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"Industrial agriculture and the assumptions on which it rests are wrong, root and branch."
- Wendell Berry
MOF&G Cover Summer 2008
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 Organic Matter – Summer 2008 Minimize


A Compendium of Food and Agricultural News

The Good News
Nutrition News
Genetic Engineering News
Nanotechnology News
Pesticide News
Food Safety


The Good News

A new path for global agriculture: After six years of work by 400 scientists, government agencies and civil society participants, the United Nations-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that "modern" agriculture is not sustainable. According to the UN News Service, "Modern agricultural practices have exhausted land and water resources, squelched diversity and left poor people vulnerable to high food prices." According to The Guardian, the report says that genetic engineering is not a quick fix to feed the world's poor, and growing biofuel crops for automobiles threatens to increase worldwide malnutrition.

Fifty-five world governments agreed on the final report; Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States requested more time to consider whether to approve it. The IAASTD calls for replacing dependence on petrochemical fuels and pesticides with resilient, sustainable agricultural systems, grounded in agroecological science and drawing on local, indigenous and community knowledge. The IAASTD was bitterly attacked by Syngenta and other multinational corporations. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, April 17, 2008, panna.org; “Change in farming can feed world – report,” by John Vidal, The Guardian, April 16, 2008, guardian.co.uk)

Local, organic, sustainable agriculture can mitigate nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and save one-sixth of global energy use, say Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Lim Li Ching. Also, organic agriculture resists climate extremes such as droughts and floods better than industrial agriculture. Conventional agriculture produces an estimated 11% to 13% of greenhouse gases and is "the main source" of methane and nitrous oxide. In the UK, organic production is about 26% more energy efficient than chemically reliant farms, and greenhouse gas emissions from Europe's organic acres are 48 to 66% lower per hectare. Because organic systems collect 180% more solar energy – equal to saving 64 gallons of fossil fuel per hectare – growing 10% of U.S. corn organically would save approximately "200 million gallons of oil equivalents." Since nearly 18% of greenhouse gases are due to deforestation, saving the world's forests may be the other most cost-effective way to stabilize the climate. (“Mitigating Climate Change through Organic Agriculture and Localized Food Systems,” Institute of Science in Society, Jan. 31, 2009, i-sis.org.uk/mitigatingClimateChange.php; and Pesticide Action Network North America, Feb. 14, 2008, panna.org)

Those benefits can be attained without sacrificing yields. Long-term Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials compared six cropping systems: conventional continuous corn; conventional corn-soybean; organic corn-soybean-wheat where the wheat included a leguminous cover crop; conventional corn-alfalfa-alfalfa-alfalfa; organic corn-oats-alfalfa-alfalfa; and rotationally grazed pasture. Organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as conventional systems; and organic grain crops (corn, soybean and winter wheat) produced 90% as well as conventional. Researchers believe that improved weed control for organic systems may close the gap in productivity of corn and soy in wet seasons. ("Are Organic Crops a s Productive as Conventional?" Amer. Soc. of Agronomy press release, March 24, 2008; https://www.agronomy.org/press/releases/2008/0324/4/)

Adding some dairy products and a limited amount of meat may increase the land-use efficiency of a vegetarian diet, Cornell researchers suggest. A moderate-fat, plant-based diet with a little meat and dairy uses more land than an all-vegetarian diet but feeds more people because it uses more pasture land, which is widely available. Researchers say that if everyone in New York State followed a low-fat vegetarian diet, the state could directly support almost 50% more people, or about 32% of its population, agriculturally. With today's high-meat, high-dairy diet, the state can support directly only 22% of its population. The study found that a person on a low-fat vegetarian diet will need 0.44 acre per year for food, while someone on a high-fat diet with a lot of meat needs 2.11 acres. However, fruits, vegetables and grains must be grown on high-value, quality cropland, while products from ruminant animals can be produced from more widely available, less tillable pasture and hay land. (“Diet for small planet may be most efficient if it includes dairy and a little meat, Cornell researchers report,” by Susan Lang, Cornell Univ. press release, Oct. 4, 2007; original study in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems)

