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Return of Route 10—right past Willy Street Co-op

Metro Transit is bringing back Route 10. Due to popular demand, Route 10 midday service was restored as of Sunday, August 23rd.

Route 10 provides quick, direct trips from the Jenifer St. and Johnson St. corridors through the isthmus to the University of Wisconsin campus area and back again, greatly increasing access to Willy Street Co-op for bus riders.

Because Route 10 bypasses the Capital Square, it is able to circumnavigate the loop of its route very quickly-take it going eastbound or westbound and you will be at your destination before you know it!

For more information about Route 10 or any Metro route, go to or call 608-266-4466 TTY/Textnet 1-866-704-2316.

Former Monsanto VP named FDA advisor

Michael Taylor, a former vice president of public policy at Monsanto Company, is the new senior advisor for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He will advise Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of food and drugs.

Taylor joined the FDA in July. He will oversee planning and implementation of food safety reform at FDA, said George Strait, assistant commissioner of public affairs for the administration. The hiring marks a return to the FDA for Taylor, who worked for the FDA from 1976 to 1981 as a staff lawyer and executive assistant, and again from 1991 to 1994 as deputy commissioner for policy. Taylor also served as the administrator for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service from 1994 to 1996.

“He was selected because of his great expertise and experience in food safety issues,” Strait said. “He will be reporting directly to the commissioner as her special assistant on all food and food safety. It is a new position, created because the commissioner sees food safety as one of her highest priorities.”

But some activists see Taylor’s hiring as trouble.

“We’re not happy to hear the news of Michael Taylor getting the (job), not only because of his well-known GMO revolving door issues that don’t please us at all, but also, we have some differences of opinion in terms of government and food inspection,” said Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization.

After leaving the FDA the first time in 1981, Taylor led the food and drug law practice at King & Spalding, a Washington law firm that represented Monsanto. After leaving the USDA in 1996, he returned to that firm. Then, from October 1998 to January 2000, Taylor was vice president for public policy at Monsanto, the makers of Roundup herbicide and developers of genetically engineered crops.

But the “revolving door” issue could prove to be of little consequence if Taylor performs responsibly, said Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union, which is also a nonprofit consumer organization.

Taylor’s signature is on the FDA policy that claims genetical engineering is simply an extension of conventional breeding and does not require safety testing, Hansen said. (In later years, Taylor seemed to reverse his stance and admitted that genetically engineered foods should go through safety testing and be labeled.)

Many organic food activists also see Taylor as the administrator responsible for the FDA’s approval of the genetically modified growth hormone rBGH to beused in dairy production.

But Hansen said Taylor is “a sharp lawyer and he also did some positive things.”

Most noteworthy is Taylor’s determination in regard to E. coli 0157:H7. Hansen said Taylor pushed the USDA to declare it an adulterant, meaning the food fails to meet standards and can’t be sold. It also established a trigger for potential recalls.

He also spearheaded the USDA’s implementation of the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points, which provide a global way of looking at plant operations as a whole and determining where contamination can happen and taking action so those problems don’t occur. HACCP is designed to ensure food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product, according to the FDA.

“I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Hansen said. “I don’t think he’s Monsanto’s person in FDA. Look, he’s done some things that I have disagreed with in the past, but his actions at the USDA and on E. coli were definitely a step forward, and what he said about new technology is a step forward, so let’s give him a chance and see what he can do.”

Organic dairy farmers’ rally—USDA Secretary asked to vigorously enforce organic laws

An estimated 150-200 organic dairy farmers, and their supporters, from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa held a “demonstration” at the La Crosse County Fair on Thursday, July 16. Their goal was to convince Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to take immediate and aggressive enforcement action against a handful of “factory farms” allegedly saturating the market with illegal organic milk.

Secretary Vilsack’s comments indicate that the farmers may have been successful in their mission. “We are focusing on rules that will level the playing field so that small and medium size producers have a fair shot,” said Vilsack, sparking applause from the crowd. “We are, as you are, asking questions about how producers can make so little and how others who are in the chain can make so much,” added Vilsack.

