Archive for the ‘Food Safety’ Category

El Paso County FB Sponsors Animal Disease Workshop

A workshop entitled “CORRALing a Foreign Animal Disease” will help inform cattlemen on the implications of a foreign animal disease outbreak and what the response efforts by state and local authorities might look like. The workshop is also intended to help better prepare cattlemen for responding to and preventing a disease or other emergency incident.

The workshop is sponsored by the El Paso County Farm Bureau and CSU Extension along with Calhan Veterinary Clinic and El Paso Soil Conservation. Speakers will include officials from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Rapid Response for Agriculture and Livestock (CORRAL) system.

The event will take place on February 5th at 10:00 am at the El Paso County Fairgrounds. Please RSVP to the Calhan Vet Clinic by Feb. 3rd. Call 719-347-2702.

President Obama to Sign Food Safety Bill Today

President Barack Obama will sign the $1.4 billion food safety bill today that sets the biggest change to oversight of the food industry since 1938 and gives the Food and Drug Administration more regulatory authority. However, Republicans are sending signals of a funding fight for the new regulations.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who will chair the subcommittee that oversees FDA funding, doesn’t like the $1.4 billion price tag. “There’s a high possibility of trimming this whole package back. While it’s a great re-election tool to terrify people into thinking that the food they’re eating is unsafe and unsanitary, and if not for the wonderful nanny-state politicians we’d be getting sick after every meal, the system we have is doing a darn good job,” Kingston said.

Still, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg pledged to work with Congress to implement the law. “I’m very optimistic that we will be able to move forward,” Hamburg said.

Food Safety Bill Dead on Arrival

**Update, Update**
According to the AFBF policy department, the House will not take up S. 510 because of certain revenue provisions contained in the bill. House leadership has “blue-slipped” the bill, preventing its consideration until the revenue issues are resolved.

**Update** Roll Call’s John Stantonis now reporting that the House will assign a new bill number to the Senate’s version of the food safety bill sometime next week.
Sen. Tom Harkin said Wednesday that he has spoken with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders and that he hopes the chamber will pass a new version of the bill to send to the Senate before the end of the week.

As Roll Call reported last night, reports of the eminent House passage of the Senate’s food safety bill SB 510 may have been premature.Apparently no one told Sen. Harry Reid about Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution before the Senate passed the measure.

A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House. By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House.

The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.

The bill contains a number of fees and other revenue raisers that are technically fees under the Constitution. This has apparently stirred up some bad blood with the House Ways and Means Committee Democrats who now plan on blocking the bill.

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Senate Passes Food Safety Bill

The Senate passed the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization by a 73-25 vote earlier today. The House is expected to approve the Senate version of the bill with no changes and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure.

The Senate legislation would:

—Allow the FDA to order a recall of tainted foods. Currently the agency can only negotiate with businesses to order voluntary recalls;

—Require larger food processors and manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration and create detailed food safety plans;

—Require the FDA to create new produce safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables;

—Establish stricter standards for the safety of imported food;

—Increase inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities, directing the most resources to those operations with the highest risk profiles.

The bill would not apply to meat, poultry or processed eggs, which are regulated by the Agriculture Department. Those foods have long been subject to much more rigorous inspections and oversight than FDA-regulated foods.

Colorado Egg Producers Tout Safety of State’s Eggs

Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford melons and Olathe sweet corn are just a few of the locally produced fruits and vegetables that have been tickling our taste buds this season. The Colorado Egg Producers (CEP) Association, a membership organization representing seven family farms, would like to remind you that in addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables, there are main food staples – including eggs – which you can buy locally and enjoy all year round.

“Thinking about where your food comes and buying locally is certainly top of mind for everyone today, especially given the recent news regarding egg recalls,” explained Jerry Wilkins, president of CEP. “It is very important that consumers know that NO eggs produced in Colorado are part of this egg recall. On behalf of our local egg farmers, CEP is here to assure you that Colorado produced eggs are safe. As local farmers, we are part of the Colorado community and our focus is the safety and health of all Coloradans. All CEP producers have comprehensive, multi-faceted quality assurance and food safety programs in place and follow FDA guidelines for food safety. We encourage you to continue to support your Colorado egg farmers and buy local.”

