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  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerFall 1998News – Fall 1998   
 News – Fall 1998 Minimize


Ag in Classroom Materials at Bangor Public Library
ATTRA Supports Sustainable Growers
Grassroots Organizers’ Workshop
Farm Animals Awareness Week
Food Safety Resources
Heavy Pesticide Use is Neurotoxic to Children
Exports of Hazardous Pesticides from U.S. Ports Increase
FDA Sued Over Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
Genetically Engineered Foods – They’re Different: Oh, No They’re Not
Biotech Is Not the Answer to the World’s Food Problems
Terminator Technology May Threaten Ecosystems
Number of Toxic Ingredients in Pesticides Doubles


Ag in Classroom Materials at Bangor Public Library

For years, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom has had a wealth of materials to help teachers bring agriculture alive in their classrooms. Without an official office, though, the organization was unable to catalog the materials and sharing was difficult.

Now the Bangor Public Library will store, catalog, list in the URSUS catalog (available on the Internet) and ship these materials free. “A classroom teacher may request materials by asking the school librarian to request it from our library or may come to the Bangor Public Library directly and borrow the materials,” says Library director Barbara McDade. A bibliography of the holdings will be created, as well, and this will be available to K-12 teachers.


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Sustainable Farming Info On-Line

The national sustainable farming information center called ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) is located at the University of Arkansas and is accessible over the Internet. At its home page (www.attra.org), visitors can learn about ATTRA operations and can obtain 12 ATTRA informational pieces featured on the website and request many others via email. The sample publications cover topics ranging from organic fruit production and producing dairy products on-farm to alternative marketing and sustainable beef production. Also listed on the homepage are sustainable agriculture organizations and publications; internships, apprenticeships and curricula in sustainable agriculture; and university programs and contacts in sustainable agriculture.

Archived issues of the quarterly ATTRAnews offer glimpses into developments at ATTRA since 1993. The website’s frequently asked questions section explains operational details about the organization.

Visitors to the website can also gain an understanding of how America’s agriculturists have put ATTRA information to use in their farming pursuits. Poultry farmer Bob Bowen of Brooksville, Maine, for instance, tells how he used ATTRA information to diversify and increase profits while running an environmentally sound farm.

The newest publications on ATTRA's website are:

Compost Teas for Plant Disease Control & Soil Inoculation

Disease Suppressive Potting Mixes

Organic Potting Mixes

Worms for Composting

Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories

Sources for Organic Fertilizers & Amendments

Alternative Nematode Control

ATTRA’s free quarterly newsletter can be ordered by email at askattra@ncatark.uark.edu or by writing to ATTRA, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville AR 72702 (Tel. 800-346-9140).

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Grassroots Organizers’ Workshop

A Grassroots Organizers’ Workshops conference on the weekend of September 18 to 20 will kick off a new program to reinvigorate and sustain statewide efforts for progressive change. Activists and organizers from all over the state will convene at centrally located Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, on a pristine peninsula of Lake Damariscotta, 60 miles north of Portland. Workshops will cover skill building in areas such as media, fundraising, planning strategies, sustaining groups, and more. The need for change in environmental issues, in peace issues, in the imbalances of the economy and in the arena of social justice will be brought together so that their common roots can be clarified and coalitions strengthened. There will be time for fun, too, with interactive theater, dance and music. Costs have been kept as low as possible to enable full participation.

For a free brochure, contact G.R.O.W., RR 1 Box 1013, Stockton Springs ME 04981; email: gallander@acadia.net. Tel. Nancy Galland at 567-4075 or Larry Dansinger at 525-7776.

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Farm Animals Awareness Week

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection organization, will launch its 6th annual National Farm Animals Awareness Week (NFAAW) celebration on September 20-26. NFAAW promotes awareness and dispels misconceptions about farm animals by presenting fascinating facts about the complex nature and behaviors of farm animals.

“National Farm Animals Awareness Week provides us all – consumers, teachers, children and anyone who cares about animals – the opportunity to become educated on the extraordinary behaviors of farm animals,” said David Kuemmerle, program manager for farm animals and sustainable agriculture at The HSUS. “These animals are interesting, intelligent and social individuals known to be inquisitive and courageous. Documented cases show how farm animals protect not only themselves, but also their families and even people from danger. Many people are unaware that today’s society has moved from family farms to factory farms, where intensive confinement is the norm and animals are denied many of their most basic needs. We highlight individual farm animals each year to remind people how affectionate and endearing our farm friends are so that consumers of meat and dairy products will seek products that do not come from factory farms.”

