"We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles."
- Jimmy Carter
MOF&G Cover Fall 2010


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerFall 2010News – Fall 2010   
 News & Events – Fall 2010 Minimize

Organic Maine!

The Good News
Scary Food Additives
More Reasons to Eat Organic
Pesticides in the News
Genetic Engineering (GE) News

The Good News

Looking for organic farms, foods or other products in Maine? Then Organic Maine!, a free directory from MOFGA, is the place to start your search. Funded by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant and by advertisers, the directory lists more than 400 certified organic farmers and processors by county and alphabetically, as well as 100 farmers’ markets in Maine (some open even in winter). Not sure what you’re looking for? See the Maine Food Pyramid in the directory, which lists nutritious foods raised in Maine, and the “Maine Local 20” – foods Maine can produce and Mainers can enjoy all year. Get Organic Maine! at the MOFGA office in Unity, at Maine’s natural food stores and farmers’ markets, or online at www.mofga.org.

In May, chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit won the James Beard Award for Best Chefs in the Northeast – the culinary equivalent of an Academy Award. Other Maine chefs who have won the award are Rob Evans of Hugo's and Sam Hayward of Fore Street, both in Portland. Almost all produce for Arrows comes from Gaier and Frasier’s garden. (“Two Ogunquit chefs are Northeast's best,” by Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald, May 4, 2010, www.pressherald.com/life/two-ogunquit-chefs-are-northeasts-best_2010-05-04.html)

Maine Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy and state resource agencies have agreed to protect 83.5 acres of active coastal farmland in Bowdoinham, including 4,500 feet of shoreline and habitat for waterfowl, migratory fish and bald eagles, as well as the rare marsh plant Eaton’s bur-marigold. The parcel is within the Kennebec Estuary, which includes nearly a quarter of Maine’s tidal marshland and is critical habitat for migratory birds and fish. The property is owned by Alan Kelley and his mother, Erla, of Bowdoinham, but much of the farmland is sublet to 14 certified organic start-up “incubator farms” by George Christopher, who has farmed the land organically since 1996. The project was funded in part by a $510,000 grant from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, and grants from the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program and the Landowner Incentive Program. (Press release, The Nature Conservancy in Maine, May 19, 2010)

John DeLong of the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Kentville, Nova Scotia, says fiddleheads (from ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris), with twice the antioxidant activity of blueberries, should be cultivated commercially. Antioxidants help fight cancer, cardiovascular and other diseases by altering free radicals linked to those diseases. Fiddleheads are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, says DeLong. (“Fiddleheads should be farmed: scientists,” CBC News, May 12, 2010, www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/05/12/ns-fiddleheads-farm-nutrients.html; “Fiddlehead Fronds: Nutrient Rich Delicacy,” by John M. DeLong and Robert K. Prange, Chronica Horticulturae, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2008, www.actahort.org/chronica/pdf/ch4801.pdf)

A USDA poultry research facility operated by the Agricultural Research Service in Fayetteville, Ark., has become certified organic. Research associate Anne Fanatico and research leader Annie Donoghue will use the facility to study natural compounds that reduce food borne pathogens and diseases, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, in poultry.  

Studies with the University of Connecticut and the University of Arkansas suggest that natural compounds such as caprylic acid – a fatty acid naturally found in milk and coconuts – and essential plant extracts have antimicrobial efficacy against poultry enteric pathogens.  Fanatico and Donoghue have also formed the Organic Poultry Advisory Board to work with organic producers.  (“ARS Poultry Farm Gains Organic Certification,” by Sharon Durham, USDA Agricultural Research Service News Service, May 12, 2010, www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr

The UK Soil Association says two frequently quoted statistics – that we need to increase food production 50 percent by 2030 or 100 percent by 2050 – are based on “a big fat lie.” Its report, “Telling porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production,” says the 100 percent figure is actually 70 percent in the original FAO reference; and the 50 percent figure is from a paper that the authors appear to have withdrawn. Still, many commentators use these inflated claims to justify the need for more intensive agricultural practices, especially for further expansion of genetically engineered crops. Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “The ‘big fat lie’ of needing to double global food production by 2050 has dominated policy and media discussions of food and farming, making it increasingly difficult for advocates of sustainable farming methods, such as organic, to convince people we can actually feed the world without more damage to the environment and animal welfare.” Independent sources quoted in the report say that with fairer diets and better food distribution, organic farming could feed the world in 2050, with healthy diets. (“Telling porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production,” Soil Association, April 20, 2010, www.soilassociation.org/News/NewsItem/tabid/91/smid/463/ArticleID/360/reftab/57/Default.aspx)

