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News for March 30, 2010

Wis. Committee Approves Raw Milk Bill

(AP)  MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin dairy farmers could legally sell raw, unpasteurized milk directly to consumers despite potential health risks under a bill an Assembly committee approved Tuesday.

The move clears the way for a vote in the full Assembly. An identical bill is ready for a vote before the full Senate as well, but time is running out. The legislative session ends in May and it's unclear whether the measure has support from Democratic leaders.

Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, said both leaders have to talk to their caucuses. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said he would have to review whatever comes to his desk, but the measure would have to strike a balance between raw milk producers and the mass market dairy industry.

The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association and the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association all have registered against the bill.

[ READ MORE ]

What? The similarities between raw milk and medical marijuana aren't obvious?

Even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against drinking raw milk, Wisconsin legislators are considering giving consumers access to the stuff. Or at least easier access...

Here's the Wisconsin State Journal's report on today's raw-milk action. And here's the FDA's warning about an outbreak of campylobacteriosis linked to raw milk in Michigan. The culprit apparently came from a dairy in Indiana.

If the passion and fury as it relates to raw milk has been somehow eclipsed by life's other pressing matters, now's your chance to get up to speed on a food issue that shows no sign of going away. The Seattle Times recently offered this well-done overview on the raw-milk controversy.

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Silicon Valley investors place bets on sustainable ag

I attended an agriculture conference this week at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto.

There were no pickup trucks in the BMW-packed parking lot, and few farmers with dirt under their fingernails could be found milling about the sleek hotel lobby. But the place was swarming with venture capitalists from some of Silicon Valley's marquee firms looking to grow profits with investments in sustainable agriculture.

Welcome to Agriculture 2.0.

That was the name of the conference and represents a growing effort to scale up sustainable agriculture from a hodge-podge of hippies and back-to-the-land types into a viable big business by bringing together venture capitalists and startups doing everything from rooftop farming to high-tech soil mapping to identifying the best areas for growing crops.

[ READ MORE ]

Raw Facts: What Some People Don’t Know About Unpasteurized Milk

Despite mounting evidence of the health risks in unpasteurized milk, raw milk advocates continue to tout its alleged benefits, dismissing warnings about bacterial contaminants that can sicken or even kill adults and children, as I write in the Informed Patient column today. The situation bedevils public-health officials and food-safety experts. “We know raw milk is hazardous, but we don’t know what it is that drives people to consume it anyway,” says Jeffrey LeJeune, a microbiologist and researcher at the Food Animal Health Research Program at Ohio State University. Dr. LeJeune is conducting a study with funding from the USDA to learn more about how consumers make judgments about milk safety. “There are tacit webs of belief that drive behavior, and everyone acts in what they believe to be a rational way,” Dr. LeJeune says. “We need to learn more about where they seek information, and how they decide to reject or accept it.” One problem, he says, is that physicians often have gaps in their knowledge and therefore don’t warn patients about the risks.

[ READ MORE ]

Wisconsin rural committee approves raw milk bill

Wisconsin dairy farmers could legally sell raw, unpasteurized milk directly to consumers despite potential health risks under a bill an Assembly committee approved Tuesday.

The move clears the way for a vote in the full Assembly. An identical bill is ready for a vote before the full Senate as well, but time is running out.

The legislative session ends in May and it's unclear whether the measure has support from Democratic leaders in either house. Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, said both leaders have to talk to their caucuses.

[ READ MORE ]

Assembly Committee To Vote On Raw Milk Bill

MADISON, Wis. -- A state Assembly committee is set to vote on a bill that would allow raw milk sales in Wisconsin.

The Assembly Rural Economic Development Committee has scheduled a vote on the bill for Tuesday.

Two weeks ago a Senate committee passed a scaled down version of the measure that would allow limited raw milk sales directly from a farmer to a customer through 2011.

The bill before the Assembly committee wouldn't put an end date on the milk sales, but it's expected to be amended to be the same as the Senate version.

[ READ MORE ]

Pesticide Lobbyist Gets Posted as Chief Agricultural Negotiator

Confident after his success with health insurance reform, President Obama exerted his executive power on Saturday by making fifteen appointments during the Senate's recess. Among the appointments was Islam Siddiqui, who will now be serving as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (I've written here about what that job entails).

Siddiqui had been working since 2001 as a lobbyist and then later as vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, a lobbying organization for the pesticide and biotech industries. CropLife famously sent Michelle Obama a letter trying to convince her to use pesticides on her organic garden on the White House lawn. But while that move pushed the group into the media spotlight, behind the scenes the group in which Siddiqui has had a strong hand in leading has been lobbying to weaken regulations on biotechnology, pesticides and other agriculture chemicals both in the US and abroad, including securing exemption for American farmers in a worldwide ban of the ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide in 2006, taking part in secret discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency to be allowed to test pesticides on children, and Siddiqui personally chided the European Union for "denying food to starving people" for using the precautionary principle in the case of GMOs.

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Raw milk drinkers stand by their milk

MIDDLEBURY — Some believe the benefits of drinking raw milk outweigh the risks, but health officials say drinking raw milk is dangerous — especially after tainted milk made 18 people sick in southern Michigan.

The people became sick with Campylobacter infections after drinking raw milk from a dairy in Middlebury. Health officials say it is situations like this that highlight the need for pasteurization.

In Indiana it is illegal to sell raw milk, but there is a loophole. You can drink raw milk and milk products if you own the cow they come from.

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Wisconsin Assembly panel approves bill allowing sales of raw milk

Madison — Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday he may favor legalizing raw milk sales to the general public, under the right circumstances.

"I think we all understand what the issues here are," Doyle said when asked about the raw milk bill at a news conference in Verona.

"There are some people who prefer to drink raw milk, and I think under certain circumstances that's fine. But I think we also need to know that the mass-milk market is one that is healthy and in control."

The governor's comments came after legislation to allow the sale of raw milk to consumers moved a step forward, with lawmakers saying there were enough changes in the proposal to address safety concerns and still meet farmers' needs.

[ READ MORE ]

 

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