Turn Here Sweet Corn: The Play
In conjunction with the Montana Organic Association's Conference is a live play, Turn Here Sweet Corn, performed by Kalispell actress, Patty Thiel. This is Jim Stowell’s play adaption of Atina Diffley’s award winning book documenting her life at the Gardens of Eagan organic farm and her advocacy against notorious polluters, Koch Industries, to create an Organic Mitigation Plan for organic farms in Minnesota. The play is free and open to the public and will take place on Thursday, December 1 at 6:30 pm in Kalispell at the Flathead Valley Community College’s Arts and Technology Building, lower level, in room 139.
The Montana Organic Association is accepting abstracts for the Student Research Poster Competition
Graduate and undergraduate students engaged in organic agriculture research are encouraged to participate in the Montana Organic Association's first ever poster competition. This event promotes and encourages students to communicate their research to their peers as well as network with a wider organic community. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three posters presented at the conference.
- Presenters must be a full or part-time student studying in the field of organic agriculture.
- Presenters must also register to be a conference attendee.
- Presenters must be present at the student poster session (Friday December 2, 12:30pm) in order to be eligible for the competition.
- All presenters must agree to share their research electronically.
Abstracts should be approximately 200 words in length and must be submitted by email to Heather Estrada at firstname.lastname@example.org by November 10, 2016.
Food Safety Begins on the Farm
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Vegetable and Fruit Growers in Montana
by Jonda Crosby, MOA Board Treasurer, IOIA Inspector
From Spring 2015 issue of Organic Matters
While working with farmers over the past weeks in three workshops for On-Farm Food Safety training, I learned a great deal about the participants’ fresh fruit and vegetable operations, their concerns about food safety, and answered questions about their food safety responsibilities as farmers to their customers. Montana fresh fruit and vegetable farmers are aware of and have been participating in food safety practices at the farm level. And they always have been. However, with relatively new on-farm food safety guidelines readily available and buyers expecting farmers to incorporate food safety processes and recordkeeping, many farmers want to assure themselves and their customers that they are following Good Agricultural Practices, known more commonly as GAPs.
There is a lot of information available to farmers these days regarding food safety, due in part to the recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses from fresh produce. In recent years, cantaloupes, spinach, fruit juices and green onions have all made the news.
Knock on Wood, Montana farmers have not been the center of attention in any large scale food-borne illness outbreak. It doesn’t mean we couldn’t have an outbreak, but our risk in Montana for fruit- and vegetable-producing farms is greatly reduced for several reasons. Montana farms tend to be smaller, owner operated and managed. We are blessed with a dry environment. Montana farmers by and large eat their own food so they have a personal vested interest in growing and selling high-quality, safe food. Most of our water sources used for irrigation are from the mountains, relatively cold and quick flowing. Other commonly used water sources are municipal or from deep wells. Much of the fresh fruit and vegetable harvesting and packaging labor is by family or small crews that have a long history of working together in safe, clean working conditions and environments. And in Montana, most markets are close to the farms, farmers know their customers, and a farm’s fruits and vegetables are not anonymous – they are Judy’s carrots, Homestead’s kale, Eric and Audra’s garlic and on and on identifying every farm’s crop and the people who grow it. Traceability of any product in the case of an emergency would be easier due to Montana fruit and vegetable farms’ proximity to its markets.
But don’t think because Montana has not had a recent food-borne illness outbreak in fresh fruits or vegetables, that we never will. We have risk in Montana. We have open water sources including rivers, ponds, and reservoirs that we irrigate our crops from that are at risk of contamination. We use sources of fertilizer derived from animal manures. We have domestic livestock, wildlife and migratory birds in our state, close to and on our farms. And we certainly have Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli in our soils, in our water and on our farms as well.
While contemplating what to write as a follow-up to the food safety training, I have concluded that the farmers’ questions themselves are what is of value because what they want to know is likely what every other fruit and vegetable grower wants to know. So what follows are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) gleaned from the Montana trainings held at Chico, Great Falls and Helena in April.
Q: Do I HAVE to have a written food safety plan for my farm?
A: No. Food safety plans are not required if your buyer (s) have not requested it and you are selling directly to the consumer without any post-harvest handling (washing, chopping, bagging, mixing, etc.).
Q: If I am Exempt under the Food Safety Modernization Act do I have to have a food safety plan for my farm?