Raw milk consumers won a victory when Judge Harry J. Tobias of the San Benito Superior Court in Hollister, California granted a temporary restraining order against enforcement of AB 1735, which called for a
strict coliform limit of 10 per ml or under in bottled raw milk. Organic Pastures Dairy Company and Claravale Farms argued that raw milk from their dairies has a superlative safety record in California and that the new coliform limit would put them out of business. Coliforms are beneficial bacteria found in raw milk. The plaintiffs were represented by Gary Cox of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which gives legal support to member farmers who provide raw milk and other farm products directly to the public. Cox said that there was no scientific or reasonable basis for using coliforms as the standard for safety and health. A preliminary hearing on April 25 was to determine whether the temporary stay should remain in effect until the parties actually go to trial, conceivably later this year. (Press release, March 20, 2008, The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, (703) 964-7421; farmtoconsumerfoundation.org)

“The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2008” shows that 30.4 million hectares (75.1 million acres) were certified organic at the end of 2006, with 12.3 million hectares in Australia, 2.3 in China, 2.2 in Argentina and 1.6 in the United States. Austria has the largest percentage of organic hectares (13%, 361,487 hectares), followed by Switzerland (12%, 125,596 hectares). Organic area grew by approximately 1.8 million hectares in 2006.

The global market for organic products reached $38.6 billion U.S. in 2006, $5 billion more than in 2005, with most products consumed in North America and Europe. (“Global Organic Farming: Continued Growth,” IFOAM press release, Feb. 20, 2008, ifoam.org)

Likewise, California Certified Organic Farmers had certified over half a million acres – 501,066 – as of March 2008; experienced 129% growth in certified organic acreage over the last two years; and, in 2007, 40.7% growth in acreage. (Press release, CCOF, March 28, 2008, ccof.org)

Indian plastics and textiles manufacturer Sintex Industries has developed a biogas digester that turns human, cow or kitchen waste into fuel for cooking or producing electricity. As bacteria decompose the organic matter, they produce gases – mostly methane – that are piped into a storage canister. A four-person family using a $425, 1-cubic-meter digester primed with cow dung (for bacteria) can produce enough gas for all of its cooking, with organic fertilizer left over. (“Waste not, want not – Plastics maker Sintex seeks to solve India's energy and sanitation problems in one stroke  –  with an at-home biogas digester,” by Jeremy Kahn, Fortune Magazine, CNNMoney.com, Feb. 27, 2008)

To provide market stability to crop growers and livestock producers, Organic Valley Family of Farms is opening its membership to organic crop growers through its Grower Pool. 
Growers of feed-grade grains, beans, oilseeds and hay joining the pool will benefit from a guaranteed floor price for their crops on a long-term contract basis and will be able to enroll all or portions of their crop acreage in the pool. For more information, contact CROPP Cooperative at 888-809-9297. 

(Organic Valley press release, March 18, 2008, www.organicvalley.coop)

Researchers in Spain found that, compared with conventionally grown peppers, organically grown ‘Almuden’ sweet peppers were more intensely red and yellow when ripe and had mostly higher concentrations of a range of minerals and of carotenoid precursors of vitamin A. (“Organic Peppers: More Colorful and More Nutritious,” HortIdeas, Feb. 2008. Original reference: Antonio José Pérez-López (Dept. of Food Science and Technology, Campus de los Jerónimos, Catholic University of San Antonio, s/n 30107, Guadalupe, Murcia, SPAIN), et al., “Effects of Agricultural Practices on Color, Carotenoids Composition, and Minerals Contents of Sweet Peppers, cv. ‘Almunden’,” J. Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55(20), Oct. 3, 2007, 8158-8164.)