A study published in Nature by Klaus Butterbach-Bahl of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany says that cattle grazing on grass in China reduced nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. When the grasslands in Inner Mongolia were not grazed, the long grass insulated the soil in winter, keeping alive soil microbes that then released nitrous oxide during the spring thaw. Grazing kept the grass short, so the ground froze and the microbes died. (“Cows absolved of causing global warming with nitrous oxide,” by Louise Gray, Telegraph, April 8, 2010, www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7564682/Cows-absolved-of-causing-global-warming-with-nitrous-oxide.html)

Local Sprouts Cafe and Bomb Diggity Bakery have opened at 649 Congress St. in Portland, Maine. The café, which works with many Maine farmers, provides local and organic breakfast, lunch and dinner in a community environment with music, classes, art shows and more. Bomb Diggity Bakery produces gluten-free, vegan and regular baked goods and breads and aims to employ bakers of all abilities. Bomb Diggity Baking and Arts program functions in the kitchen alongside the bakery and cafe, building skills for individuals with intellectual disabilities. More than 200 people helped start Local Sprouts by volunteering labor and skills, loaning money in a community financing program and joining the Community Supported Kitchen, says Jonah Fertig, a worker-owner and founder of Local Sprouts. Local Sprouts also offers beverages, caters local and organic food, and has provided programs about cooking with local foods to nonprofits and schools. The Community Supported Kitchen started in 2008 at the Public Market House, where members could order from a weekly menu and pick up local food from the kitchen. The Cafe will be home to Local Sprouts’ Catering, Community Food and Learning Programs and Community Supported Kitchen. (Local Sprouts press release, May 26, 2010; www.localsproutscooperative.com)

Iowa State agronomy professor (and MOFGA friend) Matt Liebman and a team of researchers found that a farm can halve its fossil fuel use by switching from a two-year corn-soy rotation to a four-year corn-soy-oats-alfalfa rotation. Liebman et al. published their work in the May/June Agronomy Journal, showing that the four-year rotation produced the same number of crop calories and income as the two-year rotation. The researchers added livestock to the system, feeding cows corn, oats and alfalfa hay, and spreading cows' manure on crop fields. The more complex rotation took twice as much labor – for making hay, for instance – all done with tractor-powered machinery. (“Saving Fuel on the Farm by Making Hay,” by Mason Inman, National Geographic News, May 3, 2010, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100503-energy-saving-fuel-with-hay/)

The Connecticut-based Wholesome Wave Foundation’s “Veggie Prescription” program in Maine lets doctors give vouchers to low-income patients to buy produce at participating farmers’ markets; and its “Double Dollars” program lets people receiving government food subsidies receive up to $10 a week in matching funds at their local farmers’ market. (“Farmers markets’ pilot program targets food assistance recipients,” by Christopher Cousins, The Bangor Daily News, June 4, 2010, www.bangordailynews.com/detail/145224.html)

The town of Monroe, Maine, voted 40-27 in May to adopt an ordinance declaring that corporations doing business with the town are not "people.”

Green Party member Allyn Beecher (who wrote the ordinance) and Seth Yentes said the defensive ordinance does not restrict any legitimate business from coming to town and does not have any impact unless the company threatens the health, safety or welfare of the community. Beecher and Yentes attended the Daniel Pennock Democracy School (www.celdf.org) to learn how to bring the ordinance to Monroe. (Email, The Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, June 15, 2010, www.peacectr.org)

A Washington State University study led by David Crowder and published in Nature says the balanced mix of organisms in organic potato fields may check pests better and produce larger plants than fields treated with synthetic pesticides. The researchers learned that worldwide and on various crops, a few insect species dominate conventional fields, while organic fields have a more even mix of organisms. Crowder added potato beetles to 42 potato plots enclosed in fine mesh and then added varying numbers of insects, fungi and nematodes that attack the beetles' eggs and larvae. Plots with the most balanced mix of organisms had 20 percent fewer beetles and 30 percent bigger plants than plots with a mix typical of pesticide-treated fields. The study suggests that farmers who reduce pesticide use might be able to use natural predators to help further control pests. (“WSU study on potato farming gives organic way a boost,” by Sandi Doughton, Seattle Times, June 30, 2010, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012250093_taters01m.html)

