USDA DECISION ON GE ALFALFA LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR CONTAMINATION, RISE OF SUPERWEEDS
ROGUE AGENCY CHOOSES “BUSINESS AS USUAL” OVER SOUND SCIENCE
CENTER ANNOUNCES IMMEDIATE LEGAL CHALLENGE TO USDA’S FLAWED ASSESSMENT
The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.
“We’re disappointed with USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”
On Monday, the Center sent an open letter to Secretary Vilsack calling on USDA to base its decision on sound science and the interests of farmers, and to avoid rushing the process to meet the marketing timelines or sales targets of Monsanto, Forage Genetics or other entities.
CFS also addressed several key points that were not properly assessed in the FEIS, among them were:
- Liability, Implementation and Oversight -- Citing over 200 past contamination episodes that have cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales, CFS demands that liability for financial losses incurred by farmers due to transgenic contamination be assigned to the crop developers. CFS also calls on USDA to take a more active oversight role to ensure that any stewardship plans are properly implemented and enforced.
- Roundup Ready alfalfa will substantially increase herbicide use – USDA’s assessment misrepresented conventional alfalfa as utilizing more herbicides than it does, which in turn provided a false rationale for introducing herbicide-promoting Roundup Ready alfalfa. In fact, USDA’s own data shows that just 7% of alfalfa hay acres are treated with herbicides. USDA’s projections in the FEIS show that substantial adoption of Roundup Ready alfalfa would trigger large increases in herbicide use of up to 23 million lbs. per year.
- Harms from glyphosate-resistant weeds – USDA’s sloppy and unscientific treatment of glyphosate-resistant (GR) weeds ignored the significant contribution that RR alfalfa could make to their rapid evolution. USDA failed to analyze how GR weeds fostered by currently grown RR crops are increasing herbicide use; spurring more use of soil-eroding tillage; and reducing farmer income through increased weed control costs, an essential baseline analysis.
- “We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said Pat Trask, conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in the alfalfa litigation.
The FEIS comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit brought by CFS, in which a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of glyphosate herbicide, sold by Monsanto as Roundup. The Court banned new plantings of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a more comprehensive assessment of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs.
“Last spring more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the USDA highly critical of the substance and conclusions of its Draft EIS on GE Alfalfa,” said Kimbrell. “Clearly the USDA was not listening to the public or farmers but rather to just a handful of
Neotame: Threat to Organics Sponsored by Monsanto or Internet Hoax?
Courtesy of the Cornucopia Institute
We have received several inquiries about the artificial sweetener Neotame, and the Internet rumor that this synthetic additive is allowed in certified organic foods. Neotame, as a synthetic additive, is not allowed in organic foods, contrary to the Internet rumor.
None of the bloggers who perpetuate this anti-organic myth reference primary, sources to substantiate their claims. As their sources, they reference one another instead of going to the source - such as the Code of Federal Regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration indeed considers Neotame to be a direct food additive (21 CFR 172.829), but this does not mean that it can be added to organic foods. Organic foods cannot contain synthetic additives, unless these additives have been petitioned and approved to appear on the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances (7 CFR 205.605). Emily Brown Rosen, Standards Specialist at the USDA's National Organic Program, writes about neotame: "For organic food, all additives must appear on the National List." Neotame has never been petitioned or approved for inclusion on the National List, and therefore cannot legally be added to organic foods.
We see no evidence, and see no reason to suspect, that any organic certifying agents would allow organic food manufacturers to violate the federal standards by adding this synthetic sweetener.
Moreover, as a direct food additive, neotame must be listed on the ingredients label, contrary to suggestions that this could be added to food in a stealth-like manner (21 CFR 101.100). We have not seen any evidence to suggest that neotame is being added covertly to organic foods. Not only would organic manufacturers be breaking the law by adding this synthetic sweetener to organic foods, they would also be breaking the law by not including Neotame on the ingredient label.