A: No. Food safety plans are not required unless you are doing post-harvest handling (washing, chopping, bagging, mixing, etc.).
Q: Our Farmers’ Market is thinking about requiring a food safety plan. Will I need one to sell there, even if I am exempt under the Food Safety Modernization Act?
A: If any buyer requires that you have a GAP Food Safety Plan, then yes, you will need to complete one if you want to sell through their market.
Q: What pathogens do we, as farmers, need to be primarily concerned about?
A: Bacteria, including E. coli (primarily the more virulent strain 0157:H7), Salmonella, and Listeria.
Q: Where do these bacteria come from?
A: Generic E. coli is in the intestinal tract of mammals; cattle and other ruminants are the most common source of the most toxic E. coli variants. Listeria is found naturally in soil and water. Salmonella’sprimary reservoir is in the intestinal tract of animals.
Q: What are the most important practices I should be instituting on my farm to help prevent future contamination from these pathogens?
A: 1) Keep livestock and other domestic animals out of growing, harvest and packing areas, and minimize the presence of wildlife and rodents. 2) Know the source of your fertility inputs. Add fertility inputs, like manure, 120 days prior to harvesting a crop that is growing close to the ground. If using compost, be certain it has been prepared with adequate levels and duration of heat and turnings to kill pathogens. 3) Use water that has been tested for pathogens before using it to irrigate. Water used to hydro-cool crops must be potable (quality equal to Safe Drinking Water Act), and water used for the application on produce crops of fertility or pest management inputs that require water that is potable as well. 4) For everyone working directly in harvested crops that are typically eaten raw, like apples, peas and beans, be sure harvest tools, and the harvest and packing containers are clean, that workers have convenient access to restrooms, soap, potable water to wash hands, and single-use towels for hand-drying.
Q: So what exactly are the major food safety risks that I would need to include in a Food Safety Plan for my farm?
A: 1) Water source(s) and use(s). 2) A history of farmland use for growing friuts and vegetables and adjoining land use (remember blowing manure from a cattle feedlot over a mile away caused one of the worst food borne illness issues). 3) Soil inputs, including manure and compost. 4) Ag chemical inputs. 5) Field worker hygiene. 6) The ability to trace all crops from the farm to the marketplace. 7) Capacity and a system to control animals and pests. 8) Safe harvest, packing and transport systems and procedures.
Q: So, how will my system be verified that I am following these practices?
A: Once you have your food safety plan in place, verification of your plan can be completed by a second party verifier to “test” your food safety plan. The verifier will observe both your plan and your field practices while onsite. You will receive feedback on the areas of weakness in the plan and the operation and in areas of what you are doing well. If a full GAP audit is needed to satisfy your buyers request, then an audit by a qualified Gap Auditor will be necessary and they will follow the same procedure as the verification to assess your operation procedures and practices.
For those of you who already are certified organic, your records for harvest, measures to protect your crops, and traceability records of your products will make the development of a food safety plan much, much easier.
If you feel like your head is spinning a bit at this point, know that there are a lot of resources to help producers and to answer questions. Resources are free and readily available to the public. These resources include sample food safety plans, audit checklists, and FAQs.
Recommended website resources include:
North Carolina Farm Stewards at www.carolinafarmstewards.org
Cornell University at www.gaps.cornell.edu/educationalmaterials.html
The University of Minnesota at http://www.extension.umn.edu/rsdp/community-and-local-food/good-agricultural-practices/
FamilyFarmed.org Wholesale Success at http://www.familyfarmed.org/our-work/farmer-training
Also know that I am a resource to Montana Farmers through a Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center project funded by the Specialty Crops Grant program at the Montana Department of Agriculture. Do not hesitate to contact me at (406) 227-9161 if you have any questions about about farm food safety.
Jonda Crosby is a qualified PrimusLabs GAP Auditor. She also recently completed extensive food safety training including; HACCP, USDA Group GAP & GHP, Cornell Cooperative Extension GAP and Farm Food Safety Plan Writing.
Organic Seed Alliance’s 7th Organic Seed Growers Conference Report
By Kristina (Kiki) Hubbard, Director of Advocacy & Communications, Organic Seed Alliance
Used with permission. Posted April 21, 2014
Organic Seed Alliance’s (OSA) 7th Organic Seed Growers Conference drew a record turnout this year, with 450 participants attending the event in Corvallis, Oregon, from January 30 – February 1, 2014. An additional 400 joined the conference via live webinar. The biennial conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America. We were thrilled to have a good contingent from Montana, where more than a dozen Montana farmers attended (most of whom are MOA members).
