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News for July 26, 2010

Raw-food raid highlights a hunger

With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts.

Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid's target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.

READ MORE (LA Times) ]

Lawmakers Propose Labeling in Response to Supreme Court's Monsanto Decision

Ever since the Supreme Court handed down its mixed 7-1 decision, ruling that the lower court overstepped its boundary by issuing an injunction on the planting of genetically modified alfalfa, some lawmakers were spurred to action. Reuters, for example, reported that more than 50 U.S. lawmakers called on the U.S. Agriculture Department to keep Monsanto’s biotech alfalfa out of farm fields. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, were joined by 49 other representatives and five other senators in asking Tom Vilsack, the Agricultural Secretary, to ensure that Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa is not approved for commercial use.

Additionally, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced three bills in the House related to the labeling of food containing genetically engineered material, the cultivation and handling of genetically engineered crops, and the establishment of a set of farmer rights regarding genetically engineered animals, plants, and seeds.

READ MORE (GMO Journal) ]

Local versus Organic: Joe's Garden Forces the Choice

For the last five summers, I’ve had the great fortune to spend a week or so hanging out in Bellingham, WA, a picturesque college-and-logging town on the rugged and beautiful Puget Sound. (High fives to all of the other co-managers at Alemany Farm who allow this gardener to take off some time at the peak of the season.) Among its other attributes, Bellingham is one of the hot spots of the localization movement — that is, the effort to create economies that are centered on regional resources instead of reliant on importing and exporting goods and services from around the world. The fantastic Business Alliance for Local Living Economies — a kind of alternative chamber of commerce representing some 22,000 businesses in 80 hubs across North America — is headquartered here. A Bellingham non-profit called Sustainable Connections runs an impressive “Buy Local” campaign that has been embraced by a large number of area business owners. The abundance of natural resources, from fisheries to forests, gives people here a real sense that it’s possible to live off what’s within view.

One of the best expressions of Bellingham’s Buy Local spirit is Joe’s Garden, a nearly 80-year-old urban farm that is one of the last original truck farms that once sustained the area. I fell in love with Joe’s the first time I went there some five years ago. The three-or-four-acre farm is surrounded on all sides by the tidy apartments, bungalows, and ranch homes that make up the Bellingham landscape – a kind of oasis of food in the center of suburbia. The garden is a lovely quilt of multi-colored lettuces, chards and kales, bean fences, celery and carrot rows, pumpkin patches, and onion plots. A complex of greenhouses on the garden’s south edge provides propagation space and a way to grow tomatoes in the chilly coastal climate. Rows of flowers border the parking lot.

READ MORE (Change.org) ]

How Willie Nelson’s Bedrock, the Family Farmer, Could Save the American Economy

As an advocate for local, and for family farmers, I know that there is immense power in the experiential. When you have a direct relationship with a farmer, you just know that relationship is mutually beneficial. When you see four leggers on pasture instead of concrete, it only makes sense. But, do we have our talking points lined up on a deeper level? Are we ready for that serendipitous moment when online dating sets you up with an agribusiness ladder climber who wants to debate free trade two beers in? Or when it comes time to make policy recommendations or offer a zinger quote to a reporter? Despite being a career local foods non-profit staffer, I don't always feel prepared when I leave the realm of the story for that of the concrete. Now that consumer awareness of the story of local has reached a critical mass, it is time to take our movement to the next level. Research. Organize. Speak out.

In celebration of its 25th year, Farm Aid, the longest running concert-for-a-cause, has published a report to help us make this push. Rebuilding America's Economy with Family-Farm Centered Food Systems takes one of the more sensitive topics in the American psyche today, the economy, and convincingly demonstrates the bounty of opportunity that family farmers can bring to local and regional communities.

READ MORE (Common Dreams) ]

Raw food raid raises questions over existing milk laws -- and the safety of potlucks

Do you have the right to eat anything you want?

That question is at the heart of an increasingly heated war between consumers and government regulators, who are facing off over raw milk and other raw – read unpasteurized, unprocessed, as-pure-as-possible – foods.

