UPDATED March 9, 2006

    Fate of NAIS still a question mark

    NOSB focuses on pasture at April session in first meeting outside of Washington, D.C.

    New apple research shows organic systems release less harmful nitrogen to water, atmosphere

    Specific health claims for grass-based meats valid; more work needed on winter feed, CLA human benefits

    Intensive poultry production techniques spreading deadly flu that started in wild, investigation shows

    China logs majority of organic gain for 2005 with 7.4 million new acres

    Tyson slashes antibiotic use over seven years; market forces driven by health concerns at work

    Groups challenge GE-alfalfa approval citing threat to organic, GE-free farmers via bees, seed mixture

 

Fate 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 origin.

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 resources:
www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/113-02212006-615934.html
http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/about/index.shtml
www.farm-garden.com/opinion/usda_nais
www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AD/release.asp?ReleaseID=1461
http://nonais.org/index.php/2006/02/06/
www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=17967


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.

Meeting agenda


New apple 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.

Full story


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.

Full story


Intensive poultry production techniques spreading
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.

Full story


China 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.

Full story


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.

Full story


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.”

Full story

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