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MOF&G Cover Spring 2010

  

  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 2010News – Spring 2010   
 News & Events – Spring 2010 Minimize

The Good News
Food Safety
Wasted Food
Organic Issues
Pesticides
Genetic Engineering (GE) in the News

The Good News


The 2010 Northeast Permaculture Convergence, co-sponsored by Newforest Institute and MOFGA with support from Portland Maine Permaculture, Penobscot Valley Permaculture and other local groups, is a place for permaculture practitioners, organizers and teachers to gather, cross-pollinate, have fun and re-energize their work. It will take place on July 2 to 4, 2010, at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine. The convergence is open to permaculture designers, practitioners and teachers from the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, and to farmers, gardeners, green builders and members of the public who want to learn about permaculture and building resilience into communities. It will include workshops, field trips, home-cooked food, entertainment and camping; sessions for practicing permaculturists and those new to permaculture; a woodland wellness tent, vendor area, design clinic and designers lounge, regional updates, permaculture basics, forest gardening, resilient agriculture and more. The event will be affordable, with a sliding scale, an opportunity for work trade, and day passes. Volunteer team leaders are sought, as are fresh food donations and creative energy. For information, contact neconvergence@gmail.com or twitter@neconvergence.


Of Farms and Fables, a community-based theater project under the direction of lead artist Jennie Hahn, is a three-year project involving extensive collaboration between performers, farmers and farm workers. The project will culminate with an outdoor performance in summer 2011. Three farms – Wm. H. Jordan Farm in Cape Elizabeth, Kay-Ben Farm in Gorham and Broadturn Farm in Scarborough – have signed on. Penny Jordan, co-owner with her siblings of Wm. H. Jordan Farm, says, "My willingness to collaborate goes back to my passion for live theater. Theater tells a story, and what better story to tell than how your food is produced, than about the people who produce it and what it takes to produce it." Several community partners-R.O.I.L., Cape Farm Alliance, the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust, Cultivating Community, and Threshold to Maine-are also supporting the project, as is the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust in Holliston, Mass., which awarded Hahn a one-year grant for Of Farms and Fables. Hahn, a Maine native and South Portland resident, and her advisory board hope the project will provide an opportunity for community dialog about food and the future of family farms in Maine. Readers can follow the project at http://farmsandfables.blogspot.com/ and may contact Hahn at info@open-waters.org for additional information or to support the project.


The selectmen of Harpswell, Maine, have adopted a policy of exercising "green garden practices" on public lands and encouraging residents to do the same. Principles include replacing water soluble "weed and feed" chemicals with slow release organic nutrients that feed the soil and plants without runoff; favoring native species for resilience against disease, climate and soil constraints; promoting diverse plant species; and seeking alternative design solutions for lawns when hostile factors of grade, shade and drainage exist. The Harpswell Conservation Commission will provide information to landowners. Harpswell joins Camden, Rockport, Castine, Brunswick and Kennebunkport in passing such resolutions. (www.harpswell.maine.gov)


College of the Atlantic has hired Dr. Molly Anderson to hold the Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems. Anderson co-founded and directed the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate degree program at Tufts University; directed Tufts Institute of the Environment; founded Food Systems Integrity to consult on science and policy for social justice, ecological ingetrity and community-serving food systems; and was senior program officer and interim director of the U.S. regional office of Oxfam America. Anderson said of COA, "No other college or university has demonstrated the same commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and 'walking the talk' on sustainability – from its zero-carbon policy, to its commitment to purchase a significant proportion of campus food from the college farm, to its partnership with innovative European research and educational programs." As part of its Sustainable Food Systems program, COA has partnered with the Organic Research Centre at Elm Farm in the United Kingdom and Germany's University of Kassel. Anderson will help foster international collaborations in teaching, research and action. (COA press release, Jan. 19, 2010)


The USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Maine has received more than $480,000 to help organic farmers and agricultural producers transitioning to organic farming compete for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds. Successful applicants will receive funding to implement conservation practices designed to improve natural resource conditions. Five priority conservation practices have increased payment rates based on organic production costs and practices: crop rotation, cover cropping, nutrient management, pest management and mulching. Applications are accepted continuously. The deadline for 2010 applications has not been established. For information, visit a local USDA Service Center, listed at http://offices.usda.gov and in the phone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department, or visit www.me.nrcs.usda.gov. (From Christopher Jones, USDA NRCS, Bangor)


