UPDATED August 9, 2007

Raw-milk market booms despite barriers

Resistance mounts to almond fumigation

Crops absorb antibiotics through manure

Online map shows factory farm details

NC legislature bans new hog waste lagoons

Chefs say local, organic are top trends

Organic food boosts quality of mother’s milk

Autism linked to prenatal pesticide exposure

Raw-milk market booming in United States despite
discouragement by officials and legal barriers

Consumers are using ways that are often barely legal and sometimes illegal to get their hands on raw milk from producers they trust. They are driven by a variety of reasons, including the taste, beliefs in superior healthfulness and a dislike of the conventional dairy system.

In an August 8 story entitled, “Should This Milk Be Legal,” the New York Times profiled the extensiveness of the raw-milk market and a number of its participants. It notes that California organic, pasture-based raw-milk producer Mark McAfee expects to gross $6 million this year—up $4.9 million from last year.

Full story

Resistance continues against mandated fumigants on “raw almonds”

Small-scale farmers, retailers and consumers are renewing their call to the USDA to reassess the plan to “pasteurize” all California almonds with a toxic fumigant or high-temperature sterilization process. All domestic almonds will be required to have the treatments by early next year. The plan was quietly developed by the USDA in response to outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.

“The almond ‘pasteurization’ plan will have many harmful impacts on consumers and the agricultural community,” said Will Fantle, research director for The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group. “Only 18 public comments from the entire U.S.—and all from almond industry insiders—were received on the proposal. The logic behind both the necessity and safety of the treatments processes has not been fully or adequately analyzed—neither have the economic costs to small-scale growers or the loss of consumer choices.”

Full story

New study shows risk of antibiotic residue in crops raised with factory-hog manure

Foods such as corn, lettuce and potatoes have been found to accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with animal manure that contains these drugs, a greenhouse test at the University of Minnesota showed. Study results are published in the July-August 2007 issue of the "Journal of Environmental Quality."

A university press release on the study singled out organics as a consequent area of risk, saying: “The study results indicate that organic foods are most likely to contain these drugs because manure is often the main source of crop nutrients for organic food production.”

Study group leader Satish Gupta, a specialist in the fate and transport of antibiotics in agricultural systems, told NewFarm.org that further studies pending publication show that composting provides only partial degradation of the antibiotic residue levels tested. He said he is concerned and that growers should be aware of the risks involved in importing manure from antibiotic-treated livestock operations.

He wrote: “We hope the organic and conventional producers will take our results as a piece of the puzzle and hopefully will find alternatives that will alleviate public concerns about antibiotic use on the farm.”

Plant uptake was evaluated on soil modified with liquid hog manure containing sulfamethazine, a drug commonly employed in both human and veterinary medicine to treat bacterial diseases, and to promote growth in cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry.

Full story

Interactive web tool shows U.S. factory farms by state and by county

Food and Water Watch, an environmental nonprofit group focused on empowering the public to challenge policies that degrade natural resources, provides an interactive map of the United States showing the location of factory farms.

The tool, called “Factory Farm Pollution in the United States,” allows users to zero in on factory farms at the state and county level to find the number of sites and animals, and organizes the data by type of animal, including dairy, beef cattle, hogs, broilers and layers.

The user can also find the states and counties with the highest numbers of livestock populations. The “methodology” tab explains that the chart is populated with data from USDA 2002 agricultural census data, interpreted by Food and Water staffers to locate farms that constitute Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) under the definition of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The tool

North Carolina legislature bans new hog waste lagoons

New hog waste lagoons will be permanently banned in North Carolina, and enterprising hog farmers may receive financial incentives if they try new disposal technologies.

Action in July by the state senate makes permanent a 10-year ban on new hog-waste ponds that would have expired in September. The bill also imposes stronger environmental standards designed to minimize air and water pollution, the spread of pathogens and ammonia and control the odor from more than 10 million hogs.

Many of the state's 2,300 hog farms are located in eastern North Carolina. Tons of solid and liquid waste are captured and stored in open-air lagoons.

“This is clearly a big step,” said Jane Preyer, director of the state's Environmental Defense office. “No other state in the nation has said, ‘No’ to more lagoons and at the same time said, ‘Let’s make our state have the highest standards on health and the environment that we can have.’”

The bill does not require farmers to replace existing hog-waste lagoons. North Carolina is the nation’s second largest producer of pork products, with more than $2 billion paid annually in cash receipts to hog farmers.

Local news story

Environmental Defenes release

U.S. Chefs say local and organic are top trends

The National Restaurant Association reports that when it surveyed more than 1,000 chefs on “hot items," locally-grown produce and organic produce ranked second and third after bite-sized desserts, according to the lead story in the July 9, 2007, edition of The Packer, “The Business Newspaper of the Produce Industry.”

The story reported that 71 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they were trying to eat healthier when eating out.

Organic dairy, meat products positively affect quality of mother’s breast milk

A new study shows that organic dairy and meat products in a mother’s diet positively affect the nutritional content of her breast milk—markedly increasing beneficial fatty acids. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Specifically, a diet in which 90 percent or more of dairy and meat products are organic is correlated with measurably higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a type of fat that is believed to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-diabetic and immune-enhancing effects, as well as a favorable influence on body fat composition. For newborns, specifically, CLA is believed especially to aid immune system development.

Full press account

Autism in children correlated with mothers’ exposure to certain pesticides during pregnancy

Scientists working for the California Department of Health Services have found that pregnant women living near fields sprayed with the common insecticides dicofol and endosulfan were six-times more likely to give birth to children with "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD) than women living many miles from treated fields.

It is rare for such a large and statistically significant difference to be found in a study of this kind, according to The Organic Center (TOC) in its presentation of the study. The authors report that the closer the mother lived to the treated fields, and/or the more pesticides applied, the greater the risk.

The study—“Maternal Residence Near Agricultural Pesticide Applications and Autism Spectrum Disorders Among Children in the California Central Valley”—appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Online version of study

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