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Archive for February, 2011

From Bill McKibbon:  Together we’ve accomplished an awful lot in the last two years—we’ve built the first mass movement around climate change, with thousands of rallies around the country and around the world. We’ve put the basic science out where it can’t be ignored, and built a coalition of poor and affluent people around the planet. If pictures are worth a thousand words, well, we’ve got a lot of pictures. But we’re still losing the battle—more carbon is pouring into the atmosphere, temperatures keep setting new records, and our U.S. Congress still refuses to act.

So it’s time to turn up the other kind of heat, the political kind. For many years, everyone has assumed that if we simply manage to communicate the problem, it will lead to action. It hasn’t, for one simple reason: there’s too much money in the way. A wall of money that separates politicians from the scientific truth that we’re in a desperate crisis.

Big polluters spilled oil into the Gulf and lobbied to have American taxpayers clean up their mess, and those same industry groups are fighting tooth and nail to stop the EPA from protecting our air, water and atmosphere.

That’s why we’re going to spend much of this year taking on the single biggest source of that money pollution, the US Chamber of Commerce. They’re not like your local chamber of commerce—they’re essentially a front group for a few giant corporations.

Read more and take action.

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I write on Grist about my small farm, but my day job is different. I’m an organizer for the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA). One of the things we do at CFRA is try to tweak federal farm policies in ways that help rural farm communities thrive. And this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about developments in Washington that affect both new farmers and rural communities in general.

Recently, White House phone lines have been ringing off the hook as thousands of consumers responded to a coordinated action alert by farm groups, calling to express their support for the Fair Livestock Competition rule. Also known as the “proposed GIPSA rule” [PDF], the goal is to create active competition in the livestock marketplace, so that meat processors can’t unfairly manipulate prices. The USDA has written a fairly strong rule, and industry pressure has caused delays in the roll out of the new rule.

Meanwhile, President Obama released his budget this week, which included farm payment cuts to wealthy farmers and land owners, saving an estimated $2.5 billion dollars over 10 years. The idea to bar people over a certain income from receiving any farm payments caught hold in the last farm bill debate. This new proposal would cut off farm payments to individuals making more than $500,000 instead of $750,000 in on-farm income, and limit off-farm income to $250,000 instead of $500,000.

Read the rest of this article.

 

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One of the nation’s senior soil scientists alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health.  Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, believes the appearance and prevalence of the unnamed organism may be related to the nation’s over reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup and/or to something about the genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the professor called on the federal government to immediately stop deregulation of roundup ready crops, particularly roundup ready alfalfa.

Read the full text of the letter.

 

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Despite nearly 400,000 comments in opposition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce its approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon any day nowTo make matters worse, FDA argues that these GE salmon don’t even need to be labeled!

In response to FDA’s imminent approval, Congress is taking action. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) recently introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress that would ban GE fish (Bill# S. 230/H.R. 521) and require mandatory labeling for consumers if approved (Bill# S. 229/H.R. 520).

Please send your email to Congress in support of these important bills!

The legislation has been endorsed by 64 consumer, worker, religious and environmental groups, along with commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries associations, food businesses and retailers—including the Center for Food Safety, Ocean Conservancy, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Alaska Trollers Association, Food and Water Watch, the National Cooperative Grocers Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations among others—who know that the approval of GE salmon would represent a 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. Wild Atlantic salmon are already on the Endangered Species List in the U.S.; approving these GE Atlantic salmon could be the final blow to these wild stocks. Additionally, the human health impacts of eating GE fish are entirely unknown. If GE salmon are approved, these fish must be labeled so people can make informed choices.

Please write your U.S. Senators and Representative and urge them to protect fishers, consumers and the environment by co-sponsoring S. 230/H.R. 521 and S. 229/H.R. 520!

 

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WASHINGTON, DC – North America’s largest consumer advocacy organization, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), which represents over 850,000 consumers, announced last month a new campaign to oppose the name change of the fair trade certifier TransFair USA to “Fair Trade USA”. TransFair has applied for the new name to be trademarked, along with the term “Fair Trade Certified”. As the certifier that works with major brands such as Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s, it is in effect an attempt to legally claim, as an exclusive brand, a term that encompasses a broad movement that extends far beyond the work of TransFair.

“Since our campaign began two weeks ago, more than 9,900 conscious consumers across the United States have sent letters to TransFair USA opposing their name change to ‘Fair Trade USA,” says OCA Executive Director Ronnie Cummins. “TransFair’s response pitifully claims that the new name is ‘popular’ even as they get strong evidence of a revolt by consumer stakeholders that see the new name as yet another step by TransFair to co-opt and corporatize the Fair Trade movement.”

Read more and sign the petition.

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The Obama Administration’s FDA seems bent on letting the biotech industry get their genetically modified salmon into ocean factory farms that are already spreading filth and disease. The FDA knows that GMO salmon are less nutritious, more likely to cause cancer or trigger allergies, and have a higher rate of deformities than normal fish. Rep. Young’s bill, H.R.521, would prevent the FDA from approving dangerous GMO fish.
If the Obama Administration’s FDA won’t protect consumers, we need Congress to take action. Please ask your Member of Congress to cosponsor H.R.521 today.

Learn more and take action.

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Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released an extensive report last weekend at the Organicology conference in Portland, Oregon, that serves as the first comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities in building the organic seed sector.

The report, titled State of Organic Seed: Advancing the Viability and Integrity of Organic Seed Systems, is an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed systems in the United States. The USDA National Organic Program requires the use of organically produced seed when commercially available. However, the organic seed sector was almost nonexistent when the organic program began, and has not caught up to meet the demand for organic seed. This gap could expand given the continued growth of the organic industry.State of Organic Seed provides evidence that organic seed systems are developing. Farmers report increased attempts to source organic seed and more pressure from certifiers to do so. Public research in organic plant breeding has increased slightly, with investments from both the public and private sector.

Still, challenges and needs loom large for expanding organic seed systems.

“The lack of organically bred and produced seed is a barrier to the growth and ongoing success of organic farming,” says lead author Matthew Dillon. “Seed is the critical first link in organic production, and provides farmers the genetic tools to confront day-to-day challenges in the field.”

The report is available for free download at www.seedalliance.org.

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