Through a $1.2 million, three-year USDA grant, plant breeders at North Carolina State University are developing corn, peanut, soybean and wheat varieties adapted to organic growing, according to Chris Reberg-Horton of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State (and formerly with the University of Maine). Reberg-Horton said North Carolina has become a center for organic field crop production in the Southeast. A number of organic crop processors have located in the state. North Carolina also is home to the largest U.S. organic egg producer; to two mills that produce organic flour and to an organic soybean crusher. Reberg-Horton adds that NC State has one of the largest if not the largest public plant breeding programs in the world. Soybean breeding will likely focus on developing varieties that compete better with weeds. Corn breeding will focus on preventing contamination with genetically engineered corn. Pollen from fields in which GE corn grows can drift for several miles and cross pollinate organic corn. Reberg-Horton said corn that contains gametophytic genes cannot be pollinated by non-gametophytic corn types, so breeding will focus on developing organic varieties with gametophytic genes. Early maturity will also be important so that organic corn growers can plant later in the season to avoid seed diseases that occur in cold soil. Wheat breeding will focus on developing allelopathic wheat plants, which produce biochemicals that discourage the growth of other plants, such as weeds. Reberg-Horton and growers will work with the Rural Advancement Foundation International to connect the broader farming community to public breeders and to ensure that the needs and concerns of organic farmers are addressed. ("Plant breeders focus on organic crops," by Dave Caldwell, Perspectives On Line, Winter 2009, North Carolina State University, www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/magazine)


Research from Britain's Soil Association shows that if all UK farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 3.2 million tons of carbon (C) would be sequestered by the soil each year – the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 89 percent of agriculture's global greenhouse gas mitigation potential is from C sequestration.

The key research findings are:

• Widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK would offset 23 percent of UK agricultural emissions through soil C sequestration alone, more than doubling the UK government's low target of a 6 to 11 percent reduction by 2020.

• A worldwide switch to organic farming could offset 11 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Raising soil C levels would also make farming worldwide more resilient to such climate extremes as droughts and floods, leading to greater food security.

• On average organic farming produces 28 percent more soil C than non-organic farming in Northern Europe, and 20 percent more for all countries studied.

• In the UK, soil C in grasslands and mixed farming systems may go a long way in offsetting methane emissions from grass-fed cattle and sheep.

("Soil Carbon and organic farming. A review of the evidence of agriculture's potential to combat climate change,"
www.soilassociation.org/Whyorganic/Climatefriendlyfoodandfarming/Soilcarbon/tabid/574/Default.aspx)


The International Panel on Climate Change estimates that developed countries need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The World Bank and United Nations International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development concluded that a fundamental overhaul of the current food and farming system is needed to get us out of the increasing food and fuel crisis. They recommend that small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods, not industrialization, are keys to food security. "Rich-soil" farming and gardening can mitigate 6 to 10 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year, or 20 to 35 percent of current annual global emissions (29 billion tons per year). To mitigate all current global emissions, the world's agricultural land would need to sequester a mean of 6 tons of CO2 per hectare per year, which some systems can achieve. Anything above that would begin to reduce atmospheric CO2 to levels of consecutive previous years. The nonprofit Climate Friendly Food has a prototype carbon calculator for growers (www.climatefriendlyfood.org.uk/carboncalc) and the world's first low-carbon food certification program. ("Global Climate Negotiators Are Ignoring What's On Their Plates," Center for Food Safety, Countdown to Copenhagen, Nov. 2009 Update, e-mail Dec. 9, 2009; www.foodsafetynow.org; "Climate Friendly Farming," by Mukti Mitchell, Resurgence, Nov.-Dec. 2009, www.resurgence.org/magazine/article2955-Climate-friendly-Farming.html)