• Did you know chickens know how to ballroom dance? When a hen and rooster are courting, they dance around each other in a ritual referred to as “waltzing.”

• Did you know pigs love to bowl? Pigs enjoy playing with bowling balls, old tires and many other toys, and especially playing with other piglets.

• Did you know sheep can forecast the weather? Sheep are sensitive to changes in air pressure and tend to gather together to keep warm as a cold front passes.

• Did you know President Abraham Lincoln had a pet turkey? And, the turkey was proposed by Ben Franklin to be the national bird of the United States.

The HSUS encourages consumers to consider the “3 Rs” (Refine, Reduce, Replace) when shopping and eating out: Refine your diet by eating products from animals who have been more humanely raised. Reduce your consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products. Replace animal products with other foods. Good For You!: Choosing a Humane Diet is available from The HSUS and can guide consumers to make more humane choices when shopping.

During this year’s celebration of NFAAW, The HSUS will circulate flyers, advertisements and information kits to educators, and provide farm tours for children. Teachers, animal shelters, community groups and all friends of animals are invited to contact The HSUS for more information at 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037; (202) 452-1100; fax (202) 778-6132.

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Food Safety Resources

The United States Department of Agriculture predicts that 7 million Americans will become ill from foodborne illnesses this year and most of those cases are preventable. How can you protect yourself from foodborne illness? What are the symptoms of listeria? Which organizations are involved in food safety education? The following resources tell about safe food handling and storage and about recent occurrences of foodborne illnesses in this country.

Food Safety Hotlines

• The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (800-535-4555) assists both consumers and industry professionals with its staff of registered dietitians and home economists.

• The FDA Food Information and Seafood Hotline 24-hour automated menu system (800-332-4010) fields urgent calls to trained specialists.

• Centers for Disease Control has a 24-hour automated information hotline that includes foodborne illness (404-332-4555).

• The Industry Council on Food Safety has a food information line (800-456-0111).

• The National Poison Control Center (800-332-3073).

• US EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline has information on drinking water regulations (800-426-4791).

• The National Dairy Board can be con­tacted with questions at 800-34DAIRY.

• The Pork Information Bureau is available 24 hours a day for infor­ma­tion and assistance at 800-937-PORK.

Internet Food Safety Information

• FightBAC at www.fightbac.org is a public-private partnership to empower consumers to educate themselves and others on food safety. Included in its web site are downloadable charts and graphics that can be used to teach con­sumers about safe food handling.

• USDA National Food Safety Database at www.foodsafety.org; hot topics section updates food­borne illness outbreaks around the country daily. It also includes an online Food Safety Training Manual from the University of Florida and the Florida Restaurant Association. The “Ask an Expert” section pro­vides phone numbers and email addresses of extension departments and food scientists around the country.

• FAIRS (Florida Agriculture Information Retrieval System) offers articles on everything from “Handling Food Through an Earth­quake” to “Basic Elements of Equip­ment Cleaning and Sanitizing” at http://hammock.ifas.ufl.edu/txt/fairs/he/31521.html.

• The Four Seasons of Food Safety at Iowa State University’s Exten­sion Department offers articles on entertaining safely, crockpot safety, and Thanksgiving turkey at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/.

• The “Bad Bug Book” from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition describes in detail foodborne illnesses, including pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella, parasites such as giardia, viruses such as hep­atitis and naturally occurring toxins including mushroom toxins at www.fda.gov/Food/default.htm.

• The Nebraska Extension Depart­ment’s Food and Nutrition site at www.extension.unl.edu/ offers informa­tive fact sheets on many types of foodborne illnesses.

• America’s Food Safety Team at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/foodteam.html clearly explains the role of various government agencies, from the Department of Justice to the Centers for Disease Control, in monitoring and regulating food safety in this country.

• An excellent source for food safety links on the Internet is http://internet.ocii.com/~dalden/food.html. It includes links to food inspection networks, information about food establishment inspec­tions and the USDA Foodborne Illness Education Information Center.