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Colorado Bison Meat REcalled for E. Coli Concern

A Colorado company has recalled 66,000 pounds of bison meat sold nationwide after federal agriculture officials linked it to E. coli sicknesses.

Rocky Mountain Natural Meats in Henderson recalled the ground and tenderized bison after it was linked to sickening five people in Colorado and one in New York, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

E. coli is a potentially deadly germ that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in severe cases, kidney failure.

The USDA said the recalled bison meat was sold to stores nationwide between May 21 and May 27. The sicknesses were reported between June 1 and June 4.

All the products included in the recall have the establishment number “EST. 20247” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Small Meat Processors Endangered by New Regulatory Costs

Small and independent meat processors are at significant economic risk due to increased regulatory costs included in a preliminary draft guidance document issued by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The document spells out new and costly requirements for local meat processors under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems Validation proposal.

In a letter to FSIS, Farm Bureau stated that many of its members who raise livestock “rely on small and independent meat processors” to process meat they raise for their own consumption. In addition, local meat processors offer farmers and ranchers “opportunities to create specialty and value-added products marketed through niche outlets.”

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Audit Finds USDA Falls Short on Tracking Residue in Beef

The Agriculture Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded in a March audit report that USDA, along with the Food & Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency “is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for harmful residues.”

The bulk of the report focuses on recommendations from the inspector general for jump-starting residue monitoring and intervention. Recommendations include expanding the substances the agencies test for, improving their methodology for sampling hazardous residues, determining more efficient ways of approving newer methods of testing for drug residues and collaborating to set tolerances for additional residues.

To see a copy of the report in its entirety, click here.

(Image: pradip_rabindranath)

NY Times Prints Meat Association Letter

National Meat Association Director of Communications Jeremy Russell wrote a letter to the editor published in Sunday’s New York Times that took exception to an article that questioned the efficacy of Beef Products Inc.’s ammonia treatment of beef to kill pathogens, and a subsequent editorial on the same topic.

“Instead of encouraging efforts to improve food safety, you demonize a company that had the courage to invest in innovative technology proved to be effective in reducing dangerous pathogens,” Russell wrote. “Beef Products Inc.’s rate of positives is well below industry averages.”

The remainder of the short letter is available here.

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Russia Blocks Import of U.S. Poultry

Russia began blocking imports of U.S. poultry as of Jan. 1 because of concerns about a commonly used chlorine treatment, USDA and a Russian news agency reported last week.

Russia plans to proceed, over U.S. objections, with a new law prohibiting chlorine as an anti-microbial treatment in poultry production, said Katie Gorscak, a USDA spokeswoman.

“Since chlorine has been used as an anti-microbial treatment for poultry in the United States for more than 25 years, this resolution effectively blocks U.S. exports of poultry to Russia, has a devastating impact on the U.S. poultry industry and trade, and raises the costs of poultry products for Russia’s consumers,” Gorscak said.

The United States believes Russia’s new regulation is unjustified because of “overwhelming scientific evidence” showing chlorine is a safe and effective disinfectant for use in poultry, Gorscak said.

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China Shows Promising Signs of Lifting Pork Ban

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and Ministry of Agriculture have issued a joint announcement stating that the ban imposed on U.S. pork and other swine products due to H1N1 influenza has been cancelled. The ban on import of live swine is not included in the announcement, and it is understand that this and other details of the market opening are still under discussion between AQSIQ and the U.S. Government.

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Cargill to Administer Vaccines to Sow Herd for H1N1

Cargill is hoping a shipment of vaccinations will arrive in time to treat the company’s sow herd against H1N1, according to Meatingplace.

Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said the H1N1 vaccine would be administered to Cargill’s 120,000 pigs as part of the company’s semiannual vaccination program in mid-December. The company should know later this month whether the H1N1 vaccine would be available in time.

“The mothers can then pass on some immunity to the offspring,” Klein said in an e-mail. “While we have good biosecurity at our sow farms, some people can have H1N1 24 hours before showing symptoms. Except for high risk groups, H1N1 doesn’t seem to be more virulent than the seasonal human flu, but few people have natural immunity to it and so more people are getting sick.”