READ MORE (LA Times) ]

2010: The Summer of Raw Food Raids

At 7 a.m. on June 30, 20 agents raided a Ventura County farmhouse and confiscated the family's computer. That same morning, the FDA and the FBI raided Rawesome, a private food club in Venice, California, and seized several thousand dollars worth of raw honey and raw dairy products. These incidents, along with the June shutdown of Traditional Foods Warehouse in Minneapolis, mark an unsettling series of events. More and more frequently, judges have been approving search warrants that target producers and distributors of raw and nutritionally dense foods.

The conflict stems from the FDA's concern over the safety of unpasteurized dairy products sold by private food groups around the country. Because these groups only sell to contracted members, they generally avoid having to apply for retail and public health licenses. Nonetheless, the warrants keep coming; as Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has said, "I haven't seen an agency turned down yet." If you or anyone you know work with raw foods, here are some suggestions from Grist about how to prepare for an unannounced raid.

READ MORE (Good) ]

Bumper crop: New law lets farmers sell more products

At Hindinger Farm, co-owner George Hindinger and his partners enjoy selling the fruits and vegetables they grow on their Hamden land, at farm stands and various farmers’ markets, but they are preparing to potentially sell more goods on a much large scale.

A newly enacted state law, though, gives the Hindingers and other farmers in Connecticut the chance to sell many more products directly to consumers than they previously were permitted to. In the past, those wanting to sell salsas, pickles and other products derived from their farm-grown produce typically had to do so through a third party.

READ MORE (New Haven Register) ]

Tell Congress that you want a Fair Deal for Farmers and Ranchers

Farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry need your help to get a fair deal and a level playing field with meat and poultry processors.

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on Tuesday, July 20 that focused on USDA proposed rules to strengthen and clarify the protections for the nation’s farmers and ranchers provided in the Packers and Stockyards Act. The full Congress approved critical measures in the 2008 Farm Bill which give broad authority to USDA to fashion rules to implement the Act in order to provide farmers and ranchers with increased information about contracts and markets. USDA was also directed by Congress to issue rules for the Act that increase protections for farmers and ranchers from unfair and deceptive practices in their dealings with meat and poultry packers and processors.

READ MORE (NSAC) ]

Why Factory Farms Threaten Your Health

One of the techniques modern factory farms routinely use to increase weight in livestock is to give all of the animals a dose of antibiotics with every meal. When this is done, the bacteria in the animals' guts that are susceptible to the drugs are killed. When this practice is ongoing, it creates a microbial vacuum in the animals' intestines that gives an extraordinary competitive advantage to any bacteria that develop resistance to the antibiotics. If your goal was to breed bacteria that could not be controlled by antibiotics, you could hardly design a more effective system. It is not entirely an exaggeration to say that as a result, factory farms have become biological weapons factories.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives, and their discovery ranks with the great medical achievements of history. But even Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who first discovered penicillin, warned that overuse of the drug would lead to bacterial resistance. And indeed, the drugs have been heavily overused, with increasingly alarming consequences. This year, between 70,000 and 100,000 Americans will die from infections that could once have been cured with common antibiotics.

READ MORE (Huffington Post) ]

Steak or Veggie Burger: Which is Greener?

My efforts to blend in at the burger joint were not off to a great start.

What was I doing there in the first place? I live in Berkeley, California, where even the greasiest of spoons offers a tofu scramble. But lately, something strange has happened: Despite local food god Michael Pollan's edict to eat "mostly plants," my friends seem to be consuming more meat, not less. Parties are no longer just parties—they're pig roasts, or chili cook-offs, or crab feeds. At the farmers market, stroller moms swarm the meat stand to flirt with the hunky, bearded butcher. Meatpaper, a fledgling magazine of "art and ideas about meat," has garnered much local buzz. And an acquaintance recently told me she's joined a meat CSA (wherein you get a butcher box direct from the farm) for "environmental reasons." No doubt the bucolic pasture where her burgers grow up is a far cry from a Food, Inc.-style feedlot, but aren't my salads, cage-free egg sandwiches, and veggie burgers always better for the planet than any kind of meat—no matter how responsibly it's raised?