• For the last word in food storage, the Food Marketing Institute offers a food keeper brochure discussing safe storage of all foods. It is available either online at www.fmi.org/search.htm or at FMI, 800 Connecti­cut Avenue, Washington DC, 20006, Tel. 202-452-8444.

• The National Food Safety Initiative’s web site can keep you updated on the progress of proposed food safety legislation at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fs-toc.html.  

– Nanette Blanchard

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Heavy Pesticide Exposure Is Neuro­toxic to Children

Researchers at the Technological Institute of Sonora in Obregon, Mexico, led by Univ. of Arizona anthropologist Elizabeth A. Guillette, compared development in children who lived in a Yaqui Indian valley community, where pesticides were heavily used, with those in nearby Yaqui ranching villages where residents avoid using pesticides. The valley farmers applied pesticides 45 times per crop cycle and grew one or two crops per year; and families in this area sprayed household pests daily. Many children in these valley families were born with detectable levels of pesticides in their blood and received even more through breastfeeding.

Four- and five-year-olds from both areas were asked to jump up and down as long as possible, catch balls, drop raisins into bottle caps, perform memory drills, and draw pictures of people. The researchers reported in the June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives that children from the valley showed significantly less stamina, eye-hand coordination, 30-minute recall, and drawing ability than those from the cleaner environment.

Neurotoxicologist David O. Carpenter of the State University of New York at Albany was quoted in Science News (June 6, 1998) as saying, “I know of no other study that has looked at neuro­behavioral impacts – cognition, memory, motor ability – in children exposed to pesticides... The implications here are quite horrendous...” The valley children showed no obvious symptoms of pesticide poisoning, yet their drawings of people, for instance, were typically mere scribbles and unidentifiable as people, while those by children from the foothills clearly had arms, legs, heads, eyes, mouths, noses, etc.

Guillette says that she thinks the kids’ exposures might be similar to those occurring in other agricultural areas, even in the United States. (Editor's note: I know of no agricultural areas in Maine – or in most of the United States – that are treated with pesticides 45 to 90 times a year.)

Source: “Picturing Pesticides’ Impacts on Kids,” by Janet Raloff, Science News, June 6, 1998.

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Exports of Hazardous Pesticides from U.S. Ports Increase

Toxic pesticides that are banned or otherwise forbidden in the United States were shipped from U.S. ports at a rate of more than 14 tons per day in 1995 and 1996 – a total of more than 21 million pounds – according to a new report by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). The report, based on U.S. Customs shipping records, documented that in 1995 and 1996, more than 1.2 billion pounds of pesticide products were exported.

Presently, U.S. policy allows the export of banned pesticides, as well as “never registered” pesticides – pesticides that have never been evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FASE found that approximately 9.4 million pounds of “never-registered” pesticides were exported in 1995 and 1996 – a 40% increase since the period from 1992 through 1994. The United States also exported more than 28 million pounds of pesticides designated as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization, representing a 500% increase since 1992.

Many of the pesticides shipped from U.S. ports are destined for developing countries. “Workers in developing countries often have no idea of the concerns that exist in other countries about the pesticides they are using,” said Barbara Dinham, International Projects Officer at the UK-based Pesticides Trust. “Pesticides are applied by farmers who have no protective equipment, nor access to medical facilities.”

FASE pointed out that trade agreements may be creating pressure for developing countries to increase their use of outdated, inexpensive and hazardous products. “Because of the liberalization of trade, the influx of hazardous pesticides is a very big problem,” stated Dr. Grace Ohayo-Mitoko, Executive Director of Health and Environment Watch, an NGO in Nairobi, Kenya. “Because of trans-shipments, we are not able to know exactly where these chemicals are coming from. Some of the products that come from the U.S. come in through Belgium and other countries.”

The report recommends changing U.S. policy to eliminate double standards of safety; prohibiting the export of banned pesticides from the United States and requiring that full data on all pesticide shipments be made available through a publicly accessible records system. FASE points out that these changes would be consistent with existing U.S. environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969, which was created to “prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man.”

The entire report, “Exporting Risk: Pesticide Exports from U.S. Ports 1995-1996,” is available online at www.fasenet.org or from Carl Smith, Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, 4801 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 215, Los Angeles, CA 90010; 213- 937-9911; fax 213-937-7440; email cesmth@aol.com.