USDA has said the vaccine should be available by the end of the year. The agency has been encouraging hog producers to vaccinate their animals against H1N1, though its spread has been more prevalent in humans than in hogs. While H1N1 has been passed from humans to hogs, there are no reports of the virus spreading from hogs to humans.

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Cal Poly Alum Protests Pollan Solo Lecture

Ag critic, author, and UC Berkley Journalism Professor, Michael Pollan

Ag critic, author, and UC Berkley Journalism Professor, Michael Pollan

A solo lecture by food activist Michael Pollan scheduled for 11 a.m. Pacific time today on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was hastily converted to a panel discussion after alumni, including the chairman of Harris Beef Ranch Co., protested. Pollan will participate in a panel discussion that includes Gary Smith, a Colorado meat science expert, and Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farms, an organic vegetable operation with 33,000 acres.

On Sept. 23, David Wood, chairman of Harris Beef Ranch Co., located in California’s San Joaquin Valley, sent a letter to Cal Poly officials stating he would pull a $150,000 donation for a new campus meat processing facility if Pollan’s solo lecture took place. Wood, who manages one of the state’s largest beef cattle ranches, told Cal Poly a solo lecture would provide Pollan with a soapbox for anti-agricultural views.

Barbara Martin, who writes a blog called Dairy Goddess and operates an 800-cow dairy in California with her husband, Tony, called the panel format that includes Pollan a perfect compromise.

“As a parent and a taxpayer, I’m satisfied that students will be exposed to all sides of farming practices and agricultural decisions,” wrote Martin, whose son attends Cal Poly.

Cal Poly’s agriculture program is also under fire by critics for reducing its teaching herd of dairy cattle from 150 to 30. The cut is an economic necessity, according to officials.

‘Call it H1N1’ Update

After a recent teleconference during which Ag Sec. Tom Vilsack scolded the mainstream media for perpetuating the term ‘swine flu’ it looks as though some in the media are getting the message.

It remains to be seen if the change in language will happen in time to reduce the devastating effect that the use of ther term has had on the pork industry since the flu outbreak began.

According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the term ‘swine flu’ is a major contributor to the PR problem that has pork producers losing approximately $21 per marketed hog and an estimated $4.6 billion in equity.

The main culprit of the low prices is excess supply caused by foreign countries like China closing their markets to U.S. pork over flu fears. This issue is not being helped by some in the Obama administration who are contemplating tariffs on Chinese automobile tires, to the tune of 55 percent. The NPPC worries that the move may draw retaliatory measures on many American agricultural products including pork.

Recently, pork producers have received some help from two fronts. The USDA recently agreed to a $30 million purchase of pork and pork products in an attempt to reduce excess supply and boost prices. The pork will be used for various federal food programs.

Also, as we reported earlier on The Pulse, South Korea has agreed to re-open its markets to U.S. pork.

TIME Writer Admits Piece was Slanted

Bryan Walsh, who wrote a damning article on modern agriculture in Time magazine, admitted in an AgriTalk interview with Mike Adams Monday morning that the story took the angle he wanted to pursue rather than presenting both sides in a balanced, objective manner.

He said it’s been a trend at Time to have “more stories angled toward the point of view of the writer.” In other words, TIME Magazine is no longer a news outlet, but an opinion journal.

“Rather than just doing the sort of story where you do 50 percent on one side, 50 percent on the other, you allow the writer to look at it and make some of his own judgments,” Walsh said.

He said he looked at the information and thought, “This is the angle I’d like to take.”

His article wasn’t just critical of big, corporate farms, but rather a system that includes many family farms as well. In the radio interview Monday morning, Walsh said he understands the concern that many family farms could have about his story.

The article quotes numerous entities critical of modern farming, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, several disenfranchised farmers dismayed about how agriculture has changed, organic advocates and others who sell their farm and food products based on criticizing the products and processes of mainstream farming and ranching.

Many groups have condemned the article, including the NCBA and the American Meat Institute. Farm and ranch broadcaster and host of the daily show Loo’s Tales Trent Loos also released a blistering commentary about the article.

Lisa M. Keefe of Meatingplace.com has also posted an interview with Bryan Walsh TIME Magazine.

