The Good News
Local vs. State Control
The Good News
A gift of $110.85 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation will help the Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Fairfield expand, and will support the Good Will-Hinckley school's new Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. The money will be used to buy 600 acres (including an organic farm for KVCC’s associate degree in agricultural sciences) and 13 buildings at Good Will-Hinckley so that KVCC can enroll up to 2,000 more students. The state of Maine has also appropriated $750,000 to support the new college campus, and $530,000 annually to Good Will-Hinckley for operating costs. (“Alfond Gift to Benefit Maine Community College and Magnet High School,” Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Jan. 23, 2012; www.mpbn.net/News/MaineHeadlineNews/tabid/968/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3479/ItemId/19917/Default.aspx#.Tx2gWAO1N9Y.facebook)
A $200,000 grant from the federal Northern Border Regional Commission will help build a $1 million vegetable processing plant in Van Buren, Maine. The USDA’s Rural Development loan program and local contributions are also helping fund the plant. The town of Van Buren will own the structure, leasing to Northern Girl, LLC, which will process Maine-grown produce, according to Marada Cook of Northern Girl and Crown O’ Maine Organic Coop. Northern Girl has been working on its product line in a leased kitchen in Limestone. The new plant will employ up to 40 people. (“Federal grant helps fund $1 million food processing plant in Van Buren,” by Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News, Nov. 19, 2011; http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/19/business/federal-grant-helps-fund-1-million-food-processing-plant-in-van-buren)
Maine Feeding Mainers is looking for individuals or a team of people who are available and willing to glean at farms that have produce left in their fields. Contact Nancy Perry at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-3554 ext. 1109.
MOFGA certified organic farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, was a prominent part of a march organized by the Occupy Wall Street food justice committee and Food Democracy Now this winter. Gerritsen told The New York Times, “I have not spoken to one farmer who doesn’t understand the message of Occupy Wall Street ... It’s very clear. Because of business and corporate participation in agriculture, farmers are losing their livelihoods … if it goes on like this, all we’re going to have to eat in this country is unregulated, imported, genetically modified produce. That’s not a healthy food system.” (“A Maine Farmer Speaks to Wall Street,” by Julia Moskin, Dec. 5, 2011; http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/a-maine-farmer-speaks-to-wall-street/. A video of Gerritsen’s speech appears at www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-murphy/video-farmers-march-with-_b_1149622.html)
The Maine Center for Economic Policy has found that every $100 spent at locally owned Portland businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy, while $100 spent at a representative national chain store in Portland yields just $33 in local economic impact. Also, based on 2007 retail sales figures, shifting just 10 percent of consumer spending in Cumberland County from national chains to locally owned businesses would add $127 million in economic activity, supporting 874 new jobs and generating more than $35 million in wages. The study was commissioned by the Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance. (“New Study Finds Buying Locally Pays Big Dividends for Maine’s Economy,” Portland Downtown press release, Dec. 6, 2011; www.portlandbuylocal.org)
College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island is receiving $1 million from the Partridge Foundation to expand its work in sustainable agriculture. About 75 percent of the money will fund scholarships for rural New England students interested in focusing on sustainable agriculture. The grant will expand the college's Sustainable Agriculture program and will help support its Beech Hill Farm, an organic farm and orchard that provides produce for the college, often employing COA students and graduates. The grant will also offer on-site farm housing for students and interns; will enable the college to buy some abutting acreage; will be used to purchase a dedicated farm van; and will cover development of a multi-disciplinary, farm-based high school summer program for college credit. (College of the Atlantic press release, Sept. 13, 2011)
In 2010, Alice Elliott of Richmond, Maine, harvested 642 pounds of vegetables, with a value of $2,102.48 according to mean prices in MOFGA’s organic price report, from her 500-square-foot garden. Her gardening expenses for the year were $317. Follow Elliott’s gardening experiences on her blog, www.henbogle.com. (“Harvests offer payoffs for gardeners at many levels,” by Henry Homeyer, Nashua Telegraph, Nov. 2, 2011; www.nashuatelegraph.com/livinglifestyles/938490-224/harvests-offer-payoffs-for-gardeners-at-many.html)
In January 2012, Clif Bar Family Foundation, through its Seed Matters initiative, awarded $375,000 in grants to fund three Ph.D. fellowship students in organic plant breeding – the first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the United States. Seed Matters seeks to reinvigorate public seed research and education in order to provide organic farmers with new varieties of seed adapted to organic systems and to cultivate the next generation of thought leadership in organic research, education and entrepreneurship. The fellowship recipients were Brook Brouwer of Washington State University and two recipients who will begin this fall at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University. Students will work under noted organic plant breeders Dr. Stephen Jones and Dr. Kevin Murphy at Washington State and Dr. William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Press release, Seed Matters, Jan. 17, 2012; www.seedmatters.org; for information about Clif Bar Family Foundation grants that support the food system and communities, enhance public health and safeguard the environment and natural resources, visit www.clifbarfamilyfoundation.org.)