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Food Safety


Rules being drafted by the Maine Department of Agriculture concerning poultry slaughter and processing on small farms would allow small producers to sell uninspected poultry from the farm and farmers' markets; establish labeling requirements for the meat; and direct the Maine Department of Agriculture to create rules for slaughtering and processing. The proposed rules result from a bill sponsored by state Rep. Jeff McCabe and passed unanimously by the Legislature to exempt farms with fewer than 1,000 birds from larger producers' more stringent rules. However, some opposed the proposed requirement that small producers, who commonly slaughter outdoors, do so in two separate enclosed rooms with washable walls and floors, stainless cutting surfaces and a water heater. Russell Libby, MOFGA's executive director, estimates such a building would cost more than $20,000. Even without the new law, small producers were supposed to have slaughtering and processing facilities attached to septic systems and equipped with restrooms, but the law was not enforced. ("Farmers: Fowl law not fair," by Beth Quimby, MaineToday Media, Dec. 21, 2009)


Consumer Reports has found that almost all of the 19 canned foods it tested had measurable levels of bisphenol A (BPA) – including some labeled "organic" and some packaged in "BPA-free" cans. Dr. Urvashi Rangan of Consumers Union, said, "Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies." BPA has been linked to many problems, including reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes and heart disease. In most items tested, such as canned corn, chili, tomato sauce and corned beef, BPA ranged from trace amounts to about 32 ppb. Canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Blue Lake had 35.9 to 191 ppb, the highest amount for a single sample in these tests; Progresso Vegetable Soup, 67 to 134 ppb; Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup, 54.5 to 102 ppb; Similac Advance Infant Formula liquid concentrate in a can, 9 ppb; Nestlé Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Apple Juice in a can, 9.7 ppb (but no measurable BPA in samples of the same product in juice boxes); Vital Choice's tuna in "BPA-free" cans, 20 ppb; and Eden Baked Beans in "BPA-free" cans, 1 ppb. Several animal studies show adverse effects, such as abnormal reproductive development, at exposures of 2.4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, a dose that could be reached by eating one or a few servings daily or an adult daily diet that includes multiple servings of canned foods containing BPA levels comparable to some of the foods tested. Bills are pending in Congress to ban BPA in all food and beverage containers. Meanwhile, consumers can choose fresh food and consider alternatives to canned whenever possible; and use glass containers when heating food in microwave ovens. (Source: "Tests find wide range of bisphenol A in canned soups, juice, and more," Consumer Reports press release, Nov. 2, 2009; www.consumerreports.org)


Consumers Union recently found that of 382 fresh, whole broilers bought at 100 stores nationwide, two-thirds harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. So consumers must cook chicken to at least 165 F and prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food, says Consumers Union. Each year, salmonella and campylobacter from chicken and other foods infect 3.4 million Americans, send 25,500 to hospitals, and kill about 500, according to estimates by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem may be more widespread: Many who get sick don't seek medical care, and many who do aren't screened for foodborne infections. Also, says the CDC, in about 20 percent of salmonella and 55 percent of campylobacter cases, the bacteria are resistant to at least one antibiotic, so victims may have to try two or more before finding one that helps. Among the cleanest broilers were air-chilled broilers. About 40 percent harbored one or both pathogens. Store-brand organic chickens had no salmonella, but 57 percent harbored campylobacter. Of Perdue chickens, 56 percent were free of both pathogens, while more than 80 percent of Tyson and Foster Farms chickens tested positive for one or both pathogens. Among all brands and types of broilers tested, 68 percent of the salmonella and 60 percent of the campylobacter organisms analyzed showed resistance to one or more antibiotics. ("How safe is that chicken?" Consumers Union, Jan. 2010, www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/health-safety/chicken-safety/overview/chicken-safety-ov.htm)


Michael R. Taylor has been appointed deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, to oversee FDA's food and nutrition programs. Taylor has repeatedl gone through the revolving door at FDA, beginning as a lawyer there in 1976, working there as a commissioner and administrator in the 1990s (when the FDA approved use of Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and sales of unlabeled products from treated cows); and working as vice president for public policy at Monsanto Corp. from 1998 to 2001. He promoted favorable U.S. policies toward agricultural biotechnology during the Clinton administration. He has also been working to open Africa to GE seeds and agrichemicals. Russell Libby, MOFGA's executive director, told The New York Times that Taylor reflects the view "that everybody's going to eat food from large corporations and we need someone from that world to solve these problems." ("New Official Named with Portfolio to Unite Agencies and Improve Food Safety," by Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2010; www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/health/policy/14fda.html; "The Return of Michael Taylor – Monsanto's Man in the Obama Administration," by Isabella Kenfield, Food First, Aug. 12, 2009; www.foodfirst.org)