Source: Pesticide Action Network North America (panna@panna.org) reporting on the Sustainable Agriculture Network, May 26, 1998. To subscribe to the Sustainable Ag. Network, email majordomo@ces.ncsu.edu with the command "subscribe sanet-mg- digest".

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Genetically Engineered Foods – They're Different; Oh, No They’re Not...

“One of the ironies of this issue is the contrast between the enthusiasm of food producers to claim that their biologically engineered products are different and unique when they seek to patent them, and their similar enthusiasm for claiming that they are just the same as other foods when asked to label them.”

Julian Edwards, Director General of Consumers International, a network of 235 consumer organizations in 109 nations, during a speech in Ottawa, Canada, at which the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission, delegated by the GATT World Trade Organization, was trying to formulate international labeling requirements for food products. Codex ended up bowing to pressure of the United States and its closest allies to delay deciding whether all genetically engineered foods must be labeled.

– Reported by Ronnie Cummins in Food Bytes #9, June 2, 1998.

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FDA Sued Over Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

By not requiring that genetically engineered foods be labeled as such, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is violating citizens’ free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to a lawsuit filed against the FDA on May 27. The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court by a coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs and was coordinated by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity and the International Center for Technology Assessment, both nonprofit organizations.

The suit also alleges that allowing genetically altered foods to be sold without testing and without labels violates the FDA’s mandate to protect public health and inform consumers about their foods. Such foods may have allergens “engineered” into them inadvertently, or previously nontoxic elements may become toxic after plants are engineered.

The suit challenges the 33 engineered whole foods – potatoes, tomatoes, soy, corn, squash and others – that are on the market today, either as whole foods or in processed foods, such as soy-based baby formulas and some brands of corn chips.

Reporting on the religious aspect of the suit, Ronnie Cummins writes: “Many Jews and Muslims need to avoid foods with substances from specific animals, while devout vegetarians want to avoid substances from any animal. Additionally, a considerable portion of the population is religiously motivated to avoid all genetically engineered foods in order to separate themselves from an enterprise they view as (a) based on anti-theistic assumptions and (b) carried out in a way that is irresponsibly and arrogantly disrupting the integrity of God’s creation.” Cummins quoted Rabbi Harold White, Director of Jewish Chaplaincy and Lecturer in Theology at Georgetown University: “We must resist the irresponsible and irreversible sundering of the natural cross-breeding barriers through which genes from bacteria and animals are being permanently fused into every cell of our grains, fruits and vegetables in ignorance of the full consequences. Since the dawn of life on earth, Divine intelligence has systematically prevented such combinations. Limited human intelligence should not rush to make them commonplace.”

Source: Food Bytes, a monthly electronic newsletter published by Ronnie Cummins, Pure Food Campaign/Save Organic Standards, 860 Hwy 61, Little Marais MN 55614; Tel. 218-226-4164; email alliance@mr.net; www.purefood.org. To subscribe to the newsletter, send an email message to majordomo@mr.net with the message: subscribe pure-food-action.

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Biotech Is Not the Answer to the World’s Food Problems

Tom Campbell, Lecturer in Environmental Studies at Kimmage Manor, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, has listed six reasons why biotechnology, contrary to Monsanto’s and others’ promotion of their “imaginative chemistry,” will not feed the world's hungry. They are:

1. A lack of technology is not the reason for hunger; lack of access to food and to income to buy that food is. Poverty and hunger have structural causes that must be addressed.

2. The mentality of monoculture agriculture that depends heavily on engineered seeds and their associated packages of herbicides, fertilizers, irrigation systems, etc., will not be affordable to the majority of Third World farmers.

3. Biotech companies have traditionally been among the largest polluters.

4. By promoting monocultures that use reduced genetic pools, biotechnology reduces diversity. Sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, promotes multi­cropping.

5. Biotechnology encourages biopiracy – gaining control over local genetic resources by manipulating genes that cultures have selected for generations and patenting these genes. This can erode local rights to biodiversity and devalue indigenous knowledge systems, possibly weakening sustainable agriculture in Third World areas.

6. Biotech research to date has benefited agriculture in the North, where farmers can afford the higher input costs, and has been aimed at consumer niche markets, such as the extended shelf life of the FlavrSavr tomato. “The world's starving do not make good customers,” says Campbell.