Farm and Food Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed by President Obama
Courtesy of Community Alliance with Family Farmers Policy Director David Runsten
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that we have been working on for the past two years was signed by President Obama.
As our coalition wrote: "this capped a long fight by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its members and allies for food safety rules that protect consumers without curbing the growing movement toward fresh, local and regional food. The food safety bill passed by the House in July of 2009 would have imposed a one size fits all regulatory system biased toward industrial agriculture with a regressive registration fee, expensive food safety plans, and regular on-farm FDA inspections regardless of the degree of the potential risk for food borne illness. The new regulatory burdens threatened to erect formidable barriers to the developing local and regional markets for many small and moderate sized farms."
It is hard to call it a complete victory since we have been playing defense the whole time. We decided to try to improve the bill in the Senate because we were convinced it would pass and, as you can see, it passed. I think our coalition did improve it by getting rid of across-the-board fees on producers, requiring harmonization with environmental laws and the National Organic Program, limiting paperwork requirements, and finally providing some possible exemptions for small producers and local food.
What does the law really do? "The FSMA requires manufacturers and farmers to develop strategies to prevent contamination and then continually test to make sure they work. The legislation also gives the FDA the authority to recall food; currently, it must rely on food companies to pull products voluntarily from the shelves. The law also gives the FDA access to internal records at farms and food-production facilities. Under the law, importers would be required for the first time to verify that products and ingredients from overseas meet U.S. safety standards. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that there are some steps the agency can take without increased funding, including moving forward with production standards for growing fruits and vegetables. The FDA wants to have the produce regulations in a year."
What I want to stress to you is that this is just one stop on a long road and there are a lot of regulatory proceedings ahead of us. We will need to continue to participate to make sure that the FDA considers the potential impacts of its actions on all producers. I have been encouraged in this respect by the FDA's recent shell egg rule. Here is the language from the recent final rule:
Over 4,000 farm sites have 3,000 or more egg-laying hens, representing 99 percent of all domestic egg-laying hens and accounting for 99 percent of total egg production. There are an additional 65,000 farms with fewer than 3,000 egg-laying hens, accounting for the balance of eggs produced (Ref. 26). Persons who produce shell eggs from a farm operating with 3,000 or more laying hens, unless that farm sells all of its eggs directly to consumers or does not produce shell eggs for the table market, are subject to this final rule (21 CFR 118.1(a)).
The FDA exempted small farms--65,000 out of 69,000 farms--because the benefits did not exceed the costs of applying the rule to them. And even the bigger farms would be exempt if they sold all of their eggs directly to consumers.
The Tester-Hagan amendment to the bill provides some possible exemptions from federal regulation to small food facilities and local food. The amendment, sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagan (D-NC),will provide a size appropriate and less costly alternative to preventative control plans and produce standards for farmers who:
- Direct market more than 50% of their products directly to consumers, stores or restaurants,
- Have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000,
- Sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 275 miles, and
- Provide their customers with their name, address and contact information.
The passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act only authorizes the FDA to do certain things, it doesn't appropriate any funds to do them. That will be a battle in the next Congress.
Notice to our customers
Recall Alert: Nana’s Cookies
Nana’s Cookies has voluntarily recalled several varieties of cookies due to the possibility of salmonella contamination in walnuts.
The Co-op does not currently have any of the affected batches of cookies in stock, but if you have purchased any of the following varieties with the Best Sell Dates indicated, please return them for a full refund.
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Best Sell Dates: 08/30/2011, 09/15/2011 and 10/15/2011;
- No Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Best Sell Date: 09/15/2011;
- Chocolate Chip Cookies Best Sell Date: 08/30/2011; and
- Double Chocolate Cookies Best Sell Dates: 09/15/2011 and 10/15/2011.
The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op sends this notice to our customers as a part of the fulfillment of our purpose “to be a trusted source of natural foods and products and a reliable source for consumer information.”