Archive for September, 2010

Organic strawberry fields in Watsonville, Calif. (Greg Peck)

People buy organic produce because they believe it is more environmentally responsible, more healthful and tastes better than produce grown conventionally. When it comes to strawberries, turns out they’re right.

new study of 13 pairs of conventional and organic California strawberry farms over two seven-month growing seasons in 2004 and 2005 revealed that organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil more healthful and genetically diverse. In a surprising twist, the organic strawberries also had a longer shelf life than the other varieties.

The study, published Wednesday, is among the most comprehensive of its kind nationwide. To date, most research has looked at either organic farming’s impact on nutrition or the soil – not both. “There is no paper in the literature that comprehensively and quantitatively compares so many indices of both food and soil quality at multiple sampling times on so many commercial farms,” said lead researcher John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil, science and agroecology

Reganold said the research team chose to study strawberries because the berries are near the top of the list of produce that retains pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberriesrank third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables. In a single sample of conventionally grown strawberries, researchers found 13 kinds of pesticides.

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Camilo Mondragon, who runs a small farm in Watsonville, has never heard of Nate Beriau. But Mr. Beriau, a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, goes out of his way to buy fresh strawberries from Mr. Mondragon.

“They taste great,” Mr. Beriau says. “I want a strawberry that tastes like a strawberry.”

Mr. Mondragon and Mr. Beriau are two links in a fragile new supply chain known as the San Francisco Foodshed Project, which was launched in July by several nonprofits and business groups to connect small, local farmers with diners within a few hours’ drive. The effort is part of a burgeoning movement nationwide in which nonprofits and businesses are trying to find viable models for distributing food locally.

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On 10/10/10, the planet is getting to work on climate change with 2800+ events in 150+ countries.

There will be a  Global Work Party to involve people in positive actions in their local communities to demonstrate how we can sharply reduce and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases and move back below the dangerous tipping point of 350 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere.

A worldwide shift of agriculture from chemical-intensive factory farms and industrial monocultures to organic practices could drastically reduce CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions, and sequester a critical mass of carbon back in the soil, where it belongs. That’s why the Organic Consumer Association and 350.org are encouraging people to spend 10/10/10 working on a community garden or an organic farm in your local area.

Learn more about what’s happening!

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Around 1 million people in South Africa—the majority of whom are recent arrivals from the former apartheid homelands, Transkei and Ciskei— live in the shacks that make up Khayelitsha, Nyanga and the area surrounding the Cape Flats outside Cape Town.  Just under half, or 40 percent, of the population is unemployed, while the rest barely earn enough income to feed their families.

In Xhosa, the most common language found in the area, the word ablalimi means “the planters”. Through partnerships with local grassroots organizations, the aptly named, Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit organization working with the people living in these informal settlements, is helping to create a community of planters who can feed the township.

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The Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) could reach the Senate floor as early as today.  Changes are needed to avoid serious harm to family farm value-added processing and the emergence of local and regional food systems.

S.510 would considerably ramp up FDA regulation on farms that even minimally process their crops and sell them to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools and wholesalers.  An amendment sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) would exempt small and mid-sized farmers who primarily direct market their products to consumers, stores or restaurants with their region.

Please call your Senators today and ask them to support the Tester Amendment.

Take Action.

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Obama’s F.D.A. is using a secret process designed to review veterinary drugs to rule on what could be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the food supply, genetically engineered salmon.

The confidential drug evaluation process does not fully assess food safety or environmental impacts and blocks public input. The public will never see, let alone have the opportunity to rebut, the information AquaBounty Technologies, the developer of the genetically engineered salmon, submits to the F.D.A. And, the F.D.A. is not conducting or soliciting independent research to determine whether the salmon is safe to eat or release into the environment.

Read the rest of this entry .  There is a petition which can be signed.  Deadline:  September 16.

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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON | Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:29pm BST

Reuters) – U.S. health officials are set to rule on whether a faster-growing, genetically engineered fish is safe to eat in a decision that could deliver the first altered animal food to consumers’ dinner plates.

The fish, made by Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc, is manipulated to grow twice as fast as traditional Atlantic salmon, something the company says could boost the nation’s fish sector and reduce pressure on the environment.