Organic crop systems can have similar yields and much higher economic returns than a conventional corn-soybean rotation, according to 13 years of data from Iowa State University’s Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm. The Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment (LTAR) is led by Iowa State professor Kathleen Delate, who says that the transitioning years are the hardest but can be competitive with conventional crops even then. Over 13 years, mean yields of organic corn, soy and oats equaled or slightly exceeded conventional, and a 12-year mean for alfalfa and an 8-year mean for winter wheat showed no significant difference between organic yields and the Adair County average. Also, mean returns from organic systems were calculated to be roughly $200 per acre more than for conventional. Total nitrogen increased by 33 percent in the organic (manure amended) plots, which also had higher concentrations of carbon, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and calcium. The results suggest that organic farming can foster more efficient nutrient use and higher carbon sequestration. Weed control in organic plots included timely tillage and longer rotations. Allelopathic chemicals from rye and alfalfa help control weeds, as does growing an alfalfa cover crop in winter, which provided cover for beneficial insects and animals. LTAR’s findings concur with those from the Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial in Pennsylvania, which concluded that organic systems can provide similar yields to and greater profits than conventional. In addition, organic crops required 45 percent less energy, and contributed significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn was especially profitable during droughts, when yields were 31 percent higher than conventional. (“Long-running experiment shows organic farming is profitable,” Nov. 15, 2011; www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/11-15-2011/long-running-experiment)
In a Thomson Reuters-NPR poll, 58 percent of respondents said that given a choice, they prefer to eat organic food – about one-third to support local farms and one-third to avoid toxins (sic) in their food. Others cited environmental reasons and taste. Of those who preferred non-organic food, 54 percent cited price as the main reason; 21 percent, availability; 13 percent, better taste; and 11 percent said non-organic foods are safer. Respondents prefer to get produce at a farmers’ market (43 percent), followed by supermarkets (32 percent), home gardens (20 percent) and farm co-ops (5 percent). (Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll: Organic Food. June 2011; www.factsforhealthcare.com/pressroom/NPR_report_OrganicFoods.pdf)
A poll of almost 1,300 U.S. families, conducted for the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and Kiwi Magazine, found that 78 percent of U.S. families say they are choosing organic foods. Four in 10 families say they are buying more organic products than they were a year ago – in line with OTA’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey, which showed U.S. organic industry growth of 8 percent in 2010. Forty-eight percent of parents surveyed said their strongest motivator for buying organic is their belief that organic products “are healthier for me and my children.” Other motivators included concern over effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children, and the desire to avoid highly processed or artificial ingredients. Nearly a decade after the federal rules for organic were implemented, 72 percent of parents are now familiar with the USDA Organic seal; three in 10 U.S. families are new entrants to the organic marketplace. (Organic Trade Assoc. press release, Nov. 2, 2011; www.ota.com)
Customer loyalty is pushing organic produce sales more than those of conventional produce, according to The Packer. Organic produce represented 5.5 percent of produce department dollar sales in year ending July 30, 2011, with mean sales of $2,338 per store per week, 10.1 percent more than in the previous year. Between 2006 to 2010, organic produce sales increased 173 percent, with greatest growth in packaged salads, berries, apples, lettuce and cooking greens. Among organic fruits, top sellers are, in descending order, berries, apples, bananas, citrus and grapes. A 2010 Internet survey of 1,000 consumers by Perishables Group found that 6 percent regularly thought about purchasing organic produce; 10 percent sometimes look for and purchase organic produce; and 57 percent rarely or never purchase organic items in the produce department. Nineteen percent purchase organic produce only when they believe the price is a value. Twelve percent said they were purchasing “significantly more” or “more” organic produce than in the previous year, while 29 percent said they were purchasing “significantly more” or “more” locally-grown produce. Berries constitute 32.3 percent of organic fruit sales, and from 2006 to 2010, the mean weekly sales of berries increased 193.2 percent. Organic blueberry sales grew 40 percent in a year; strawberries 20 percent (vs. 1 percent for conventional strawberries). (“Category Spotlight – Organic Produce,” Nov. 1, 2011, The Packer;
The American Seed Trade Assoc., Organic Seed Alliance and the Organic Trade Assoc. are working on a revised Organic Seed Availability Database that will enable searching by seed type, organic certification and region of adaptation. (“Groups to Develop Organic Seed Availability Database, USAgNet, Dec. 13, 2011; www.usagnet.com/story-national.php?Id=2624&yr=2011)
Pennsylvania farmer Steve Groff has grown 190 bushels of corn per acre without using nitrogen fertilizer but with sustained use of no-till practices and N-fixing cover crops. Groff worked for more than 10 years with Dr. Ray Weil at the University of Maryland to develop and bring to market the Tillage Radish®, a brassica cover crop with an aggressive single taproot that grows through compacted soils. Groff's research shows that strategically selected blends of the Tillage Radish, legumes such as Austrian winter peas, and soil-building plants such as Phacelia and others can dramatically reduce or replace the need for additional fertilizer. Tillage Radish planted as a fall cover crop attracts earthworms, which feed on them as they decompose in the spring and move collected nutrients deep into the root zone for following row crops. Some cover crops can also provide forage for cattle. (Press release, Steve Groff, Cedar Meadow Farm, Nov. 16, 2011; CoverCropSolutions.com and TillageRadish.com)
Ketchup made from organically grown tomatoes has more polyphenols than that made from conventional tomatoes, say researchers at the Universitat de Barcelona. Organic ketchup had higher concentrations of flavonols, flavanones and phenolic acids, biomolecules that benefit human and plant health. Conventional ketchup had higher concentrations of nitrogen compounds used to synthesize proteins and other biomolecules, probably because of soluble N fertilizer applications. The same researchers previously found higher concentrations of polyphenols in organic tomato juice than in conventional. (“Conventional or organic crops: Differences in commercial ketchups ,” by Olga Jáuregui et al., Dec. 12, 2011; www.ub.edu/web/ub/en/menu_eines/noticies/2011/12/005.html; Vallverdú-Queralt, A. et al., “A metabolomic approach differentiates between conventional and organic ketchups,” J. Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011, 59 (21), pp. 11703–11710)
Organic Valley has hired Steve Getz as its New England East Pool Coordinator, to help expand Organic Valley’s Northeast reach. Organic Valley has 173 farmer owners in New England, selling under the Northeast Pastures label. Getz and his wife, Karen, ran an organic dairy farm and farmstead cheese facility in Vermont, where they still reside. Getz’s tasks include milk procurement, visiting farms, auditing pastures, and interacting with industry partners. (Organic Valley press release, Nov. 10, 2011)
The USDA has new, improved nutrition standards for school lunches as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year. The standards ensure that children are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, more whole grain-rich foods, only fat-free or low-fat milk, and proper portion sizes. (USDA media advisory, Jan. 20, 2012)