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Wasted Food


The Economist calculated total food intake among Americans and total U.S. food available (minus exports, plus imports) and found that 40 percent of our food supply is wasted. Producing these wasted calories takes more than one-quarter of the U.S. consumption of fresh water and about 300 million barrels of oil per year. ("A hill of beans," The Economist, Nov. 26, 2009; www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14960159; "'Food Insecurity' and Massive Food Waste, The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2009; http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/food-insecurity-and-massive-food-waste/?hp)

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Organic Issues


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program (NOP) has published proposed amendments to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for crop production. The proposed rule addresses the addition of sulfurous acid for use in organic crop production to the list of NOP allowed materials following evaluation and recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board. It also proposes to amend the annotation for tetracycline for use in organic crop production. The comment period for the proposed rule closes on March 15, 2010. View the proposed rule and comment at www.regulations.gov. (ATTRA Weekly Harvest Newsletter, Jan. 20, 2010; www.ncat.org)


In November 2009, Target Corp. said it advertised non-organic Silk soy milk in newspapers as organic, according to the USDA. The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute filed a complaint about the issue with USDA in October 2009. Target blamed its use of an outdated photo showing a soy milk caron with the term "organic" on it in an ad. Dean Foods has been using conventional soy in its WhiteWave milk for several months. ("Target admits to error in advertising organic milk," by Scott Bauer, AP, Dec. 14, 2009)

Unless it appeals the ruling, Promiseland Livestock, LLC, one of the largest U.S. organic cattle producers, along with its owner and key employees has been suspended from organic commerce for four years per a November 25, 2009, order from Washington, D.C., administrative law judge Peter Davenport. The multimillion dollar operation with facilities in Missouri and Nebraska, including over 13,000 acres of crop land, and managing 22,000 head of beef and dairy cattle, had been accused of multiple improprieties in formal legal complaints, including not feeding organic grain to cattle, selling fraudulent organic feed and "laundering" conventional cattle as organic, according to Mark Kastel of Cornucopia Institute. Promiseland sold thousands of dairy cows to factory dairy farms owned by Dean Foods (Horizon Organic), Natural Prairie Dairy in Texas and Aurora Dairy based in Colorado. Aurora and Natural Prairie supply private-label, store-brand milk for Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and major supermarket chains such as HEB, Safeway and Harris Teeter. Judge Davenport ruled that Promiseland violated USDA rules by refusing to provide records to inspectors visiting its facilities in Nebraska and Missouri; he did not rule directly on whether Promiseland's practices violated organic standards. ("Giant Organic Livestock Operation Decertified by USDA," press release, Cornucopia Institute, Dec. 2, 2009; www.cornucopia.org/USDA/Promiseland_Judgement.pdf; "Neb. company poised to lose organic certification," by Josh Funk, AP, Dec. 3, 2009)

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Pesticides

A pesticide that could be toxic to America's honey bees must be pulled from store shelves as a result of a suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Xerces Society. In December 2009, a federal court in New York invalidated EPA's approval of spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor) and ordered the agency to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law. The court's order went into effect on January 15, 2010, and made future U.S. sales of Movento illegal. The EPA had approved the pesticide for use on hundreds of fruit and vegetable crops – but without the advance notice and opportunity for public comment required by federal law and EPA regulations. In addition, EPA failed to evaluate fully the potential damage to bee populations or conduct the required analysis of the pesticide's economic, environmental and social costs. Beekeepers and scientists are concerned about Movento's potential impact on beneficial insects such as honey bees. The pesticide impairs the insects' ability to reproduce. EPA's review of Bayer's studies found that trace residues of Movento brought back to the hive by adult bees could cause "significant mortality" and "massive perturbation" to honeybee larvae. ("Big Win for Bees: Judge Pulls Pesticide," press release, Natural Resources Defense Council, Dec. 29, 2009; www.nrdc.org/media/2009/091229.asp)