READ MORE (Mother Jones) ]

Bacon Lovers vs. Soy Huggers: The Smackdown

A dyed-in-the-wool vegetarian, I had always assumed that when it came to sustainability, my diet would beat the leather pants off that of my burger-crazy friends. But as I wrote in "Get Behind Me, Seitan," (July/August 2010 issue of Mother Jones) some environmentalists and farmers claim that eating responsibly raised meat can actually be good for the planet. So who's right? I posed the question to five smart people: Eating Animals author and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, farmer and writer Joel Salatin, Diet for a Hot Planet author Anna Lappé, Bard College geophysicist Gidon Eshel, and food-waste expert Jonathan Bloom. They answered below and then responded to readers' questions and comments during our three-day forum.

READ MORE (Mother Jones) ]

Death of the farm?

Where does all the milk money go?

This is a question Forestville dairy farmer Doug Fairbanks would like answered.

READ MORE (Natural News) ]

House Ag Committee to USDA: Take your livestock reform and shove it

In June, the USDA released an update to the rules that govern how poultry are sold. It's complicated stuff, but the goal is to eliminate monopolistic practices among large processors and producers.

As USDA Chief Tom Vlisack commented at the time, the new rules are designed to create "a fair and more transparent relationship between the folks on the farm and the businesses that are packing and processing what’s raised on the farm." An analysis [PDF] by the Organization for Competitive Markets, a group dedicated to reducing monopolistic practices in agriculture, claimed that the new rules were relatively simple, and at four pages blissfully short (at least by bureaucratic standards). They mostly consist of requirements to use standard definitions in contracts. The updated rules would also allow growers to sue processors over unfair practices, without having to prove that the processors are stifling competition generally.

READ MORE (Grist) ]

The Regime's War on Food

"I drink raw milk, sold illegally on the underground black market," admits organic farmer and polymath Joel F. Salatin in the foreword to David Gumpert's book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle over Food Rights. "I grew up on raw milk, from our own Guernsey cows that our family hand-milked twice a day. We made yogurt, ice cream, butter and cottage cheese. All through high school in the early 1970s, I sold our homemade yogurt, butter, buttermilk, and cottage cheese at the curb market on Saturday mornings."

This was possible only because our rulers -- who plunder our earnings to subsidize production of government-approved toxins such as high fructose corn syrup, and don't hesitate to confer the "safe foods" label on Twinkies and other hydrogenated wads of incremental death -- hadn't yet decided to protect us from the scourge of unprocessed natural foods, such as raw milk.

READ MORE (Pro Libertate) ]

Raw Nerves

Raw milk has been a hot topic in the news lately, as several high-profile cases against dairy farmers make their way through the courts. In addition, there have been multiple outbreaks associated with raw milk.

Federal investigations into illegal sales of raw milk in Pennsylvania by the Food and Drug Administration have sparked consumer outrage. Farmers feel they are being unfairly targeted without just cause.

READ MORE (Northern Virginia Magazine) ]

A Growing Concern

Sean Hagan shoves a digging fork into the soil and pries out a bunch of carrots. He ties the bunch together, then stops and looks across the crops to another farmer calling for his attention. She holds a gnarly root in her hand.

“Do we have something against large turnips around here?” asks Sonya Ciavola.

READ MORE (Earth Island Journal) ]

Fed Up! Genetic Engineering, Industrial Agriculture, and Sustainable Alternatives

About 70% of the food we eat contains genetically modified ingredients and is not labeled. The biotechnology industry is spending $50 million a year to convince us that this technology is our only hope for feeding the world and saving the environment. Family farmers are disappearing at an astonishing rate as people continue to go hungry both here and abroad. Toxic agricultural chemicals continue to poison our air, food and water and put farm workers in serious danger. What’s a person to do?

Using hilarious and disturbing archival footage (from archive.org) and featuring interviews with farmers, scientists, government officials and activists, FED UP! presents an entertaining, informative and compelling overview of our current food production system from the Green Revolution to the Biotech Revolution and what we can do about it. FED UP! explores the unintentional effects of pesticides, the resistance of biotechnology companies to food labeling and the links between government officials and major biotechnology and chemical companies.

READ MORE (FreeView Documentaries) ]

Soldier fights fine for sharing pig

A Carlsbad Springs man was just being neighbourly when he shared a side of pork with a friend.

Now he is going to trial in an Ottawa court on charges under Ontario's food safety laws.

READ MORE (CNews) ]

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