USDA scientists used peanut hulls, pecan shells, poultry litter, switchgrass and hardwood waste products to make nine types of biochar, pyrolysing (rapidly heating in the absence of oxygen) the materials at two temperatures. They mixed about 20 tons per acre of the biochars into a sandy soil and two silt loam soils. After four months, biochars made from switchgrass and hardwoods increased moisture storage in all three soils. The greatest increase – almost 3 to 6 percent higher than in a control soil sample – occurred in soils amended with switchgrass biochar produced at the high temperature. Biochars made at higher temperatures increased soil pH, and biochar made from poultry litter greatly increased available soil phosphorus and sodium. The researchers believe that producers could someday select feedstocks and pyrolysis processes to make "designer" biochars for specific soils. (“Using Biochar to Boost Soil Moisture,” by Ann Perry, Agricultural Research, Nov. 8, 2011; www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/111108.htm)
The USDA released its National Nutrient Management Standard in December 2011 to address the problem of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers polluting waterways. Excess nutrients are the main contributors to algal blooms in these waters, which result in low-oxygen conditions that kill other organisms. Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay are examples. The USDA guidelines (at www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1046433.pdf) guide farmers in applying the right nutrient source at the rate crops require, when they need it, and in the right place so that nutrients will not leave farm fields. (“Putting Farmland On A Fertilizer Diet,” by Dan Charles, NPR, Dec. 14, 2011;
www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/13/143659204/putting-farmland-on-a-fertilizer-diet; “USDA Revises National Nutrient Management Standard to Achieve Maximum Agricultural, Environmental Benefits,” USDA, Dec. 13, 2011; www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2011/12/0513.xml&contentidonly=true)
A National Young Farmer’s Coalition study of 1,000 farmers shows that for young and beginning U.S. farmers, access to capital, land and health insurance are their greatest obstacles. The coalition cites slow USDA Farm Service Loan transactions and a loan limit of $300,000 as problematic. This population’s most valuable programs are farm apprenticeships, local partnerships and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The report recommends that communities start CSA groups, shop at farmers’ markets and protect existing farmland; and that Congress include the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Opportunity Act in the next Farm Bill. (National Young Farmers Coalition Releases Survey of 1,000 Young and Beginning Farmers,” by Lindsey Lusher Shute, Nov. 9, 2011; www.youngfarmers.org/blog/2011/11/09/nyfc-releases-survey-of-1000-young-and-beginning-farmers/)
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is expanding loan opportunities for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and is establishing a new Land Contract Guarantee Program. The rule provides additional flexibility allowing FSA loan officers to consider all prior farming experience, including on-the-job training and formal education, when determining eligibility for FSA farm operating and ownership loans. It also expands a previous pilot program, the Land Contract Guarantee Program, from six to 50 states. This program is designed to encourage farmers and ranchers to sell their property to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through seller financing. The new rule enables landowners to sell their farmland to the next generation on a contract for deed with a 90 percent guarantee against losses to the seller. Alternatively, the agency can provide a guarantee of three years’ amortized loan installments, plus payment of real estate taxes and hazard insurance premiums for the same three-year period. (“USDA Announces Greater Flexibility and Additional Tools for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers,” USDA press release, Jan. 20, 2012; www.fsa.usda.gov)
The USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, at www.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov, has been updated for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map offers a Geographic Information System-based interactive format, and the map website enables users to find their hardiness zone by ZIP code. Plant hardiness zone designations represent the average annual extreme minimum temperatures at a given location during a particular time period. The new map includes 13 zones, with, for the first time, zones 12 (50-60 F) and 13 (60-70 F). Each zone is a 10-degree F band, further divided into 5-degree "A" and "B" zones. Compared to the 1990 map, 18 of the 26 half-zone boundaries have shifted one 5-degree F half-zone warmer. The new map uses data from 1976 to 2005, while the 1990 map used data from 1974 to 1986. Some changes in the zones result from the longer time period; others from more sophisticated methods for mapping zones between weather stations, factoring in, for example, changes in elevation, nearness to large bodies of water, and position on the terrain, such as valley bottoms and ridge tops. The new map used temperature data from many more stations than did the 1990 map. The map helps gardeners, plant breeders, plant and animal population researchers, and the USDA Risk Management Agency, which uses hardiness zones to set some crop insurance standards. (“USDA Unveils New Plant Hardiness Zone Map,” by Kim Kaplan, USDA Agricultural Research Service News Service, Jan. 25, 2012; www.ars.usda.gov/news; “New map for what to plant reflects global warming, by Seth Borenstein, AP, Jan. 26, 2012; www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iFwYa8UxfWPb_dstbvmDMr8ZZfwA)
"There is justifiable concern that the current dependence of the food sector on fossil fuels may limit the sector's ability to meet global food demands," says an FAO paper published in November 2011 during the U.N. Conference on Climate Change. The report, “Energy-Smart Food for People and Climate,” urges that food production systems stop using 30 percent of global energy while producing more than 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by using more fuel-efficient engines, compost and precision fertilizers, more-efficient irrigation, no-till practices, and crop varieties and animal breeds that require fewer inputs. Postharvest improvements in transportation and infrastructure, better insulated food storage facilities, reduced packaging and food waste, and more-efficient cooking devices may help further. Depending on the location, fossil fuels can be replaced by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal or biomass energy. For example, sugar mills often use residue materials for heat and power generation; tomato rejects and skins, or pulp from juice processing, can be digested anaerobically to produce biogas. Reducing food losses will also improve energy efficiency in the agri-food chain. (“‘Energy-smart’ agriculture needed to escape fossil fuel trap,” www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/95161/icode/)
Rutgers researchers found that 10 species of wild bees they studied in northeastern North America are emerging a mean of 10.4 days earlier in spring than they did 130 years ago, with the greatest advance since 1970, “paralleling global temperature increases.” The bees’ host plants are also seem to be flowering earlier. (“Climate-associated phenological advances in bee pollinators and bee-pollinated plants,” by Ignasi Bartomeusa et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/11/29/1115559108.abstract)
Local vs. State Control
A lawsuit filed in Maine Superior Court in November 2011 accused Dan Brown of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, of distributing and selling unlicensed raw milk, unlabeled as such, and food products. Brown sells leftover milk from his one cow locally. Last April, Blue Hill passed a Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, which, supporters say, permits sales such as Brown’s; but Walter Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food & Rural Resources, informed the town of Blue Hill in April 2011 that “town residents involved in food processing and sales activities which are subject to state licensing and inspection are not exempt from those requirements.”