Meat Groups Blast Time Article

Meat industry groups are airing discontent with the Aug. 31 Time magazine cover story “The Real Cost of Cheap Food” that is loaded with inaccurate information and has no hint of objectivity.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the only meat industry group quoted in the article, lashed out with a press release outlining the steps it took to provide information to Bryan Walsh, the article’s writer. The vast majority of the information was not included in the final piece. The Cattlemen indicated they were called late in the reporting and writing process, and that the writer discussed the angle of his story only when pressed for details.

Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute, wrote a letter to the editor of Time. “In a world of 7 billion people and expanding, where malnutrition, hunger or outright famine are commonplace, it’s dumbfounding that Time magazine would take one of the great American success stories—the efficient agricultural production of an abundant variety of healthy, safe and affordable foods for consumers in the U.S. and throughout the world—and turn it into an unrecognizable story of exploitation, manipulation and greed,” Boyle wrote.

In AFBF President Bob Stallman’s letter to the editor of Time, he called the article “a vicious attack on modern farmers and the processes they use to care for the land, their animals, their neighbors and communities, all while producing safe, affordable, healthy and abundant food for consumers.”

Farm Bureau members are encouraged to write a letter to the editor by clicking here.

Trent Loos Responds to TIME Hitpiece on Ag

From Feedstuffs, Ag broadcaster and commentator Trent Loos responds to the Time article on modern agriculture.

Time Magazine Attacks Modern Farming

Without even a hint of objectivity, Time magazine is using the cover story of its Aug. 31 print edition to attack modern agriculture. The story is a wide-ranging frontal assault on all aspects of modern food production, and the story is written in a manner that the very few words included to give agriculture a token voice are quickly trampled by an onslaught of anti-modern-agriculture rhetoric. The American Farm Bureau Federation will be responding.

Update: AFBF has responded to the article. Read President Stallman’s letter to the editor.

The first paragraph pretty much sets the tone.

“Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won’t bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He’s fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he’ll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That’s the state of your bacon—circa 2009.”

The article quotes numerous entities critical of modern farming, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, several disenfranchised farmers dismayed about how agriculture has changed, organic advocates and others who sell their farm and food products based on criticizing the products and processes of mainstream farming and ranching.

Letters regarding this opinion article, which Time unfortunately cloaked as a news magazine cover story, may be sent using this link: http://bit.ly/19LOXL. You will need to input the headline of the article—America’s Food Crisis and How to Fix It—when you submit your online letter.

British Ministers: Increase GM Crop Imports

British government ministers are urging the European Commission to speed up approval of GM crop varieties or risk a collapse in the market for home-produced chicken, eggs, pork and milk.

The move could apply to 30 GM crop varieties that have passed the EU’s scientific tests on health and safety but which still await political approval for use within the EU.

The threat to British farming from the restrictions on GM crop varieties in the European Union was underlined in a consultation paper on the nation’s future food security, published yesterday.

As the London Times reports…

it is the potential collapse of Britain’s £6.8 billion a year livestock sector, which relies on imports of GM soya to feed animals, that makes for chilling reading.

Pigs and poultry, and to a lesser extent dairy cattle, need soya, GM and conventional crops to provide the necessary protein in their diet. The climate in Britain and most of the EU is not hot enough to grow soya.

The report also makes note of the possible necessity of a return towartime rations and even a vegetarian diet in the event of new food shortages or international events that forced Britain to provide enough food to feed the nation.”

In an unusual move for a European news outlet, The Times also ran an editorial on the importance of GM crops in the face of a global population explosion.

The Week H1N1 Stole the Farm

The author, Chris Chinn, and her family at their farm in Missouri

The author, Chris Chinn, and her family at their farm in Missouri

Call it H1N1, please. The last week of April 2009 will be a week hog farmers will never forget. The week changed our lives and not in a positive way.

The last week of April is when the H1N1 flu outbreak became news. Most media outlets tagged an inappropriate name to the flu virus. The unintended consequence of calling H1N1 the informal name “swine flu,” has been devastating to all farms that raise hogs, including my family farm.

Because of the unfortunate name choice, exports of U.S. pork have dropped, eliminating a key market rally that is typically seen each summer. This summer’s rally was especially crucial; hog farmers have lost money since September 2007. In fact, hog farmers have lost more than half of their accumulated equity since September 2007. Hog farmers desperately needed a summer rally to return profit to our farms. The other name for H1N1 stole this from us.