When Columbia University researchers collected information for an average of four years on the diets of 2,148 healthy people over 65 years old, 253 developed Alzheimer's Disease. Subjects who adhered most closely to a diet including more olive oil-based salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables and ate less red meat, organ meat or high-fat dairy products had about a 40 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. (“Mediterranean Diet and Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, by Nikolaos Scarmeas et al., Annals of Neurology 2006;59:912–921, www.rosenthal.hs.columbia.edu/MeDi1%20Scarmeas%2006.pdf; “Diet can sharply cut Alzheimer's risk: study,” by Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters, April 12, 2010, www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63B5JL20100412)

Researchers at Harvard University reviewing 20 studies that met their criteria found that consuming one serving per day of processed meats, but not red meats, was associated with a 42 percent higher incidence of coronary heart disease and a 19 percent higher incidence of diabetes mellitus. Three studies that looked at stroke showed no relationship between consuming red or processed meat and stroke. Processed meats had some four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives than unprocessed meats. (“Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Renata Micha et al., Circulation, May 17, 2010,
http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.924977v1; “Don’t Bring Home the Bacon,” by Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/dont-bring-home-the-bacon/?src=me&ref=homepage)

At Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Penn., a border collie runs off Canada geese (and coyotes and foxes), while birdhouses attract bluebirds and swallows, known for devouring insects, including mosquitoes. (“Aronimink's low-tech, organic – and peppy – pest-control,” by Derrick Nunnally, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 2010; www.philly.com/inquirer/local/pa/20100630_Aronimink_s_low-tech__organic_-_and_peppy_-_pest-control.html)

A National Research Council report, "Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century,” critiques the fragility, narrow focus and externalized costs of contemporary industrial farming and calls for more sustainable, balanced agriculture. The report says four goals should be considered simultaneously: satisfy human food, fiber and feed requirements, and contribute to biofuels needs; protect the natural resource base on which food production depends; maintain the economic viability of agriculture; and improve the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole. The report's findings are consistent with the UN report, www.panna.org/jt/AgAssessment "International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Technology and Development.” Authors say efficiency gains of the industrial model of agriculture incur such costs as agrochemical waterway pollution; harm to human and animal health; and rising input costs that shrink farmers’ income. (Pesticide Action Network North America News Update, July 9, 2010; www.panna.org)

The Maine League of Conservation Voters publishes an annual Environmental Scorecard, tracking each legislator's votes on key environmental issues of the session. Learn how your legislators voted this year on bills that affect
Maine's air, land and water. Visit the League's website at www.mlcv.org/ for more information.


Scary Food Additives

The report “No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods,” produced by The National Workgroup for Safe Markets, says canned foods and beverages can absorb bisphenol A (BPA) from the epoxy lining of cans. The chemical was found in 46 of 50 cans of food tested from 19 states, including Maine, at an average concentration of 77.36 parts per billion. BPA, also found in plastic toys and baby bottles, is linked with developmental, behavioral and hormonal problems and is a concern especially for pregnant women, fetuses and children. Regularly consuming canned foods could result in concentrations of BPA known to damage fetuses of lab animals. The report suggests buying fresh and frozen foods when possible. (“Study: Harmful additives found in canned food,” by Meg Haskell, Bangor Daily News, May 20, 2010, www.bangordailynews.com/detail/143947.html)

“Food Dyes – A Rainbow of Risks,” a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org), says the nine approved food dyes raise health concerns, including carcinogenicity, hypersensitivity reactions and behavioral effects. For example, Green 3 significantly increased bladder and testes tumors in male rats. In 1990, the FDA recognized Red 3 as a thyroid carcinogen, but the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods. Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate appearance of immune-system tumors in mice, and may trigger hyperactivity in children. Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. The Center says the FDA should ban food dyes, which serve only cosmetic purposes. Meanwhile, companies should voluntarily replace dyes with safer, natural colorings. The British government advised companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009, and the European Union has required a warning notice on most dye-containing foods since July 20, 2010. Organic foods do not contain synthetic dyes.