More than 70 experts presented on specific topics under the categories of organic plant breeding, organic seed production, enterprise development, and policy. Diverse members of the organic community gathered for two days of workshops and networking events that delivered practical and inspiring instruction on all things organic seed. Participants traveled from across the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
This year’s conference theme – Innovation in the Field – recognized that some of the most impactful innovation starts in the hands of farmers, and expands through collaboration with public plant breeders, seed companies, organic food companies, students, and others who understand that organic seed is critical to the success of organic agriculture. The theme also acknowledged that innovative organic agricultural practices hold great potential for addressing environmental and food security issues, while meeting the demand for healthy food.
Participants saw examples of innovation in the ideas, projects, and stories shared at the conference. There is a groundswell of support for organic seed. The growing interest and participation in this event is good evidence that the organic seed community is not only growing – it’s thriving.
More than 100 participants kicked off the conference with a tour of organic seed production in the Willamette Valley. The tour bus stopped for presentations and field visits at Stalford Seed Farm/American Grass Seed Company/Greenwillow Grains, Gathering Together Farm, Wild Garden Seed, and Oregon State University.
In conjunction with eOrganic, six sessions were offered free and open to the public as live webinars. The recordings are now available at www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic (select "playlists" and "2014 Organic Seed Growers Conference"). Proceedings from the conference, which include more than 50 papers, are available for free download at www.seedalliance.org/publications.
OSA also recently published four manuals to assist farmers in on-farm organic plant breeding. These manuals walk farmers through the steps of adapting plant varieties to their specific climates, production systems, and market needs. These manuals are also available for free download on our website at the link provided above.
Contact me with any questions or to join our quarterly newsletter to learn about other upcoming events. You can email me at email@example.com.
NPSAS 2014 Conference Report
By Sonja Johnson, Farmer and MOA Member
April 21, 2014
In late January, a group of MOA members attended the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society's (NPSAS) Winter Conference in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Amongst the group were Matt and Sonja Johnson, Doug Crabtree, Anna Jones-Crabtree, Casey Bailey, and Jacob Cowgill.
This year’s conference began with a four-hour pre-conference of three sessions: Profitable Pastures, Farmers Market and Ancient Grains Info.
One of the highlight topics of the conference was Grass-fed Beef and several workshops were conducted by rancher Steve Kenyon from Busby, AB. Other conference sessions included: Fermentation and Root Cellaring, Understanding the Role of Microbes, and Solar High Tunnels. There were many discussions about issues facing organic producers, as well as a virtual "tire-kicking" panel with growers sharing the different types of steel they put in the field.
Two keynote presentations were given, one by Will Winter, DMV on the myths of livestock medicine, and the other a fascinating favorite by Melinda Hemmelgarn, the Food Sleuth. We were inspired by the numerous benefits of a wholesome organic lifestyle and more than a bit shocked by the current acceptable practices in mainstream food thought.
Meanwhile, back at the hall of justice, Downer Doug aka Plowman and Thunder Hawk conceived a plan to rescue captive Einkorn Seed from the ruthless hands of the North Dakotans at the evenings benefit auction. Also, in the scheme for this ancient grain were super friends Laser Eyes, Cookerhead, Art Girl, and Matt Johnson (yet to have achieved superhero status). The plan was foiled when the high bid went to a Dakota farmer even though tenacious Plowman, never one to accept defeat, single-handedly chose to continue the pursuit well past the agreed up limit.
(The previous paragraph, while true, is the culmination of a mind-numbing 13-hour drive in blizzardy weather to our destination in South Dakota.)
Anyone interested in pursuing superhero status via embarking on a bi-state journey to NPSAS should mark their calendars for January 22-24, 2015. More information about NPSAS can be found at www.npsas.org.
Midwestern Organic and Sustainable Education Service’s (MOSES) 25th Annual Conference
By Casey Bailey, Farmer and MOA Board Member
April 21, 2014
Earlier this year, I attended and blogged about the Midwestern Organic and Sustainable Education Service’s (MOSES) 25th Annual Conference. The 3400 faces that gathered to celebrate in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, not only embodied an amazing array of alternative farming tales, but also visibly told stories of winter hibernation and polar bear vortex battle scars. I was among them, packed tightly like sardines into a single warm room, forgetting about the snowbanks and wind chills outside!
