Digest – News & Commentary: plants take antibiotics, USDA plans GMO overhaul

starUnintentional "pharming" : University of Minnesota researchers have found that food crops grown in soil nourished with antibiotic-laced animal manure (such as waste from a hog CAFO) will store the antibiotics throughout the plant. Ironically, organic farmers are most dependent on animal manure as a source of crop nutrition. (Science Daily)

star123 not for me: OCA reports that the infamous Section 123 in the House Food and Farm Bill (a provision that would preempt many state and local laws governing food and farming) will be removed before it reaches the floor. If true, that’s great news and shows the power of grassroots activism. But we need to keep our eyes on the full Agriculture Committee’s legislative proposal… (Organic Consumers Association)

starA world of trouble: Although China has been in the headlines, imported food from many other countries is also rejected on a regular basis (when it is among the 1percent inspected by the FDA). The FDA database, however, does not tell how much food was rejected–a box, pallet, or shipload all count as one rejection. (New York Times (via SF Chronicle))

Time for a COOLing off period?: Ninety-two percent of Americans want country of origin labeling (COOL), but according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (via Cattle Network), the devil is in the details. Is COOL a back door path to a mandatory animal ID program? Why are restaurants and other foodservice exempt? Meanwhile, R-CALF is warning that the cattlemen and the meat packers are conspiring to derail COOL (Cattle Network). In Congress, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved a bill requiring COOL for red meat to start on September 30, 2008; and Senator Clinton (D-NY) requests immediate implementation of COOL as a way to allow consumer to know where their food is coming from (in apress release and letter).

starGMO overhaul: The USDA is considering a rework of its regulations on transgenic crops. A tiered approach is one of the possible changes, in which different types of plants receive different types of review and post-approval monitoring. For example, a plant with herbicide resistance might receive a less thorough review than a plant designed to make pharmacuticals. A public comment period opens on Friday. Here is the UDSA’s press release. (Scientific American (Reuters))

Their health plan is "don’t get sick": A new study finds that only 20 percent of workers in the California hotel and restaurant industry are provided health insurance by their employer. We’ve seen "service charges" and "energy surcharges" on our restaurant and hotel bills, should we look for "health care surcharge" on our bills soon? Would customers revolt over such a charge? (California Progress Report)

Beltway visions: A look at how a conservative Washington pundit (George Will) sees farm policy. The column is strongly personality centered, as is typical–"…[Sen. Lugar] raises corn, soybeans and black walnut trees. Because his trees sequester carbon, he participates in the trading of carbon allotments. Farmer Lugar is up to date."–and has the requisite slams of FDR’s New Deal (without mentioning that most of the New Deal supply management programs have disappeared; see Tom Philpott’s essay for the correct history). Nonetheless, Will competently explains most of current farm policy’s weaknesses and his voice in the debate is another reminder how complicated Food and Farm Bill politics can be. (Washington Post)

Avalanche of avarice: The series of tainted imports–melamine in pet food, antifreeze in toothpaste, antibiotics in seafood, etc.–show how corporate greed and conservative ideology are putting us all at risk. (Thanks Rachel!) (The Nation)

Maddeningly slow rule adoption: New rules come into effect in Canada banning certain cattle tissues from animal feed, pet food and fertilizer. The banned tissues are those that could transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Materials must be separated at the packing plant and hauled away by licensed organizations for disposal. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

Working with a net: The American Farmland Trust is not impressed with the House plan for commodities, calling it an "outdated, broken system of the past." AFT is promoting a safety net that protects total farm revenue, increased conservation funding, and more promotion healthy foods. (American Farmland Trust)

The Secretary of Agriculture is also not impressed with the House plan (New York Times)

Senator Harkin comes out strong for conservation and nutrition (Agri News)

Pepsi settles benzene lawsuit (The Journal News)


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