On January 11, USDA released results of tests conducted in 2008 as part of its Pesticide Data Program. Among the findings: Atrazine was in 5.2 percent of water samples from private wells, down from 9.2 percent the previous year; but atrazine was detected in 93.9 percent of municipal water supplies tested, up from 70.7 percent in 2007. Also, DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, was in 84.6 percent of catfish sampled. And nearly 500 "presumptive tolerance violations" were detected – e.g., samples with residues of one or more pesticides that exceed EPA's legal limit or for which EPA has not set a legal limit. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, Jan. 22, 2010; www.panna.org; http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateC&navID=LearnMoreAboutthePesticideDataProgramScienceAndLaboratories&rightNav1=LearnMoreAboutthePesticideDataProgramScienceAndLaboratories&topNav=&leftNav=ScienceandLaboratories&page=PesticideDataProgram&resultType=&acct=pestcddataprg)

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Genetic Engineering (GE) in the News

The Irish Government will ban cultivation of GE crops and will introduce a voluntary GE-free label for food. The effort began in June 2004, when the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association called for an all-Ireland GE-free policy as part of a strategy to leverage Ireland's green image and boost its farm exports. ICSA Rural Development chairman John Heney said, "Our island status provides a unique opportunity for a credible GM-free policy for high value beef and lamb export markets." ("Ireland Adopts GM-Free Zone Policy," GM-free Ireland Network press release, Oct. 10, 2009, Michael O'Callaghan; www.gmfreeireland.org)


American farmers have fewer and more expensive seed options, according to "Out of Hand: Farmers face the consequences of a consolidated seed industry." Report author Kristina Hubbard of the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, a Wisconsin-based national network of farm organizations that serves as a voice for family farmers on agricultural biotechnology issues, examines these trends.

Monsanto, for example, accounts for 60 percent of the corn and soybean seed market through seed sales and seed trait licensing agreements. Its biotechnology traits grow on more than 90 percent of U.S. soybean acreage and more than 80 percent of U.S. corn acreage.

The report cites weak antitrust law enforcement and Supreme Court decisions that allowed GE crops and other plant products to be patented as factors that created unprecedented ownership and control over genetic resources in major field crops. Farmers note that conventional seed is now more difficult to locate, as are single trait GE crops, now that companies are stacking many GE traits into single varieties. Few public plant breeding programs focus on good genetics for yield and disease resistance in conventional varieties, but instead work only on expensive GE traits.

Congress argued for decades that patents on sexually reproducing plants would curtail innovation, threaten the free exchange of genetic resources, and increase market concentration. These problems are now being realized, notes the report.

"Out of Hand" recommends that the U.S. Department of Justice examine anticompetitive conduct in the industry, enforce antitrust law, engage the public in assessing proposed and pending mergers, and revamp patent law related to crops. The USDA, says Hubbard, should reinvigorate public breeding and cultivar development programs to ensure that the needs of farmers and the general public are met and that research is conducted in an open and honest way. In fact, the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations. (Farmer to Farmer Campaign press release, Dec. 9, 2009; www.farmertofarmercampaign.org; for details on Monsanto's control over the seed industry, see "Monsanto towers above seed rivals," by Christopher Leonard, Kennebec Journal, Dec. 14, 2009; "Feds step up antitrust investigation into Monsanto," by Christopher Leonard, AP, Jan. 14, 2010; www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/01/14/monsanto_gets_justice_dept_request_for_more_data/; "Monsanto GMO Ignites Big Seed War," by Frank Morris, National Public Radio, Jan. 17, 2010; www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122498255)


In response to a January 2008 lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and High Mowing Seeds, federal Judge Jeffery White in September 2009 ordered USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) to support its deregulation of Monsanto's Roundup Ready beet seeds. On December 4, 2009, White set a June 11, 2010, hearing date regarding the case. Since this is after the planting date for beets, activists asked on January 20, 2010, that the court bar production or use of the seeds until a permanent injunction is in place, fearing that pollen from GE beets will contaminate organic beet and chard seed crops in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Some 95 percent of the 2009 U.S. sugar beet crop was from Roundup Ready beets. ("Plaintiffs to Demand Immediate Seed Ban," by Wes Sander, Capital Press, Dec. 12, 2009; www.capitalpress.com/oregon/ws-Sugar-Beets-121109; "Beet Growers Eager to Plant Before Hearing," by Dave Wilkins, Capital Press, Dec. 12, 2009; www.capitalpress.com/idaho/dw-beet-hearing-side-w-art-p-8-121109)