One farmer shouted a question to the Agriculture Secretary, asking when the USDA will take action against organic lawbreakers. “I commit to you that we will enforce the rules,” Vilsack responded.

Under the Bush administration the USDA was accused of “looking the other way” as large corporate agribusinesses invested in organics while allegedly violating federal standards. In the dairy sector there are now estimated to be 20 large industrial dairies, each milking 1500-7000 cows, producing as much as 40% of the nation’s organic milk supply. A glut of factory farm milk has flooded the organic dairy sector, squeezing the incomes of family farmers as dairy processors cut payments and demand production cutbacks.

Mark Kastel, rally organizer with The Cornucopia Institute, told Secretary Vilsack that, “We’d like you to re-open the Aurora investigation.” Aurora, operator of five factory farms in Colorado and Texas and the organic milk store-brand supplier for Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, Costco and other national chains, was found to have “willfully” violated numerous organic regulations by USDA investigators in 2007. The company received mild sanctions from USDA political appointees who rejected staff recommendationscalling for revocation of Aurora’s organic certification.

Cornucopia has questioned the legality of the USDA’s agreement with Aurora allowing the nation’s largest corporate organic dairy operator to remain in business. The Bush administration permitted Aurora to retain over 10,000 conventional cows illegally brought onto their operations.

In addition to USDA Secretary Vilsack, Wisconsin’s Governor Jim Doyle visited the event at the fairgrounds in West Salem, and was well received, as did the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and other local, state and federal officials.

One of the strongest supporters of the development of organic food and agriculture has been the nation’s 270 natural food cooperatives. Michelle Schry, the manager at People’s Food Co-op in Lacrosse, WI came to the rally to show their solidarity with struggling family dairy farmers. “Whatever we can do to support you, we will do,” Schry told the crowd. “We want that (organic) label to be protected as much as you do.”

Rally participants said their most important message was to instill “a sense of immediacy” with the Secretary in terms of addressing the stepped-up enforcement actions that he has promised.

In addition to The Cornucopia Institute, the emergency organic dairy farmer rally was cosponsored by Family Farm Defenders, Center for Rural Affairs, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Church’s Center for Land and People, National Family Farm Coalition, and the Interfaith Program Action Council. -Cornucopia Institute

Dole and Monsanto join forces to develop new breeds of veggies

In a new collaboration between the Monsanto Company and Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., plant breeding will be used to enhance the look, aroma, texture and taste of certain vegetables, but some natural food advocates say such “tinkering” is not necessary.

The five-year collaboration will focus on broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach. The breeding is also expected to improve the vegetables’ nutritional value, according to the companies.

“I’m skeptical,” said Bill Freese, science and policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. “Especially with spinach and broccoli, they are already chock-full with nutrients. We don’t need to tinker with them to make them more nutritious. What we need is more diverse diets.”

Monsanto spokeswoman Riddhi Trivedi-Street Clair said no genetic engineering will be used in this collaboration between Dole and Monsanto, the makers of RoundUp, who also develop genetically engineered crops to resist the herbicide.

“This collaboration is based on development through breeding, as opposed to genetic modification. It’s very basic. Farmers have done it for centuries,” she said. “There may be biotechnology with vegetables, eventually, but this collaboration won’t have any genetic engineering.”

The enhancements will be done through molecular marker assisted breeding. Basically, by hybridizing, Monsanto will study the genes through use of molecular markers to determine what makes vegetables taste better, look better, have better texture or contain the most nutrients. Plants with desirable qualities will be selected and bred until researchers find the right combination of characteristics.

Freese agrees the technique is nothing new, but basically a process that involves looking at the full set of genes associated with a crop and finding certain traits that can be used in the breeding process, but he still questions Monsanto’s motives.

