Digest: Non-U.S. organic growers catch a break, Chinese catfish banned, Monsanto spanked, pro-food Farm Bill proposal

NEWS

A jolt of energy: Sam Fromartz reports on Chews Wise that "in a victory for organic farmers in the developing world, the USDA's National Organic Program has backed down and said that for now there will be no immediate change in the way these farmers are certified." Fromartz had broken the story that the USDA had quietly decided to ban so-called internal inspectors for non-U.S. growers of things like coffee and sugar, which would have forced many of them out of the market. Read the National Organic Program statement.

The bear in the China shop: The general manager of a Chinese company accused of selling contaminated wheat gluten to U.S. pet food suppliers has been detained by the Chinese authorities. Adding to the consternation over China's export of tainted foods, officials in Mississippi and Alabama said yesterday that they have ordered all stores in those states to stop selling catfish from China after multiple samples were found to be illegally contaminated with antibiotics. (Washington Post)

Monsanto takes a hit: A federal judge Thursday barred the planting of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa nationwide until the government can adequately study the crop's potential impact on organic and conventional varieties. (Houston Chronicle, via AP) Monsanto has issued a press release stating that with proper stewardship and planting the two types of cropping systems can successfully coexist.

Cheering, but not holding our breaths: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who has been active on the food safety front, has teamed with Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) to offer a plan for the Farm Bill that boldly eliminates subsidies for commodities like corn and soy, and replaces them with support for building local food infrastructure, land conservation, and organic farming. Rep. DeLauro chairs the Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, so her legislation will be taken seriously. Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust, has already indicated his pleasure with the bill. (Living the Country Life) So has food-politics reporter Tom Philpott, in Gristmill.

GMO with a halo?: Arcadia Biosciences hopes to adapt its genetically engineered strain of rice to grow in China, where it claims it may lower the need for nitrogen fertilizer. San Francisco Chronicle

Mango a go-go: The first batches of mangoes have started arriving from India on May 1 after years of international negotiation. To eliminate agricultural pests, they are being irradiated in India before shipment. although is is unclear from the article if they will be labeled as such. (U.S. Department of State)

The wrong kind of blue corn: Untreated effluent from blue-jeans factories is contaminating water sources and farmland near Mexico City. (Reuters)

Invasion of the moths: An infestation of light brown apple moths in the Bay Area has expanded to Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The pest destroys or damages seedlings, spoils the appearance of ornamental plants, and injures deciduous fruit-tree crops, citrus and grapes. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Fuel for thought: A Senate committee has approved a bill that would require the nation to use 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 and that would guarantee a market for cellulosic ethanol (made from crop residue and grasses). But coal states want their own version, and Democrats want to marry the biofuels legislation to bills increasing auto efficiency and enacting tax incentives for renewable energy. What will actually happen is anybody's guess. (Des Moines Register)

Ottawa eyes trans fats: Restaurants in Canada's capital will be asked to limit trans fats on their menus, if a municipal committee's recommendation is approved. Toronto and Calgary are also looking into phasing out transfats, following the lead taken by New York last year. (Ottawa Citizen)

Consumers flood FDA with over 130,000 comments opposing food from cloned animals (Center for Food Safety blog)

Canada has confirmed its 10th case of mad-cow disease, in British Columbia (CFIA news release)

What? You want MORE?

FEATURES

It's a small-mart, after all: Fortune reporter and blogger Marc Gunther reports on his blog about two Arkansas brothers who are building a biodiesel plant just south of Dewitt to serve the area’s farmers by buying their soy and selling it back to them as fuel in a nice local ecosystem that falls under the "Small-Mart Revolution" model. MarcGunther.com:

Worshiping Waters: A loving profile of pioneering chef Alice Waters by one of her culinary heirs. Accompanied by a hideous cronelike picture of poor Alice, however, who we can attest in person is quite lovely and looks years younger than her age. (The Guardian)

Farm animals vs. pets: John Katz, whose dispatches from rural life are always riveting, has another humdinger about having given away a lamb to an animal-loving couple of urban-transplant neighbors — and why he wished he'd shot it instead. (Slate)

All bottled up: Chronicle business writer David Lazarus examines bottled water quality and reports on proposed legislation to state its ingredients and origin. Fun fact: Americans drink more bottled water than any other commercial beverage except carbonated soft drinks. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The Deli-cious Revolutionary: In the NYT's Small Business section, Michael Ruhlman and others sing the praises of Ann Arbor deli and online gourmet-food superstore Zingerman's, which acts as a middleman for artisanal food purveyors and makes it possible for consumers to get things like Iberico ham. Despite the high prices that raise locals' eyebrows, its profit margin is razor-thin. (New York Times) [Hat tip to Diana F!]