Represented by the Virginia-based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Brown is challenging the lawsuit; and Food for Maine’s Future is petitioning Gov. LePage to drop the suit.
Hal Prince, director of the Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations at the Maine Department of Agriculture, wrote in the Bangor Daily News that Brown was repeatedly informed of the need to be licensed and inspected by the state, and to meet basic safety and sanitation requirements in order to sell raw milk in Maine. “On multiple occasions he refused offers of support from our department to assist him with licensure and safety inspection steps, including water and TB testing,” said Prince. The department bought and tested Brown’s milk. “Samples taken from his used, dented and unlabeled plastic fruit juice containers revealed bacterial counts showing contamination levels 10 to 15 times greater than allowed by law,” Prince wrote.
The Bangor Daily News reported that “Brown said the department never contacted him about the alleged high bacteria counts in his products. Instead, he learned about it from the lawsuit paperwork.” (“Why Is a Farmer Who Sells Extra Milk From His One Cow to Neighbors Being Sued By the State of Maine?” by Rebekah Wilce, AlterNet, Dec. 7, 2011;
www.alternet.org/story/153364/; “Agriculture department saw significant risk in raw milk,” by Hal Prince, Bangor Daily News, Dec. 2, 2011; http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/02/opinion/contributors/agriculture-department-saw-significant-risk-in-raw-milk; “We Are All Farmer Brown,” www.facebook.com/wearefarmerbrown/posts/241874185874500; “Gov. LePage: Stop Criminalizing Maine’s Small Farmers!” http://localfoodlocalrules.org/ www.facebook.com/wearefarmerbrown/posts/241874185874500; Letter from Walter Whitcomb to the town of Blue Hill, April 6, 2011; https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1221/images/Whitcomb_Letter_Local_Food_Ordinance.pdf; “State sues Blue Hill farmer for selling unpasteurized milk at farmers’ markets,” by Kevin Miller, Bangor Daily News, Nov. 16, 2011; http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/16/news/hancock/blue-hill-farmer-cited-for-violating-state-law)
On Nov. 18, 2011, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the FDA, questioning its farm raids related to raw milk; the wisdom of spending money on such raids in light of “numerous food safety scares involving large-scale producers”; and noting that many farmer and consumer groups have asked whether Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, can be neutral on food issues when he is a former lobbyist and executive for Monsanto. The letter is posted at http://localfoodlocalrules.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/pingree_letter_fda.pdf.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the FDA is not properly auditing or following through on state inspections of food plants, due to lack of resources. State officials did more than half the agency’s inspections in 2009, 42 percent more than in 2005. Yet eight states failed to complete 10 percent of the inspections they were responsible for in 2009, and FDA paid for many inspections that were not done; and FDA failed to finish audits in 14 states. When states were audited, at least 32 percent of audited inspectors had at least one deficiency. (“FDA faulted over state inspections,” by Dina ElBoghdady, The Washington Post, Dec. 14, 2011; www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2011/12/14/gIQAqBrtuO_story.html)
The sharp increase in the cost of organic feed has created a shortage of organic milk, even as the volume of organic milk sold grew – by 17 percent from January through October 2011 for whole milk and by 15 percent for reduced-fat. Sales of conventional milk decreased by 2 percent for the same period. Prices of organic milk are expected to rise as a result. The price increase is partly due to increasing use of corn for ethanol. (“As Supply Dwindles, Organic Milk Gets Popular,” by William Neuman, Dec. 29, 2011; www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/business/rising-production-costs-cause-organic-milk-shortage.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&smid=fb-share)
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has recommended that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) prohibit hexane-extracted DHA/ARA (essential fatty acids) from use in manufacturing organic infant formula. The NOP process for acting on the recommendation will take several months. Hexane, a byproduct of petroleum refining, is neurotoxic when inhaled – a concern for manufacturing personnel primarily. The Cornucopia Institute, an organic products watchdog, wants the NOP to prohibit all volatile synthetic solvents so that organic baby food manufacturers don’t switch to acetone for extraction. Cornucopia has formally requested that the USDA Office of Inspector General investigate corporate influence on the National Organic Program resulting in the use of synthetics in organic food, such as Martek Biosciences Corporation’s patented versions of DHA and ARA oils, included in some organic infant formula, milk and baby food products. (“National board recommends change in organic formula,” Dec 23, 2011; http://news.consumerreports.org/2011/12/national-board-recommends-change-in-organic-formula.html; “Largest Corporate Dairy, Biotech Firm and USDA Accused of Conspiring to Corrupt Rulemaking and Pollute Organics,” The Cornucopia Institute, Jan. 23, 2012; www.cornucopia.org/2012/01/largest-corporate-dairy-biotech-firm-and-usda-accused-of-conspiring-to-corrupt-rulemaking-and-pollute-organics/)
Shamrock Farms, an industrial-scale organic dairy in Arizona, is poised to lose its USDA organic certification after a Cornucopia Institute complaint triggered a USDA investigation. The approximately 16,000-cow dairy (in 2008), with 700 to 1,100 cows in its organic milk herd, was allegedly providing inadequate pasture for the cows. The USDA asked Shamrock's organic certifier, Quality Assurance International, to handle the suspension. (Press release, Dec. 15, 2011; www.cornucopia.org/2011/12/enforcement-hammer-falls-on-giant-arizona-organic-factory-farm-dairy/)
Italian police have made arrests and seized 2,500 tons of food after an inquiry about several years of fake organic product sales there and to other European countries. Executives from three companies, Sunny Land, Sona and Bioecoitalia, and the local director of an Italian certifying body were arrested. (“Fake Italian organic food sold around Europe: police,” AFP;
Harold Chase of Oregon may face prison and a fine after pleading guilty to wire fraud (allegedly faxing fraudulent paperwork) for selling more than 4.2 million pounds of corn falsely labeled as organic. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and $250,000. Much of the corn was used as organic livestock feed. (“Organic or conventional? Man faces prison for corn caper,” KVAL News, Dec. 6, 2011; www.kval.com/news/business/Organic-or-conventional-Springfield-man-faces-prison-for-corn-caper-135136558.html)
