UPDATED December 13, 2007

Floods decimate farms in Southwest Washington

Hog MRSA infection spreading to farmers in Europe, Canada

Organic undersupply stunts market growth

Oil expert says in 100 years all farming will be organic

Safety fears prompt Europe to consider first ban on GM crop

If it’s fresh and local, is it always greener?


Floods decimate farms in Southwest Washington

Last week, floods devastated numerous family farms in Southwest Washington. The Olympia Farmers Market and the Washington Farm Bureau have established relief funds and are helping coordinate volunteers.

The Chronicle, December 8

The Olympian, December 9

Local efforts


Hog-based MRSA infection spreading to farmers in Europe, Canada

A new study published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases links a new strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), once found only in pigs, to more than 20 percent of all human MRSA infections in the Netherlands.

The resistant strain—NT-MRSA—emerged in the Netherlands in 2003 and increased steadily until, by 2006, it accounted for more than one out of five human MRSA infections, many of them in either pig farmers or cattle farmers. The cases clustered in regions of the country with high densities of pig and cattle farms. The new strain has high rates of hospitalization, suggesting that it causes severe disease.

Despite these studies and others from Europe dating back to 2005, the United States does not systematically test pigs, cattle or other food animals for MRSA. As a result, the U.S. public health establishment does not know whether the use of antibiotics in food animals in the United States is contributing to the reported surge of MRSA cases.

Full story

Actual study


Organic undersupply stunts market growth

Unreliable organic supplies are stunting the growth of more than half of U.S. organic food manufacturers, according to a new report by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Despite supply challenges, the market continues to see strong growth, mirrored by the expansion in the range of organic products available, and the retail outlets that carry them. According to the OTA 2007 manufacturer survey, organic foods are one of the fastest growing segments in the industry, with sales in 2006 increasing 21 percent to reach $16.7 billion. Results from the group's latest survey of organic manufacturers reveal that, as more organic products are being churned out onto the market, securing raw materials is becoming a growing challenge.

Full article


Oil expert says in 100 years all farming will be organic

Richard Heinberg, one of the world's leading experts on oil reserves, used last week's Soil Association Lady Eve Balfour Lecture to warn that the lives of billions of people are threatened by a food crisis caused by our dependence on dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. The only way to avert a global food crisis, he said, was a planned and swift reduction in the use of fossil fuel use and a switch to organic or other zero petro-chemical input farming systems.

Full story


Safety fears prompt Europe to consider first ban on GM crop

Cultivating GM crops in Europe is under unprecedented threat after top European officials recommended a ban for the first time on two modified varieties. Confidential documents reveal that Stavros Dimas, the EU's Environment Commissioner, wants to refuse approval of two types of maize genetically engineered to resist pests because they pose "unacceptable" risks.

The move, which is seen by environmentalists and by the biotech industry as setting an important precedent, has come as a shock, because all previous GM applications have been nodded through in Brussels. Clare Oxborrow, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "This could—and should—be the beginning of the end for GM crops in Europe."

Full story

Soil Association press release


If it’s fresh and local, is it always greener?

A team of researchers from the University of California, Davis, have started asking provocative questions about the carbon footprint of food. Tom Tomich, director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, said the fact that something is local doesn’t necessarily mean it is better, environmentally speaking. The distance that food travels from farm to plate is certainly important, he says, but so is how food is packaged, how it is grown, how it is processed and how it is transported to market.

Gail Feenstra, a food-system analyst at the Davis campus, says her group hopes the research will help consumers decide if buying local is better than buying organic food that has traveled hundreds of miles. “Maybe you can buy organic within a certain geographic range, and outside of that the trade-offs won’t work anymore,” Ms. Feenstra said.

Full story

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