Prawn shop: A new British Columbia Spot Prawn festival is part of an effort to encourage consumers to buy more of this local bounty. The festival was organized as a reaction to the fact that 90% of the British Columbia Spot Prawn harvest is currently exported to Japan. (Vancouver Sun)

U-pick fruit orchards bloom in Thailand (Bangkok Post)

After years of waiting, Victoria will at last enforce seat-belt laws for all farm workers in vehicles (The Victoria Province)

'Love Train' Brings Single Women to Lonely New Zealand Farmers (Bloomberg.com)

COMMENTARY

WTF, Whole Foods?: Whole Foods tells Business week reporter (and blogger) David Gumpert, who's doggedly covered all the raw-milk developments and wrote the company to ask about its stance on melamine-contaminated food, that "Due to an article that was written by Business Week magazine in the recent past, our company leadership will no longer allow any information or interviews to Business Week or businessweek.com." Gumpert is taking it in stride, but we gotta say, this is not how to win friends and influence consumers. (The Complete Patient)

Back to the Back to the Landers: SF Gates enfant terrible columnist Mark Morford says, "Green homes? Organic food? Nature is good? Time to give the ol' tie-dyers some respect." Hear, hear. SF Gate

Singing the FDA blues: A column by Christie Keith, a contributing editor for Pet Connection, connects the dots as to why pet owners' confidence in the pet-food system is shaken. But her following synopsis applies equally well to himan-food consumers. "From one to two -- or more -- suspect ingredients, which may or may not be listed on the label. From one manufacturer to many. From a manufacturing period of a few weeks to one of several months, to new worries that it might cover years. An FDA that's at best slow in communicating what it knows and, at worst, more interested in protecting corporations than the public." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Napa Valley Vintners declare support for the AgJOBS immigration reform bill (S. 237) (St. Helena Star)

OTHER TASTY BITS FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Birdman Cometh: Excuse this shameless plug for Andrew Bird — the virtuoso of wordplay, whistling, violin, guitar, and glockenspiel who, Grist reports, is currently touring in a biodiesel-powered bus and preaching the gospel of green on his latest U.S. tour. Dairy Queen (and the Potato Non Grata) heart this cross between Luke Wilson and David Byrne oh so mightily and saw the San Francisco show on Tuesday. It rocked. Check out this MySpace video to see what the fuss is all about.

Organic v. local food smackdown: There's no such thing, says another Andrew we admire. "Let's nip this in the locally grown, organically fertilized bud, right now," he writes in How the World Works. The organic movement and the slow food movement are not at cross purposes." (Salon)

"Our meat has been mango-ized": Yeah, we know we've already digested Post reporter turned food blogger Ed Bruske once this week, but too bad. We loved these accounts of searching for pork butt and then later, teaching little kids how to make sausage from it.

Bauer bites back: In his blog, Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer spanks GQ food critic Alan Richman but good over his "ridiculous statements" about organic food after visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace. (Between Meals)

The dark side of California's wine industry: A brief video by the Sierra Club reveals the ongoing destruction of Sonoma County forest to plant grapes, including an 1,800-acre project funded with $200 million by CALPERS, the state's public employee pension plan. (YouTube) [Thanks, Jack!]

4 Responsesto “Digest: Non-U.S. organic growers catch a break, Chinese catfish banned, Monsanto spanked, pro-food Farm Bill proposal”

  1. Lia del Rancho says:

    The farm pet article by John Katz is far too righteous. It takes time and experience to perfect one's relationship with animals in a farm setting. It's not rational to expect those new to a farm to behave like the old pros, nor to ignore the fact that the novices will most likely change their ways and views quickly and dramatically.

  2. John Katz seems to be assuming that all non-farmers are as blindly idealistic as his neighbors, and that only someone who does not think 'sentimentally' about animals is capable of making difficult decisions regarding life and death.

    On the contrary, pet owners make those kinds of decisions all the time. Euthanasia is not an easy choice to make, but it's harder to watch a beloved pet suffering when you know the suffering will not end until death. Many people who love animals as individuals would be horrified to hear about someone refusing medical care for an animal, and keeping it barely alive for months in a state of constant suffering.

  3. Dave says:

    Future green building must take account of the "green washing" that seems to be accelerating throughout the real estate market place. I've seen repeated use of words like "green"

    and "stewardship" across the board. I've seen some Realtors using the word "green" in their ads, knowing that awareness is elevating by the media and they use that hype to drive

    more traffic to their listings. I've ran across great sites such as http://www.ListedGreen.com (Listed Green ) that screen developers and realtors so as to minimize the "green washing" effect.

    Some blogs have been overused in this regard as well. Hopefully, the general public can sift through this green hype and really see the changes that builders and developers have

    to do to reduce our carbon footprint.

  4. k_mears says:

    Hello all.

    Found a parody of the Monsanto logo being used for protest tee shirts:

    http://www.cafepress.com/seeds_of_death

    I got one (before they take em off)