The median attitude of these organically oriented attendees would opt for working with nature rather than against it. The “miracle” happens all the time, and it has nothing to do with commanding, dominating, or having any kind of control over. It “happens” when we realize the forces around and within us are all at work all the time. And, as a farmer, how do we go about producing food with this “happening?” Somewhere in there may be the definition of miracle. For me, going to conferences, before the earth begins it’s tilt sunward and spring work begins, is one way to pursue answers to this.
On behalf of MOA, I sat in on a listening session with one of our Senators in Montana. The major agriculture groups were also invited to help him understand our concerns. I was amazed by the strong agenda supporting genetically modified crops from our major wheat industry groups. I’m not used to hearing that calculated lobbyist agenda. MOA’s message was met with strong criticism. I realized how very important it is for consumer groups and organizations like MOA to be heard. The Senator left with two very different messages ringing in his ears.
Today it feels like agribusiness companies want to “franchise and control the expansion.” They strum your heartstrings by saying it is the only way to feed the world. There is no real research to back this up. Their single recipe for success is embodied in GMO biotech products. It is a high cost input that allows big farms to get bigger. It takes money and people out of our rural communities and puts it into the pockets of large corporations. It does not “feed the world.”
Maybe the larger issue here is that the end result of our current system is a gross overproduction of a few commodities. If it was truly up to the consumer, our system would use less chemicals and have more diversity. If it was up to our soils, our plants, our digestive systems, our wildlife, our pollinators…. we would have less chemicals and more diversity.
A little bit about the conference...
A pre-conference “Organic University” was available during the day on Thursday. MOSES got kick'n with great music and poetry Thursday evening, workshops and keynotes on Friday and Saturday. (Check out the live blog at: www.goodfoodworld.com/2014/03/blogging-from-moses-2014
that Gail at Good Food World put together).
Though the workshops and speakers were great, it was the personal connections that really moved mountains. I had the pleasure to be introduced the “farm family of the year,” the Podolls, and had dinner with David and Ginger. I really like this quote from David:
“Farming must be an artful venture, seeds are a sacred thing. Everything we have now is built on farmers selecting seeds for millennia. All of that genetic diversity is a great gift. Seeds should not be owned, patented, or controlled.”
Between mouthfuls of organic grub, I got to hear about their farm. As thrilling as that topic was the conversation quickly turned to the topic two farmers tend to gravitate toward—weeds. And, not just any weed, but the queen of weed that strikes terror into my heart, the Canadian Thistle. He proposed an intriguing solution. (Ask me about this sometimes.) Hearing this may not sound interesting to you if you’re a non-farmer, but to us who are, there are sweet nectorous possibilities when farmers talk about their successful solutions. It’s the grown up version of being a kid in a candy store.
The “sweetness” continues in that I am going to use intensive grazing with my cows to eliminate this grassy jungle. In theory I will feed both my cows(Sorgum Sudan) and the soil while eliminating weeds (Canada Thistle) and creating future plant fertility. It’s also a way for an organic farmer to enter the winter months with an amazing amount of ground cover. Fall tillage is often required to help get ahead of weed populations, but it is very hard on soil life and structure.
The grass, the cows, the soil, and me are all waiting in line at this candy store. I hope it rains in
Based on the MOA Board of Directors approval at its last Board conference call, the following notice of amendment proposals to MOA’s by-laws informs MOA’s membership of the proposals, which will be voted on during MOA’s annual conference business meeting at 11:15 PM, December 14, 2013, at MOA’s Conference at Flathead Community College in Kalispell:
ARTICLE II - MEMBERSHIP
Section 2: Members Voting Rights.
Membership in the Montana Organic Association shall entitle each membership holder to one vote in the annual election of the Board of Directors and other resolutions proposed at the Annual Business Meeting.
Members shall be issued an annual membership card. A signed membership card, which. Annual membership renewal indicates agreement with the Montana Organic Association’s mission and purpose, and shall entitle the holder to voting rights at the Annual Business Meeting.
ARTICLE V- BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Section 2: Board Meetings.
The Board shall meet at least quarterly, which includes the Annual Business Meeting, at an agreed upon time and place. All Board meetings are conducted by the board of directors, but are open to the membership.
