Proposed rBST label ban
scrapped in Pennsylvania
In a closely watched decision with national implications
for food labeling and production-process disclosures,
the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has decided
that milk from cows not injected with rBST may be labeled
to communicate this fact to consumers. The synthetic
product—produced by the Monsanto Company—increases
milk production by extending the natural lactation period
of dairy cows.
The action amounts to a virtual about-face for the
department, which had suddenly issued an order in late
2007 aimed for January 1 of this year to eliminate any
reference to rBST on milk and dairy product labels by
Pennsylvania-based operators. Justifications included
claims that consumers were “confused” by
the wording of some “rBST-free” statements,
and may have taken the “absence claims”
to mean that milk from treated cows was somehow inferior
or not as safe.
Allowed is this statement of fact paired with a mandatory
disclaimer: “From cows not treated with rBST.
No significant difference has been shown between milk
derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows”
or a substantial equivalent. Alternatively, a beginning
statement could be “Produced without the use of
rBST.” Not allowed are statements stating that
milk is hormone-free or rBST-free, the latter because
no test exists to detect its presence or absence.
To use this claim, which is regulated as to type size
and prominence, a producer must maintain a paper trail
of an on-farm verification procedure for the non-use
of rBST and document how the farm or handler prevents
co-mingling with other milk and dairy products. Organic
certification itself satisfies these regulations, the
new standard says.
“This is a decision that will resonate nationally.
It was the first attempt to roll back open labeling
and it is critical that in the first attempt it was
stopped,” said Tim LaSalle, CEO of The Rodale
Institute. “The Rodale Institute is extremely
pleased that the State of Pennsylvania is looking out
for the welfare of consumers and their right to know.”
Kraft joins other food
giants in announcing rBST-free line of cheeses
Kraft Foods Inc. plans to offer cheese free of the
synthetic hormone rBST, a strategic move that pressures
competitors to follow.
Kraft aims to capitalize on consumer worries about
food safety with a specialty product that will fetch
a higher price than its mass-market cheeses. The new
cheese, due on the market by June, reflects CEO Irene
Rosenfeld's plan to rekindle growth with premium brands.
"This is a big development and shows that food
companies acknowledge consumers are taking a much more
active interest in what is in their food," says
Bill Bishop, chairman of Barrington-based consultancy
Willard Bishop. "This used to be a niche interest,
but as it becomes more mainstream the big food companies
. . . have to respond or they will find themselves in
Dean Foods Co., the Kroger Co. and Starbucks Corp.
have all introduced rBST-free products or banned them
from their inventories, even as defenders of the milk-production
enhancing injected product maintain milk from treated
cows is no different than milk from non-treated animals.
This claim is disputed by those who counsel the need
for a closer look at several aspects of its use, in
cows and in humans.
USDA researchers seek
sweeter edamames for organic growers
Sweeter edamame soybean varieties for organic farmers
are being developed by Virginia State University (VSU)
and Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists. The researchers have identified five types
of vegetable soybeans with higher-than-usual levels
of sugar, and are working on plant breeding to retain
the taste appeal.
Edamame have large beans that are harvested when still
green. They are boiled and slipped out of their pods
and added to everything from salads to succotash, including
mixed and stir-fried vegetables, soups, and casseroles.
They are an increasingly popular health food in this
country and standard fare in Asian countries.
Stories, photos document
Mexican workers’ role in NAFTA food chain
Deborah Barndt shares her experience of returning to
the community where she conducted research on women
workers in the NAFTA food chain 10 years ago in the
town of Sayula in Jalisco, Mexico.
“Tangled Routes (Rutas Enmarañadas)”
explores the gender, race and class dimensions of working
the North American tomato chain. Barndt's approach to
the study of social science and popular education to
include personal stories and photograghs has encouraged
the broadening of research methodology among her collaborators.
The book itself has become a tool which the community
can use—helping those whose stories the book is
based on to see their own positions and helping them
organize to challenge working and environmental conditions
enmeshed in their work in export agriculture.
from Deborah Barndt
Michigan State to establish
farmer-focused grazing research center
Michigan State University will establish a pasture-based
dairy facility at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
(KBS) in Hickory Corners and develop supply chains and
markets for pasture-based dairy products. The effort
is funded by a $3.5 million development grant from the
W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The dairy facility will be a focal point for research,
education and outreach programs that provide farmers
with information on dairy management options for moderate
to smaller-sized operations centered on sustainability
from production through consumption.
The program will support productive food and farming
systems by engaging diverse food system participants—from
those who produce, process and market foods to those
who consume them. The initiative will help determine
best practices for raising animals on pasture and also
work to develop an improved supply chain—processing,
distribution and marketing programs—for pasture-raised
Research areas will include pasture production; nutrient
management/cycling in grazed pastures; animal health
and welfare; and assessments of food quality and ecosystem
services of grazing-based systems.
Organic Seed Alliance announces
new efforts, changes leaders
The Organic Seed Alliance is launching two new organizations
at its fifth Organic Seed Growers Conference, set for
Feb. 14-15 in Salem, Ore. The Organic Seed Trade Association
and the Growers Organic Seed Cooperative will promote
the commercial viability of the sector and bolster policy
development related to policies favoring organic seed,
Local seed systems provide varieties that are best
suited to local needs and place ownership of seed production
and distribution squarely in the hands of regional rural
communities as opposed to the giant gene companies–the
seed/chemical/pharmaceutical behemoths that control
seed in conventional agriculture, the OSA says.
Matthew Dillon, founding executive director, said that
OSA recognizes that seed skills—breeding, seed
saving, commercial production—are in fact more
endangered than the seed varieties themselves. In response,
the alliance has developed workshops, field days, conferences
and publications that provide farmers with these skills.
The new OSA executive director is Dan Hobbs, as Dillion
pursues other ventures.
Brochure aids farmers
in direct-selling success
“Selling strategies for local food producers”
is an eight-page guide created to help small-scale producers
who are excellent growers and marketers to also be excellent
sellers of their products.
The writers explain: “Marketing describes a
range of activities that include deciding what to produce
and how to price, distribute and promote a product.
Selling, on the other hand, describes the techniques
used to entice buyers to exchange their cash for the
Sections include: “Checklist: Are you ready to
sell?”; “Understanding nonverbal communication.”;
and “Top five annoyances for farmers' market customers.”
The guide is published by the University of Missouri.
Authors include professor Mary Hendrickson, Ph.D., director
of the Food Circles Networking Project, and associate
director of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable
to view or download