A Cornucopia Institute report, "Cereal Crimes: How ‘Natural’ Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label – A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle," says that the meaningless term "natural" is being used as a marketing ploy at the expense of certified organic. The Institute praised Maine’s Grandy Oats for committing to organic ingredients and selling its granola for less than that of some non-organic competitors. “Natural” cereals have no legal definition and may come from genetically engineered crops grown with synthetic pesticides and processed with toxic materials. Many such products appear in health food sections of stores. (“Natural Foodie: For cereal, natural may not be as natural as you think,” by Avery Yale Kamila, Portland Press Herald, Nov. 16, 2011; www.pressherald.com/life/foodanddining/for-cereal-natural-may-not-be-as-natural-as-you-think_2011-11-16.html)
An EPA-appointed panel of independent scientists and public health experts has investigated atrazine, which is banned in Europe but is the most widely used herbicide in the United States and is commonly used in Canada. Atrazine is applied to about 75 percent of U.S. corn fields and is used on lawns and golf courses. The panel found "suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential" for ovarian and thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and hairy-cell leukemia related to the herbicide. It found inadequate evidence to determine whether atrazine is related to prostate, breast, liver, esophageal or childhood cancers. Also, a new review study shows that exposure to atrazine increases the risk of reproductive problems in many animals. Dr. Tyrone Hayes of the University of California at Berkeley, lead author of the study, noted that independent research worldwide associates exposure to atrazine with feminization of male gonads in amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals and other animals. And a study of women in Illinois and Vermont found that those drinking water contaminated with low levels of atrazine were more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels. An earlier study in Indiana correlated atrazine in drinking water with low birth weight of newborns. Atrazine is frequently detected in surface and ground water, especially in agricultural areas. In 2010, the Natural Resources Defense Council analyzed U.S. Geological Survey data and found that surface and drinking water in agricultural areas of the Midwest and South are pervasively contaminated with atrazine, which is sometimes present even in rain. When farmers apply the herbicide, people are often exposed to concentrations above EPA's limit of 3 parts per billion. The EPA reportedly does not plan to consider changing atrazine's regulatory status until 2013. (“Independent Panel: EPA Underestimates Atrazine's Cancer Risk,” by Tom Philpott|, Mother Jones, Nov. 7, 2011; http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/11/atrazine-cancer-epa; “Weed killer linked to gender-bending in animals,” by Paul Taylor, Globe and Mail, Dec. 1, 2011; www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/new-health/paul-taylor/weed-killer-linked-to-gender-bending-in-animals/article2256969/; “The herbicide atrazine is frequently detected in surface and groundwater, especially near cornfields in the Midwest,” by Lindsey Konkel, Environmental Health News; Nov. 28, 2011; www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs)
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pesticide residue testing showed more than 560 residues on non-organic apples, while 52 were found on organic apples. Of 178 organic apples tested in 2009 and 2010, 23.6 percent had residues, and those had a mean of 0.03 ppm of the fungicide thiabendazole, while conventional apples had 0.4 ppm. Most of the apples were imported. Trace amounts of pesticides from industrial agriculture are present in water, air and soil. Most contamination is believed to occur during packing and processing, according to Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. Officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said that pesticide residues appear to occur less frequently and at somewhat lower levels on organic than conventional produce. (“Startling differences in produce pesticide residue levels,” press release, Canada Organic Trade Association, Dec. 8, 2011; www.organicnewsroom.com/2011/12/startling_differences_in_produ.html; “Pesticides found in Canadian organic produce,” CBC News, Dec 8, 2011; www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2011/12/07/cda-organic-produce-cfia-iteam.html)
Avoiding pesticide risk is the primary reason people select organic foods and beverages.
Using USDA data on pesticide residues and EPA risk assessments, The Organic Center of Boulder, Colorado, calculated a "Dietary Risk Index" (DRI) tool to help determine pesticide dietary risk levels and trends. The Center says that only a few pesticide-food combinations account for 95 percent of dietary risk and that consuming organic foods nearly eliminates those risks. Among U.S. conventionally grown fruits, those with relatively high residues of relatively toxic compounds are, in decreasing order of risk, cranberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, cantaloupe, tomatoes, nectarines and blueberries. The highest risk vegetables are green beans, sweet bell peppers, kale, sweet potatoes, collard greens, summer squash, potatoes, spinach and mushrooms. Imported produce, says the Center, has a mean risk more than three times higher than that of U.S.-grown conventional produce. The Center’s handy Shopper’s Guide also discusses dairy, meat, grains; genetically engineered crops; and lists foods with the highest nutrient values per serving for optimal health. The Organic Center’s 2009 report “Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation: The Organic Option” concluded that consuming organic rather than conventional fresh and processed produce would reduce pesticide dietary risk by 97 percent. “New data from USDA residue testing in 2009 points to even greater beneﬁts,” says the Center. When USDA tested 318 domestic samples of organic lettuce, 55 residues were found – 51 of them from biochemical pesticides approved for use by organic farmers. The mean organic sample had only 0.17 residue (so about 8 in 10 had no residues), giving a dietary risk index of 0.001. Conventional lettuce, last tested in 2005, had a mean of 3.9 residues in each of 735 samples and a dietary risk index of 0.12 – about 120-times higher than in organic lettuce in 2009. The Center says that U.S. produce growers have “made steady progress in reducing pesticide dietary risks, while risks have not come down nearly as much in most imports, and have actually risen in some imported produce items.” (“Good News and a Growing Concern,” The Organic Center, Sept. 2011; www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/DRIfinal11-1%5B1%5D.pdf; “The Shopper’s Guide,” www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/TOC_PocketGuide_2011.pdf)
Dartmouth College researchers who studied more than 200 pregnant women in the New Hampshire area found that for each gram of rice the women consumed, total arsenic in their urine increased by 1 percent. Prenatal exposure to arsenic has been linked to low birth weight, infant mortality, decreased immune function and increased death rates from lung cancer later in life. Much U.S. rice is grown in the South, where decades of cotton crops were treated with arsenical pesticides; and rice bred to tolerate these contaminated soils is adept at taking up arsenic. Andrew Meharg of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has shown that U.S. rice has some of the highest mean levels in the world of inorganic arsenic, which can cause skin, lung and bladder cancer in humans. Meharg also found more than 10 ppb inorganic arsenic in most samples of U.K. rice milk.
