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:
NOSB focuses on pasture at April
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
“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
“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.
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.
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