More Reasons to Eat Organic

A review of 220 studies published in English between January 1966 and August 2009 comparing unprocessed organic and conventional foods and their consumption concluded that:

• Organic produce had significantly less risk of contamination with pesticide residues; the clinical significance of this finding was not clear.

• Organic produce did not appear safer or more nutritious in any other outcome measured, including risk of bacterial, heavy metal or mycotoxin contamination. Other factors, such as geography, seasonal weather, local ambient pollution, ripeness at harvest, and storage and other agricultural practices unrelated to the organic label seem to predict nutritional quality or contamination with harmful substances better.

• Human studies suggests that children who consume organic produce and adults who consume organic cereal may significantly reduce their pesticide exposure compared with groups consuming conventional diets.

• Rates of bacterial contamination did not differ significantly between organic and conventionally grown meats, eggs and milk, but the antibiotic resistance of bacteria cultured from conventional meats, eggs and milk was significantly greater than for those cultured from organic products. (“Is There a Difference between Organically and Conventionally Grown Food? A Systematic Review of the Health Benefits and Harms,” Research in Progress Seminar, April 21, 2010, Crystal Smith-Spangler et al., Stanford University)

The President’s Cancer Panel Report, “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” released on May 6, 2010, says the proportion of cancer cases caused by environmental exposures has been “grossly underestimated” and exhorts consumers to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase their risk of contracting cancer by:

• choosing food grown or made without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, endocrine disruptors and other toxic substances, especially for pregnant women and small children

• choosing toys and garden products made without endocrine disruptors and other toxic substances

• choosing medicines and medical tests with minimal toxic substances

• removing shoes when entering the house and washing work clothes separately from the rest of the laundry, for those who work with toxic chemicals

• filtering drinking water

• storing water in glass or stainless steel containers, or in plastics that don’t contain BPA or phthalates; and microwaving food in ceramic or glass containers

• avoiding charred and well-done meats and processed meats

• checking home radon levels.

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers … Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications,” says the report, written by mainstream scientists appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel by George W. Bush.

“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” says the report, adding, “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.” The report says regulating chemicals does not work, because staffing and funding are insufficient, rules are too complex, laws are weak, enforcement is uneven, and industry has too much influence.

“The American people – even before they are born – are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures,” the panel wrote in a letter to President Obama. It added, “The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

The American Cancer Society debated the report, saying it estimates that about 6 percent of U.S. cancers have environmental causes, while smoking causes 30 percent of cancer deaths, and poor nutrition, obesity and inadequate exercise contribute significantly to cancer risk. (“President’s Cancer Panel: Organic foods reduce environmental risks,” Press Release, Organic Trade Assoc., May 6, 2010, www.ota.com/; “New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer,” by Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, May 6, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/opinion/06kristof.html?hp; “U.S. Panel Criticized as Overstating Cancer Risks,” by Denise Grady, The New York Times, May 6, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/health/research/07cancer.html?hp; Original report at http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov)

A Monsanto-funded study by Cornell University scientists found 23 percent more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and 63 percent more omega 3 fatty acids in organic than conventional milk. These fatty acids promote health. (A.M. O'Donnell et al., "Survey of the fatty acid composition of retail milk differing in label claims based on production management practices," Journal of Dairy Science, Jan. 2010; Organic Bytes, May 13, 2010, Organic Consumers Assoc., www.organicconsumers.org; “New Study on Milk Quality Runs Away from Its Own Findings,” The Organic Center Newsletter, May 2010)

The USDA has banned the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) from inspecting organic operations in China, because, say federal officials, OCIA had Chinese government agency employees inspecting state-controlled farms and processing facilities, posing a potential conflict of interest. (“U.S. Drops Inspector of Food in China,” by William Neuman and David Barboza, The New York Times, June 13, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/business/global/14organic.html?hp)

Bills filed in Maryland would ban the use, sale and distribution of commercial poultry feed with additives containing arsenic, such as Roxarsone, widely used in conventional poultry operations. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and other health problems. (“Local bill set to ban arsenic in chicken feed,” WorldPoultry.net, March 18, 2010, http://www.worldpoultry.net/news/local-bill-set-to-ban-arsenic-in-chicken-feed-7229.html)