After a December 2009 trial in a federal court in St. Louis, Bayer CropScience has been ordered to pay almost $2 million to two farmers whose rice was contaminated with GE herbicide-tolerant Liberty Link (LL) rice. Bayer may also be liable for losses suffered by some 3,000 other rice farmers in the South. In 2006, rice contaminated with Bayer's LL genes appeared on supermarket shelves worldwide even though the GE rice had not been approved, causing the EU and Japan to halt rice imports from the United States. Contamination occurred after Bayer and Louisiana State University began testing the GE rice in 2002, and rice from experimental plots cross pollinated with non-GE rice, allegedly contaminating some 30 percent of rice land in the South. The jury rejected the farmers' request for a punitive reward. The USDA later approved Bayer's LL rice for growth and human consumption. (Press Release, Dec. 16, 2009, Coalition against Bayer Dangers; www.cbgnetwork.org/3169.html; "$2 million verdict against Bayer CropScience," Dec. 05, 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario found transgenic DNA from Roundup Ready corn in all animal groups they sampled from soils where the crop was grown, including microarthropods, nematodes, macroarthropods and earthworms, and at rates significantly greater than background rates in soils. The authors say the results are the first to demonstrate the persistence of transgenic crop DNA residues within a food web. ("Detection of transgenic cp4 epsps genes in the soil food web," by Miranda M. Hart et al., Agron. Sustain. Dev. 29 (2009) 497-501, DOI: 10.1051/agro/20090209; July 2009; www.agronomy-journal.org/index.php?option=article&access=doi&doi=10.1051/agro/2009020)


Researchers in France analyzed data from trials with rats fed three main commercialized GE corn varieties, NK 603, MON 810, MON 863, for five to 14 weeks. NK 603 is a Roundup Ready corn; MON 810 and MON 863 synthesize two different insecticidal Bt toxins. Parameters measured in serum and urine were compared in GE-fed rats and non-GE equivalent control groups. Effects linked with GE corn consumption were sex- and often dose-dependent, and were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, although the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic systems (formation of blood cellular components) were also affected. The authors say that the liver and kidney toxicity may be due to the new pesticides in the GE corn and/or the genetic modification itself. ("A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health," by de Vendômois J.S., Roullier F., Cellier D., Séralini G.E. Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5:706-726; www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm)


A Monsanto/Cargill joint venture has withdrawn its application for high-lysine transgenic corn after European Food Safety Agency regulators questioned its safety for human consumption. Made by Renessen LLC, LY038 would have been the only high-lysine corn available and has been approved for food use in Japan, S. Korea, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and for cultivation in the United States, although it has never been grown. Although LY038 is not intended for human consumption, the likelihood of genetic cross-contamination means that EU food approval was necessary to grow the crop commercially. LY038 corn contains the enzyme dihydrodipicolinate synthase from Corynebacterium glutamicum, which leads to accumulation of about 50-fold more free lysine in the corn kernel. It is intended as an alternative to lysine supplementation, especially for pigs on a corn/soymeal-based diet. Regulators questioned the safety of LY038 when cooked. Lysine reacts on heating with sugars to form advanced glycoxidation end products that are linked to diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and other diseases. They also questioned unexplained chlorosis (yellowing) in experimental trials; poor performance of chickens fed LY038; and whether appropriate controls were used by the applicant. Codex Alimentarius guidelines indicate that a genetically identical cultivar, minus the transgene, is the appropriate control for a GE safety experiment. Jack Heinemann, director of the The Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety and an author of a critique of LY038, said, "I have not seen an application since 2002 that met the Codex comparator standard." ("Transgenic high-lysine corn LY038 withdrawn after EU raises safety questions," The Bioscience Research Project News Service, Nov. 10, 2009; www.bioscienceresource.org/news/article.php?id=43)


The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that up to 25 percent of U.S. farmers growing GE Bt corn fail to comply with federal rules aimed at slowing development of insect resistance to GE insecticide-containing crops. Growers are supposed to plant 20 percent of their corn fields with non-Bt corn. ("Rules on Modified Corn Skirted, Study Says," by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, Nov. 6, 2009; www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/business/06corn.html?_r=1)


After the National Association of Wheat Growers asked Monsanto to research GE wheat, three Washington state wheat growers started a petition drive against GE wheat due to concerns about potential health risks from the product and Japan's potential refusal to buy the wheat. The petition asks national and state associations to warn farmers about these issues and to ask for safety testing on the crop. ("Trio fights GMO wheat," by Dan Wheat, Capital Press, Dec. 19, 2009; www.capitalpress.com/washington/djw-GMOwheat-121809)


