GMOs Kicked Out of U.S. Organics Guidelines

on Monday, Nov 28th, 2016 CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

usda-organic

The National Organic Standards Board voted unanimously last week to update its U.S. standards to ban ingredients derived from new genetic engineering techniques from certified organic products.

The vote served as a recommendation by the NOSB to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. The board says it will ensure ingredients that are derived from new GE techniques will not wind up in organic certified foods and beverages.

“The NOSB is clear that GMOs do not belong in organic,” Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told TriplePundit. “In the absence of strong federal regulations on the labeling and commercialization of genetic engineering, the organic standard continues to provide consumers with a transparent and clear way to avoid GMOs in the food they eat.”

One of the new GE methods the board is concerned about is synthetic biology, which designs and constructs new organisms to either produce something they would not normally produce or to edit DNA to stop certain traits from being expressed, according to FOE.

Some synthetic biology ingredients are ending up in food and consumer products without sufficient labeling, just as traditional GE ingredients do. GE ingredients in general lack adequate oversight, the group insists. And some are labeled as ‘natural,’ which is incredibly misleading to consumers. Although a few states passed mandatory GE labeling laws, the federal requirements are murky. Back in August, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that preempts state GE labeling laws, virtually striking them down with what many call a lackluster federal labeling requirementRead more of this post

“Organic” Food From China Found To Be Highly Contaminated

Food imported from China and labeled “organic” is anything but.

Chinese Market

With more and more people learning about the importance of eating healthy and safe produce, consumer demand for all things “organic” has skyrocketed. In the US alone, annual organic food sales have grown by 20% and the increased demand is significantly outpacing domestic supplies, forcing many grocers and food vendors to look internationally to keep their businesses stocked. Most of these organic imports are grown in the European Union, where organic standards are weaker than those of the US. However, many of these “organic” products are from China, whose food industry standards for safety and quality are notoriously low. Much of this “organic” produce grown in China is so unsafe, that the farmers who grow it won’t eat it themselves. Isn’t that the whole point of choosing organic in the first place?

It turns out that much of the food labelled “organic” was never grown with the intention of being organic, but rather as a means to circumvent China’s reputation for substandard produce. US Customs personnel often reject entire shipments of food from China due to the addition of dangerous and unsavory additives, the presence of drug residues, mislabeling, or the poor hygienic state of the food. In an effort to get around these bulk rejections of food, some Chinese food exporters have taken to labeling their products “organic,” especially those foods that appear dirty or unusual. In addition, the “organic” label in China has no meaning as collusion between the government and manufacturers has led to rampant mislabeling, and China’s government has no established system for determining what is or is not organic.
Chinese Fish Master

Dead fish being removed after a fertilizer factory dumped huge amounts of ammonia into the Fu river Credit – NYT

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FDA Finds Monsanto’s Weed Killer In U.S. Honey

YUJI SAKAI VIA GETTY IMAGES

The Food and Drug Administration, under public pressure to start testing samples of U.S. food for the presence of a pesticide that has been linked to cancer, has some early findings that are not so sweet.

In examining honey samples from various locations in the United States, the FDA has found fresh evidence that residues of the weed killer called glyphosate can be pervasive – found even in a food that is not produced with the use of glyphosate. All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the United States.

Glyphosate, which is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used weed killer in the world, and concerns about glyphosate residues in food spiked after the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Other international scientists have raised concerns about how heavy use of glyphosate is impacting human health and the environment.

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South Carolina just obliterated millions of bees by accident

Reports out of South Carolina have indicated that when officials approved the spraying of local farmlands with insecticide to prevent the spread of Zika-carrying mosquitos, it accidentally wiped out millions of bees too.

The insecticide in question, called Naled, is known to be “highly toxic” to bees, and these vital pollinators appear to be the latest collateral damage in the fight against Zika.

In response to the ensuing outcry from local farmers after last Sunday’s bout of aerial spraying in Dorchester County, the local administrator’s office announcedthat the state health department had reported four travel-related cases of Zika virus in the Summerville area of Dorchester County on Friday 26 August.

While the health department reported that no one has been infected from a local mosquito bite to date, Dorchester County officials justified the accidental bee cull on the grounds that the mosquito population remained a threat.