A review of 14 studies shows that extracts of hawthorn leaves, fruits and flowers, combined with conventional treatment, increased exercise endurance and strengthened heart muscle contractions in patients who had had heart failure. The researchers don’t know how hawthorn works and caution patients not to self-diagnose and self-treat with the herb. (“Regimens: An Herbal Extract Eases Symptoms of Heart Failure,” by Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2008, nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/research/05regi.html?pagewanted=print. Original study: “Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure,” by Pittler, M.H., R. Guo and E. Ernst, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Jan. 23, 2008, cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab005312.html)

Researchers at Barts and The London School of Medicine found that drinking 500 ml of beetroot juice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure. They say that the nitrate in beetroot juice (and in green, leafy vegetables) decreases blood pressure. Previously the protective effects of vegetable-rich diets had been attributed to their antioxidant vitamin content. Blood pressure in healthy volunteers was reduced within an hour of ingesting beetroot juice; the maximum drop occurred three to four hours after ingestion; and some reduction persisted for up to 24 hours. Bacteria on the tongue convert nitrate in the juice into nitrite, which, in the stomach, is converted to nitric oxide or re-enters the circulation as nitrite. Greatest blood pressure reduction correlated with greatest concentrations of circulating nitrite. (“Daily Glass Of Beet Juice Can Beat High Blood Pressure, Study Shows,” ScienceDaily, Feb. 7, 2008, sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080205123825.htm. From materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London, Feb. 6, 2008. Ed. note: The usual dietary advice cautions against consuming nitrates, since they can be toxic …)

The Home Depot will voluntarily stop selling traditional pesticides and herbicides in its stores in Canada by the end of 2008, before legislated deadlines, and will increase its selection of environmentally friendly alternatives. The Home Depot stores in Quebec already do not sell pesticides; and residential use, but not sale, of pesticides is already banned in over 55 municipalities in Canada. (www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/April2008/22/c8079.html)

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Nutrition News


In Norway, 23 children suspected of having hyperactive disorders and having abnormal levels of peptides in their urine were tracked since they went on milk-free diets in 1996-1997 to test Karl Ludvig Reichelt’s hypothesis that trouble breaking down certain proteins, including casein, may cause the disorders. Some children experienced huge improvements in behavior within days, and 22 families noted improved behavior and increased attention span in their children within the first year of the study. One child wrote messy, squiggly lines for numbers after drinking milk but wrote clearly two days after eliminating milk. After eight years, six children were still avoiding milk products, and some avoided gluten, with good results. The study does not prove that casein or gluten cause all cases of hyperactivity, but the proteins should be considered before children are put on drugs. (“Diet change gives hyperactive kids new taste for life in Norway,” by Nina LarsonSun, Yahoo! News, Feb 24, 2008. Paste the article title into an internet search service to locate it online.

After studying 25,000 Norfolk County, England, people ages 45 to 79 for 11 years, researchers found that each of four positive behaviors promoted longer life. Participants received one point each for not smoking, for exercising, for drinking moderately if at all, and for eating sufficient produce. Those scoring 4 – i.e., following all four good behaviors – tended to live 14 years longer than those scoring 0. (“Heeding Familiar Advice May Add Years to your Life,” by Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times, Jan. 22, 2008)

In a nine-year study of over 9,500 middle-aged people, drinking diet soda was correlated with metabolic syndrome – the combination of abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and elevated blood pressure, thought to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Diets high in refined grains, fried foods and red meat were correlated with an 18% increased risk for metabolic syndrome; diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry were not correlated with a greater or smaller risk. The one-third of the participants who ate the most fried food had a 25% greater risk than the one-third who ate the least. Most strikingly, people who drank one can of diet soda per day were 34% more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who drank none. (“Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda,” by Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2008.)