Also, Consumers Union recently tested apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and found that 10 percent of 88 samples had total arsenic levels above federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent had lead levels above FDA’s 5 ppb limit for bottled water. Most was inorganic arsenic, a human carcinogen, says Consumers Union. Consumer Reports notes that among juice samples it tested, certified organic brands were lower in arsenic than conventional; and U.S. brands had less inorganic arsenic than those from China and Argentina.
Consumers Union has urged the U.S. government to ban organic arsenicals in animal feed, organic arsenical pesticides (i.e., pesticides with arsenic bound to carbon-containing molecules – not organically approved pesticides), and use of arsenic-laden fertilizers; to limit allowable total arsenic in juices to 3 ppb and lead to 5 ppb; and to reduce other dietary exposures to arsenic. It also suggests limiting the amount of juice children drink and buying brands with the lowest levels of arsenic (listed via its Jan. 2012 article, cited below). (“New study focuses on arsenic in rice,” by Andrea Rock, Consumer Reports, Dec 5, 2011
http://news.consumerreports.org/safety/2011/12/new-study-focuses-on-arsenic-in-rice.html; “Consumer Reports tests juices for arsenic and lead,” by Andrea Rock, Consumer News, Nov. 30, 2011; http://news.consumerreports.org/safety/2011/11/consumer-reports-tests-juices-for-arsenic-and-lead.html#.TtZ8J1heLic.facebook; “Arsenic in your juice,” Consumer Reports, Jan. 2012; www.consumerreports.org/cro/consumer-reports-magazine-january-2012/arsenic-in-your-juice.html)
In a study of 75 people, Harvard University researchers found that those who consumed 12 ounces of canned soup for five days in a row had 1,221 percent more bisphenol A (BPA, a hormone disruptor) in their urine than those who ate 12 ounces of fresh soup. BPA has been linked – even at lower concentrations than this study detected – to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. BPA is in the epoxy lining of many cans, in cash register receipts, dental fillings, and in some plastics and polycarbonate bottles (number 7). Researchers do not know how long it stays in the body before it is eliminated in urine. (“BPA spikes 1,200 per cent after eating canned soup: Study,” Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 23, 2011; www.ottawacitizen.com/health/spikes+cent+after+eating+canned+soup+Study/5751216/story.html; “Canned Soup Consumption and Urinary Bisphenol A: A Randomized Crossover Trial,” by Jenny L. Carwile et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, Nov. 23, 2011; http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/20.toc)
The FDA has restricted the use of cephalosporin antibiotics, including Cefzil and Keflex, in cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys over concerns about resistant bacterial infections developing in humans. Humans commonly use these antibiotics to treat pneumonia, strep throat, skin and urinary tract infections, and before surgery. Many doctors say that resistance to the drugs has cost thousands of lives, reports The New York Times. Most U.S. antibiotic use is to promote growth in livestock. Penicillin and tetracycline can still be used routinely in feed and water to promote animal growth or prevent illness due to unsanitary conditions. Rather than further regulate such antibiotic use in livestock feed, the FDA will encourage industry’s "voluntary reform.”
A report in Clinical Infectious Diseases (April 2011) said nearly half of 136 samples of beef, turkey, pork and chicken from U.S. grocery stores were contaminated with multi-drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria linked to rashes, sepsis, endocarditis and pneumonia. Such resistance seems to linger: Bacteria on Canadian pig farms that stopped using antibiotics continued to resist two antibiotics 2-1/2 years later. McGill University researchers who did this study suggest that spreading swine waste on fields may enable antibiotic resistant bacteria to share that resistance with other bacteria on crops and in aquatic ecosystems.