Members shall be provided with notice of all quarterly board meetings. Special meetings of the Board shall be called upon the request of the Chair or one-third of the Board. Notices of special meetings shall be sent out by the Secretary to each Board member, postmarked two weeks in advance, whenever possible. Notice may also be given electronically through email, at the email given by a director. Special Board meetings may also be called by the Board of Directors at the request of 1/3 of the general members. Such special Board meetings must be held within 30 days of receipt of the membership request, and members must be provided with 10 days notice of the agenda, time, and place, of a special Board meeting requested by the membership.
MOA's statement regarding escaped GMO wheat in Oregon, June 12, 2013.
In light of recent news regarding the discovery of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Oregon, and potential genetic contamination in the US soft wheat supply, the Montana Organic Association is very concerned about the current and future integrity of both organic and conventional grains in Montana. We urge that more oversight be put in place to prevent future contamination issues, both at the field trial stage and during commercial production. The nation’s farmers and our trading partners should receive assurances from private and government entities that the integrity of our seeds and markets will be preserved.
Important 2013 - 2014 Dates
May 1: USDA Claims Filing Deadline for Hispanic & Women Farmers and Ranchers (For claims assistance, contact: 1-888-508-4429 and/or www.farmerclaims.gov.)
May 14: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Managed Spring Grazing Period Ends
May 15: Final Seeding Date for CRP Spring Seedings
May 20: CRP General Signup 45 Begins
May 31: Final date to apply for Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs) or Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs) on 2012 crop year harvested corn, dry peas, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, rice, safflower seed, chickpeas, soybeans and sunflower seed
June 3: 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election Program (ACRE) Program Signup Deadline
June 7: Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Crop Disaster Program Signup Deadline for 2011 Crop Year
June 14: CRP General Signup 45 Deadline
July 15: 2013 Crop Year FSA Acreage Reporting Deadline for Spring Seeded: Grass, Mixed Forage, Alfalfa, Clover, the year of seeding (annual & perennial types), Barley, Canola, Corn, Dry Beans, Dry Peas, Flax, Mustard, Spring Oats, Potatoes, Safflower, Sugar Beets, Sunflowers, Spring Wheat, CRP and all other crops
July 15: 2012 Crop Year Non-insured Crop Disaster Program (NAP) Production Report Deadline
July 15: 2012 Crop Year NAP Application for Payment Deadline
July 15: 2012 Crop Year ACRE Production Report Deadline
July 16: CRP Managed Summer/Fall Grazing Period Begins
Aug. 2: 2013 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment Program (DCP) Program Signup Deadline
Sept. 3: 2014 Crop Year NAP application sales closing date for value-loss crops
Sept. 13: CRP Managed Summer/Fall Grazing Period Ends
Sept. 30: Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC) Contracts Expire
Nov. 12: All Hay Bales Must be Removed from CRP Acres
Nov. 15: 2014 Crop Year FSA Acreage Reporting Deadline for Fall Seeded: Grass, Mixed Forage, Alfalfa, Clover, the year of seeding (annual and perennial types), Established Grass, Mixed Forage, Alfalfa, Clover in years subsequent to the year of seeding (perennial types), Apiculture, Fall Wheat, and all other Fall-Seeded Small Grains
Dec. 2: 2014 Crop Year NAP application sales closing date for honey
Comments on USDA’s unregulated release of Roundup Ready Alfalfa
February 16, 2011
From the Montana Organic Association
MOA is as disappointed in the deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa as it would be with the deregulation of any further grains or seeds with Genetically Engineered traits. We are deeply concerned with the future ability of farmers and ranchers, to grow non-genetically engineered crops and consumers to know whether or not they are feeding Genetically Engineered products to their families. In order to protect the integrity of safe wholesome food, controls must be put in place to eliminate the risks of Genetically Engineered trait contamination. The USDA has repeatedly been asked to step in by courts, farmers and consumers and establish such controls, which would allow all agricultural sectors to coexist, but conformity has never been reached.
Farmers should have the right, the freedom, and the obligation, to raise agricultural products in any manner that does not adversely affect their neighbors or the environment. Still biotech agriculture continues to fight to be exempt from any responsibility for contaminating organic agriculture with Genetically Engineered traits.
From the Organic Trade Association
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 27, 2011)— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to allow commercial planting of Forage Genetics International’s (FGI) Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa genetically engineered to tolerate St. Louis-based Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide without any federal requirements to prevent contamination of the rest of alfalfa seed and plantings. The genetically engineered technology is licensed exclusively to the seed maker FGI by Monsanto. The expected impact of this decision is far reaching, particularly to organic farmers.