“Dorchester County is concerned about the safety of its citizens,” a statement from the County Administrator’s Office reads. “This includes protecting citizens from insect bites from pests such as mosquitoes that carry viruses including West Nile and Zika.”

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Farmers Work a Second Shift to Supplement Income

Farmers Work a Second Shift to Supplement Income

An elderly man walks up the path to his farm in Cortland, Nebraska. American farmers who grow barley, millet and other minor grains earn 84 percent of their income by working off the farm. | Photo credit: Joel Sartore, NG Creative

The “average” American farmer earns an income above most Americans—but that’s often because they’re hustling in a second-job off the farm, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week. Read more of this post

Perdue Farms To Buy Natural Meat Maker & Chipotle Pork Supplier Niman Ranch

Perdue Farms to buy Chipotle pork supplier Niman Ranch

Poultry company Perdue Farms will buy natural meat maker Niman Ranch, which is Chipotle Mexican Grill’s biggest pork supplier and a brand name on U.S. restaurant menus, the two companies said on Tuesday. Read more of this post

The Not So COOL Reason You Won’t Know Where Your Steak Came From

The Not So COOL Reason You May Soon Not Know Where Your Steak Came From

Cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy—mad cow disease—have been reported in Brazil as recently as 2014. When a cow was found to have died from the neurogenerative disease, which humans can contract by eating meat from sick animals, in 2012, a number of countries suspended beef imports from Brazil as a precaution. The United States was not among them. Read more of this post

The Big Business Behind The Local Food

The big business behind the local food

Produced is displayed at a Whole Foods Market Inc. store in Oakland, California. Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Grocery chains and big box retailers are aggressively expanding their locally grown offerings. But there are real concerns about what consumers are getting when they buy “local.” Read more of this post

US Wants Egg Executives Punished for Salmonella Outbreak

salmonella.eggs

A judge should consider the “widespread harm” done by a major 2010 salmonella outbreak and the food safety lapses that preceded it in sentencing two egg industry executives whose company was responsible, prosecutors said Monday. Read more of this post

Scientists trace deadly piglet virus hitting US farms to China

Baby_Pigs_Suckling_4

Published October 23, 2013

Reuters

A virus deadly to baby pigs that has roiled the U.S. pork industry likely originated in the Anhui Province of China and may have evolved from a virus seen in bats, according to a report by veterinary researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

The report should help diagnostic researchers and federal officials, who have been trying to trace the origin of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) since it was first identified in the United States this past spring.

Previously, investigators and veterinary researchers tracking the outbreak said that there was some indication that the PEDv strain seen in the U.S. was 99.5 percent similar in genetic make-up to that identified in China. But exactly where it came from and how it arrived in the United States were mysteries.

According to the report published last week in the American Academy of Microbiology journal mBio, the researchers extracted strains of PEDv virus from infected animals in Minnesota and Iowa.

They then compared the genetic code of the virus in these samples to PEDv samples isolated in China’s Anhui province during an outbreak that began in late 2010. The results showed that the three strains that have emerged in the United States are most closely related to particular Chinese strains.

“Taken together, the available sequence and phylogenetic data indicate that the PEDV strains emerging in the United States originated from China,” according to the published report.

The researchers cautioned that “the exact source of the origin is difficult to identify at this point.”

Veterinary researchers and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say that PEDv does not pose a threat to human health, nor to food safety.

While, there has been no indication that PEDv could jump from one species to another, the research team said it found the U.S. PEDv strains to have some of the same genetic features seen in a bat coronavirus. That, in turn, suggests the virus may have possibly having originated in bats and a potential for “cross-species transmission,” according to the report.

There is no definitive data yet of how many animals have died in the United States from PEDv as farmers are not required to report PEDv outbreaks.

As of the week of October 6, there have been 768 confirmed cases reported in 18 states, according to data compiled by state university diagnostic laboratories and federal officials. Each reported case could represent thousands of infected animals.

Diagnostic veterinarians, producers and some livestock economists said they expected the virus to spread more rapidly as temperatures cool in the fall when piglets are being born. The virus is particularly deadly to very young pigs: average mortality rates range from 80 to 100 percent.

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