Strawberries, grapes, blueberries and some familiar seasonings such as rosemary contain compounds that can – in test tubes – kill cells of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a childhood cancer, according to Susan J. Zunino of the Agricultural Research Service Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California. Zunino previously found that carnosol from rosemary; curcumin from turmeric; resveratrol from grapes; and ellagic acid, kaempferol and quercetin from strawberries killed leukemia cells by interfering with orderly operations of mitochondria, the energy-producing “power plants” inside cells. Without energy, cells die. (Agricultural Research Service News Service, Marcia Wood, Agricultural Research magazine, March 2008, ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar08/plants0308.htm)

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Genetic Engineering News

Montville, Maine, is the first town outside California to ban genetically engineered (GE) crops. On March 29, 2008, citizens passed a binding ordinance banning cultivation of GE crops there. The ordinance was developed after residents directed the town to include such a ban in the town's comprehensive plan at its 2006 town meeting. Residents growing GE crops must phase them out within two years. A Montville farmers’ coop has been helping those farmers transition to non-GE varieties that will benefit the local food economy.

The towns of Liberty and Brooklin passed nonbinding resolutions declaring themselves "GE Free Zones" in 2005 and 2007. Several counties in California have binding moratoriums on GE crops.

Maine farmers won a major battle against GE seed corporations in April 2008, when the Maine Legislature passed LD 1650, An Act to Amend the Laws Concerning Genetically Engineered Plant and Seeds. The bill prevents lawsuits for patent infringement against farmers who unintentionally have GE material in their crops, ensures that lawsuits that do occur are held in Maine, and directs the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources to develop and implement Best Management Practices for GE crops. 

A House amendment that the Senate failed to adopt would have required companies selling GE seeds in Maine to report their annual aggregate sales data to the Commissioner of Agriculture. (Food for Maine’s Future press release, April 9, 2008; foodformainesfuture.org)

In March 2008, Percy Schmeiser settled his lawsuit with Monsanto, which will pay all costs of removing its Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Schmeiser's fields. Monsanto had refused to compensate Schmeiser unless he agreed not to speak publicly on the matter and never to sue Monsanto for contamination again. The settlement, however, allows Schmeiser to speak freely and to sue Monsanto if contamination occurs again.  "In an indirect way, Monsanto has acknowledged liability for the contamination of a field by the unwanted appearance of its genetically altered product," says Schmeiser. (“Schmeiser pleased with victory over Monsanto,” CNW Group, March 19, 2008, newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/March2008/19/c5736.html)

Meanwhile, where GE crops still grow, the USDA, EPA and FDA recalled ‘Event 32’ corn and instructed Dow Agrosciences to recall its unapproved GE crop that was found in three commercial corn seed lines planted on 72,000 U.S. acres over the past two years. ‘Event 32,’ containing an engineered insecticide, has not undergone the regulatory review process established to test for environmental and human health problems resulting from insecticide-producing GE corn. A similar problem with GE ‘Starlink’ corn in 2000-2001 led to the largest U.S. food recall. (Press release, Center for Food Safety, Feb. 22, 2008, centerforfoodsafety.org)

Fear of potential problems with GE crops is not unwarranted. Journalist Jeffrey Smith says studies show organ damage in rats fed GE foods – but those studies, says Grist, were suppressed within the FDA when the Clinton administration appointed former Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor to the FDA to oversee the safety of GE foods. Taylor spent a decade minimizing regulation of GE foods, then returned to Monsanto as a vice president. (“Eco-Farm: Seeds of ignorance. Investigative journalist reveals serious safety concerns about GM food,” by Tom Philpott, Grist, Jan. 25, 2008. gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/1/25/104054/049)

Monsanto reported in January 2008 that fewer farmers growing biotech corn are including refuges of non-GE corn to minimize development of resistance among corn pests, because growers seek maximum yields for biofuel production. This could diminish the effectiveness of non-GE, natural Bt, a valuable pest control for organic farmers. The EPA requires that farmers plant at least 20% of their corn acreage with non-Bt seed so that pests that are developing resistance to Bt will mate with others in the refuge, slowing the development of resistance. The EPA leaves refuge monitoring to biotech companies, who phone farmers for reports. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Feb. 1, 2008.

