, see www.foodandwaterwatch.org.
Legislation reintroduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) would help protect Americans from widespread antibiotic overuse in food animal production, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). UCS estimates that 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are devoted to the non-therapeutic treatment of cattle, swine and poultry, endangering human health by contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections.
“U.S. livestock producers are overusing and misusing antibiotics to reduce the cost of beef, chicken and pork,” said Mellon. “This penny-pinching practice is undermining the effectiveness of these ‘miracle’ drugs and poses dire risks to human health.”
Rep. Slaughter’s bill, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act” (PAMTA), would preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics used to treat human disease by requiring the Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes unless the agency determines that the drugs do not produce unsafe levels of antibiotic resistance. The bill would allow farmers to continue to treat sick animals with antibiotics.
For more information, see www.ucsusa.org.
The Cornucopia Institute, one of the nation’s leading organic industry watchdogs, condemned the position of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will allow products containing unapproved synthetic additives to be labeled “organic” for an indefinite grace period.
The Cornucopia Institute had filed legal complaints against infant formula manufacturers and Dean Foods, manufacturer of Horizon dairy products, for adding unapproved additives derived chemically from fermented algae and fungus, to foods with the organic label.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains, and the USDA reiterated in a compliance letter issued March 16, that these additives are illegal in organics. But the USDA also stated it would not take enforcement action at this time. The USDA’s compliance letter suggested that it would allow companies to continue adding the additives to organic foods during a phase-out period of unspecified length, despite its clear statement, in the same letter, that the additives were being used in organics due to an “incorrect” interpretation of the federal standards.
For more information, see www.cornucopia.org.
Sustainably Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), a network of angel investors focused on reestablishing a local food system in the Chicago region, sponsored a competition focusing on sustainable, local businesses with the potential to make a significant impact on the local foodshed at the Financing Farm to Fork Conference in March.
Black Earth Meats, a certified organic and certified humane meat processor, was selected to present its business to the panel, and was eventually chosen as the winner of the competition. Black Earth Meats is a regional meat processor and butcher shop with a long reputation for quality meats. Working with a network of local farms practicing pasture-based agriculture that sustains and nourishes the environment through restoration and soil improvement techniques, its animals are bred for quality and receive a forage diet free of pesticides as they are continually rotated to fresh new pastures. Black Earth Meats’ animals are never held in confinement, fed antibiotics or given synthetic growth hormones.
CNU opens its 19th annual Congress in Madison, Wisconsin with a focus on “Growing Local.” Over the course of four days, CNU 19 will investigate the how and why behind the local option. Whether it is biking and walking as a means of transit, or frequenting local organic restaurants and farmer’s markets, the theme of growing local is revolutionizing how development, food systems, and community fabric thrive.
CNU 19 will explore the relationship between humans and their landscape both natural and manmade. And to deliver the opening plenary on June 1, CNU welcomes preeminent historian William Cronon, the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, examines the forces that have shaped the transformation of cities and the interaction with their surrounding ecosystems. Cronon will offer his perspective on how New Urbanists can mend sprawl and create towns and cities that respect historical tradition while remaining sustainable for future generations.
CNU 19 takes place June 1st–4th, 2011. For more details, see www.cnu.org.