Campbell concludes, “A fraction of the money that has been poured into biotechnology research could have a far greater impact if it was invested in strengthening and promoting the huge variety of sustainable and alternative agriculture possibilities that already exist in the world.”

Source: Sustainable Agriculture Network, May 15, 1998, submitted by Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of All Genetically Engineered Foods, 500 Wilbrod St., Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517; fax 613-565-1596. To subscribe to the Sustainable Ag. Network, email majordomo@ces.ncsu.edu with the command “subscribe sanet-mg- digest”. For more information about Wolf­son’s campaign, see www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html.

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Terminator Technology May Threaten Ecosystems

“Terminator Technology” is the name applied to genetic engineers’ recent manipulation that prevents crop plants from producing viable seeds. Will this trait be able to spread to wild relatives of crop plants from cultivated “terminator” plants? That is what some molecular biologists are worried about. The “infection” would occur when pollen from “terminator” plants traveled to nearby weedy relatives or to nearby food crops. The gradual spread of sterility could have a widespread, domino-like effect throughout the environment.

Source: Geri Guidetti, The Ark Institute, reported in sanet-mg-digest #372, June 11, 1998. To subscribe to Digest, email majordomo@ces.ncsu.edu with the command "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".

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Number of Secret Ingredients in Pesticides Doubles Annually

A new analysis shows that the number of secret “inert” ingredients used in pesticides almost doubled in 10 years and that over a quarter of these “inert” ingredients are hazardous to public health and the environment. The report Toxic Secrets: “Inert” Ingredients in Pesticides, 1987-1997 found that secret “inert” ingredients increased 93% for a total of 2311 chemicals and that 26% are hazardous to public health and/or the environment, while the toxicity of the majority of inerts remains a mystery. Yet this information is not provided on product labels.

Toxic Secrets, authored by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and released by Californians for Pesticide Reform (CRP), documents the Environmental Protection Agency’s inability to protect public health and the environment from the dangers of pesticide ingredients called “inerts.” Inert ingredients, which can comprise up to 99.9 percent of a pesticide formulation, can be as toxic as the active ingredient. However, only seven of 2311 inert ingredients are disclosed on product labels.

Toxic Secrets reveals for the first time that in 1995 in California, over 152 million pounds of inert ingredients were used by agriculture and licensed pest control applicators. Fresno County used more inert ingredients that any other county, and cotton crops applied more of these secret ingredients than any other California crop. These figures are only half of the inerts story, as figures for over-the-counter pesticide inert amounts are not available. Over-the-counter pesticides used by consumers are frequently found with over 95% inert ingredients.

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a policy designed to “reduce the potential for adverse effects” from the use of 1200 inert ingredients in pesticide products and “encourage the use of the least toxic inerts available.” Today, the number of inerts has grown, but the materials continue to be kept secret from the public.

Toxic Secrets found that:

• Inerts identified by EPA as “of unknown toxicity” rose 122% in ten years. This represents a jump from 800 to 1779 chemicals.

• 610 inert ingredients have been classified as hazardous by other federal or international registries. For example, 20 are known or suspected carcinogens, 187 inerts are considered hazardous air and water pollutants, 12 have been assessed as “extremely hazardous,” and 118 are regarded as occupational hazards.

“For ten years, EPA has chosen to ignore publicly available information indicating the toxicity of numerous chemicals in favor of a policy based on inertia, disinterest and secrecy,” said report co-author Caroline Cox of NCAP. We demand full disclosure of all pesticide ingredients today.”

Toxic Secrets also found that one aspect of EPA’s inerts program potentially made manufacturers more accountable: granting consumers the right to know. When manufacturers were required to list their ingredients on the label because the ingredient was identified “as of toxicological concern,” manufacturers chose to drop the product containing a hazardous inert from their product line or switch to another secret ingredient. The number of List 1 “hazardous” inert ingredients fell from 57 in use in 1987 to 8 in 1997, an 86 percent reduction and the number of products containing a List 1 inert went from approximately 1300 products in 1987 to 40 in 1997, a 97 percent reduction. Despite this fact, EPA has failed to require one single inert to be listed on the product label in 10 years.

To order a copy of Toxic Secrets call NCAP at (541) 344-5044 or CPR at (888) CPR-4880. The report is also available on the NCAP website as of June 17, at www.pesticide.org/

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