GE crops have increased pesticide use without increasing yield or alleviating world hunger and poverty, say Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety. Most GE crops “are used to feed animals in rich countries, to produce damaging agrofuels, and don’t even yield more than conventional crops,” says Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth. Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety adds, “These crops really promote greater use of pesticides, and cause direct harm to the environment and small farmers. More and more, foundations and international aid and development organizations are recognizing the dead end that GM crops represent.”
 
For example, South America’s expanding GE soy plantations produce soy meal for Europe’s livestock industry and have reduced food security by displacing poor farmers and reducing land planted to food crops for local consumption. GE cotton yield gains are due more to favorable weather and increased irrigation than to biotech. No GE crop on the market is engineered for enhanced nutrition, increased yield potential, drought-tolerance or other traits touted by the biotech industry.
 
Four of five acres of GE crops worldwide are Monsanto’s Roundup Ready varieties, designed for use with Monsanto’s weed killer glyphosate (Roundup). Government data show a 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on U.S. soy, corn and cotton from 1994 to 2005, as Roundup Ready crops were adopted. Weed scientists report glyphosate-resistant weeds on 2.4 million U.S. acres, more than doubling the use of 2,4-D on soybeans from 2002 to 2006.

Regarding yield, Roundup Ready soybeans yield 6% less than conventional soy, say Univ. of Nebraska researchers; and the USDA says that no GE crop on the market has been modified to increase yield. (“GM Crops Have Not Reduced World Hunger, Study Concludes,” press release, Center for Food Safety, Feb. 13, 2008. Executive summary of “Who Benefits from GM Crops?” foei.org/en/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2008Q-A.pdf/ ; full report:
foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/who_benefits.pdf ; document showing that GE crops do not help meet UN Millennium Development Goals of halving hunger and poverty by 2015: foeeurope.org/GMOs/Who_Benefits/QA_FINAL_FEB08.pdf)


Bollworms have evolved resistance to the Bt toxin in Mississippi and Arkansas. These are the first pests that are fully resistant to GE plants, says the Washington Post. (Pesticide Action Network North America news update, Feb. 20, 2008, www.panna.org)

In January 2008, farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups sued in federal court, challenging USDA’s deregulation GE herbicide-tolerant beets. The Center for Food Safety says that since introduction of herbicide-tolerant GE crops in 1994, herbicide use in the U.S has increased 15-fold, by 122 million pounds. Consumers can tell major food companies that they won’t buy products made with sugar from GE beets: See dontplantgmobeets.org/actiontaken.cfm. (Pesticide Action Network North America news update, Feb. 20, 2008, www.panna.org)

Afact vs. consumers: An alleged “grassroots” group, American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (Afact), wants state legislatures to stop dairies from labeling milk as coming from cows that were not treated with Monsanto’s synthetic, GE hormone, rBGH. The group includes dairy farmers and a consultant who also does work for Monsanto; is aided by marketing firm Osborn & Barr, which includes among its founders a former Monsanto executive; and reportedly was organized with help from Monsanto. Cows on the hormone usually produce an extra gallon of milk per day, but the hormone has been banned in Canada and Europe because of health concerns for cows.

Afact failed in attempted legislation in Pennsylvania but has legislation pending in other states, despite the actual fact that 88% of consumers want labeling, according to Consumers Union. (“Fighting on a Battlefield the Size of a Milk Label,” by Andrew Martin, The New York Times, March 19, 2008, nytimes.com/2008/03/09/business/09feed.html)

On March 13, 2008, farmers testified before House subcommittee hearings conducted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich about the costs of GE crops to U.S. growers, focusing on USDA’s failure to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements for assessing economic impacts when regulating GE organisms.

