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
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
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 by Alltech.
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 grains.
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
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.
Ethanol, alternative 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
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