Pesticides in the News

After a coalition of groups sued the EPA over rules enacted in 2006 allowing testing pesticides on humans, including children, the EPA said it would propose far stronger safeguards to prevent unethical and unscientific pesticide research on humans. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, June 25, 2010; www.panna.org)

Insects, including bees, are consuming lethal doses of neonicitinoid pesticides as they drink water that plants emit through a process called guttation, according to a German study, when seeds of those plants were treated with neonicitinoid pesticides such as imidacloprid (Gaucho) and clothianidin (Poncho). Guttation droplets contain the pesticide for up to two months after germination. Pollen also contained imidacloprid. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, April 30, 2010; www.panna.org)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than two pesticides daily. Produce was tested as it is typically eaten (washed, rinsed or peeled), and the EWG scores six criteria: percent of samples with detectable pesticides; percent with two or more pesticides; average number of pesticides on a single sample; average amount of all pesticides; maximum number of pesticides on a single sample; and total number of pesticides on the commodity. The EWG suggests eating a varied diet, rinsing all produce and buying organic when possible. Its 2010 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides suggests buying organic produce to avoid the most contaminated “Dirty Dozen” – celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. Conventional produce lowest in pesticides were: onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honeydew melons. (Environmental Working Group, www.foodnews.org)

A study of children ages 8 to 15, led by Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal, found that above average concentrations of an organophosphate pesticide metabolite in urine roughly doubled the chance of being diagnosed with ADHD. (“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides,” by Maryse F. Bouchard et al., Pediatrics, May 17, 2010, doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3058; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2009-3058v1?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Bouchard+%2B+ADHD&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT)

A Stanford study of 266 environmental factors found that development of type 2 diabetes correlates strongly with the presence of the organochlorine pesticide-derivative heptachlor in blood or urine, with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) also showing a significant association. Beta-carotenes helped protect against development of the disease. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, May 28, 2010, www.panna.org)

In June, an Indian court convicted eight former Union Carbide officials of death by negligence when a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked the toxic gas methyl isocyanate in 1984, killing thousands. The crime has a maximum two-year sentence. Victims’ groups and activists had sought more serious charges. Among those charged was Warren M. Anderson, chair of Union Carbide at the time, although he was not in India for the trial. Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemical. (“Indian Court Convicts 7 in Bhopal Disaster,” by Hari Kumar, The New York Times, June 7, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/06/08/world/asia/08bhopal.html)

In June, the EPA announced that the persistent pesticide endosulfan, banned in more than 60 countries, will be eliminated in the United States.
Used primarily on Florida tomatoes and cotton grown in California and Nevada, the chemical has been linked to autism, birth defects and delayed puberty in humans. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, June 11, 2010, www.panna.org)

A review report published by CHEM Trust says some studies indicate that pesticide exposure before conception, during pregnancy or during childhood appears to increase the risk of childhood cancer, with maternal pesticide exposure during pregnancy most consistently associated with childhood cancer. Also, several studies indicate that farmers are at greater risk of developing certain cancers than the general population; and studies strongly suggest that pesticide exposures are associated with some cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, prostate cancer and other hormone related cancers. The report notes that certain cancers have increased dramatically in recent decades, so environmental factors must be partly to blame, with pesticide exposures suspect in some cases. (“A review of the role pesticides play in some cancers: Children, farmers and pesticide users at risk?” July 2, 2010, www.chemtrust.org.uk)