But consumer advocates and food safety experts are worried that splicing and dicing fish genes may have the opposite effect, leading to more industrial farming and potential escapes into the wild. Side effects from eating such fish are also unknown, with little data to show it is safe, they say.

“They’re basically putting the fish on permanent growth hormone so it grows faster … so they can sell bigger fish faster,” said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety.

It also raises questions about the industrialization of the nation’s food supply at a time when consumers — exasperated by massive egg and other food recalls — are growing increasingly concerned and seeking more locally produced meals.

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The FDA recently announced that GMO salmon were “safe” to eat based on flimsy “scienific” research only provided by the same company that stands to profit from its patented genes. As the first GMO animal engineered for human consumption, it’s appalling that the U.S. governement refused to consider independent scientific studies. Even worse, real scientific studies have shown that the release of GMO salmon into the wild could drive wild salmon populations to extinction! In addition, there are no assurances that there will not be any longterm health consequences for citizens who are forced to unknowingly eat GMO salmon, which cannot be labeled under current U.S. laws.

We can’t allow this to happen. This weekend, the FDA is holding a hearing for public comments. We have less than 72 hours to make our voices heard. Please sign today!

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by Ronit Ridberg on August 31, 2010

Dena Hoff is a farmer and activist in eastern Montana, where she has raised sheep, cattle, alfalfa, and corn with her husband since 1979. Hoff is the North America coordinator for La Via Campesina-the “international movement of peasants”-as well as vice president of theNational Family Farm Coalition and former chair of theNorthern Plans Resource Council.

La Via Campesina has been credited with coining the term “food sovereignty.” Can you describe what this means and how your work supports and promotes it?

Food sovereignty is about a system of agriculture where people get to decide their own food and agricultural policies in their own countries, without being dictated by foundations or institutions like the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or trade agreements. People decide what they’re going to eat, who’s going to produce it, and what’s going to be produced. More than that, it’s a whole life system that is sustainable, that respects Mother Earth, and that respects human rights and the rights of people to live in dignity, to be well-fed, to be reasonably taken care of,  and to have a decent standard of living. Everything that food sovereignty encompasses is human rights, women’s rights, and education; everything that makes a good life and protects the planet.

Via Campesina is a very large social movement. We’re not a legal entity at all, but we are made up of groups around the world. We think that we have as many as 300 million members, though we’ve never been able to get a direct number. We’re growing, growing, growing because people realize that we can only change the world into a place where everybody can live and a world where everybody wants to live by banding together, standing together, sharing each other’s stories, and showing solidarity. We need to educate people: people who are not farmers but who, of course, are eaters, people who care about the environment, people who care about human rights and social justice and the environment-they need to be part of this movement. It’s going to take everyone.

There are too few people who control the power, who control the resources, who control the wealth of the world, and the destiny of the rest of us. I don’t like anybody pulling my strings. I am not a puppet. I am an independent human being, and I have wishes and dreams and fears for my own family, my children, my grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews, my community. And I want to see these things become reality, and I’m willing to just keep working forever.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on August 25, 2010, that it will potentially approve the long-shelved AquAdvantage transgenic salmon as the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption. The GE Atlantic salmon being considered was developed by AquaBounty Technologies, and genetically engineered to produce growth hormones year-round, creating a fish the company claims grows at twice the normal rate. This could allow factory fish farms to crowd the salmon into pens and still get high production rates.

We have only a short window to tell FDA to reject these GE fish
Can you send a comment today?

Each year millions of farmed salmon escape from open-water net pens, outcompeting wild populations for resources and straining ecosystems. Any approval of GE salmon would represent another serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just sixty GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations. Wild Atlantic salmon are already on the Endangered Species List in the U.S.; approving these GE Atlantic salmon will be the final blow to these wild stocks.

The human health impacts of eating GE fish are entirely unknown, but some scientific research raises cause for alarm: for example, some scientists have asserted that foreign growth hormones in transgenetic fish may increase production of other compounds such as insulin in the fish. Additionally, FDA has recognized that a transgene cannot be “turned off” once it is inserted in the organism, and will therefore have effects that are uncontrollable.

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