“This creates a perplexing situation when the market calls for a supply of crops free of genetic engineering. The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, and consumers will not tolerate the accidental presence of genetic engineered materials in organic products yet GE crops continue to proliferate unchecked,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
She added, “Preserving market and farmer choice and agricultural diversity are central to USDA’s mission and the future of rural American livelihoods. This failure to do so will make it increasingly difficult to meet the growing demand for U.S. organic crops.”
The organic sector is a profitable part of a diverse U.S. agricultural economy—a 26.6- billion-dollar-a-year industry that employs tens of thousands around the country, and helps keep at least 14,540 family farms operating in our rural countryside. Except for 2009, the organic industry has experienced double digit growth—often over 20 percent—annually for over a decade.
Unrestricted commercialization of genetically engineered crops—86 percent of the country’s corn and 93 percent of soybeans—has resulted in widespread unlabeled presence of GE materials in mainstream food products unbeknownst to the average consumer. According to California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, at least 70 percent of processed foods in American supermarkets now contain GE ingredients.
The USDA organic program is the only federal food label that prohibits the use of GE crops or materials. Under current USDA policy, the organic sector bears the burden created by unchecked release of GE crops.
While USDA, for the first time, took a step and acknowledged organic and IP agriculture as a stakeholder in decisions around the release of GE crops it is a small step for organic alongside giant steps towards accelerated decisions to deregulate many new GE crops awaiting review at USDA. The organic industry and the loyal consumers of organic products will continue to resist this unrestricted commercialization of GE crops being brought to market by the well-funded and influential biotech industry.
In addition to concerns for the organic sector, many unanswered questions remain regarding genetic engineering. For instance, how does the biotech industry and USDA intend to control the rapid development of superweeds from the overuse of Roundup and other herbicides, analogous to the advent of antibiotic resistance with conventional agriculture’s routine overuse of antibiotics to address overcrowding and growth rather than disease? Also, how do you conduct sound epidemiological science on the long-term health impact of genetically engineered substances that cannot be traced through the food system because foods produced using GE are not labeled as such?
“Until these questions are addressed, the argument that agricultural biotechnology represents ‘sound science’ is just not valid,” Bushway added.
From the Center for Food Safety
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 corporations.”
From the Cornucopia Institute
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this afternoon that the agency will fully deregulate Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered alfalfa. The choice was favored by the biotech industry and one of three options identified in the USDA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released last month.
USDA could have maintained regulatory status over the perennial crop that is so important as forage for the livestock industry. Or they could have chosen a limited regulation strategy with bans on the planting of GE alfalfa seeds in seed growing regions to attempt to limit the contamination of alfalfa seed stock by foreign DNA from Monsanto’s crop (alfalfa is pollinated by bees and other insects and has a pollination radius of five miles). Instead, the agency, under heavy pressure from the biotech sector, chose total deregulation. Over 250,000 public comments were received during the FEIS process, with the vast majority opposing deregulation.
Vilsack did announce that the USDA would establish a second germ plasm/seed center for alfalfa in the state of Idaho to try and maintain GE-free strains of alfalfa. They currently operate such a facility in Prosser, WA. He said the FEIS process brought home two key points to USDA: choice and trust.
The Center for Food Safety, supported by The Cornucopia Institute and others, has been embroiled in a court case fighting the release of GE-alfalfa. Cornucopia is a formal plaintiff in the case. The legal matter has been on hold while the USDA completed its court-ordered EIS. Opponents of GE-alfalfa may soon determine their “choice” and resume the legal battle.
Genetic engineered crops, animals and food are banned in organic agriculture. Many conventional alfalfa and seed producers also have expressed their opposition to Monsanto’s new crop. Like organic producers, they do not want their strains of alfalfa contaminated by foreign DNA. Monsanto has aggressively pursued farmers for damages when they have discovered evidence of their patented DNA in their conventional crops.
Planting of GE-alfalfa could begin this spring as Forage Genetics (owned by Land O’ Lakes) has millions of pounds of Monsanto’s seed in storage.
Food Safety Act, H.R. 2749 and S. 510
January 18, 2011
11/30/2010--Passed Senate amended.
1/4/2011- President Obama signs bill.