Genetic Engineering (GE) News

Early in 2010, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that the USDA violated law by not completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before allowing Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa to be planted. On June 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court (including Justice Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto corporate counsel) ruled in Monsanto vs. Geertson Seed Farms that the lower court overreached its authority in the case – i.e., that a district court cannot tell a federal agency not to make regulations. However, the Supreme Court said no more RR alfalfa could be planted until USDA completes an EIS. The Supreme Court noted that contamination of conventional plants by GE material through cross pollination is "harmful and illegal," and that its dangers include "economic effects such as reduced agricultural yield or loss of market." (Bees can spread GE alfalfa pollen over many miles, potentially contaminating conventional and organic alfalfa.) So future lawsuits can argue that gene flow from GE crops is harmful. The court also recognized that an EIS may be subject to legal challenge, and that the threat of transgenic contamination allows farmers to challenge future biotech crop commercializations in court. Elena Kagan, a Supreme Court nominee at the time of the trial, filed a brief in her post as Solicitor General supporting Monsanto in this case. On June 23, Sen. Patrick Leahy and five other senators, Rep. Peter DeFazio and 49 other representatives, including Rep. Michael Michaud and Rep. Chellie Pingree, sent a letter asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to retain the regulated status of GE alfalfa (i.e., not to allow its planting) because GE alfalfa is a particular threat to the $1.4 billion organic dairy industry.  Their letter notes that when some 200,000 acres of RR alfalfa were planted – less than 1 percent of U.S. alfalfa acres – Cal/West Seeds reported that 12 percent of 200-plus lots and all six of its research lots tested positive for GE alfalfa in 2008, and preliminary data indicated that 30 percent of 10 seed stock lots tested positive in 2009.  Dairyland Seed Company reported contamination of 11 to 16 sites up to 1 1/2 miles from GE plots – far beyond the recommended 900-foot isolation distances. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, June 25, 2010, www.panna.org; Press release, Center for Food Safety, June 21, 2010, http://truefoodnow.org/publications/supreme-court-briefs/; “Supreme Court’s ruling on Monsanto’s GE alfalfa: Who won?” by Tom Laskawy, Grist, June 21, 2010, www.grist.org/article/food-supreme-court-ruling-on-monsanto-alfalfa/; “Supreme Court Nominee, Elena Kagan, no friend to organic or National Environmental Policy Act,” by Matthew Dillon, May 12, 2010.

International patent applications for conventionally bred plants doubled between 2007 and the end of 2009; Monsanto has applied for a patent on meat from pigs fed its GE plants and various supplements; and in 2009, Monsanto received a European patent covering the chain of food production from seeds of GE plants to food products such as meal and oil. The “No Patents on Seeds” coalition is demanding a change in patenting policies and practices that will exclude patents on seeds, animals and parts thereof. The coalition says Monsanto and other big companies have applied for patents on methods widely used in conventional plant breeding and in cattle breeding. (www.no-patents-on-seeds.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=32; “Patenting The Entire Food Chain,” by Devinder Sharma, April 30, 2010, www.countercurrents.org/dsharma300410.htm)

Overuse of Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides on GE crops has created new superweeds that are being treated with more-toxic herbicides and with mechanical weed control methods. Ten resistant weed species now cover millions of acres in at least 22 states – dampening farmers’ interest in planting expensive GE seeds and reducing their ability to practice no-till farming. Reporters say Monsanto is subsidizing cotton farmers’ purchases of other herbicides; and Monsanto and other companies are developing GE crops that resist other herbicides – including a 2,4-D tolerant corn and soy. (“Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds,” by William Neuman and Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, May 3, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?sc)

Retired Purdue University professor of plant pathology Don Huber and Purdue botanist and plant pathologist G.S. Johal say the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) kills plants by chelating manganese (Mn), so plants cannot use this essential nutrient. Glyphosate-resistant GE plants absorb and use less Mn, which makes them less disease resistant, since Mn is involved in inducing disease resistance. So one way this herbicide kills plants is by making their roots more susceptible to soil borne fungi, such as Fusarium and Pythium. Soils treated with glyphosate, they say, also have more oxidized Mn (Mn+4) than reduced (plant available) Mn+2, because the herbicide selects for Mn oxidizing microorganisms. Diseases that have built up after repeated glyphosate use include take-all of wheat, apple canker, bean root rot and damping off, soybean root rot and white mold. Huber told The Organic & Non-GMO Reporter, “Glyphosate is the single most important agronomic factor predisposing some plants to both disease and toxins. These toxins can produce a serious impact on the health of animals and humans. Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.” Glyphosate also immobilizes copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc, so the herbicide may make crops less nutritious for consumers. Huber added that “reports of allergic reactions, such as stomach lesions, produced by the Roundup Ready (genetically modified) gene … need to be studied …” (Johal, G.S. and D.M. Huber. “Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants,” 2009, European Journal of Agronomy 31:144-152; www.mosesorganic.org/attachments/research/roundup.html; “Scientist warns of dire consequences with widespread use of glyphosate,” The Organic & Non-GMO Report, May 2010)