Call it H1N1, please. There are many important facts about H1N1 that help set the record straight–a matter especially important now that H1N1 is once again rearing its ugly head and the unfortunate moniker is creeping back into the news media.

The H1N1 flu virus is not in pork. H1N1 influenza is not a food-borne illness. The safety of pork and pork products has been affirmed by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that U.S. pork is safe to eat. His statement is supported by recent research conducted by the National Animal Disease Center and international researchers.

Influenza is a respiratory disease and the virus is not found in the blood or meat of healthy pigs or in pigs that have recovered from the illness. Of course, sick pigs are never allowed to enter the food supply. Hog farmers have protocols established for caring for animals that develop illness. Ill pigs are not sent to market. Just like humans, pigs can get ill, but like humans, they recover.

Call it H1N1, please. My family consumes the same food as other Americans. I want to ensure my family has a safe food supply that is raised in the United States. The best way to help ensure the safety and security of our domestic food supply is to support the U.S. hog industry. Buy and enjoy U.S. pork and encourage your lawmakers to support trade agreements to open export markets. U.S. pork is safe and nutritious, and hog farming contributes needed jobs in the United States.

So, do your country and U.S. hog farmers a favor—call it H1N1, please.

Remind the news outlets you rely on for timely and accurate information—it’s H1N1. Together, we will beat this bug, and with your support, U.S. hog farmers will survive until our markets turn around. Eat pork, and call it H1N1, please.

Chris Chinn, a Missouri hog producer, is a member of the American Farm Bureau’s Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. She previously served as chair of AFBF’s national Young Farmer & Rancher Committee.

Hog Producers and Supporters #Oink it Up on Twitter

On Sunday, hog producers and other farmers from around the country, along with ag supporters, used the microblogging site Twitter to urge the media to use the scientifically accurate term “H1N1” rather than swine flu when referring to influenza. Messages about how pork is safe to eat and that human-to-human contact, not pork consumption, spreads H1N1 also were tweeted. Twitter users added #oink—known as a hashtag—to each message (tweet) in support of hog producers.

Over time, the sheer volume of posted tweets led to #oink showing up as a “trending topic” on Twitter, sparking interest and questions from the non-farming public. The twittering hog producers and others responded by providing links to online resources, such as the FBlog with Chris Chinn’s post “The Week H1N1 Stole the Farm.” Chinn’s post was viewed nearly 3,500 times during the #oink-fest and several hundred people took a look at her YouTube video about modern hog production on a family farm.

South Korea Lifts H1N1 Ban on Live Hog Imports

The South Korean government has lifted its ban on live hog imports from North America. The ban was imposed in April out of fear surrounding the H1N1 viral outbreak. In a statement issued Tuesday, South Korea’s agricultural ministry said live hog imports from the United States, Canada and Mexico are set to resume with stepped-up quarantine checks.

The tally of live hog shipments from North American countries to South Korea was 1,562 last year and fell to just over 100 this year.

The H1N1 virus was initially and erroneously dubbed “swine flu,” causing global panic and confusion. World health experts agree H1N1 is a distinct human virus that has not been transmitted to humans by swine or by the consumption of pork products.

U.S./China Trade Dispute

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has accepted China’s request for a dispute panel to decide whether a U.S. ban on cooked poultry imports from China violates WTO trade rules.  The dispute panel will decide the impact on trade rules of Section 727 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, which prohibits the U.S. Department of Agriculture from taking action and expending funds to allow for the importation of cooked poultry products from China

The U.S. first imposed a ban on cooked poultry from China in 2004.  A legislative ban was instituted in December 2007.  The Omnibus Appropriation bill’s ban expires with the legislation on September 30, 2009.  This years agriculture appropriation bills address the issue with the House passed bill continuing the ban on USDA action for another year while the Senate bill lifts the ban if USDA determines that poultry imports from China are safe.

Dispute panel procedures usually take six to nine months.

House Passes Food Safety Bill

The House passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) Thursday on a mostly party line vote of 283-142. The Senate must now act on the House bill or take up a food safety bill of its own; the American Farm Bureau Federation expects the Senate will use S. 510 introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as its legislative vehicle rather than the House bill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was successful in obtaining exemptions from most of the bill’s provisions for farms. The Agriculture Department will continue to regulate feed grain farms and livestock and poultry operations, rather than FDA.

