Monday, November 23, 2009

Food Safety & Good News (updated 12/15 with news from Food & Water Watch))

Read very Good news below, coming from California, Hawaii, France, and Ireland -

First - quite important "food safety enhancement" House and Senate bills 510 & 2749. P
lease read the updated info in Nov. 10 post just below. Skim down to the red text if you have to, but please read it, it's very important.
Photos above & below, Island grown squash and sweet carrots , Linda Degnan Cobos

So, some good news about "Monsanto Laws" and small farmers targeted by them comes in the form of California's new AB 541, signed into law last year by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and supported by organizations across the political spectrum. The law not only begins to protect farmers, but also demonstrates there is a real need for such protection.

Food & Water Watch has an action alert about antitrust hearings the Obama Aministration is said to have scheduled to examine the corporate control of food.
Read about that here.
For a great article on family farmers, Monsanto, and our food safety, read this well researched 2008 article from Vanity Fair - here. More on these difficulties faced by small US farmers here and here.
This just in from our friend Becky Bolt -
France's Supreme Court has ruled that Monsanto has given false information about the safety of it's best-selling weed-killer, Roundup.
France's highest court upheld two earlier convictions against Monsanto - by the Lyon criminal court in 2007, and the Lyon court of appeal in 2008.
Background from the BBC: “French environmental groups had brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" by the European Union.”

More good news - Read about Hawaii's 2009 ban on GMO taro, and the Sept. '09 U.S. ruling banning GMO sugar beets. More about the many GMO crops grown in Hawaii, from Scientific American magazine, here, it will blow your mind.
Ireland has a new ban on GMO crops. Go here for more on that.

To get a updated list showing what products in your market have genetically modified ingredients, click here. We'll also be bringing more little GMO-free shopping booklets to the SJI Co Op soon.

To find the list of national & local businesses who have pledged to avoid GMO beet sugar, & to sign up, go here.

Becky's also turned us on to a wonderful local SJI Facebook page she is a member of & we've joined, Gogo Green, for local info & all things eco, including a discussion page.
Thanks, Becky, and thanks for the use of your great Farmers Market photos!

Palace Theater manager Aaron King made a local viewing of "Food, Inc." on the big screen possible last month. He's also sent us a note about a "CSI: Miami" television show episode that recently aired, titled "Bad Seed"(places to watch it here). The plot's all about food safety, veggie laws, and then it's some kind of crime solving thriller - that's kind of amazing. Who woulda thunk it? Thanks, Aaron!
Speaking of the Palace - Troy Roush, a farmer who spoke so movingly in the movie "Food, Inc" (which is now available on video at Big Store) was kind enough to write back to a question we sent to the ACGA (American Corn Grower's Association) about movie popcorn and genetic modification. (The ACGA is a great organization, you can join - they could use your support). Troy wrote us back a very nice note, saying "I was in the popcorn business for a number of years and at the time I stopped growing (two years ago) there was no GM popcorn being grown and the talk was there wouldn't because popcorn is used for direct human consumption and widely exported to countries (Europe mostly) that would not accept GMO popcorn." Troy said that popcorn has a gene that makes cross-pollination with field corn impossible - it can't be contaminated by field corn. and now this gene has been patented by seed co. Hogemeyer, so, as Troy says, " there is no way around eating popcorn that is not "patented", even though it is not GMO and the Indians showed us how to grow the stuff in the first place."

On a related subject - if you use soy products (movie popcorn 'butter' is one) and you don't want to eat or use genetically modified soy products, call & write the companies you buy from, and tell them.
91 percent of all soy grown in the world is now genetically modified. (Maybe you noticed the word organic disappearing off the soy milk and tofu you see at the market). The genetic modification to soy is the addition of a pesticide (Bt) right into the plant, and a gene making the soy resistant to heavier doses of glyphosate herbicide.
Yum yum.
There are also some troubling things happening around the growing of soy in some of the major producing counties. For example, Paraguay.)
Not too good for the earth or us. Let's do something about that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"FOOD SAFETY ENHANCEMENT ACT" SENATE BILL 510 and House Bill 2749 (updated 12/3)

Please go to the FTCLDF web site to read about Senate Bill 510, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act”.
One bill has already made it through the House as SB 2749. It includes the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), in which each animal you own (except dogs & cats) must be chipped (with Cargill chips, at your expense), and your premises registered with the government, in addition to requiring paperwork to be filed with the government every time your animal leaves or returns to your premises. Non-compliance results in hefty fines. Veterinarians will be fined for not reporting any un-chipped animals to the government.
Large factory farms (CAFOs-Containment Animal Feeding Operations) are exempted from chipping each animal, but only are required to chip one animal in their massive herds, which defeats the stated purpose of the regulations.

the US - the CAFOs - but instead buries local family farms in inappropriate regulations and paperwork under the guise of “food safety”.
This bill would effectively drive many, many, very good and very needed, family farms out of business with enormous demands on manpower and resources that amount to nothing but extremely expensive busywork. The original wording of much of the bill actually came directly from Monsanto and Cargill sponsored organizations, taken from ‘voluntary regulations' already enacted by a number of states without having to pass through legislation.