Arkansas rice farmer Harvey Howington said that USDA’s mismanagement of field trials of Bayer LL601, a GE rice, resulted in disastrous contamination affecting all rice farmers in the South, costing them $1.2 billion, and closed many international markets to U.S. rice. 
He called for more comprehensive environmental and economic analyses before allowing field trials that pose major economic threats to agriculture; for more transparency in decisions about approving these trials (including input from farmers); and for requiring biotech companies to demonstrate how contamination will be prevented to the satisfaction of the industry and farmers.

Wheat farmer Todd Leake testified on USDA’s failure to consider the significant potential for market loss posed by deregulating Monsanto’s Roundup Ready wheat. The product is opposed by 82% of wheat buyers; if approved, it would have decreased by 32 to 35% the price paid to wheat growers and resulted in loss of important markets. The virtual certainty of contamination and the potential for significant economic impact should have triggered the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).



North Dakota organic farmer Fred Kirschenmann, also a distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center at Iowa State, noted USDA’s failure to conduct an EIS before deregulating Roundup Ready canola, despite the great potential for widespread contamination in the U.S. and Canada, which did occur. He also discussed the economic impacts on organic producers. 
“Crop rotations are crucial for pest control and nutrients in organic systems. When a new GMO crop is commercialized and you have a non-GE variety of that crop in your rotation, it has to be removed for fear of contamination, and that destroys the balance in the entire system.” He added that increased requirements for testing for contamination add to organic farmers’ costs. 
(Kelly Keane,
Goodman Media International, Inc.
; 410.321.0137
; www.goodmanmedia.com; FMI: Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering,
PO Box 272: Stoughton, WI 53589, 877-968-3276; bwenzel2@aol.com)






Those GE crops can persist for a long time. Ten years after researchers at Lund University in Sweden planted experimental GE oilseed rape, GE plants still grew – despite scouting and intensive herbicide applications after the experiment. (“GM seeds can last for 10 years,” by Richard Black, BBC News, April 2, 2008, news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/7324654.stm)

On International Women's Day, March 7, 2008, dozens of Brazilian women occupied a Monsanto research site in the state of São Paulo. The Center for International Policy says that the women destroyed a greenhouse containing experimental GE corn. La Vía Campesina, the international farmers' organization, said the action was a response to the government's decision to legalize Monsanto's GE Guardian® corn. Contaminating world food crops by GE varieties threatens biodiversity and the organic foods industry. Greenpeace International reported 39 cases of GE crop contamination in 23 countries in 2007. California organic dairy farmer Albert Straus found about one-third of the corn he'd been feeding his cows had been contaminated. Since 2007, Straus tests every lot of grain he buys. In January, Brazilian officials admitted that GE soy and cotton had been smuggled into the country and illegally planted. Brazil approved Guardian® just weeks after France banned it due to environmental and human health concerns and four months after a Vía Campesina member was assassinated while occupying Syngenta Seeds' research station in Paraná. (The company was illegally testing GE soy in Iguaçu National Park. Syngenta was fined about $500,000 for its crime but has refused to pay.) In November 2006, the governor of Paraná signed a decree to expropriate the Syngenta site and convert it to a research center for agroecology, but Syngenta lawyers got the decree overturned in state and federal courts. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, March 27, 2008, panna.org)

For more about biotech hardball, read “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear,” by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in the May 2008 Vanity Fair and watch Marie-Monique Robin’s video The World According to Monsanto (both online).

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Nanotechnology News

Untested nanotechnology is being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials without being labeled as such, says Friends of the Earth (FOE). Nanotechnology manipulates matter at the scale of atoms and molecules. It is used to manufacture nutritional supplements, flavor and color additives, food packaging, cling wrap and containers, and agricultural chemicals. Risks, says FOE, include organ damage and decreased immune system response. (“Nanotech Exposed in Grocery Store Aisles,” Friends of the Earth, March 11, 2008. Complete report, “Out of the Laboratory and onto Our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture,” is available at www.foe.org.)

