Pennsylvania prevents honest
label for rBGH-free milk
Without an open public-hearing process, the Pennsylvania
Department of Agriculture has told milk processors distributing
within the Commonwealth that they cannot label milk
to show that it is free of recombinant bovine growth
hormone, or rBGH, effective January 1, 2008.
In explaining the move, the state’s secretary
of agriculture said the rBGH-free statements confuse
consumers because they may believe there is a difference
in milk from cows injected with the synthetic growth
hormone, produced by the Monsanto Company. The drug,
sold under the brand name Posilac, extends the duration
of a cow’s lactation, thereby stimulating more
milk production per lactation.
The new PDA guidelines prevent any claim that cannot
be proven by scientific testing. At present, no commercial
tests are known to be able to detect Monsanto’s
rBGH from the natural BGH in dairy cattle.
Critics say the move is just Monsanto’s way of
winning, by regulation, a level of protection (through
non-disclosure of rBGH status) that consumers are not
willing to give it in the marketplace.
Study documents excessive
N fertilizers deplete soil organic carbon
Researchers at the University of Illinois shocked the
agricultural establishment recently with a research
paper titled “The Myth of Nitrogen Fertilization
for Soil Carbon Sequestration,” published online
October 24 by the Journal of Environmental Quality.
The analysis came from a century of soil organic carbon
data from the university’s Morrow Plots, the world's
oldest experimental site under continuous corn. After
40 to 50 years of synthetic fertilization that exceeded
grain N removal by 60 to 190 percent, a net decline
occurred in soil carbon despite increasingly massive
residue C incorporation.
"In numerous publications spanning more than 100
years and a wide variety of cropping and tillage practices,"
said soil scientist Charlie Boast, "we found consistent
evidence of an organic carbon decline for fertilized
soils throughout the world and including much of the
Corn Belt besides Illinois."
of Illinois posting
New mycotoxin website
identifies feed risks, precautions
A comprehensive mycotoxin information website aims
to help farmers and other animal feed industry specialists
face the challenge of overcoming the repercussions of
mycotoxins in animal feed and ultimately on livestock
performance. The interactive website includes discussion
forums and web casts with industry experts. This month,
Lon Whitlow of North Carolina State University discusses
mycotoxins and distillers grains on the site, sponsored
As far back as 1985, mycotoxins were known to contaminate
the world’s feed supply. They can have a detrimental
impact on the health of the animal, as well as costing
the industry millions of dollars every year in unusable
Survey looks at links
between local foods, climate change, health, food safety
A new Leopold Center report shows that American consumers
are skeptical about the safety of the global food system
and many believe that local foods are safer and better
for their health than foods from afar.
These are the views of a representative, nationwide
sample of 500 consumers who participated in a web-based
survey conducted in July 2007. Nearly half of respondents
were willing to pay a 10 to 30 percent premium for food
from supply chains that emit half as much greenhouse
gas as conventional chains.
Paper explains GMO legal
issues for organic farmers
To answer the questions organic farmers have about
their legal rights and responsibilities with respect
to the unintended presence of genetically modified organisms,
the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) has
written a new article, “If Your Farm Is Organic,
Must It Be GMO Free? Organic Farmers, Genetically Modified
Organisms, and the Law.”
The 40-page document examines requirements to avoid
the use of genetic engineering, briefly addresses handling
requirements and concludes with a brief discussion of
sales contracts and the ways in which they may impose
responsibilities upon farmers that differ from the requirements
for organic certification.
FLAG is a nonprofit law center based in St. Paul, Minnesota,
dedicated to providing legal services to family farmers
and their rural communities.
Printed copies can be obtained by calling FLAG’s
office at 651-223-5400 (in Minnesota, toll-free at 877-860-4349).
Printed copies are available for $11, or to financially
distressed farmers in Minnesota at no charge.
fuels better, or worse, than gasoline
Heightened concern about oil dependence is generating
growing support for alternative transportation fuels,
but some would emit significantly more global warming
pollution than gasoline or diesel, according to a new
report issued today by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Corn ethanol could be either more polluting or less
than gasoline, depending on how the corn is grown and
the ethanol is produced. On average, corn ethanol can
reduce emissions about 20 percent, though there is uncertainty
due to differing land use practices. The cleanest alternative,
cellulosic ethanol from grasses or wood chips, could
reduce emissions by more than 85 percent.
Biofuels can have an advantage over liquid coal and
gasoline because plants capture carbon dioxide, the
most common global warming gas, as they grow. But producing
biofuels will generate emissions, which at the farm
will vary depending on tilling practices, fertilizer
use, previous land use, and the fossil fuels used to
power farm equipment. At the ethanol plant, emissions
will depend on the efficiency of the manufacturing process
and the fuel used to power the facility. All of these
factors must be considered in a full life cycle analysis.
Farm-to-school network creates
new local markets
Nearly 11,000 schools in 34 states are involved in
formal programs to buy directly from local and regional
farms, according to information on the new website of
the National Farm to School Network. The site is the
portal for farm-to-school program initiatives in the
United States, including profiles, upcoming events,
news and funding opportunities, and online discussion
forums, as well as dialog on issues facing farm to school
programs. New queries and network participants are welcome.
The site showcases innovative farmers, teachers, food
service directors, parents and others who are bringing
fresh, local food to kids.