Federal regulators have approved field testing by biotech company ArborGen of GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees on about 300 acres in seven southeastern states, for potential pulp and paper production and biofuel. ArborGen is owned by International Paper, MeadWesvaco and Rubicon forest products companies. This is the first U.S. clearance for GE forest trees. More than 12,000 comments opposed the trial and only 45 supported it. Concerns include the potential for the trees to become invasive; to use excess water; to spread fires faster than native trees; and to support a fungus that causes illness in people. The USDA said this species of eucalyptus does not spread naturally and has been engineered to be pollen free. ArborGen says the trees would produce more wood on less land than other species. On July 1, an alliance of conservation organizations sued USDA over the approval, arguing that USDA conducted minimal environmental review. The U.S. Forest Service, say the organizations, says that GE eucalyptus plantations in the southern United States would use more than twice the water of pine plantations in a region already suffering from water deficits. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council formally criticized the proposed open field tests. (“U.S. Clears a Test of Bioengineered Trees,” by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, May 12, 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/business/energy-environment/13tree.html; “Lawsuit Filed to Halt Release of Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees Across the American South,” Center for Food Safety press release, July 1, 2010, http://truefoodnow.org/2010/07/01/lawsuit-filed-to-halt-release-of-genetically-engineered-eucalyptus-trees-across-the-american-south/)

Jose Fernandez of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs told the Biotechnology Industry Organization at its 2010 annual convention that the department will aggressively confront critics of agricultural biotechnology as the United States seeks to mitigate effects of climate change – despite growing evidence that organic and www.panna.org/files/PANagroecologyBriefsm.pdf agroecological farming offer a more robust solution to world hunger. Pesticide Action Network senior scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman and World Food Prize laureate Dr. Hans Herren say, "The trouble with a mandate for GM crops is this: it won't work …. Ultimately, tackling global hunger and poverty requires more than a focus on production technologies. The bigger, more fundamental challenge today is about restoring fairness and democratic control over our food systems." (Pesticide Action Network News Update, May 14, 2010; www.panna.org)

Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw of West Virginia is investigating whether Monsanto misled growers when it promised 7 to 11 percent increased yields from its Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean seeds over its original RR soybean seeds. Growers pay 42 percent more for the seed than for the original RR seed, yet Iowa State and Penn State found that yields were not increased as promised. (“Monsanto Soybean Claims Probed by West Virginia,” by Jack Kaskey, Businessweek, June 25, 2010,

Scientists, development experts and more than 100 groups from around the world joined Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in urging U.S. senators to strip what they termed a GMO giveaway to agricultural biotech companies embedded in the Global Food Security Act (S. 384). Sponsored by Senators Casey and Lugar, the bill is intended to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to food crises. After months of advocacy by PAN and partners, the controversial clause on genetically modified organisms was revised so that the Act directed that funding shall support agricultural research "appropriate to local ecological and social conditions" and include ecological agriculture along with conventional breeding and genetically modified technology [sic] as approaches that could be supported. "The challenge going forward," observes PAN senior scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, "lies in ensuring that U.S. development aid actually shifts from favoring top-down 'solutions' like GMOs and the 'Green Revolution' model of agriculture towards ecologically sound farming systems that can feed the world without destroying either local culture or the very ecosystem functions on which life depends. Farmers' in-depth knowledge of local agroecosystems must inform the quest for solutions to today's complex problems." Likewise, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, speaking in Brussels at an international conference on agroecology and food security, argued that agroecological farming has a proven capacity to increase food production and farmers' income, while protecting soil, water and climate. Citing the success of such approaches in Brazil, Cuba and Africa, de Schutter explained that increased investments in agroecology are urgently needed to meet the world's food needs. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, July 2, 2010, www.panna.org)

Monsanto has agreed to pay the EPA a $2.5 million penalty for selling mislabeled bags of GE cotton seed in 10 Texas counties where the insecticide-containing seeds were banned. (“E.P.A. Fines Monsanto $2.5 Million,” AP, July 8, 2010; www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/business/09cotton.html?_r=1&hpw)



Home | Programs | Agricultural Services | The Fair | Certification | Events | Publications | Resources | Store | Support MOFGA | Contact | MOFGA.net | Search
  Copyright © 2018 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement    Site by Planet Maine