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act -
Title I - Improving Capacity to Prevent Food Safety Problems
Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to expand the food safety activities of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), including to authorize the Secretary to inspect records related to food. Exempts certain establishments that sell food directly to consumers, such as roadside stands, farmers markets or participants in a community supported agriculture program, from specified requirements of this Act. Requires each owner, operator, or agent in charge of a food facility to identify and implement preventive controls to significantly minimize or prevent hazards that could affect food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by such facility. Sets forth provisions governing exemptions from such requirements for certain facilities. Requires the Secretary to: (1) issue guidance documents to reduce the risk from the most significant foodborne contaminants; and (2) establish minimum standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on known safety risks. Authorizes the Secretary to issue exemptions and variances from such standards. Directs the Secretary to assess and collect fees related to: (1) food facility reinspection; (2) food recalls; (3) the voluntary qualified importer program; and (4) importer reinspection. Directs the Secretary to develop voluntary food allergy and anaphylaxis management guidelines for schools and early childhood education programs.
Title II - Improving Capacity to Detect and Respond to Food Safety Problems
Requires the Secretary to: (1) allocate resources to inspect facilities and imported food according to the known safety risks of the facilities or food; and (2) establish a product tracing system to track and trace food that is in the United States or offered for import into the United States. Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on foodborne illnesses. Gives the Secretary the authority to order a recall of an article of food.
Title III - Improving the Safety of Imported Food
Requires U.S. importers to perform risk-based foreign supplier verification activities to verify that imported food is produced in compliance with applicable requirements related to hazard analysis and standards for produce safety and is not adulterated or misbranded. Requires the Secretary to establish a program to expedite review and importation of food offered for importation by U.S. importers who have voluntarily agreed to participate in such program. Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) require a certification that an article of food imported or offered for import complies with applicable requirements of this Act; and (2) enter into arrangements and agreements with foreign governments to facilitate the inspection of registered foreign facilities. Requires food to be refused admission into the United States if permission to inspect the food facility is denied by the facility owner, operator, or agent or the foreign country. Sets forth provisions governing the establishment of a system to recognize bodies that accredit third-party auditors and audit agents to certify that foreign entities meet applicable FFDCA requirements for importation of food into the United States.
Title IV - Miscellaneous Provisions
Authorizes appropriations for FY2011-FY2015 for the activities of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and related field activities in the Office of Regulatory Affairs of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Directs the Secretary to increase the field staff of such Centers and Office. Establishes whistleblower's protections for employees of entities involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing, transporting, distribution, reception, holding, or importation of food who provide information relating to any FFDCA violation.
A rather lengthy article about the bill, written by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, can be downloaded here. (1.1 MB)
For a less non-partisan analysis of the bill (without the Tester-Hagen Amendment), here is a good link:
More info on the Bill:
And analysis of the Tester-Hagen Amendment:
Top Ten Things Food Industry Professionals Need to Know About the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, Registrar Corp:
Update on GE Alfalfa Case
by Kiki Hubbard
July 1, 2010
There has been confusion around the Supreme Court decision involving genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. You probably saw conflicting media reports and press releases where both sides claimed victory. It’s true that both sides took away a win from the ruling.
For Monsanto, the ruling was a victory in that the Supreme Court reversed the injunction on planting and selling GE alfalfa. The Supreme Court ruled that an injunction on planting the GE variety was unnecessary because under the lower courts' rulings GE alfalfa became a regulated crop again and therefore illegal to plant commercially. In other words, the injunction was "overkill" because the victory in the lower federal court determined that USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it approved Roundup Ready alfalfa. The Supreme Court decided that voiding USDA's decision to make GE alfalfa legally available for sale was enough.
So why is it a victory for the organic community? Because the ban on GE alfalfa remains in place – it is still illegal to sell and plant GE alfalfa. The Supreme Court also did not rule on arguments presented by Monsanto that could have harmed NEPA. And the Court’s opinion does not bar future action related to GE contamination. That is, contamination can still be considered harm under NEPA from an environmental and economic perspective. Monsanto had asked the Court to rule that contamination by GE crops not be considered irreparable harm.
To sum it up, the organic community can celebrate two pieces of the ruling: 1) the Court did not allow for the immediate sale and planting of GE alfalfa, and 2) farmers can continue to argue in future cases that the threat of GE contamination causes irreparable harm to their crops and livelihood.
Learn more by visiting the Center for Food Safety at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
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