Another study compared pigs born in a sterile lab to mothers that had never been exposed to antibiotics. Six of the offspring received a low dose of three antibiotics commonly used to treat pig diseases and enhance growth and performance. Within two weeks, they had more E. coli (a nonpathogenic strain) in their guts, and those E. coli had more drug-resistant genes, than did six pigs that did not receive antibiotics. Mothers passed drug resistance to their offspring for generations, even after farmers stopped giving their livestock antibiotics. Nonmedicated pigs also had antibiotic-resistant genes in their gut bacteria, but treated pigs had more antibiotic drug resistance – even to antibiotics they did not consume. (“Citing Drug Resistance, U.S. Restricts More Antibiotics for Livestock,” by Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, Jan. 4, 2012;
www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/health/policy/fda-restricts-use-of-antibiotics-in-livestock.html?_r=1; “FDA Withdraws Longstanding Petition to Regulate Antibiotics in Livestock Feed,” by Ashley Portero, International Business Times, Jan. 3, 2012; www.ibtimes.com/articles/275785/20120103/fda-antibiotics-livestock-withdraws-longstanding-petiton-regulate.htm; “Drug Resistance Loiters on Antibiotic-Free Farms,” by Beth Marie Mole, Dec. 2, 2011; http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/12/drug-resistance-loiters-on-antib.html; “Antibiotics Breed Drug-Resistant Bacteria in Pigs,” by Emily Sohn, Jan. 16, 2012; http://news.discovery.com/animals/antibiotics-drug-resistant-bacteria-pigs-farming-120116.html; “FDA Reneges on Promise to Consider Limits to Animal Antibiotics,” by Gergana Koleva, Forbes, Dec. 23, 2011; www.forbes.com/sites/gerganakoleva/2011/12/23/fda-reneges-on-promise-to-consider-limits-to-animal-antibiotics/)
Dow Chemical is requesting USDA approval for a genetically engineered (GE) corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, an herbicidal component Agent Orange. Dow says the variety is needed because weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides used widely with GE glyphosate-resistant crops.
Agent Orange, used as a defoliant in Vietnam during the war, caused lasting ecological damage and serious medical conditions in Vietnam veterans and the Vietnamese. Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), lower sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies show that it causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression. The weed killer is contaminated with dioxins, highly toxic compounds that bioaccumulate and have been linked to birth defects in children of exposed parents. The USDA has not assessed the impacts that GE 2,4-D corn would have on public health, the environment or neighboring farmers (2,4-D tends to drift) but has given preliminary approval to the crop. Public comments on this variety were set to close in February. Monsanto is also seeking approval for a new GE soy variety that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. (Center for Food Safety e-mail, Jan. 18, 2012; Press release, The Cornucopia Institute, Jan. 4, 2012)
In December 2011, despite tens of thousands of comments in opposition and only 23 in favor, the USDA deregulated Monsanto's MON 87460 GE drought resistant corn, enabling the company to sell the variety. Monsanto plans to trial the corn in Western states this year. Research has shown that organically grown crops are much more drought tolerant than those grown in conventional, continuous monocultures, because biologically active organic soil retains more moisture. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) points out that Monsanto and USDA say the GE crop will fare only modestly better than current conventional varieties under low- and moderate-level drought conditions, so it will be useful only for about 15 percent of corn acreage – and several types of conventionally-bred drought-tolerant corn will likely to do as well or better. Doug Gurian-Sherman of UCS says, “Classical crop breeding can produce drought-resistant crops that are cheaper and more effective than what Monsanto has come up with. Ultimately, the only way to address the water challenges that American farmers face every day will require readdressing how we farm, which crops we breed and grow, and how we allocate the water we use to farm.” (“U.S. approves Monsanto drought-tolerant GM corn,” by Charles Abbott, Reuters, Dec. 22, 2011; www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/22/us-usa-biotech-idUSTRE7BL19A20111222; Press release, The Cornucopia Institute, Jan. 4, 2012; “Monsanto Corn Unlikely to Help Drought-Stricken Farmers,” Union of Concerned Scientists, Dec. 22, 2011; www.ucsusa.org)
On Jan. 31, a Manhattan District court judge heard oral arguments to decide whether to allow the Family Farmers vs. Monsanto case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “Between 1997 and April 2010,” says the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), “Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in "protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed.” Jim Gerritsen told the Bangor Daily News, “Once we win the case, one can imagine Monsanto will want to appeal,” which could take three to five years and end up in the Supreme Court – where Justice Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto attorney, has not recused himself from other cases relating to Monsanto. The Federal District Court judge will decide by March 31 whether the case can move forward. (OSGATA press release, Jan. 12, 2012; www.osgata.org/osgata-press-releases; “Aroostook farmer the face of organic growers’ fight against Monsanto,” by Kathryn Olmstead, Bangor Daily News, Dec. 08, 2011; http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/08/news/aroostook/aroostook-farmer-the-face-of-organic-growers%E2%80%99-fight-against-monsanto/)
A study conducted at China's Nanjing University and published in Cell Research shows that genetic material called microRNA from conventional rice survived the human digestive system, moved to other parts of the body and affected cholesterol function. Biotech companies hope to use microRNA, or RNA interference, in future GE foods to affect specific genes in pests. Writer Tom Laskawy asks if microRNA targeting an insect gene will also affect human genes after humans eat foods containing the new genetic material? Will the microRNA affect beneficial insects? (“The next generation of GMOs could be especially dangerous,” by Tom Laskawy, Jan. 10, 2012; www.grist.org/industrial-agriculture/2012-01-10-new-research-next-generation-of-gmos-could-be-dangerous)
U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti of San Francisco has upheld the government's decision to deregulate Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready alfalfa. Previously a group of alfalfa farmers who feared that pollen from the GE crop would spread by wind and bees to their crops, taking over their fields, challenged USDA’s earlier approval of the crop. Alfalfa acreage makes up the fourth largest U.S. crop. Conti said federal law does not require USDA to "account for the effects of cross-pollination on other commercial crops" when assessing risks of a new crop; that contamination of conventional or organic alfalfa was "possible but unlikely”; and that Roundup Ready alfalfa was no more hazardous than other varieties. Conti also said consequences of increased herbicide use associated with the crop were outside the scope of USDA’s required environmental review. An appeal of the ruling is expected, according to the Center for Food Safety. (“U.S. judge OKs alfalfa strain made by Monsanto Co.,” by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 7, 2012; http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/07/BUBT1MM1DH.DTL)
