Digest – News: Beef recall blossoms, Monsanto farmers to get cheaper crop insurance, bird flu in Canada

Stop the Topps: Topps Meat has expanded its recall to include 21.7 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli. The beef has a "sell by date" or "best if used by date" between September 25, 2007, and September 25, 2008. All recalled products will have a USDA establishment number of EST 9748, which is located on the back panel of the package and/or in the USDA legend. (Reuters)

Fox, here’s keys to the henhouse. Bon appetit!: Thanks to some hard work by Monsanto, the USDA’s Risk Management Agency has approved a crop insurance program offering a bargain price for growers of the biotech giant’s transgenic corn. Hmm. Does the risk they’re reducing also apply to lawsuits from nearby organic growers when the corn contaminates their crops, or to class actions from consumers should it ever be implicated in health problems? (Brownfield Network)

Canadian chickens have bird flu: Avian flu has been confirmed at a large chicken farm in Saskatchewan. It’s not the kind that’s dangerous to humans, yet all 50,000 birds at the farm will be gassed. What do officials do with the corpses in these mass slaughters, we wonder? (CBC News)

And now for some good news: The EPA has delayed approval of a new toxic fumigant for use by fruit and vegetable farmers, after more than 50 prominent scientists objected that the chemical was too dangerous. (Yahoo! News)

Another reason to make food, not fuel: Thanks in part to demand for ethanol made from corn, the U.S. government has slashed the amount of food aid to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year. (New York Times)

Oh, CRP…: The USDA will not allow farmers to break their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts without paying a financial penalty, on the belief that market forces will adjust planting so that farmers avoid the need to dip into the CRP lands. Trusting in the invisible hand has worked out really well* so far, environmentally. (USDA press release)

As the worm turns: Organic apple farmers keep worms away by spraying trees with a naturally occurring virus, but some insects have developed a worrisome resistance. (NPR)

Growing profits: Compared to last year, the price of corn is up 40%; soybeans, 75%; wheat, at least 70%. The impacts are being felt around the world. Farm income is also up, as are the share prices of agribusiness: Deere & Co.’s have risen 76% in the last year, Monsanto’s by 79%. Small companies and the poor, as usual, are hit hardest. Interesting statistic: A box of Wheaties at a Chicago-area grocery costs more per ounce than round steak London broil. (Wall Street Journal)

Cheaters: Surprise! Despite California’s new school nutrition standards, most schools are still serving crap. When school chefs are dumb enough to say things like this to a reporter — "The emotional satisfaction you get from a snack while you’re at school all day trying to learn is just as important as any physical benefits" — you realize what reformers are up against. (San Francisco Chronicle)

China’s success may be stopped by water pollution and scarcity (New York Times)

56 immigration arrests at McDonald’s in Nevada (SignOnSanDiego)

*Sarcasm, duh.

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