UPDATED January 12, 2007

    ARS scientists seek to disable genes that cause aflatoxin

    Report calls for sustainable principles, rural focus in shaping US biofuels development policy

    China halts use of corn for biofuels, citing food security concerns

    Farmer seeks farmer input to create collaborative web-marketing service

    Lester Brown: Grain-to-fuel hopes wildly misplaced; demand from current plants underestimated by USDA

    “Greener Eggs and Ham” report outlines benefits of pasture-raised pork, chick and egg production

    Traditional hog farms don’t have Salmonella risks of large confinement sites

    Michigan State prof updates corporate links of his
    “Who Owns Organic” roadmap

    Research on industrialized farming and community impact shows citizen environmental concern is well-justified

     

ARS scientists seek to disable genes that cause aflatoxin

No mold is as dark a character as Aspergillus flavus, which is why scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and their collaborators are scrutinizing this fungus, one gene at a time. Its deadly toxins, known collectively as aflatoxin, are fungal poisons. They are the second leading cause of aspergillosis in humans. Considered to be among the most potent carcinogens in nature, they've been linked to some forms of cancer.

ARS geneticist Jiujiang Yu was part of a team of scientists who recently sequenced a strain of the A. flavus fungus. One of the team's primary goals is to pinpoint which of the fungus' 13,000 genes regulate toxin production. They'd like to disable them so they can rob the fungus of its poison-making machinery.

Full story


Report calls for sustainable principles, rural focus
in shaping US biofuels development policy

A new report on US biofuel potential from a rural development perspective spells out what it will take to make this a reality. These include making biofuels part of the USDA conservation programs tied to sustainable agricultural practices, one of the recommendations of “Biofueling Rural Development” from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Author Jim Kleinschmit of the Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy (IATP) also says independent oversight would be critical to building sustainability into crop-to-energy programs and calls for community involvement to keep public research into biofuels public. The report includes a US map created in 2005 tracking biomass potential by county, showing a strong dominance of high-potential in the upper Midwest from central Illinois through eastern North Dakota.

Full report


China halts use of corn for biofuels, citing food security concerns

Worried over surging crop prices, China has clamped down on the use of corn and other edible grains for producing biofuels. The country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has told local governments to stop approving new projects that process corn for “industrial use,” according to a report in the Asia Times Online. While it wants to support the growth of alternative energy sources, Beijing says the issue of national food security should take precedence.

Experts warn that if ethanol production continues to be corn-based, China will be forced to import the crop by 2008. Chinese planners are also worried because arable land is reported to have shrunk by 8 million hectares between 1999 and 2005. The NDRC has demanded local producers step up efforts to make ethanol from non-grain sources, such as potato and sweet sorghum.

Full Story


Farmer seeks farmer input to create collaborative web-marketing service

A new Internet marketing project is being initiated that will bring the cost of web development for small farms down to an affordable level. This is not an online directory, but a service that allows farmers to create individual professional web sites for their farm.

Farmer Simon Huntley is the lead developer of the project. He’s seeking farmer interest in his endeavor to create low-cost site opportunities. A core group of farmers will assist in developing the concept, then enjoy free development services for their sites, Huntley says.

Details here


Lester Brown: Grain-to-fuel hopes wildly misplaced;
demand from current plants underestimated by USDA

From an agricultural vantage point, the automotive demand for fuel is insatiable. The grain it takes to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year. Converting the entire U.S. grain harvest to ethanol would satisfy only 16 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs.

The competition for grain between the world’s 800 million motorists who want to maintain their mobility and its 2 billion poorest people who are simply trying to survive is emerging as an epic issue.

There are alternatives to creating a crop-based automotive fuel economy. The equivalent of the 2 percent of U.S. automotive fuel supplies now coming from ethanol could be achieved several times over, and at a fraction of the cost, by raising auto fuel efficiency standards by 20 percent.

Full report


“Greener Eggs and Ham” report outlines benefits
of pasture-raised pork, chick and egg production

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a report that shows how pasture-raised pork, chicken, and egg production can avoid the problems conventional production poses for water and air quality and for animal and public health. The report also explains the definitions, standards, and label claims for pasture-raised foods that consumers encounter at grocery stores.

The report provides an overview of alternative pork and chicken production systems and is a complementary report to UCS's “Greener Pastures,” which describes the benefits of grass-fed beef and dairy cattle. Both reports are based on reviews of the broad literature on these topics.

Details


Traditional hog farms don’t have Salmonella risks of large confinement sites

Iowa State University researchers found little or no Salmonella problem on small hog farms in their state. Farms surveyed had 20 to 150 sows, raised on open lots using management procedures with varying risks of contributing to Salmonella on the premises.

The researchers found that practices such as maintaining small herd sizes, limiting the use of vaccines and refraining from using growth-promoting antibiotics did not translate into high prevalence of Salmonella. But those practices apparently don’t have as much impact on keeping Salmonella levels low as do other practices such as the use of meal feed and straw bedding, low stocking densities or rodent control.

The lesson here is that avoidance of antibiotics by itself isn’t enough to keep Salmonella out. “It’s a real plus for organic and traditional farming,” explained D.L. (Hank) Harris, an ISU Food Safety Consortium researcher and animal science professor.

Full report


Michigan State prof updates corporate links of his “Who Owns Organic” roadmap

Dr. Phil Howard of Michigan State University has added fresh research to his effort to graphically connect organic brand names with their ties to the top 25 food processors in North America.

He’s also collected data on the major independent organic companies and a chart of private label organic brands, including supermarket chains, specialty chains and distributors.

Click here to view maps


Research on industrialized farming and community impact
shows citizen environmental concern is well-justified


Public concern about the detrimental community impacts of industrialized farming is warranted, according to updated research conducted at the request of the State of North Dakota. The report, “Industrialized Farming and Its Relationship to Community Well-Being: An Update of a 2000 Report” by Linda Lobao, added the results of research from 2000 to 2006 to the findings of past research on industrialized farming.

Dr. Curtis Stofferahn, lead author, indicated, “In brief, this conclusion rests on five decades of government and academic concern with this topic, a concern that has not abetted but that has grown more intense in recent years, as the social and environmental problems associated with large animal confinement operations have become widely recognized.”

The report examined conclusions from 56 studies on the consequences of industrialized farming for communities. Of these, approximately 82 percent found adverse impacts on indicators of community well-being.

Full report

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