Eleven food safety, environmental, consumer and fisheries organizations have asked the FDA to halt to its approval of AquaBounty Technologies’ GE salmon after learning that the company’s production site in Canada was contaminated in 2009 with Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), a flu that is devastating fish stocks worldwide. (“Coalition calls for FDA to halt approval of genetically engineered salmon,” Dec. 20, 2011; http://truefoodnow.org/2011/12/20/coalition-calls-for-fda-to-halt-approval-of-genetically-engineered-salmon/#more-1774)
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H.R. 3554, The Genetically Engineered Safety Act, which would prohibit open-air cultivation of Genetically Engineered (GE) pharmaceutical and industrial crops. The USDA has allowed more than 300 outdoor trials of GE plants that produce experimental pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes and novel proteins. H.R. 3554 would also prohibit use of common human food or animal feed as host plants for a GE pharmaceutical or industrial chemicals and would establish a tracking system to regulate the growing, handling, transportation and disposal of pharmaceutical and industrial crops to protect native ecosystems and traditional farms. The legislation is part of a package of bills introduced by Kucinich, which includes H.R. 3553, the GE Right to Know Act. (Press release, Dec. 9, 2011;
Peru’s President Humala has signed a 10-year moratorium on the introduction of GE crops and animals, passed by the Parliament in November 2011. Excluded from the new rules are engineered organisms used for the research and production of pharmaceutical and veterinary products, since Peru is subject to existing international trade agreements; and importation of GE-products for direct human or animal consumption or for manufacturing food or fodder – but the new regulations require that products exempt from the moratorium undergo a risk assessment before they can be used. This law is expected to prevent widespread cultivation of GE crops, protecting Peru’s biodiversity and increasing food exports. (“Peru Approves 10-Year Ban on GMO,” IFOAM Insider, Dec. 2011; moratorium posted in Spanish at www.minag.gob.pe/download/pdf/marcolegal/normaslegales/leyes/ley29811_ley_prod_organismos_vivos.pdf)
Western corn rootworm larvae in the Midwest are becoming resistant Monsanto’s GE Bt corn and are eating its roots. This is the first report of field-evolved resistance to a Bt toxin by any species of Coleoptera (beetles). The EPA wants farmers there to stop planting this Bt corn and to use other methods to control the rootworm, including pesticides, switching to soy, or planting a different GE corn, Monsanto’s SmartStax, which has two other Bt genes. Resistance to Bt toxins has also been reported in cotton bollworms in India, Australia and China, where GE Bt cotton has been grown. (“Insects Find Crack In Biotech Corn's Armor,” by Dan Charles, National Public Radio, Dec. 5, 2011; www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/05/143141300/insects-ﬁnd-crack-in-biotech-corns-armor; Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Maize by Western Corn Rootworm, by Aaron J. Gassmann et al., PLoS ONE 6(7): e22629. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022629, July 29, 2011; “Bt Resistant Rootworm Spreads,” by Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Institute for Science in Society, Oct. 31, 2011; www.i-sis.org.uk/Bt_resistant_rootworm_spreads.php)
Genetically engineered canola has escaped from farms and is thriving in the wild in North Dakota, especially along a truck route to Canadian processing plants, according to ecologist Cynthia Sagers of the University of Arkansas. Similarly, Canadian researchers have found GE canola escapees on the Canadian prairies, where it crosses with wild plants. Sagers and colleagues found GE canola at almost half of the 634 sites they sampled – sometimes finding thousands of GE plants in one place. Two of the GE plants they found were resistant to herbicides they had not been developed to resist, suggesting that new gene combinations are occurring in the wild. (“Canadian GM canola has escaped into wilds of North Dakota: study,” by Margaret Munro, Postmedia News, Oct. 5, 2011; www.canada.com/technology/Canadian+canola+escaped+into+wilds+North+Dakota+study/5508205/story.html#ixzz1fC8VBdHx)
The state of Ohio will no longer pursue regulations limiting labeling of organic dairy products as being produced without antibiotics, pesticides or synthetic hormones, as its 2008 emergency regulations attempted. After the Organic Trade Association sued the state, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found the rule unconstitutional. (Organic Bytes, Organic Consumers Assoc., Nov. 3, 2011; www.organicconsumers.org)
In interviews by Dr. Joseph Mercola with Dr. Don Huber, an expert in soil-borne diseases, microbial ecology and host-parasite relationships, and emeritus professor at Purdue University, Huber noted problems with glyphosate herbicides and GE crops that may be decreasing the nutrition of crops, causing infertility, harming soil organisms and promoting crop diseases. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and some other herbicides, chelates (strongly binds to) metals, immobilizing certain nutrients, including some that promote enzyme functions, and reducing concentrations of available plant cationic (positively charged) nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, manganese and zinc. Glyphosate also chelates nickel, a cofactor in nitrogen fixation – a potential problem with the recently deregulated GE alfalfa. Compounding these problems, glyphosate accumulates in plants, especially at growing points and reproductive organs, including seeds. Huber said that glyphosate residues in feed and food products change the gut ecology that previously helped control toxins; and glyphosate itself is an endocrine disruptor. In corn, Huber said that even low rates of glyphosate nullify the resistance that corn had to Goss’s wilt, a bacterial disease – now a major epidemic in many corn growing areas. And glyphosate can stimulate the Fusarium fungus that causes Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans. Additionally, Roundup Ready crops can contain far less manganese (Mn) than non-GE crops – and Mn deficiency is linked with malformed animals. Huber and others are also studying a “new entity” they have found primarily in GE crops treated with glyphosate, and in manure from animals feeding on those crops, which they believe is related to increased farm animal reproductive failure, infertility and miscarriages, to premature aging in farm animals, and to some crop diseases – problems that began a few years after GE soy was introduced and have increased since. The entity is about the size of a virus and self-replicates, said Huber. It occurs in nature but is new to science, so has not been named yet. (“A One on One Interview with Dr. Don Huber,” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dec. 10, 2011;
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/10/dr-don-huber-interview-part-1.aspx?e_cid=20111210_DNL_art_1; “Worse than DDT: When You Eat This, It Ends up Lingering in Your Gut,” Jan. 15, 2012; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/15/dr-don-huber-interview-part-2.aspx)