Digest – News: Bluetongue outbreak in UK, transgenic sugar, recalled soy

Work, cooking, and chickens have gotten in the way of news collecting and blogging lately, and the Digest has thus had its longest-ever break. Rather than deluge you with news stories well-masticated elsewhere, the above-the-fold portions of these Digest posts contain just the most current (or the most obscure yet important) links. The moldy leftovers are included for you news gluttons and for archival purposes.

England under siege: Embattled UK farmers now must contend with a potential outbreak of bluetongue, a disease that affects ruminants, including sheep, cattle, deer, camelids (camels and llamas) and goats. In addition to turning an animal's tongue blue, it causes high fevers, mouth ulcers, and swollen heads and can be fatal. (AFP)

starHoofbeets of the apocalypse: Several sugar companies plan to use transgenic sugar beets as a raw ingredient in their sugar refineries in 2008. The beets are designed to withstand heavy doses of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Some candy makers are opposed to the plan, noting that the European Union has not approved transgenic sugar beets for human consumption. If the deal goes through, sugar containing the transgenic beets will not have special labels, thanks to a free pass from the USDA and FDA. (Food Consumer)

E tofu, Brute?: Tofu products from the South San Francisco-based Quong Hop & Co. are being recalled because of possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes. (Chronicle)

UC Berkeley professor who studies bees and colony collapse disorder is awarded a Macarthur "genius grant" (Chronicle)

New superbug that scientists believe is brought into Britain through the food chain is infecting about 30,000 people a year (Times Online)

Congressional ag leaders say 'no' to farm bill extension (Brownfield)

Harkin goes there: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced legislation to establish a national food-safety framework for all fresh produce. The Fresh Produce Safety Act of 2007 increases the FDA's authority and would amp up inspections, surveillance and research. It would also mandate that imported produce be grown and processed according to U.S. standards. (Press release, thanks Cookiejill!)

Sent packin': The Senate's version of the farm bill is expected to contain some provisions to rein in the meatpacking industry, including installing an office of special counsel at the USDA to investigate and prosecute violations of marketing restrictions. (Clarion-Ledger via Des Moines Register)

A crack in the chocolate bar: Mars Inc. will stick with real chocolate in its U.S. products for the foreseeable future, putting it in opposition to the other companies that want to allow cheaper vegetable oils to replace cocoa butter in chocolate. (San Francisco Chronicle via AP))

Stomachs Repulsed: Dole issued a voluntary recall on bags of Hearts Delight salad mix because of possible contamination by E. coli after the bacteria was found in a bag sold in Canada. All Hearts Delight mixes with "best if used by" date of September 19, 2007, and a production code of "A24924A" or "A24924B" are covered by the recall. (MSNBC via AP)

The wrong kind of hedge row: The words "hedge fund" and "farmland" in the same article can't be good for small farms. A financial firm half-owned by Merrill Lynch is establishing a hedge fund to buy farmland in the UK to take advantage of rising crop prices. It may be profitable for the fund members, but when farming becomes strictly about making money for wealthy investors, the land and small farmers will no doubt suffer. (Times Online, via FarmPolicy.com)

Any port in a storm: With agricultural product imports almost doubling from $36 billion in 1997 to $70 billion in 2007, the current inspection system can't keep up, and so we receive fish that contain drugs, melamine in pet food, and who knows what else. And so the Grocery Manufacturers Association is now asking the FDA and Congress to create a new safety program for imported foods, along with funding to make the program work properly. (TPM News (AP))

Edible Memphis plans a "Farmer to Chef" conference for October 1 (Mid-South Farmer)

Houston bans PETA ad with a naked Alicia Silverstone touting vegetarianism (Los Angeles Times)

 

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