AFBF continues to remain neutral on the House bill. While improvements have been made, AFBF believes some outstanding issues remain to be resolved. For example, AFBF is still concerned about the impact of the legislation on growers of fruits and vegetables.

“There are problems at the FDA that need to be fixed, but we don’t need to create a whole new system,” said Kelli Ludlum, AFBF director of congressional relations, in an interview with the Des Moines Register.

There is no timeline for Senate action, but both Durbin and the bipartisan leadership of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have indicated they intend to complete healthcare reform before beginning consideration of any food safety measure.

Activists Step Up Opposition to Roundup Ready Sugarbeets

Anti-Agriculture activists in Boulder County have stepped up their efforts in the media to slander and malign sugarbeet production on open space land. Activists are lining up to attack the Roundup Ready Sugarbeets that local farmers have requested permission to produce on county-owned open space land.

The Boulder Daily Camera has a story on sweeteners in their Food section that examines the environmental impact of sugar production from various sources. It focuses heavily on the energy required to produce and refine each type of sugar; as if no other food crop requires energy to grow and refine.

The Boulder Daily Camera also reports this morning about 40 people protested genetically modified sugar beets Wednesday morning, waving “No GMO” signs as cars sped through the intersection of Broadway and Canyon in Boulder.

The Denver Post also reports on a group called Transition Colorado who is sponsoring a screening of the radical French-made documentary film “The World According to Monsanto” at the Nomad Theater in Boulder.

In the film, Monsanto is portrayed as an international conglomerate bent on controlling the world’s food production.

“The film is pretty strong,” said Michael Brownlee of Transition Colorado in Boulder. “It’s the kind of film that, like many have said, can inspire a whole new generation of farmers.”

A spokesman for Monsanto said the film is so biased that the company prefers to not even legitimize it with a formal response.

It should be noted that Michael Brownlee is also a member of the Boulder County Food and Ag Policy Council. The Council will rule on the Boulder farmers request tomorrow, Friday July 30th.

Cynthia Torres, another member of the Council has written a blog post about her experience so far in dealing with the controversy.

The ruling from both the Food and Ag Policy Council and the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee will be taken into consideration by the Boulder County Comissioners who will issues a final ruling on the request on August 25th.

The Open Space Committee has already issued a favorable recommendation to the Commissioners.

Study Author Admits False Link Between Meat and Cancer

A much-publicized meat study that was released two years ago was flawed, the author of the report now admits. The epidemiological study, which declared there was “convincing” evidence linking the consumption of red meat with cancer, specifically colorectal cancer, was flawed, and the author of the report who has promised to write a letter to the Agriculture Department saying so.

The study, an intense literature review of previous studies—“a  study of studies”—was conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research and recommended that the consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats should be limited to 18 oz. per week due to the cancer link.

A review of the two groups’ research conducted by Exponent Health Sciences at the request of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association using checkoff funds revealed “no conclusive evidence” of a link between red meat consumption and cancer.

Read the Feedstuffs article for more details.

Coalition Urges Pelosi, Hoyer to Oppose Antibiotic Ban

The Coalition for Animal Health, which includes American Farm Bureau Federation and other organizations that represent veterinarians, farmers and ranchers, food and feed producers and animal medicine manufacturers, wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asking that the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1549) not be added to bills now being considered on food safety and health care reform.

H.R. 1549 would ban from use in livestock and poultry animal health products that are used to prevent and control diseases. Farmers only would be allowed to use animal health products that treat diseases. The bill also would require all “critical antimicrobial animal drugs” to go through a second U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process within two years of enactment of the legislation.

The legislation purports to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans. But, the coalition pointed out, numerous risk assessments, including one conducted by FDA, have shown risk levels associated with antibiotic use in agriculture that are extremely low, and nationally recognized scientific studies have shown that the removal of important animal health products could increase food safety risks.

Biotech Controversy Grows in Boulder County

Boulder County owns a significant number of acres of farmland. Called “open space” the program seeks to preserve the county’s agricultural heritage by leasing that farmland back to producers. A controversy has been growing over the county’s ban on the use of biotech sugar beets on open space land. Farmers leasing the acres are under pressure to convert their plantings to Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets which help them reduce pesticide use and increase yield. The county has taken the position that biotech crops pose a potential damage to the environment and public health and have so far prevented farmers from planting any biotech sugar beets.