In 2006, after the Center for Food Safety (CFS) took legal action against USDA's illegal approval of Monsanto's GE Roundup Ready alfalfa, federal courts banned the crop until the USDA prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on effects of the crop on the environment, farmers and the public. USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. CFS says the USDA did not take concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers or organic dairy farmers seriously: It dismissed the fact that contamination will threaten export markets and domestic organic markets; and it dismissed the significant adverse economic effects that GE contamination will have on non-GE conventional alfalfa seed or hay growers (e.g., export markets) and dairy producers who rely on non-GE and organic alfalfa hay for forage. The comment period on the draft EIS closed in February 2010. Meanwhile, after two higher courts upheld the ruling that USDA's approval of GE alfalfa was illegal, Monsanto took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 15, 2010, the Supreme Court decided to hear its first case about the risks of GE crops in the case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475. Alfalfa, the fourth most widely grown U.S. crop and a key source of dairy forage, is the first GE perennial crop. Bees can carry its pollen several miles, potentially contaminating organic farms. ("The Return of Monsanto's Roundup Ready Alfalfa," by Zelig Golden, Civil Eats, Dec. 24, 2009; "Supreme Court to Hear First Genetically Engineered Crop Case," The Center for Food Safety, Jan. 15, 2010; http://truefoodnow.org/2010/01/15/supreme-court-to-hear-first-genetically-engineered-crop-case/)


Nine weed species in the United States are resistant to glyphosate, including strains of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), common waterhemp (Amaranthus rudis), giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), hairy fleabane (Conyza bonariensis), horseweed (Conyza canadensis), Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) and rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum). The consequences of resistance are particularly troublesome for farmers who grow soybean, corn, cotton and sugar beets engineered to tolerate glyphosate. Using a single herbicide increases the odds that the weed population will shift to resistant plants. (Source: Nine Weeds Resistant to Glyphosate, press release, Weed Science Society of America, Nov. 23, 2009; www.growingproduce.com/news/avg/?storyid=2970#)


A new study entitled "Gene amplification confers glyphosate resistance in Amaranthus palmeri" from a research team including Monsanto scientists echoes conclusions from a report by The Organic Center (TOC). The Monsanto-funded research states that "evolution of resistance to the widely used, nonselective herbicide glyphosate in weedy species endangers the continued success of transgenic glyphosate-resistant crops and the sustainability of glyphosate as the world's most important herbicide." Similarly, TOC's report demonstrates evidence linking the increase in herbicide use on GE, herbicide-tolerant crops to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds including Amaranthus palmeri. Using USDA data, Dr. Charles Benbrook showed that glyphosate-based, herbicide-tolerant corn, soybeans and cotton increased U.S. herbicide use by 318 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, GE crops required more than 26 percent more pounds of pesticides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties. This trend is expected to continue as a result of the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. ("Monsanto-Funded Research Echoes Organic Center's 'Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use ...' Report, Concluding that Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds Threaten Future of Herbicide-Tolerant, Genetically Engineered Crops," press release, The Organic Center, Jan. 18, 2010; www.organic-center.org; "Gene amplification confers glyphosate resistance in Amaranthus palmeri," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec. 2009; www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/10/0906649107; "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years," The Organic Center; www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159)


In "Loss of Glyphosate Efficacy: A Changing Weed Spectrum in Georgia Cotton," Theodore M. Webster and Lynn M. Sosnoskie examine how increased acreage of GE herbicide-tolerant cotton is changing the most prevalent weeds, which now include varieties that tolerate or resist glyphosate. The two most troublesome in Georgia cotton are Benghal dayflower, which is tolerant to glyphosate and many herbicides used in agronomic crops, and Palmer amaranth, which has developed resistance to many classes of herbicides, including glyphosate. "Because herbicide resistance can spread quickly, indiscriminate use of glyphosate may result in a loss of weed susceptibility for all growers, a tragedy of the commons," say the authors. ("Herbicide-tolerant cotton creates growing weed-control issues for farmers," press release, Allen Press, Jan. 21, 2010; full text article: www2.allenpress.com/pdf/WEES_58.1_73-79.pdf)

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