The NAIS is only one of the major problems with these bills.

The bills create incentives for retailers to import food from other countries while not actually being able to hold foreign food facilities to the same standards as US facilities, allowing less-safe food to be brought the US, while undercutting American farmers. However, corporate farms - multinationals - would benefit from this provision, as they own large operations in other countries, paying far below US farm wages (which are already low) and using cheaper and
far less safe growing methods.And that's not the only problem.
In these bills, a practical distinction between CAFOs (factory farms) and small farms raising pastured animals is not made. Protection from contamination of crops such as spinach, by fertilizer and runoff from CAFOs, is not included (read about that here).
The importance of crop and animal biodiversity - the check against devastation by disease developed by nature over billions of years, versus the mono cropping practiced and encouraged over the last 50 years by corporate farm interests - is not addressed. Access to information and research on the safety of GMO crops is not protected, and tight regulation of corporate owned GMO based sterilizing seeds - Terminator seeds (GURTS), which can sterilize fields of contaminated food crops, making seed unusable - is not addressed, nor is the current ownership of most of the world's seed supplies by one bio-tech/chemical corporation.

Much heavier use of herbicides on fields of genetically modified herbicide resistant crops (such as Roundup-Ready) have led to damage to pollinators including Monarch butterflies and bees, and increased toxic runoff to water supplies and contamination of soils. This damaging practice is also not addressed.

If you do like buying from local family farms, and like having them there for you, please help by contacting your state senator NOW.
Senate Bill 510 will be pushed through quickly, as was HB2749, and the damage it will leave family farms open to is serious and largely irreparable.
Similar flawed bills (update - "Processed Food Safety Act" introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein D. CA 12 '09) will soon be quietly finding their way through Congress.

Ask your local independant family farmer. And local farmers in Illinois. Texas. New Jersey. Wisconsin. California. Minnesota. Arkansas. Tennessee. ...This bill is a gift to Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Smithfield Farms, and Tyson. Unfortunately, those companies, while employing American workers (at very low wages) at their factory farms and pesticide, herbicide, and GMO factories, also employ undocumented workers here, and use workers at substandard wages in non US locations. These companies most often take their profits out of the community, and often out of the country, while enjoying US government tax breaks and large subsidies paid for by US taxpayers.

Local small family farms who are an integral, and once again rapidly growing, part of building very strong local economies in spite of all the roadblocks being thrown in their way, provide safe healthy food and jobs to local communities - and have actually been targeted to be crippled by a blizzard of paperwork and enormous unnecessary expenses.
These bills as currently written will do just that.

The benefit will be to the short-term bottom line of these few influential multinational corporations. No benefit will come to local communities when all is balanced out, and very little if any actual 'food safety' will have been achieved.

These bills were designed to be read quickly and to be passed by non-farmers; designed to sound good, while dealing a death-blow to the growing competition safe, healthy, local food is beginning to be to giant corporate factory farms' bottom line, and impairing actual food safety. Those corporate profits don't come back to the American taxpayer in any meaningful way. However, the environmental damage, health problems caused by factory food practices - in addition to unsafe working conditions and poverty-level wages that are products of factory type farms - cost the American taxpayer, especially the working class taxpayer, a lot.

As usual.

Please contact your state's Senators about Senate Bill 510. Please ask that it effectively address the food safety issues posed by CAFOs, mono cropping/biodiversity, and targeting of family farms by competing corporations.

Link - Contact info for Sen. Patty Murray D-WA.
Link - Contact info for Sen. Maria Cantwell D-WA.
Link - Contact info for other states, districts and territories.
(A phone call's better than an email, and a letter is even better. Why not try all 3?)

The Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee through which the bill passed Wed. is Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) (202)-224-0767, fax (202)-224-5128.
HELP Committee ranking member is Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), (202)-224-6770

Write or Call Your State Congressman about House Bill 2749 (which includes the NAIS).
WA State Districts here; SJI Rep. is Rick Larsen.
This bill has already passed the House, but your Congressman needs to know a bit more about it.

Read more on Food Safety enhancement Act here, and go to links at right here and on the main Land & Sea page for more info on the bills HR2749 and S510 and NAIS
Who says you can't grow peppers in the Pacific Northwest? Photos of local produce and farmers at market, above, courtesy of San Juan islander Becky Bolt.