In response to Monsanto’s release of the company’s first genetically engineered sweet corn for human consumption, a coalition has collected more than 264,000 petition signatures from consumers who refuse to purchase the corn and are asking retailers and food processors to reject it. The coalition, including the Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, CREDO Action, Food Democracy Now!, and Food & Water Watch, announced that they have delivered the signed petition to 10 of the top national retail grocery stores including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway, and top canned and frozen corn processors including Bird’s Eye and Del Monte.

Two major national food companies, General Mills and Trader Joe’s, have already indicated that they will not be using the Monsanto GE sweet corn in their products, according to replies the companies sent to a request from the Center for Environmental Health.

Monsanto is aiming to grow its GE Sweet Corn on 250,000 acres next year, which is roughly 40 percent of the sweet corn market. They believe the corn will be used primarily in frozen and canned corn products, but could also be sold as fresh corn on the cob through retailers.

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The Environmental Working Group released a new Direct Payment Database today, giving taxpayers a look inside the complex agriculture partnerships and corporations that got the lion’s share of $4.7 billion in federal direct payments to farmers in 2009. EWG found that the ten agribusinesses receiving the biggest payouts raked in a total of $5.4 million. The biggest payments went to large agribusinesses in the southern states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

The database also provides the names of the individuals who ultimately cashed the subsidy checks, whose identities have been hidden by these corporate structures and not publicly disclosed by the US Department of Agriculture since the 2008 farm bill.

Direct payments, promoted as a safety net for working farm and ranch families, are in reality annual cash giveaways to the most profitable businesses in farm country. The average crop subsidy payment to the top ten recipients in 2009 was $542,172 apiece—about 10 times more than the average American earns annually. A total of 160 individuals ultimately collected payments through these 10 farm enterprises.

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Organic crop systems can provide similar yields and much higher economic returns than a conventional corn-soybean rotation, according to thirteen years of data from a side-by-side comparison at Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm.

The Long-Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Experiment shows that organic crops can remain competitive with conventional crops even during the three-year transition to organic. Averaged over 13 years, yields of organic corn, soybean and oats have been equivalent to or slightly greater than their conventional counterparts. Likewise, a 12-year average for alfalfa and an 8-year average for winter wheat also show no significant difference between organic yields and the Adair County average.

Organic crops fetch a premium price on the market and eliminate the need for expensive inputs like herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. As a result, they are far more profitable than conventional crops. Craig Chase, interim leader of the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative and extension farm management specialist, calculated the returns to management—that is, the money left over for family living after deducting labor, land and production costs—for both systems. He based his calculations on actual LTAR data from 1998 to 2004, as well as scenarios modeled with enterprise budgets.

Both methods gave the same result: On average, organic systems return roughly $200 per acre more than conventional crops.

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A lawsuit filed in federal court against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) seeks to end cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops on fifty-four national wildlife refuges across the Midwest. The suit marks the latest in a series of successful lawsuits by public interest organizations to stop the planting of GE crops on national wildlife refuges.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, this federal lawsuit charges that the Fish & Wildlife Service unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act and in violation of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act and FWS’s own policy.

“National Wildlife Refuges are sanctuaries for migratory birds, native grasses, and endangered species,” said Paige Tomaselli, CFS staff attorney. “Allowing pesticide promoting, GE crops degrades these vital ecosystems and is antithetical to the basic purpose of our refuge system. Worse still is approval without meaningful review of these crops’ impacts.”

If successful, the lawsuit will halt the cultivation of GE crops in the Midwest Region until and unless a new approval is made based on a rigorous review of all potential impacts and consistency with the refuge’s purposes. Unless this practice and FWS policy change, PEER and CFS have pledged to continue challenging the legality of GE crop cultivation on refuges across the country.

Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson released the following statement regarding the rejection of their petition to prohibit medically important antibiotics from animal agriculture:

“We are disappointed that, after 12 long years, the FDA rejected our petition and a more recent petition to ban non-medical uses of antibiotics in animals. The industry’s irresponsible use of antibiotics in livestock increases the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and those germs can cause infections in humans that are difficult or impossible to treat. The industry has long failed to cooperate voluntarily, and the FDA should take binding action. Consumers cannot afford another decade of delay.”
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