Beet contracts require a certain yield be met or the producer is penalized. With the use of Roundup Ready sugar beets already the norm, (90% of the beets grown in the U.S. are now RR only a year after their introduction) producers using older seed are faced with the possibility of incurring penalties. There is also concern that the ubiquity of RR sugar beets will make it difficult to find non-RR seed next season.

Both CFB and the Boulder County Farm Bureau have advocated for the allowance of biotech beets on open space land. Recently the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee voted to officially recommend the use of RR beets to the Boulder County Commissioners who have the final ruling on the matter.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports that…

The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee recommended late Tuesday that six local farmers be allowed to grow genetically modified sugar beets on open space land.

In December, the farmers, all of whom are at least the second generation to farm in the county, asked that they be allowed to grow Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically modified to resist the herbicide Roundup.

“I do have concerns about (genetically modified) food,” said committee member Janice Moore, who made the motion to recommend the beets. “I think they’re reasonable. I think many typical concerns are reasonable. … But somebody has got to farm this land because we cannot maintain it and we cannot manage it without our farm partners and they have to be economically viable.”

After Moore made her comments, most of the audience walked out of the room in protest, before the final vote was made.

The commissioners will also take into consideration a recommendation on the issue from the Boulder County Food and Agricultural Policy Council. The Council’s stated purpose is to “promote a locally-based food and agricultural system that advances Boulder County’s economic, environmental and social well-being, through research, education and public policy.

Last month, members of the Boulder County Farm Bureau made presentations to the Council in support of RR beets.  The Council will make its final recommendation on the 30th of July. A pro-RR finding is by no means guaranteed and might possibly create competing recommendations when the commissioners rule on the issue in August. It will be interesting to see how Boulder County weighs the posibility of reduced pesticide use in biotech crops, with increased pesticide use in “organic” crops. It will come down to fear, as in, are they more afraid of chemicals, or biotech crops. We will see.

Meanwhile, Boulder County Open Space is having a banner year for the growth of noxious weeds, the control of which- in Boulder County-  is in large part done by “Pulling invasive weeds by hand…”

Additional Reading:

Memo from the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee

Extensive white paper compiled by Boulder County staff to brief  both the Food and Ag Policy and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committees

Group Wants Cancer Warning on Hot Dog Packages

The Cancer Project filed a lawsuit in Essex County, N.J., on Wednesday, asking the court on behalf of three state residents to compel hot dog makers to put a cancer warning label on packages, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Americans paid $3.4 billion for 730 million packages of hot dogs and sausages in supermarkets last year, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

The group, a branch of the Washington, D.C.-based activist group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wants the label to read: “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.”

The Cancer Project is seeking class-action status for the suit. Defendants include Nathan’s Famous, Kraft Foods (which owns Oscar Mayer), Sara Lee, Marathon Enterprises and ConAgra Foods (which owns Hebrew National), according to the Times.

Nutritionists said in response that the science is more complicated than the Cancer Project implies, and also that such a warning label would not be effective in regard to public health.

“If we were to evaluate each food for its naturally occurring toxins and eliminate that food, then our food plate would be empty,” said Roger Clemens, a nutrition expert at the University of Southern California Pharmacy School.

What about Spinach?

Rancher and agriculture advocate Trent Loos responded to the announcement by The Cancer Project by asking the question,

If spinach is healthy, shouldn’t hot dogs be healthy too?



All States Except Florida Officially Removed from Russian Pork Ban

With last weeks removal of New YorkUtah and Wisconsin from Russia’s A-H1N1 influenza-related trade suspensions, the suspension of pork exports from Florida was apparently the only portion of the import ban remaining in effect. The status of pork exports from Arizona and California was still unclear, however. While Russia had reported those two states as being eligible to export pork, beef and poultry, no updates for pork had been posted in the FSIS Export Library.

These updates have now been posted, and can be viewed online. With these changes, uncooked pork from Florida is now the only product still officially suspended by Russia for reasons related to A-H1N1 influenza.

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