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News for September 7, 2010

Children's illness stirs debate on raw milk

At first, Mary Pierce thought her 2-year-old couldn't stop throwing up because she had a typical stomach bug. A few days later, she watched in terror as the lethargic little girl was rushed by helicopter to The Children's Hospital, her little kidneys shutting down.

Then Nicole's 5-year-old brother, Aaron, fell ill, following her into the hospital and onto a dialysis machine. The cause of their potentially deadly illness: drinking raw goat's milk from a local dairy.

READ MORE (Denver Post) ]

Not Crying over Spilt Soymilk

It’s not often that family-scale farmers can go toe-to-toe with a $12 billion agribusiness and come out victors. But organic soybean producers, and a modestly scaled but powerful ally, The Cornucopia Institute, are claiming victory over Dean Foods in the organic marketplace.

Dean Foods, the manufacturer of Silk, the top-selling soymilk drink, was first “outed” in Cornucopia’s May 2009 report, Behind the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry, for switching its soybean sourcing from American farms to cheaper organic beans from China. Later in 2009, Cornucopia revealed that Dean Foods had then largely abandoned organic soybeans altogether, stealthily changing the soybeans in their core Silk product line from organic to less expensive conventionally grown soybeans that the company was calling “natural.”

READ MORE (Cornucopia Institute) ]

California farms embracing tourism

This is a tough time to be farmer. Prices are falling and worry about food safety is rising. So a growing number of small California farmers are turning to tourists to boost profits and educate customers.

Jana McClelland started giving tours of her Petaluma dairy farm last spring.

READ MORE (KGO) ]

USDA Publishes Organic Program Handbook

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today published the first edition of a program handbook designed for those who own, manage, or certify organic operations. Prepared by the National Organic Program (NOP), the handbook provides guidance about the national organic standards and instructions that outline best program practices. It is intended to serve as a resource for the organic industry that will help participants comply with federal regulations.

“The handbook will provide guidance to the organic agricultural community to enable them to carry out production and handling processes in a consistent manner,” said Miles McEvoy, NOP deputy administrator. “It will also reduce the burden on industry participants as they work to comply or verify compliance with the NOP regulations.”

READ MORE (Natural News) ]

Let Them Eat Meat – But Farm It Properly

This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.

In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world's livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism "is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue". I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I'm about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.

READ MORE (Common Dreams) ]

Mass. organic farmers seeks candidates views

Candidates for political office are commonly asked questions about their views on taxes, law enforcement and abortion.

One Massachusetts organization is asking candidates about farming.

READ MORE (Boston Herald) ]

Campus harvests

Tomatoes, Swiss chard, jalapeños, and other vegetables are sprouting on college campuses across the state — ready for harvesting this fall as part of a new student movement to promote sustainable agriculture and healthy eating.

On the Harvard University campus, the grassy plot dotted with raised wooden planters draws second glances from passersby, who seem surprised to discover the bounty along bustling Mount Auburn Street. Beanstalks climb 6 feet high. Bees buzz around thick patches of mint and chive. A sweet scent lingers near the basil (Thai and Italian). Some pedestrians stop to offer gardening advice.

READ MORE (Boston Globe) ]

John Sheehan's Latest FDA Job Evaluation

It's been more than six months since John Sheehan last met with Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She's called the head of Plant and Dairy in for a rare Labor Day session to review a number of important developments in the government's campaign against raw milk.

READ MORE (Complete Patient) ]

Massachusetts Dairies Promote Raw Milk

Next week, 11 Bay State dairies that sell raw milk directly to consumers will jointly host Raw Milk Dairy Days. The event, to be held Sept. 11 and 12, is encouraged and promoted by the state chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

The public is being invited to tour the farms, watch milking demonstrations and, of course, sample and purchase raw milk. Marketing of raw (unpasteurized) milk at the farm is legal in Massachusetts. It's tightly regulated for safety by Massachusetts Department of Ag Resources.

READ MORE (American Agriculturist) ]

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