Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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News for April 29, 2010

USDA Cracks Down on Synthetic Fatty Acids in Organic Milk

The Obama administration, continuing its crackdown on the $25 billion organic food industry, is moving to eliminate two synthetic additives widely found in organic baby formula and organic milk.

Most U.S. manufacturers of conventional and organic baby formula have supplemented their products with the fatty acids DHA and ARA for several years in order to make them more closely mimic breast milk. Some studies suggest the omega 3-fatty acid DHA and the omega-6 fatty acid ARA promote cognition and eyesight in babies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which isn't challenging the safety of the additives, is responding to complaints from activists that the Bush administration ignored proper procedures when it decided to include synthetic versions of the fatty acids on a list of nonorganic ingredients that are nonetheless allowed into products that carry the USDA's organic seal.


Will the USDA doom locally produced meat?

That wailing you hear in the distance is the sound of small meat processors begging the USDA for mercy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service recently proposed a set of new regulations that will require all meat processors to submit their products to a new series of tests, a procedure that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for even a modestly scaled operation, enough to cripple many small processors.

What worries fans of small farms and locally produced food is that the closing of small processors will mean the closing of small farms. Slaughter and processing is the biggest challenge for small-scale meat; they're operations simply too costly and complex for farms to handle themselves. As it is, farmers have few options for meat processing without selling their animals to massive feedlot-meat operations, and without that piece of the puzzle, many farmers may quit. Why is the USDA considering the new testing regime? Some producers wonder if the machinations of Big Food are in play.


"Is Daddy Going to Jail?"

“They came in the dark, shining bright flashlights while my family was asleep, keeping me from milking my cows, from my family, from breakfast with my family and from our morning devotions, and alarming my children enough so that the first question they asked my wife was, ‘Is Daddy going to jail?’”

That's Amish farmer Dan Allgyer, describing an early morning visit from FDA agents, U.S. Marshals, and a Pennsylvania state trooper, looking to bust him for selling unpasteurized milk across state lines.


Oyster victory claimed by Sen. David Vitter in food safety proposal

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., says he has reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of senators on a measure he believes will block future Food and Drug Administration efforts to ban consumption of untreated raw oysters during warm weather months.

Vitter said his provision would establish a requirement that the agency conduct a detailed study of the economic costs, consequences and possible alternatives to mandatory post-harvest treatment of oysters and should protect Gulf Coast oyster providers who fear tighter FDA regulations could knock them out of business.


BPA Poses New Risk To Food Safety -- Legislative Impasse

Legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration more power to safeguard the food supply is in danger of being tripped up by controversy over the plastic additive bisphenol A.

The chemical, BPA for short, is commonly used in hard plastics and coatings inside cans of foods and drinks. Worries about BPA's potential to harm health led the FDA to express concern about its safety and the Environmental Protection Agency to say it is taking a closer look, too.


US Supreme Court Considers Genetically Modified Crops

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case involving genetically modified crops. The crops' safety is not at issue in this case, but their potential economic impact is. The case may have ramifications beyond GM crops.

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the United States. Farmers harvested 8.5 million hectares last year. The case being argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 27, involves a genetically modified variety of alfalfa designed by the seed and biotech company Monsanto to grow even when farmers spray it with a chemical that kills weeds. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved the crop in 2005


Organic, small farmers fret over FDA regulation

Washington -- Small farmers in California who have led a national movement away from industrial agriculture face a looming crackdown on food safety that they say is geared to big corporate farms and will make it harder for them to survive.

The small growers, many of whom grow dozens of different kinds of vegetables and fruits, say the inherent benefits of their size, and their sensitivity to extra costs, are being ignored.


Obama administration bans two additives used in organic baby food

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that two synthetic additives will no longer be permitted in infant formula or baby foods certified as organic because the widely used ingredients have not received legal approval for use in organic products.

The additives -- omega-3 fatty acid DHA and omega-6 fatty acid ARA -- are present in 90 percent of organic infant formulas and are marketed as promoting brain and eye development in ways that mimic breast milk.


USDA may ban additives from organic formula

WASHINGTON -- The Agriculture Department says it may ban two synthetic additives from organic baby formula, overturning a Bush administration decision to allow them.

The USDA said Tuesday that the department incorrectly interpreted Food and Drug Administration guidelines that appeared to allow the additives, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also known as DHA and ARA, respectively, to be added to formula.

A Wisconsin organic advocacy group had filed a complaint about the additives because they are extracted using a chemical that is banned in organic production. The USDA is not saying they are unsafe.


Raw milk legislation not a big help for man’s legal battle

VIROQUA, Wis. (WPR) A high-profile, raw milk advocate who's in trouble with the state is calling newly-passed legislation for the sale of raw milk a "minor victory.” 

Max Kane is a dairy farmer in Vernon County who’s being investigated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP).  So far, he's refused to name people involved in a sales operation that allegedly distributed raw milk without a license.  The state has tried to depose him in court, and has threatened jail time if he doesn’t cooperate.  

Lawmakers recently passed a bill that would legalize the sale of raw milk through the end of next year, while lawmakers work on a more permanent solution.


Canada: Dairy ordered to cease and desist from raw milk sales files appeal

Chilliwack Times - The Chilliwack raw milk dairy the Fraser Health Department is trying to shut down, filed an appeal last week to the British Columbia Supreme Court decision that ruled against the operation on March 19.

Gordon Watson, a raw milk activist and "cowshare" member of Home on the Range, filed the appeal on behalf of the milk co-operative.

The case dates back to the fall of 2008 when Fraser Health issued a cease and desist order to the farm, and then in December 2009 went into the farm's distribution depots and issued a cease and desist order to stop distributing raw milk for human consumption.


Vernon Co. Farmer Still in Trouble Despite Raw Milk Bill's Approval

VERNON COUNTY, Wis. (WTAQ) - The state Legislature’s approval of raw milk sales might not do much to help a Vernon County farmer who’s in legal trouble over the issue. The state’s been trying to get Max Kane to give them the names of people allegedly involved in selling raw milk without a license – and they’ve threatened to send him to jail if he doesn’t cooperate.

A judge recently ordered a delay on the state’s deposition of Kane, thus giving him more time to challenge it. Kane says the Legislature’s recent approval of raw milk sales is a “minor victory,” saying it would liberate raw milk producers a little more than they are right now. And he said it might not help his legal case very much, although it’s hard to tell.



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