of NAIS still a question mark
In our last update, we linked to an agricultural news
story that basically said the teeth had been removed
from the USDA’s controversial National Animal
Identification System (NAIS), an initiative ostensibly
aimed to track and quarantine diseased animals by tagging
them with microchips before they leave their farm of
The NAIS program, which in first-draft form would have
required mandatory participation of all livestock owners,
was supposedly dreamt up in order to control major disease
outbreaks or acts of terrorism. Critics of the program,
which would track farm animals via global positioning
technology, have called it Orwellian and yet another
attempt by the federal government to substitute regulation
for sound and humane animal husbandry. The original
deadline for mandatory animal ID compliance was set
at January 2009. Recent news stories, including the
one we linked to last month, said that target date would
not be met and alluded to a more decentralized, and
voluntary, program than had originally been rolled out.
After receiving a number of emails that the scaling
back of NAIS was all smoke and mirrors on the part of
USDA, we found a number of divergent points of view
expressed in news articles, on bulletin boards, and
reports of compliance activity by individual states.
We’ve assembled some of these here for you to
sort through, and we’re on the case with our own
investigative piece to be published in April.
NAIS recent stories, opinion posts and informational
NOSB focuses on pasture
at April session
in first meeting outside of Washington, D.C.
The upcoming National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
public meeting in State College, Pennsylvania, is the
first time the advisory board has convened outside Washington,
D.C. It will be the inaugural meeting for new appointees,
including The Rodale Institute’s own Jeff Moyer.
“The big emphasis is on pasture requirements,”
said Moyer, farm manager of the Institute’s 333-acre
organic education and research effort. The NOSB must
decide what “access to pasture” means with
regard to the national organic standards requirement
of dairy operators, he said. Some consumer groups, smaller
farmers and industry watchdogs have accused some of
the larger producers of cutting corners and finding
loopholes that circumvent the spirit of organics.
“We have targeted speakers to talk to the board,
so it’s not a free-for-all,” Moyer explained.
“We want to really find out what the industry
is saying and what farmers are saying.” The board
will also review a list of allowable non-organic materials
in processing of products labeled “organic”
that are up for sunset review every five years.
research shows organic systems
release less harmful nitrogen to water, atmosphere
A University of Washington study comparing four fertility
approaches (conventional fertilizer, organic with composted
chicken manure, organic with alfalfa meal and an integrated
combination) showed clear environmental advantages for
the organic systems. Figures showed the synthetic fertilizer
soils leached nitrogen at four to five times the rate
of the two organic treatments.
"This study is an important contribution to the
debate surrounding the sustainability of organic agriculture,
one of the most contentious topics in agricultural science
worldwide," said John B. Reganold, Regents Professor
of Soil Science at Washington State University and co-author
of the study.
Specific health claims
for grass-based meats valid;
more work needed on winter feed, CLA human benefits
Dr. Kate Clancy, one of the nation's leading authorities
on food systems, has authored “Greener Pastures:
How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating.”
This is the first comprehensive comparison of fat levels
in beef and dairy products from conventionally raised
and pasture-raised animals, according to the Union of
Concerned Scientists, who authorized the work.
Clancy provides a detailed analysis of the relative
occurrence of various fatty acids within grass-fed beef
and confirms several health claims for grass-based meat
borne out by her research. Significantly, she says that
while grass-fed beef has higher levels of conjugated
linoleic acid (CLA), the available research has yet
to show that is has a positive impact on human health.
Intensive poultry production
deadly flu that started in wild, investigation shows
Wild birds are being blamed for the spread of the highly
pathogenic H5N1 flu virus, while factory farm conditions
seem to be contributing significantly, two new reports
saw. In its publication Grain, the advocacy
group of the same name highlights its investigative
report into the global movement of poultry products
and other inputs. Reports show that outbreaks blamed
on wild birds happened when there was no migration happening,
and how the recent Nigerian outbreak happened in a factory
farm far from migratory routes.
logs majority of organic gain
for 2005 with 7.4 million new acres
The world gained 12.4 million acres under organic management
in 2005 to push the total to 76.6 million acres. China
added to the total with mostly “pastoral lands.”
Leading the world is Australia with 29.9 million acres.
With Oceania, the island continent holds 39 percent
of the world’s organic land. All of North America
has 4 percent, ahead of only Africa, at 3 percent.
Tyson slashes antibiotic
use over seven years;
market forces driven by health concerns at work
Tyson Foods Inc. says it used 95 percent fewer pounds
of antibiotics to produce 2.27 billion broilers in 2004
than it did to produce only 2.18 million birds in 1997,
according to a story in USA Today. The article that
Perdue, Gold Kist, and Foster Farms has slashed use,
but the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition says federal
legislation is still needed to provide ways of verifying
the claims. Overuse of antibiotics in agriculture promotes
development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
via food, air, water, and soil.
Groups challenge GE-alfalfa
approval citing threat
to organic, GE-free farmers via bees, seed mixture
Shortly after a government report cited problems with
the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) oversight
of genetically engineered (GE) crops, a coalition of
farmers, farm groups, consumers, and environmentalists
filed a lawsuit. It calls the department’s approval
of GE alfalfa a threat to farmers’ livelihoods
and a risk to the environment.
“I’m outraged that a genetically engineered
alfalfa will contaminate the South Dakota alfalfa seed
that has been developed over generations,” said
Pat Trask, an alfalfa seed farmer from South Dakota
and plaintiff in the suit. “Bees pollinate alfalfa,
and we know that bees can forage for miles. The introduction
of genetically engineered alfalfa practically guarantees
that there will be no genetically engineered-free seed
in a matter of a few years.”