“When you have big, industrialized agri-business promising to produce more flavor and more nutrients, it goes against the entire history of food industrialization,” he said. “The industry’s tasteless tomato was bred to withstand longer transport and shelf life, not fortaste or nutrition. Historically, that is not where their interests have been.”

Freese added that Monsanto has promised super crops in the past, but has only produced crops that can tolerate herbicide and resistant pests.

But with its collaboration with Dole, the two companies say they will produce better tasting and more nutritional food that will strengthen the American diet. The companies joined forces because Dole is a large producer of fruits and vegetables and Monsanto brings a lot to the table in terms of research and development, Trivedi-Street Clair said. -Natural Foods

That morning cup of ambition may reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Research over the last several years has proven that coffee potentially reduces the risk of a number of diseases. The most recent: a study by the University of South Florida confirmed that the caffeine in three cups of coffee, or 500 mgs daily, may actually reverse cognitive and memory damage caused by Alzheimer’s.

While a French study several years ago showed that women who drink coffee delay the decline of cognitive ability, researcher Gary Arendash, a neuroscientist with the University, emphasized that the current study is the first to suggest that caffeine can actually undo some of the damage brought about by Alzheimer’s.

For the study, 55 mice with Alzheimer’s attributes were divided into two groups: the first had caffeine added to their water, the second group drank water only. After two months, the caffeine group showed better thinking and memory skills than the “water only” mice.

This latest study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, adds to the already impressive benefits list of coffee. In May 2006, the results of a Norwegian study determined that women who consume 1-3 cups of coffee per day reduce their cardiovascular risk by 24%. That same year, the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that coffee dampens inflammation, which is a marker for a multitude of varied illnesses, such as cirrhosis of the liver, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.

The caffeine in coffee also can serve as a mild pain reliever by releasing the body’s natural, pain killing endorphins in the brain. suggests that patients who experience discomfort from arthritis during exercise should drink a cup or two of coffee 30 minutes to an hour before working out.

While all of this is certainly good news for those of us who feel we cannot function without that first cup in the morning, alas, when it comes to coffee, there is at work an eternal truism: the law of diminishing returns. The aforementioned Norwegian study found that after the sixth cup of coffee, health benefits attributable to the brew are nil.

Scientists warn of hazards of GMOs

NOTE: Translated from French original by Claire Robinson for GMWatch. Please go here to read the study results:

A study conducted by eight international researchers calls into question the reliability of tests of the European Food Safety (EFSA) and the US FDA to assess the health risks of GMOs and pesticides, it was learned Wednesday.

The article, signed by French, Italian, New Zealand, British and American experts, is published by the website of the International Journal of Biological Science, according to a press release from the Research Committee of Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), chaired by former environment minister Corinne Lepage and based in Caen.

“Agricultural GM companies and evaluation committees systematically overlook the side effects of GMOs and pesticides. This is clearly illustrated by the EFSA and the US FDA, which evaluated the controversial GM maize varieties MON 863 and MON 810,” said CRIIGEN.

It [the study] brings to light “a significant underestimation of the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others,” said CRIIGEN.

“We demand the systematic publication of the results of these tests, which we could only obtain on a case by case basis by taking legal action,” Gilles-Eric Seralini, one of eight authors of the article, who teaches at the University of Caen and chairs the scientific board of CRIIGEN, told Agence France Presse. “The health crises may be more important than the international financial crisis because of the lack of transparency of the regulators,” concludes CRIIGEN. -Organic Consumers Association

Obama Administration seeks to restrict antibiotics in livestock

The Obama administration announced recently that it would seek to ban many routine uses of antibiotics in farm animals in hopes of reducing the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans.

In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle—done to encourage rapid growth—should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian.

Both practices lead to the development of bacteria that are immune to many treatments, he said.

The hearing was held to discuss a measure proposed by Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the Rules Committee. It would ban seven classes of antibiotics important to human health from being used in animals, and would restrict other antibiotics to therapeutic and some preventive uses. -Organic Consumers Association


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