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.
Chronicle, December 8
Olympian, December 9
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
Organic undersupply stunts
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.
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.
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."
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.