ANNUAL ORGANIC FARMING CONFERENCE COMING TO LA CROSSE, WI FEBRUARY 23-25
Organized by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), the annual Organic Farming Conference is the largest organic farming conference in the United States. It will be held February 23–25, 2012 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This is a farmer-centered event featuring more than 65 informative workshops, ten day-long Organic University trainings, more than 160 exhibitors, nationally known keynote speakers, locally sourced organic food and live entertainment.
To register and for more information, go to the MOSES website, mosesorganic.org/conference
“BIG 6” GUILTY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
After an intensive public international trial covering a range of human rights violations, jurors issued a scathing verdict to the six largest pesticide and biotechnology corporations, urging governments, especially the United States, Switzerland and Germany, to take action to prevent further harms.
The verdict was handed down to the six largest pesticide corporations—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Dupont—collectively known as the “Big 6”, for their human rights violations, including internationally recognized rights to life, livelihood and health. The agrichemical industry is valued at over $42 billion and operates with impunity while over 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning each year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. In addition, pesticide corporations have put livelihoods and jobs in jeopardy, including, farmers, beekeepers and lobstermen.
Over the past few days, witnesses from across the globe, including the United States, shared their stories of the harms of pesticides and biotechnology. “The right to care for and work the land is basic and fundamental,” said David Runyon, a 900-acre Indiana farmer. “Monsanto and Co. have undermined my ability to provide for my family and prosper as a farmer. And the Big 6 have overstepped any system of justice and need to be held to account for their activities.”
Runyon is one of over fifteen witnesses to testify at the trial in Bangalore, India. He and his wife Dawn almost lost the family farm when pesticide and genetic engineering giant Monsanto found contamination of seeds on their property. The company threatened to sue Runyon unless he paid them for genetically modified seeds, seeds that had been carried by the wind from a neighboring farm.
The verdict also names three particular nations as culpable alongside the corporations. Their preliminary findings state, “The United States, Switzerland and Germany [home states for the pesticide corporations] have failed to comply with their internationally accepted responsibility to promote and protect human rights…The three States, where six corporations are registered and headquartered, have failed to adequately regulate, monitor and discipline these entities by national laws and policy.”
For the full story from the Center for Food Safety, see www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
CONGRESS NEEDS TO INVESTIGATE HUMAN HEALTH IMPACTS OF GE SALMON
Food & Water Watch released the following statement regarding the need for research on genetically engineered foods on human health: “The Senate hearing […] called by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) to discuss the environmental impact of genetically engineered (GE) salmon is a welcome development. Congress also needs to examine what we know about the human health impacts of consuming such laboratory creations. If they did, they’d figure out the answer: not much. No long-term studies have been conducted regarding the human health impacts of consuming genetically modified foods.
“Congress needs to step in because the Food & Drug Administration seems set on approving this first transgenic animal to enter the food chain, even though nearly all of the safety studies they are scrutinizing have been conducted by AquaBounty, the company that has sunk tens of millions of dollars into the research and development of the product. That hasn’t kept the federal government from also dispensing tax payer money—to the tune of $2.4 million since 2003—to help this private company commercialize a product there is no demand for. In fact, over 78 percent of Americans say they don’t want it approved without further study.
“Approving GE salmon now, given the information we lack about its potential effects, could be devastating for consumers, the environment, and fishermen alike.”
For more from Food & Water Watch, see www.foodandwaterwatch.org.
BROWSING GOATS IMPROVE HABITAT FOR RARE NATIVE SPECIES
At the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Polk County, Iowa, researchers have developed a novel tool for restoring biodiversity to a landscape choked by invasive species: Set loose a herd of hungry goats.
The project began in 2008 when the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture awarded a competitive grant to Iowa Heartland Resource Conservation and Development to study the benefits of incorporating livestock onto conservation lands. By dining on unwanted buckthorn, goats helped restore a rare swamp white oak savannah and created habitat for a wide array of native species, including Blanding’s turtles, listed as threatened in Iowa.
Loren Lown, natural resource specialist for the Polk County Conservation Board, leads the project. Lown asked Deb and Eric Finch of State Center, Iowa, to let their herd of 30-plus goats browse at Chichaqua Bottoms, a 7,300-acre greenbelt along the Skunk River. The partnership allowed the Finches to raise healthy goats and rest their home pastures while Lown cleaned up the ecosystem.
“We’re getting a lot of use by animals that like the more open woodland,” Lown said. “The diversity of the vegetation at the ground level has definitely increased. Prior to having the goats in there, the mid-story invasive species had shaded out almost everything on the ground floor.”
For more on this research, see www.leopold.iastate.edu.
KIDS’ CEREALS PACK MORE SUGAR THAN TWINKIES AND COOKIES
Parents have good reason to worry about the sugar content of children’s breakfast cereals, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) review of 84 popular brands.
Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, at nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, leads the list of the 10 worst children’s cereals, according to EWG’s analysis.
In response to the exploding childhood obesity epidemic and aggressive food company advertising pitches to kids, Congress formed the federal Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children to propose standards to Congress to curb marketing of kids’ foods with too much sugar, salt and fat. But EWG has found that only one in four children’s cereals meets the government panel’s voluntary proposed guidelines, which recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight. EWG has been calling for an even lower cap on the maximum amount of sugar in children’s cereals.
Studies suggest that children who eat breakfasts that are high in sugar have more problems at school. They become more frustrated and have a harder time working independently than kids who eat lower-sugar breakfasts. By lunchtime they have less energy, are hungrier, show attention deficits and make more mistakes on their work.
Among the best simple-to-prepare breakfasts for children are fresh fruit and high-fiber, lower-sugar cereals. Better yet, pair fruit with homemade oatmeal.
For a list of the top ten worst children’s cereals based on percent sugar by weight and more from EWG, see www.ewg.org.
IATP GUIDE POINTS TO HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS OF SLUDGE USE IN FOOD PRODUCTION
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) concludes in its “Smart Guide on Sludge Use in Food Production” that consumers should choose foods produced without sludge and avoid use of sewage-based fertilizer products in home gardens.
According to the guide, sewage sludge can contain disease-causing microbes, synthetic chemicals, and heavy metals that can cause acute and chronic disease. Many of these contaminants can persist in soil for centuries and can enter the food system through crops grown on sludge-treated land, as well as through food animals that graze on sludge-treated-land.
IATP created the “Smart Guide” to help consumers make informed food and fertilizer choices. For a link to the guide, see www.iatp.org.