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Pesticide News

A year-long study of 21 Washington state preschoolers showed that the urine and saliva of children who ate conventional supermarket foods had biological markers for organophosphate pesticides; children who consumed organic produce and juices do not have the markers. Emory University’s Chensheng Lu, principal investigator, found that the two pesticides measured, malathion and chlorpyrifos, disappear within eight to 36 hours after kids switch to organic produce, and reappear as soon as they eat conventional foods again.

Organophosphate pesticides, especially chlorpyrifos, have affected behavior and brain development and functioning in animal studies. Use of these insecticides has been eliminated on many crops and restricted on others, but Dow Chemical’s chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used organophosphate insecticides in the United States and, possibly, in the world.

Lu suggests consuming organic strawberries, since they grow close to the soil and often receive more pesticides than some other produce; he also recommends organic apples and spinach.

Because urine contained greater pesticide (marker) levels in the winter, Lu recommends that the government ensure that standards for imported food equal those for domestic. (“Study Reveals Pesticides from Foods in Children's Bodies,” by Andrew Schneider, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Jan. 30, 2008,
seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/349263_pesticide30.html?source=mypi; Original study: “Dietary Intake and Its Contribution to Longitudinal Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure in Urban/Suburban Children,” by Chensheng Lu, Dana B. Barr, Melanie A. Pearson, and Lance A. Waller, Environmental Health Perspectives, Jan. 15, 2008, ehponline.org/docs/2008/10912/abstract.html)


New evidence linking pesticides and Parkinson's Disease appears in the journal BMC Neurology. Among nearly 600 people from similar environmental and genetic backgrounds, those with more than 200 days of lifetime exposure to pesticides had double the risk of developing Parkinson’s. In the Parkinson's Disease Society’s own survey of 10,000 Parkinson's patients, 10% reported long-term exposure to pesticides. (Pesticide Action Network News Update, April 4, 2008, panna.org)

A Danish study reports that boys born to women exposed to occupational pesticides had smaller penises and testicles, and lower levels of testosterone. (Pesticide Action Network North America News Update, Feb. 14, 2008, www.panna.org, and Environmental Health Perspectives, Jan. 22, 2008, http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/116-1/toc.html)

On February 1, France banned 30 chemicals used in 1,500 pesticides as part of a plan to halve pesticide use over the next 10 years. (Pesticide Action Network North America News Update, Feb. 14, 2008, www.panna.org)

The BioDiversity Research Institute of Gorham, Maine, announced in March that over 100 harmful contaminants were found in Maine bird eggs. Flame retardants, industrial stain and water repellants, transformer coolants, pesticides and mercury were found in all 23 species of birds tested. The bird species studied live on Maine’s ocean, salt marshes, rivers, lakes and uplands. Contaminants come from global and local sources, deposited most likely in rain and snow. Birds in midcoast and southern Maine tended to have higher levels, suggesting more local sources of contaminants there, such as incinerators and water treatment facilities. Maine has significantly lower levels today than in the past of chemicals that were banned, such as PCBs and DDT, showing that bans are effective. (“Study Finds Over 100 Harmful Contaminants in Maine Bird Eggs,” Biodiversity Research Institute, March 12, 2008, www.briloon.org)

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Food Safety

In January 2008, 143 million pounds of beef products were recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in California – the largest beef recall in U.S. history. Much of the meat had already been eaten, some in school lunches. The Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video showing sick, “downer” cows being forced to walk at the plant. Downer cows are not permitted in the U.S. food supply because they may carry diseases, including mad cow. The USDA verified that cows were not always adequately inspected. Last year saw 21 recalls of beef for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. (“Largest Recall of Ground Beef Is Ordered,” by Andrew Martin, The New York Times, February 18, 2008.)

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